Well, its official, the Tour de France has officially ended for 2010 and crowned its new king – Alberto Contador!
I am a little sad… nay.. depressed, and that’s because well, let me let you in on a little secret of mine….. I’m obsessed with the Tour de France. You may have noticed that I “like” the Tour, but in fact I “LOVE” the Tour. I was just restraining myself by posting every few days instead of every day. 😉
It’s true! I am.. obsessed! I have watched the Tour since I was a child. It is a part of my history. I grew up watching it every year with my Father. And now as an adult, I watch it on my own. Even when I am not able to watch it LIVE, which is usually the way I prefer to watch it, I record it to my PVR so that I can watch every agonizing and stressful second (well, on the part of the riders anyway) of the three week race. And trust me when I say, I spend anywhere between 3-6 hours everyday for three weeks glued to the television watching the race.
I would also like to specify that I am not one of these “fake fans” that jumped on the racing bandwagon when seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong was competing for his seventh win. Oh no, I was a fan long before that. I was an avid watcher of the Tour de France before Greg Lemond won his first race. And yes, I am aware that I am aging myself.
For those of you who don’t know who Greg Lemond is, here’s a quick piece of info about America’s first winner of the Yellow Jersey (otherwise known around the world as the “Maillot Jaune”). Greg Lemond won the Tour three times in 1986, 1989, and 1990. One of the most exciting moments in the history of the Tour de France was in 1989 when he was battling the Frenchman Laurent Fignon for the title. On the last day of the race, there was an individual time trial along the streets of Paris and along the Champs Elysees. It was the first and last individual time trial ever on the last day of the Tour de France. Greg Lemond was almost a full minute (50 seconds) behind Laurent Fignon going into the last stage, and he wasn’t expected to even put a dent in that time difference (which was considered alot).
I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was sitting on a big comfy chair in front of the television in my parents’ livingroom. I felt the stress and anxiety that Lemond was feeling as I sat on the edge of my chair holding my breath. Greg Lemond had spent the previous years perfecting his time-trailing technique and regaining his physical conditioning after a serious shooting accident in April 1987*, on the latest in cycling breakthroughs (which are nowadays considered common place) such as: wind tunnel testing, aeroframes, heart rate monitors, human power output measuring devices, protective eye wear and helmets. And now I sat there watching as this road-racing-machine-of-a-man carefully pulled back second by second of that 50 second lead that Laurent Fignon had over him.
Almost as exciting was watching Laurent Fignon’s face as his Team Director would announce the time he was losing to Greg Lemond over the entire race. Panic set in, as Laurent realized that the dream of winning the Tour de France was slipping away and there was nothing he could do about it, and no one he could blame but himself. Laurent Fignon was following Tour tradition by riding last in the individual time trial because he was the race leader.
The final result. Greg Lemond won the Tour de France by eight seconds. The narrowest margin of victory ever in the Tour de France’s then 87-year history!
Now that was exciting! And I still remember it like it was yesterday. I also remember jumping up and down on my chair cheering, and hooting and hollering, but let’s remember that I was just a kid afterall. But, yes… that is just one reason why I watch the Tour de France. And one reason, of many, why I am a true fan of the sport.
So why am I choosing to discuss it now, you ask? That’s simple, yesterday was the last day of the 2010 Tour de France. And the winner was 27 year old Spaniard Alberto Contador of Team Astana.
The twenty second day of racing in the Tour de France (Sunday July 25th, 2010). Stage 20 – Longjumeau Paris Champs-Élysées. This stage was 102.5 km. The start was delayed because the RadioShack team wanted to wear black jerseys with “28” on the back, representing the 28 million people around the world living with cancer. The UCI jury insisted that the jerseys be changed to their red ones, in accordance with the race regulations. Not only did the nine riders from the squad have to replace their jerseys, they also had to ensure their race numbers were properly pinned on. This requirement caused a long delay in proceedings on the day that Lance Armstrong says will be his last day of competition.
The first hours of the final stage were spent with riders coasting along at an idle pace, toasting the events of the past three weeks and posing for photo opportunities. There was even a mock “attack” by Alberto Contador, and mock breakaway between Contador and Andy Schleck. Once the peloton arrived on the streets of Paris, the Astana team came to the front for the first crossing of the line that would be used for the finish after eight laps of the circuit on the Champs-Elysees. As usual, there were breakaways, and one lasted until 11km to go. But it was a day the sprinters dream of – crossing the finish line in P aris. On the place de la Concorde Cervelo leading to the final straight, Hushovd was in a good position to go for the victory but Cavendish started his sprint 200m from the line and everyone else was, again, racing for second. It is the HTC-Columbia rider’s fifth stage victory this year and the 15th at the Tour from four starts.
Contador won his third Tour de France. He is the ninth rider to win three titles at the Tour. Andy Schleck of Luxembourg (Team Saxo Bank) finished 39 seconds behind Contador to win second place. He also won the White Jersey as Best Young Rider (under 25). For the second straight year Andy Schleck has lost the Tour to Alberto Contador of Spain. Third place was Denis Menchov of Russia of Team Rabobank. Anthony Charteau (Team BBox Bouygues Telecom) was the winner of the Polka Dotted Jersey for the Best Mountain Climber in the Tour de France. Team Radioshack won the Overall Team Award. The Green Jersey for the Best Sprinter in the Tour de France went to Alessandro Petacchi from Italy (Team Lampre-Farnese). He is the first Italian to win the green jersey since Francesco Bitossi in 1968 and only the second from his country to win the sprinters’ prize at the Tour. And yes.. this year’s race was just as exciting as ever! 🙂
*On April 20, 1987, Greg Lemond’s brother-in-law accidentally shot him while hunting in California. Over forty shotgun pellets ripped through Greg’s body, lodging not only in his back and legs, but more critically in his small intestine, liver, diaphragm, and heart lining. While waiting for rescue, his right lung collapsed and he lost three quarters of his blood supply. A cell phone, a police helicopter and nearby hospital that specialized in gun shot wounds saved his life. Because of the dangerous locations, surgeons were forced to leave over thirty of the pellets imbedded in his body.