From The Beginning
The 98th Tour de France began on the west coast of France Saturday, with a low tide processional ride across the Passage du Gois that connects France to Île de Noirmoutier.
In 1999 Le Tour actually was racing over this roadway that's only above water at low tide, when a big crash on the super-slick pavement split the field wide open. The Stage 2 crash separated several contenders by six minutes from the front of the race. That year Lance Armstrong's streak of good luck began, and he won his first of seven Tours de France.
Going back in history to 799AD, Île de Noirmoutier was the site of the first recorded invasion of the Vikings.
The Viking in today's race, Norway's reigning World Road Race Champion, Thor Hushovd finished third in the frantic uphill sprint at Mont des Alouettes. The last 20Km saw two crashes in the peloton that again split the contenders. Defending TdF Champion, Spaniard Alberto Contador was behind the crash caused by an inattentive spectator, and crossed the finished 1:20 behind the rest of the favorites.
Fans of Luxembourger, Andy Schleck saw this as a sort of delayed "Instant Karma" owing to Contador's taking advantage of Schleck's unfortunate chain drop on on the Port du Balès climb during Stage 15 in the Pyrenees during the 2010 Tour.
Now known as Chaingate, Schleck wearing the yellow leader's jersey, attacked Contador on the Port du Balès. As he accelerated away from the Spaniard, Schleck's chain dropped from his rear derailleur and jammed. Contador saw Schleck's mechanical trouble as he passed and began his counter attack in contravention of cycle racing's Gentleman's Agreement.
They say a True Champion doesn't take advantage of a mechanical, the Grand Tours must be settled mano a mano.
"The Spaniard took advantage to attack and went on to gain 39 seconds - exactly the amount of time that separated the two riders on the final podium in Paris.
"I wouldn't have done that (attack)," Schleck said in an exclusive interview published in French newspaper L'Equipe on Thursday. "He said he didn't see it. But he looked like this [turning his head and looking over his shoulder - ed.] and then he attacked."
"A great champion doesn't do a thing like that. When Ullrich crashed into a ravine, Armstrong waited. When Armstrong crashed on the way to Luz-Ardiden (on stage 12 of the 2003 Tour), the other riders agreed to wait for him. That's what makes a champion. I was really very disappointed by his attitude that day." (From Cyclingnews' article here)
There will be ample opportunity for the two stars to settle it in the Pyrenees and the Alps this year.
When CorduroyPlanet publishes Sunday morning, I'll be up watching the LIVE coverage of Stage 2, the 23Km Team Time Trial. If you only watch one stage of Le tour this year, the Team Time Trial is the one to watch.
The Time Trial is known as "the race of truth"...it's just the rider against the clock. There's nowhere to "get out of the wind", and it's the ultimate test of the rider's form and fitness. The Team Time Trial is the same thing, but all nine men race together as a team. The Team Time Trial illustrates the beautiful dichotomy of Pro Bicycle Racing...it's an Individual Sport, but it's a Team Sport at the same time. The uninitiated can learn everything they need to know about Bicycle Racing at the Top Level by watching the TTT.
You can watch the full package coverage at noon PDT on NBC, and several times on cable network VERSUS 9AM, 1:30PM, 5PM, 6:30PM, 9PM, and 10:30PM
Aaa-and That's a Wrap
While I'm lazing in bed watching Le Tour LIVE, the last of the Diehard Skiers and Snowboarders will be getting ready to slide down the slopes for the last time in Season 2010/2011. Mammoth Mountain in the Southern Sierra, and four resorts in the Tahoe Sierra will turn their chairlifts through the Independence Day Weekend. It even made the news in Los Angeles.
I do miss running my BR350 Groomer...but not in Summertime Snow!