Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tour de France Stage 12 Preview, Bastille Day

Photo: © Bettini

I'd sure like to be able to say that Mark Cavendish's win today in the 167km Stage 11 to Lavaur confirms my prognosticating abilities, but really, who would have bet against him? Cavendish made it look easy after a miserable day in the rain and a hard day of chasing a pesky breakaway (including American Danny Pate). The group was determined to stay away, until that is, when the last of the group, Dutchman/Cyclocross Champion- Lars Boom, was caught with 2km to go. Cavendish felt that he had let his team down yesterday, when he didn't delver the stage win, saying "When the guys ride like they did yesterday and then I don't finish the job it's hard to take." Almost immediately, he watched the replay with his teammates on the jumbotron at the finish, then gave his brother in arms a victory hug. Then he stepped on the podium to kiss the pretty girls to celebrate his third win of this Tour and then slipped on his newly claimed maiilot vert (Green Leaders Jersey), dedicating his win to Tyler Blick (diagnosed with Leukemia year ago).

Tomorrow is Bastille day in France. There is certain to be fireworks, crazy costumes, and mass partying. In addition to these Tour celebrations, the French will also celebrate their La Fête Nationale or The National Celebration that commemorates the storming of the Bastille, when craftsmen and artisans laid seige to the Bastille. The Bastille was a prison and symbol of the absolute power of King Louis XIV. The initial impetus of the revolters was to to obtain powder for their recently stolen rifles, but their bloody victory at at the Bastille was the starting point of the French Revolution that forever changed France. Fun fact: The colors in the French flag are representative of the Monarchy (white) and the colors of Paris (Red and Blue) and were on the rosette that Lafayette gave to the King when he arrived in Paris to accept defeat. Of course, the King was executed a few months later.

The High Mountains
Stage 12 is one of the the stages that fans have been waiting for. The Pyrenees begin with three BIG climbs to  start the high mountain stages that last for three days in a row. Beginning with 10 km long Hourquette d' Ancizan, then the legendary Tourmalet, and then finishing with a climb up the steep Luz-Ardiden. Luz Ardiden might be familiar to some Americans as the stage where in 2003 Lance Armstrong was thrown to the pavement when a a fan's errant musette bag strap caught his handlebars on the climb up. According to the story, Jan Ullrich, told Iban Mayo, and other riders on that stage to wait for Armstrong (wearing the leader's yellow jersey). It is an unwritten code that you don't attack the yellow jersey when they are down. However, if you watch the tape, yes I have it taped. It was Tyler Hamilton, Lance's former teammate,  who was telling everyone to 'whoa up' Interestingly, it is Tyler Hamilton who is blowing the whistle on Armstrong and is a likely witness in the Federal investigation of fraud of the US Postal Service Cycling Team.

When Pedro Delgado, Tour Champion in 1988, won the stage to Luz Ardiden in 1985, he celebrated by drinking a milkshake, a rare treat for a cyclist. Turns out the shake was spoiled and made him sick. He lost almost a half an hour on the subsequent stage.

I hope that the big guns (Andy Schleck, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans) go firing at each other to help determine, who is in this to win this. I, for one, am sick of watching them, watch each other. I don't think that Andy Schleck has looked particularly sharp so far. Contador tweeted today that his knee was feeling ok and expressed his excitement for the mountains ("After many troubles finally the mountain is coming! My knee is going better"). Evans looks determined to win. The dark horses are really looking interesting right now and tomorrow we'll see if Peter Velits and T. Martin have what it takes to contend. The HTC boys might have their own 1-2 punch to match the Schleck Bros.
 Time to light the fuse and Bastille Day is about as appropriate as it gets. Bang!


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