As July slowly draws to a close, we say farewell to the Tour de France. Groggy and hungover from Tour withdrawal, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the past 3 weeks, 3,642 kilometres and 91 hours. Hopefully you’ll give me your thoughts as well!

I obviously can’t speak for anybody but myself, but I found this Tour fascinating… It had all the ingredients for high drama and it delivered in spades:

  • An aging champion, coming back for one more round
  • A young Canadian, putting on an stellar performance
  • A man who many love to hate, but is without question the ‘fastest man on two wheels’
  • A dropped chain, a controversial attack

An aging champion, coming back for one more round

I don’t think anybody can argue that things didn’t really pan out in Lance’s favour this year. Things started optimistically with an amazing 4th in the opening time trial but seemed to quickly decline. After all the drama whipped up by the media, watching things play out was far from fulfilling. While, personally I don’t think Lance had the legs to win the Tour this year (evidenced by his inability to shake his break away groupo on Stage 16), I would have much preferred him loosing in a test of mettle, rather than succumbing to crashes and mechanicals.

With Lance firmly stating unequivocally that this is his last Tour my main fear is not for the peloton, or for Lance, but for cycling in North America. I simply hope that our sport can continue it’s growth without it’s one universally known cyclist sitting in the limelight. Regardless of how you feel about Big Tex, you can’t argue what he’s done for both cycling (and cancer for that matter!).

A young Canadian, putting on an stellar performance

After the unfortunate crash of Christian Vande Velde and the eventual withdrawal of Tyler Farrar, Garmin Transitions were in a tough spot and a certain Canadian rider found himself with the unforeseen opportunity to do his team proud.

What ensued was nothing short of remarkable.

From breakaway after breakaway, to climbing like a man half his size (not to mention fishing fourth on the Col du Tourmalet), Hejedal put in an awe-inspiring performance. With the North American void Lance leaves behind, is Hejedal poised to carry that flame? No pressure, Ryder ;-)

A man who many love to hate, but is without question the ‘fastest man on two wheels’

Nadal syndrome,” is something Sheldon coined where we just can’t stand an athlete, despite them giving us next to no reason to dislike them. The ‘Manx Missile’ has filled this Tour role nicely… Cavendish is next to untouchable in a flat-out sprint yet despite being fantastically talented and charismatic, I can’t stand the guy. I had high hopes that Tyler Farrar would be able to take a stage or two, but after his wrist injury it simply wasn’t to be.

Despite Cavendish’s speed and talent though, I’m glad that the Maillot Vert is about more than that. As far as I’m concerned Cavendish can have his stage wins, as he obviously deserves them. To me though, the the Green Jersey should go to somebody who’s more than just a sprint specialist. It has to be. A stage victory is enough for the sprinters. You need to be able to show me something for more than 15 seconds. Look at Thor Hushovd’s performance last year where he launched a brazen solo attack on a mountainous Stage 17 to claim both intermediary points and solidify green.

Maybe I’m a Thor fanboy. Maybe I want the Green Jersey to be something it’s not. Alessandro Petacchi did the jersey proud this year, but I just hope that more men like him and Thor are able to keep it off the back of pure ‘stage sprinters’ like Cavendish in years to come.

A dropped chain, a controversial attack

The 2010 Tour de France quickly came down to a battle between two men. After Fabian Cancellara convinced the peloton to neutralize the second stage (because of the massive crashes – coincidentally including his team mates Fränk and Andy Schlek) there was much talk about the ‘gentlemanly conduct’ that exists as an undercurrent with riders in the Tour de France. If only we had known what sweet foreshadowing this was to be…

As the riders wound up the Port de Balès (the final climb on Stage 15), Andy Schleck made an initial attack and easily cleared his group, but as he prepared his attack is earnest he dropped his chain – whether part of a mechanical or rider error, I’m not sure. Contador was quick to counter and gapped the hapless Shleck. The media and the internet were almost instantly a-buzz. Should ‘gentlemanly’ rules have applied, as was the case in ’01 and ’02 when Jan Ulrich and Lance Armstrong both waited for each other (under admittedly different circumstances)? Or was the counter attack justified?

In my mind, Gerard Vroomen (co-founder of Cervélo TestTeam) and Ryder Hejedal captured it as eloquently and succinctly as possible on Twitter:

Gerard Vroomen: Contador just gained a great chance to win, but he lost the chance to win greatly.

Ryder Hejedal: If you draw your sword and you drop it, you die.

If Schleck had been caught up in a crash of something out of his hands, I would be outraged, and write Contador off as a classless chump, but in this case Andy gave it a go, and it didn’t pan out. Contador attacked when he saw weakness… He didn’t wait to see what the problem was (though I suspect he knew it was mechanical in nature), he just dropped the hammer. I’m sure this is practically instinct for these guys – Despite being three weeks long, the Tour doesn’t provide an abundance of chances, you have to make the most of the ones that present themselves.

Despite saying that it’s not what he would have done, Andy appears to quickly put the incident behind him. And if you want to hear Contadors thoughts/apology on the matter you can see it here.

So with that, I open the floor to you – Agree with me, argue with me, or add a new thought to the mix… Let me know what you think!

As an aside, I was able to enjoy all but the weekend stages of the Tour courtesy of Versus on the 2010 Versus Tour Tracker. I did receive some emails indicating frustration with the application, but for the most part the feedback (that I received) was overwhelmingly positive – I look forward to what they have in store next year!