Sunday, July 25, 2010

Twenty-Ten Tour Thoughts

I just finished watching the final stage of this year's Tour de France, and, while it was an exciting finish along the Champs-Élysées, it wasn't as completely satisfying of an experience for me as it has been in the past. Here are my random thoughts on this year's Tour:
  • As always, the racing is exciting, the European towns and countryside are beautiful, and the days are action-packed. The Tour itself is a must-watch for me every year.

  • Also as always, a full week of the Tour runs concurrently with my jazz camp, so I have to rely on Twitter updates and quick video clips to stay caught up during that week. One of these years, I'll have TiVo and will actually be able to tape more than a single stage during that busy week.

  • The first couple of days of this Tour were just nuts in terms of all the crashes; the rainy day (Stage 2?) and the following day on the cobblestones were so messed up that it was almost surreal to see rider after rider go down. I can see why some of them weren't very happy early on.

  • My main reason for not being 100% satisfied with this year's Tour? Because Alberto Contador won again. I became a non-fan of the Spaniard last year when he attacked his own teammate (Lance Armstrong), completely disregarding his team's plan in the process. I have little tolerance for "me-first" types, and Contador joined that list at that point.

    And whether or not it was proper for him to attack this year when then-leader Andy Schleck popped his chain can be debated (even the great Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen found themselves on opposite sides of this argument), but the fact that the amount of time gained by Contador after Schleck's misfortune was the exact time that separated them going into the final time trial just made it seem wrong.

  • But as Lance Armstrong rides into the sunset, I've found a new rider to follow in Schleck, who gained even more points in my book with his classy handling of the Contador affair. And my other new rider to follow is a Ryder--the Canadian Ryder Hesjedahl, who also impressed me with his work this year.

  • Speaking of Phil and Paul, I was happy that the morning and afternoon showings of the Tour stages featured them almost exclusively. I think I've said it before, but I just can't stomach one of the American prime-time announcers, Bob Roll. Sure, he's really knowledgeable, but his untrained voice and clumsy delivery just get in the way of my enjoyment. His cohort, Craig Hummer, isn't bad, but someone please teach him simple grammar! (If I hear him talk about how Phil and Paul will join "Bob and I" in the studio one more time, I'm going to scream.)

    Besides, the exciting delivery of Liggett and Sherwen (and, yes their cool British accents) have been a part of every cycling event I've watched since I first embraced the sport in '93, and to me, these two are cycling to me.

  • So who will be the next great American cyclist? You may have noticed that my two new favorites are from other places. Lance is retiring (surely for good this time, as he turns 39 in the fall), and Hincapie and Leipheimer aren't much younger (both will be 37 by year's end). My bet for the next American great is Taylor Phinney, who has the sport in his blood (both his parents have been pro cyclists); I hope to see him in the Tour before long.
These three weeks are always a highlight of my summer. Last year, watching the Tour kept me sane while I was stuck in the house recovering from knee surgery, and this year, it's returned to something I make time for even when I could be somewhere else. (It also reminds me of my one trip to Europe in '99 and how much I'd love to go back; maybe I'll end up being one of those spectators along the roadside, or even the person who flew the Texas flag along the Champs-Élysées this afternoon.)

Only 49 weeks till next year's Tour!

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