floyd wins!

One more post about the TdF and then I’ll shut up about cycling for a while. After 7 years of American domination in the person of Lance Armstrong, the assumption this would be a wide-open tour, which would make it a lot more interesting, not just because you knew someone besides Lance would win, but because you expected a lot of ups and downs as all the other contenders attacked each other with impunity. What ended up happening was both more and less than expected. The unceremonious departures in varying forms of Basso, Ullrich, Vinokourov, Mancebo, Mayo and Valverde levelled the playing field even more, taking out a lot of the big names and leaving still a fair number of major players, but no one dominant enough to say with any certainty who was a contender and who wasn’t.

When Pereiro took the yellow jersey (or was given it, after the peloton allowed him to get a half-hour lead on the breakaway), he was still discounted as a serious GC contender (since otherwise they wouldn’t have let him get so far ahead). Landis had everyone right where he wanted, then he fell apart in the last 10K up La Toussuire, and the prevailing wisdom was his chances were done, but then one day later he did the unexpected and got most of it back, in what many are calling the single greatest tour stage ever. So by the final time trial yesterday, you had something we haven’t seen for a while, the top 3 contenders within 30 seconds of each other, with a couple of other guys only a couple of minutes behind them. Landis got back his remaining seconds, Pereiro again held his own, Sastre couldn’t hold on, Kloden did a killer TT. The podium was set, and the French fans had to hear the American national anthem yet again on the Champs-Elysses. I’m sure they’re tired of Americans winning the tour, but it’s not like they have any fondness for the Italians, Spanish or Belgians either, and there aren’t any French guys stepping up to the plate, so it might as well be an American as anyone else.

Landis’s future is cloudy, since he has to have hip replacement surgery soon and nobody knows for sure if you can come back from that to ride at the top level, and he’s no spring chicken either at 30. Bo Jackson tried to come back after the same surgery, and was never as fast as he was before. So it remains to be seen what’s in store for the Americans longer term chances in Europe, the rest of the guys, Hincapie, Leipheimer, are getting older too, and you’ve got some promise with Zabriskie if he can improve his climbing and Danielson if he can stay healthy. But Landis has shown that even without Lance the Americans are here to stay and a force to be reckoned with. After 3 weeks sitting in front of the tv listening to Al Trautwig, I still can’t wait for next year’s edition to begin. Vive la Tour!