My argument against the Tour de France is that the first week of the race is always boring. Prologue, sprint, sprint, breakaway almost makes it but sprint, and another sprint. Kind of like the NBA, just tune into the end to see the real game.
I stand corrected. Yesterday’s wind showed everyone who never saw a spring classic what happens when you ride near the coast. Today’s time trial showed why this should be a staple in every Grand Tour. The juxtaposition of power and beauty of watching a well drilled team ride is awe inspiring. Just when you think it is easy, watch a team like BBox blow it to pieces.
So, to sum up the first four stages in one sentence. Alberto Contador won the Tour by a few hundreth’s of a second.
While I really think Lance came here to be a domestique, I have a firm belief that a champion can’t be domesticated. Just like you can’t domesticate a lion, you can’t fully tame the champion. What drove them to be a champion is in their DNA. It is who they are.
When Lance started the Stage 1 Time Trial in the 18th position, he made a statement to me that he was assuming the role of domestique. He would ride the TT without benefit of his teammates feeding him intimate information about the course on race day. He would not get to see where people were making time and losing time. He would be the tester and he would be the supplier of information back to his team.
Then Stage 3 came and Lance found himself in the right end of the split. You might as well wave a big juicy steak in front of the aforementioned lion. Instinct took over. Never far from the surface, the Champion emerged. To the front went his two Astana teammates to help drive the break.
Today he had a chance to regain the Yellow Jersey. A jersey he wore 83 days in previous Tours. Let’s face it, Yellow is his color. When Lance wears any other jersey, it looks just plain wrong. The same way Miguel Indurain looked out of place in his Banesto team kit. Champions must wear yellow. Lance missed day 84 by a blink of an eye. It may be the best thing to happen to Astana.
We all know that Alberto Contador is the best chance for a win for Astana. He is the best stage racer in the world and he is on the strongest team in the world. If Lance had donned yellow today, it would have been hard for Contador to prove that. The mind set of a team in yellow switches from offensive to defensive. With a legitimate contender in yellow, it would be hard to attack when the Tour goes to Arcalis for stage 7. You don’t attack your own team mate. Yes, I know Carlos Sastre did just that last year. The original plan was to send him first and then send Andy Schleck second when Sastre got caught. The plan went wrong when Sastre never got caught.
If Contador did attack Lance in yellow, that could have created a division in Astana. One like we have not seen since the LeMond-Hinault days. Remember when Hinault promised to work for LeMond? You can’t fully tame a champion.
Now, Contador can attack on Stage 7. He better because winning Stage 7 may be enough to cage the champion inside Lance long enough for him to return to the role he accepted at the start of Stage 1.