Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cadel! Cadel! Cadel!

Abandon hope all who enter here

Or the admonition written on the gate to sinners destined to hell, in the epic poem The Inferno. Indeed, there were doubters, cynical people who insisted, with some justification, that the Australian sensation Cadel Evans would falter somewhere on the torturous cols of the Alps. There was some very strange behavior on the Alpine climbs: on the south side of the Galibier Alberto Contador struggles to survive, on the north side of the Galibier Alberto Contador attacks then inexplicably soars up L'AlpeD'Huez like a falcon. Thomas Voeckler crashes his bicycle into a roadside automobile, he loses contact with Alberto Contador on the Galibier and slams his water bottle into the pavement in frustration, his legs finally lock up on L'AlpeD'Huez, and after ten heroic days his quest for the malliot jaune ends. Then there was the bewildering, almost fatal tactical blunder. On the col Izoard, thirty miles from the finish, Andy Schleck attacked the Evans group and amazingly no one responded. This was a brilliant move by Leopard Trek because Andy Schleck joined a teammate down the course who had escaped from the peloton in an earlier breakaway. Therefore, Andy Schleck rode as a protected rider: paced and sheltered from the wind by his teammate. Meanwhile, Cadel Evans seemed to be waiting for someone to chase down Andy Schleck who was gaining more and more time, and when nobody responded, he was forced to lead the chase himself, unprotected: fighting the wind, in a brutal out of the saddle effort. This worked to the advantage of Frank Schleck who rode protected in the group and was required to do no work to keep pace. What happened here? Obviously, Frank Schleck was not going to chase his brother and teammate. Thomas Voeckler was riding on borrowed time, so he had no inclination to chase. The other riders in the group were not serious enough contenders in the general classification to have an incentive to chase. There is unwritten etiquette in cycling races: there comes a time in every Tour de France where the riders will back off and let the two men with the highest certainty to win fight: mano a mano, in single combat. The reasoning: if Cadel Evans wants to win the Tour de France he has to prove it by chasing down Andy Schleck by himself, without help, and if he founders he will get no sympathy from us! It is astonishing that Cadel Evans and his team did not realise the danger and the implications of not responding in a responsible manner. Andy Schleck gained 2:15 on the col Izoard, won the stage, and moved into second place in general classification. Frank Schleck moved into third place in general classification, and Cadel Evans dropped from second to fourth in general classification. Malliot Jaune? Thomas Voeckler.

In retrospect none of this mattered. Andy Schleck was crowned malliot jaune on L'AlpeD'Huez after Thomas Voeckler faltered. But the critical time in general classification between the Schleck brothers and Cadel Evans did not change on L'AlpeD'Huez. The "race of truth" would decide the issue once and for all.

Cadel Evans standing on the podium, on the Champs Elysees, in Paris, malliot jaune. A proud man. There is hope for cycling yet.

Andy Schleck will win the Tour de France. Andy Schleck is most likely the true winner of the 2010 Tour de France. There is a WADA doping appeal pending in the CAS against Alberto Contador. Abandon hope all who cheat here?

Au revoir mesdames et messieurs until next year.

Next stop? The Tour of Utah.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2011 Tour de France: Second Rest Day Reflections

The second rest day of the 2011 Tour de France is past; hopefully without a performance enhancing repast as of days of yore. Very suspicious the performance of past champion Alberto Contador: in the early stages he suffered from numerous crashes and bruised his knee, he looked weak and unable to keep pace with the attacks of Andy and Frank Schleck, he lost time, he looked cooked. But wonders! After the second rest day Alberto Contador seemed to regain his form, attacking on the Category 2 Col de Manse, out of the saddle in explosive bursts, only Samuel Sanchez and Cadel Evans were able to keep pace. The Schleck brothers were dropped like a rock. Perhaps this recovery in the performance of Alberto Contador is a little too unusual? It would be no surprise to anyone, given the past doping history of Alberto Contador, if Christian Prudhomme arranged UCI and WADA sanctioned anti-doping chaperons to sprint to the finish line, urine sample beakers in hand, and escort Alberto Contador to dopage control for a sample forthwith! It is equally astonishing that the French gendarme did not invite themselves to the second rest day Saxo Bank team meal, darbies in hand, to taste the meat before it was served to the riders. Thus the police could have provided samples to confirm the concocted alibi with self examination of the evidence.

Alexander Kolobnev tested positive for a prohibited substance during the 2011 Tour de France, hopefully this will be the last positive test.

UCI President Pat McQuaid assures us that because Thomas Voeckler maintained his malliot jaune throughout the demanding Pryenees stages that this is an indication that anti-doping efforts are working. Pat McQuaid also assures us that if dope was not detected during the Tour de France then the anti-doping efforts are a failure.

Perhaps the logic of Pat McQuaid is flawed; Thomas Voeckler was malliot jaune during the 2004 Tour de France; riding against a large collection of suspected and convicted dopers. A wonderful film exists on youtube called Jan's Attack. In the film Jan Ullrich is hammering up a hors categorie (beyond category) climb at an astonishing rate of speed, attacking and dropping Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, and the US Postal squad like a rock. Meanwhile, Thomas Voeckler is wearing the golden fleece and he is clearly suffering, cycling for dear life, out of the saddle, in a fruitless attempt to keep his jersey. There is an astonishing number of miscreants in the film: Ivan Basso, Richard Virenque, Floyd Landis, Jan Ullrich! Probably the only person not juiced to the gills on performance enhancing drugs is poor Thomas Voeckler! Thus, the Pat McQuaid logic seems flawed at best and irrelevant at worst.

