Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Tour in Four Stages

I've been slacking off on the posting recently, and this block is but a few weeks old. Chalk it up to the extended Fourth of July vacation I just took, blame it on the fact that I spent more time eating, drinking, and religiously watching the Tour in recent days than I did sitting in front of my computer. So here's to catching up:

Tour de France: The Tour kicked off on Saturday -- 23 straight days of cycling lay ahead of me. I woke early enough to catch the three hour pre-race show, and then sat through another three hours of Stage 1, an individual time trial. Then I went biking. Phew.

As for how the Tour is going, well, Lance Armstrong and his Discovery Channel team are a machine. A machine. Up through the start of Stage 5, seven of the team's nine riders were in the top 15, with the top two slots being occupied by Discovery's George Hincapie and Lance Armstrong. First off, Armstrong placed second in the individual time trial. He started last in the group of 189 riders, one minute after Jan Ullrich, my favorite for the Tour, took off. Not only did Armstrong ride at an impressive pace, he managed to pass Ullrich towards the end. In the world of cycling, picking up one minute on a challenger and then passing them is a big deal. The second and third stages, both relatively flat and geared more towards the end of the race sprint, were nothing if somewhat boring -- most teams protected their captains, and both Ullrich and Armstrong finished safely in the pack and lost no time to the leaders in the process. The team time trial, which took place yesterday, was a test of a full team's resolve, talent, and stamina. The course was over 40 miles long, and teams set out one at a time and rode 100 percent the whole way, dropping weaker riders along the way. T-Mobile did well, setting the day's best time, until Discovery came along and one-upped them by a full minute. Discovery rode perfectly -- they displayed perfect form, they took turns rotating in and out of the front of the line, and none of the riders was dropped. Christ, they even set a new Tour record by hitting 35.54 mph. T-Mobile could have had their best day of the Tour, yet Discovery just seems faster, more dedicated, and working better as a team. After today there still are 16 stages left to go, so anything can happen, but up until now it's pretty much a two-team race for the yellow jersey -- of the top 15, seven belong to Discovery, six to Team CSC, and the remaining two to T-Mobile. Last year Ullrich was more than nine minutes behind Armstrong at this point, so I still have faith that the German, who won the Tour in 1997 and placed second 5 times since, can still catch up.

My only gripe thus far has been OLN's coverage. OLN is the only channel that carries the Tour in the U.S., and, conveniently enough, is a sponsor of Armstrong's Team Discovery Channel. So, their coverage has been less of the Tour than it has been of Armstrong and his team. I understand that Lance is the Michael Jordan of competitive cycling, and is currently racing for an unprecedented seventh straight Tour victory. That being said, the amount of attention OLN has given to him and the team is bordering on the ridiculous. There are times that I feel that OLN's main cycling commentators are less commenting more than cheerleading for Discovery -- and in the process knocking any of the potential competitors, especially Ullrich. Things got especially bad yesterday when they introduced what I am calling the "Sheryl Cam." Yes, they actually had a camera trained on Sheryl Crow's face as Lance and the team finished the time trial. So the woman is famous. So she's dating Lance. So she's a cycling fan. Tradition dictates that women are not allowed near or with the riders during the course of the race, and parading Crow around is not only boring and uninformative, it's mildly insulting to every other rider that left family and friends behind for the duration of the Tour. I really don't care what Crow thinks about cycling, much less do I think of her as an informed and objective source of commentary and analysis. Please, for the sake of this cyclist, keep her face off of my screen.


At 10:32 AM, Blogger cocoricamo said...

NO JOKE on the cheryl -- i can definitely do without her mug/commentary... i'm just glad to have OLN at all and happily plug my ears at the news all day in wait for the replay.

are you going to participate in the ride around the white house at all over the next couple of days?

At 2:48 PM, Blogger medillgirl said...

Tradition dictates that women are not allowed near or with the riders during the course of the race

wait - no WOMEN are allowed, or no family members at all? it seems pretty effing crazy if male relatives were allowed.

(this is catherine, btw)

At 10:00 PM, Blogger Martin Austermuhle said...

No women are allowed around. In fact, Tour riders are known to refrain from sex for up to three weeks leading up to the race.

At 3:16 PM, Blogger medillgirl said...

can you explain that in any way to me that does not make the organizers of the tour de france come off as sexist jackasses?


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