Sunday, July 26, 2009

From Verbier to Ventoux: the crowning of Contador

I have been lucky this year: I got to watch much more Tour de France than in previous years. And good timing as it was the year when the Tour came back after the drug problems of recent years.

The last leg of the race today through Paris was visually stunning as a perfect day welcomed the Tour recovery. The background of the Tour seems to steal the biking show quite often. And Paris the more so.

The story was the return of Lance Armstrong, at least this is how the press wanted it to be, slightly ignoring the talent of Contador and the rise of the Schleck brothers. It was all the way up for Contador until at Verbier, in the Swiss Alps, Contador told them all who was the best. He never relented, never gave up the yellow shirt so spectacularly won at Verbier, winning the clock trial at Annecy and keeping a close tab on Andy Schlek at the mythic Mont Ventoux.

I am very, very happy for Contador since he was getting a bad rap after his 2007 Tour win when too many were willing to give him the title of "accidental" winner since so many of the leaders dropped along the way after testing positive. But Contador was a real champ all along, deserved to win his 2007 Tour, the more so that he is one of the rare bikers to ALSO have won the Giro and La Vuelta, something that has escaped even the great Lance Armstrong.

The winning trio

And coming to Lance Armstrong. After winning 7 Tour in a row he had carved his name in sports history and I was disappointed when he decided to come out of retirement. Why tarnish such glory risking a humiliation? But he managed, he gave it all what he had and when he finally realized that Contador was the man he rallied, stitched back the frayed Astana team behind their champion and still managed a third position on the podium, at 37 perhaps more significant than some of his tour wins.

More than at any time I saw the importance of team work in biking, be it behind Contador or Cavendish who managed to win 6 of the Tour legs, carefully carried to the sprint moment by his team. Not to mention the mutual help of the Schleck brothers, the ones to watch for next year Tour.

It has been a great ride, a beautiful one, and certainly not painful from my cozy TV chair.

-The end-

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