There is still L'AlpeD'Huez to come and if Thomas Voeckler is still malliot jaune, he may win in Paris. But Thomas Voeckler is such a practical man that he admits that this possibility is very remote, if not impossible. A very honest assessment from a very likable man.

Unlike Pat McQuaid who is an idiot and an embarrassment to cycling!

Cadel Evans will win the 2011 Tour de France.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thomas Voeckler: Malliot Jaune

Thomas Voeckler is the current malliot jaune of the 2011 Tour de France; [per Stage 11] a Frenchman and very charismatic man who fights to maintain his laurels with honor, a very rare quality among riders these days. Thomas Voeckler is a man of supreme tenacity and the golden fleece will not be easily lifted from his back; but alas, Thomas Voeckler is not a gifted climber, his time gap over the best climbers is not large enough, he will be caught and dropped on the cols of the difficult Alp and Pyrenees stages yet to come. Although Thomas Voeckler will be malliot jaune on Bastille Day and though this may briefly re-assure the patriotic athletic sentiments of the French people, on the Champs Elysees in Paris, a Frenchman will not win 2011 Tour de France.

Some favorites are still competing although many have dropped from the race in bloody crashes. Gone are Tom Boonen, Alexandre Vinokourov, David Zabriskie, littered along the road in wet, bloody, bandaged, broken heaps. Inexplicably, collisions occurred between riders and motorcycles, riders and press cars, sending riders into barbed wire fences and off to hospitals.

Rain has pounded the race with a vengeance causing a great deal of suffering with the mountains still to come! Long descents in the pouring rain can lead to incredible accidents if not managed properly; Bobby Julich in a decent during the 1998 Tour de France left the road and ended up plowing into a recreational vehicle while trying to negotiate a turn. Luckily no one was seriously injured! The 2011 Tour de France seems to be haunted by a pernicious kami.

Barring another catastrophe one of the following riders will win the 2011 Tour de France.

Cadel Evans. Very good climbing skills, very good time trial skills, formidable. May finish on the podium. Grade A
Andy Schleck. Excellent climbing skills, good time trial skills. Second to Alberto Contador in 2010 Tour de France. May finish on the podium. Grade A-.
Frank Schleck. Excellent climbing skills, good time trial skills. May finish on the podium. Grade B+
Andreas Kloden. Very good climbing skills, very good time trial skills, past podium finisher. Grade B
Ivan Basso. Excellent climbing skills, good time trial skills. Won Giro d' Italia. Grade B
Damiano Cunego. Very good climbing skills, very good time trial skills. Won Giro d' Italia. Grade B+
Alberto Contador. Excellent climbing skills, good time trial skills. Three time winner Tour de France, winner Giro d' Italia, winner Vuelta d' Espana. Grade A-

Levi Leipheimer can no longer be considered a threat after his acrobatic crash and loss of time. Leipheimer lost traction after riding on a wet zebra stripe and nearly impaled himself on a roadside guardrail. Only a miracle of misfortune will find Levi Leipheimer on the podium this year.

Final Podium
1) Cadel Evans
2) Andy Schleck
3) Alberto Contador (if he is not disqualified before the end of the race for blood doping or performance enhancing drug use.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2011 Tour de France: Year of the Aussie?

Blood and carnage everywhere you look in this year's Tour de France with multiple crashes on multiple stages. Christian Vande Velde went down in a rush and his head went bang right off the pavement with terrific force; the best argument ever for wearing a helmet, protecting your dome. The asphalt is hard enough to crack your skull and fracture your bones; as most riders can testify to; pain twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, for years...then arthritis.

Yeah. Alberto Contador went down too and has lost time from being caught behind an earlier accident. After stage 5 Contador is 1:42 behind mighty Thor Hushvold: world champ and maillot jaune. Cadel Evans beat Alberto Contador by a tire width in stage 4 on a climb; even though Contador tried an out of the saddle attack, an attack that dropped nobody and may have shown his vulnerability; "man where is the clenbuterol!"

Yes, yes, yes, time for a change! Back in the olden days the British Empire transported the garbage to Australia and America, the poor people, the criminals, the Scots, the Irish. The American exports came back to Europe and dominated your Tour de France for eight straight years! The Europeans hated the American dominance so much that they had to make an example of the American riders as performance enhanced drug fueled cheating rotten liars. Alas, not so the European riders and most certainly not the French contingent. Bernard Hinault, the badger, how did he suddenly evolve into such a fearsome competitor, the snarling, roid rage induced snears? How about the Deutsche Telekom erythropoietin fueled Tour de France victory of Bjarne Riis, the only serious threat was teammate Jan Ullrich. Doped to the green gills. Ah, yes, then there was Festina and the French darlings. A double standard in cycling does not exist! Alberto Contador is allowed to race unmolested; the Spanish darling. Tyler Farrar sprinted to victory! take a lab sample and run every number! American riders cheat!

Yeah, right. Cadel Evans is a good man. He has never been implicated in anything except exceptional athletic ability on a bicycle. He has never been accused of attacking a malliot jaune with a dropped chain on a col, or of eating imported contaminated meat, or of anything else suggesting nefarious race behavior. Cadel Evans is a "diesel" a guy with great big legs and a great big heart, and barring injury hopefully will stick it to the Europeans and win the 2011 Tour de France!

Serves them right for throwing us under the bus in the first place, stinking hypocrites!