Friday, July 21, 2006

Floyd! and the Incredible Tour de France

I haven't written about the Tour lately but rest assured I've been watching it. Every stage, every day now since July 1. I have to say in some ways it has been better than last years Tour, in some ways worse, but in all ways it has been entertaining.

We started off in the flats watching the incredible (but outspoken) Robby McEwen sprint like a maniac and solidfy his Green Jersey. We took a turn into the Pyrenees where we saw a few of the Yellow contenders strut their stuff, back to the flats for a few and now into the Alps where the race is beginning to make clear who the real contenders are. It's been a pretty crazy race with the Yellow Jersey changing hands 7 times so far. This is a big difference than the Lance days where once he got it, the race was essentially over.

Anyway, if you look back at my top ten list prediction you will see that of the riders who started, I had essentially picked George Hincapie first and Loyd Landis second. George has been a bust particulary (I feel) becasue his team wasn't behind him from the start and possibly becasue of his crash earlier this year. But Floyd has been another story. He's been pretty amazing to watch.

Floyd doesn't have much of a team to support him. I know this because I can't name any of them except one. Usually by now you are so used to seeing riders at the front that you can name even the most obscure ones. I haven't seen many Phonak riders this tour. And where they have been most needed (in the mountains and fighting the breaks in the flats) they haven't been able to step up. But that hasn't stopped Floyd Landis from holding the Yellow jersey after the Pyrenees and then again taking back in the first Alps stage.

But 2 days ago Floyd just appeared to die on the course. Some say he bonked, some say he simply had a bad day, I say he was dehydrated (which is just inexcusable coaching). But nonetheless, the guy lost almost 9 minutes to the 2nd place rider and lost the Yellow jersey.

Let me tell you what that means. With only one mountain stage, one flat stage and a time trial left in the race, anything more than a 6 minute gap from the yellow means that you have no chance of winning. In the non time trial stages you are generally marked by the other riders and if you start to try to get away from them, they will chase you down. Everyone is always watching and marking the progress of their closest opponants. On a flat stage making up any time at all is close to impossible. On a time trial you are riding alone and of the top contenders, there really isn't more than maybe 2 minutes seperating them all. On a mountain stage the only way to do it is to find more energy than the others AND pull off an attack that they can't counter.

Yesterday, Floyd somehow did the impossible.

Before most of the mountains, he took off from the main group and attacked. At first it looked like they were just amazed that he had the energy. Then it seemed like they thought "well, maybe he'll gain a minute or two if he rides this inspired over the final mountains". Then he was out of their sight. He went on to pass all of the 15 or so riders ahead of the main pack. Passing each amazed one he just kept going. He was drinking a ton of water. Every time you saw him he was either pouring it over himself or drinking something. That, to me, was the clue to his dehydration issue from the day before.

Floyd won the stage. Read the full story here. It was simply incredible. Here was a guy who was by all accounts, finished. Here was a guy who said "you know what? fuck it, I'm not giving up". And he sure didn't. He is now 30 seconds off the leader of the race. Today I think he'll still be 30 down. In the time trial (his specialty) he will take the jersey and call it his own. You should all watch the TT on Saturday and see. It will be simply awesome!

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