July 29, 2010

Tour de Force..Stage III

Time to get 'er done! The lead group has been dangling off the front long enough; chase them down and swallow them up!

Alberto Contador won the GC ("overall" or general classification) of this year's Tour de France by a slim 31 seconds over Saxto Bank's Andy Schleck in 92 hours and 2,263 miles of riding in the heat, the mountains, the flats, and the winds of Summertime France.

It was the fourth narrowest margin of victory in 93 tours, the closest being Greg LeMond's victory over Albert Fignon by 8 seconds in the 1989 tour.

Having described the rudimentary basics of bicycle racing and the tour here and here, I left you with the question as to why Andy Schleck didn't just overcome the 39-second margin in the last stage into Paris to win one of the most prestigious races of the year.

The answer lies in the dynamics and tactics described previously. Simply put, any attempt -- or attack -- by Andy Schleck would have been met by Contador and his team chasing after him, catching up to him, and beating him senseless with their bicycle pumps.

What? Didn't any of you see Breaking Away?

So he opted to ride the last stage cautiously avoiding any misstep on his part that could have fried him and caused him to get dropped or jeopardize his second place n the podium and his white jersey (Maillot Blanc) as the best young rider in the tour.

But the real story occurred several days earlier in the mountains when Contador seized the yellow jersey from Schleck in the mountains:

During Stage 15, controversy arose when Contador took advantage of a mechanical problem that Andy Schleck, wearing the yellow jersey, had at a pivotal moment on the final climb. Although it is considered good sportsmanship to wait for the leader of the Tour when he has technical trouble, Contador continued and took over the maillot jaune at the end of the stage. Contador claimed that he did not know that Schleck had technical trouble, and that he had already launched an attack by then. Hours later, he apologised for the incident. Although he was criticised by some after the incident, he also found support from notable ex-riders such as Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Laurent Jalabert, as Schleck's problem – the chain of his bike coming off – was solely due to the Luxembourger rider's mistake.

So, there you have it. You enter in a series of 20 different bike races over 24 days chasing one another down, observing these weird rules of physics, bike racing, and Tour de France customs and you lose the number one spot in the race because -- in the briefest of an instant -- your chain slips off the big ring and you have to dismount to re-thread it.

But, not to cry for Andy Schleck. He is young and Contador showed signs of being raggedy this year -- like the decline was setting in. The money's on Andy in upcoming tours and, because of his youth and strength, he'll probably run off a string of victories.

I told you it was a bleeding soap opera.


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