The last few days fo the Tour have finally started to be exciting. This is a weird Tour – too easy. Contenders way too close. We usually would’ve had 2 HC mountaintop finishes and a TT by now, and the field would be blown apart. Oh well. Maybe this is why the French riders are having their best Tour in years??
The George Incident: We all would’ve loved to see him in yellow (except maybe Garmin SS). I think Johan gave a great explanation of their tactics: let the break go out to 10 mins, put George in yellow but not by much, take the focus off of Astana for the mountain stage. But then AG2R started working, and Garmin put the hammer down on the run-in. Do you believe Garmin’s explanation – that they were just trying to control the race so Wiggo and Christian didn’t get caught out behind a split? Sounds believable. But in the end, the thing that bothers me is that George was just way too passive in the last 20k. Maybe he was cooked, in which case he simply wasn’t good enough to win the jersey. Or else he made a major tactical error(s) and didn’t take control himself. There were plenty of times when I was screaming at the TV as George sat up and freewheeled to the back of the disorganized pack looking for others to work. He should’ve gone with one of the attackers, shown some aggression, driven the rest of the pack himself and forced them to ride harder. Luck is the residue of design. I must’ve seen him waste 5 secs twiddling around several times. In the end, he blew it or he was blown and just not good enough.
Contador vs. Lance: This contest looks to be over. Contador is a rare climber, very Pantani-like in style and stature – an elfin pedal-dancer. He has a huge advantage in power-weight ratio over most if not all of his competitors. But the difference, and the thing that may turn him into a contendor to break Lance’s magic 7 Tour record, is that he can time trial. Most climbers can’t. Pantani couldn’t (without drugs anyway). Contador has the rare combination of the ability to time trial with anyone in the sport, and yet operate as a pure climber in the mountains. Armstrong climbs amazingly well, but he would never be called a pure climber. Contador looks much more at home on a TT bike than most riders, certiainly more so than Armstrong. On a flatter TT course Lance may still beat him, but overall Contador is a rare, unstoppable combination of pure climber and TT specialist.
Sastre: Underestimate Carlos at your peril. His amazing ability to reclaim the lead pack after being spit out the back on the initial attack is amazing. He did it yesterday, he did it in the Giro. With any other rider, you would just assume he is blown. But somehow he returns to the front. I don’t know if this is a cagey, risky, purposeful strategy, or if he is just tough as nails and somehow wills himself to rejoin the attackers. He is not a bad TT rider – not on par with Armstrong and Contador, but not a write-off either.
Looking forward to Thursday’s TT!