Sunday, 4 July 2010

Stage One 4-7-10

Happy Fourth of July! This day is the official birthday of my motherland. Home of many bad things, and many good things. I am most proud of Motown Music and Jazz. And open source software. OK, I am glad to have been from the country that has the most variety and biggest number of immigrants of any country on earth.

As for the Tour, we did not have the anticipated mighty winds off the sea which would chop the peloton into pieces, or echelons, and force contenders to lose time. In fact, although I didn't watch that bit of the race, I gather that nothing happened at all. By the time I got around to watching it was three guys in front and the peloton rolling along behind. There were slight problems, like Adam Hansen the young TT champ from Australia, probably breaking his collarbone, but finishing the stage. But for the most part, until the last three kilometres, the peloton just rolled along. I watched this rolling along for a long time. I looked for clues as to what was going to happen, what was happening. I saw almost nothing. Admittedly I saw some very impressive cathedrals, and crowds as big as any I have seen in the Tour, but nothing much else. Just as well, since I seem to have fallen ill, no doubt something to do with being home and the travelling being over. I should be better by the time we hit the Alps, knock on wood.

To make up for the inactivity during the entire race, we had at least three crashes at the very end of the race. As a result, the race results were slightly strange. The first one was on a corner that everyone knew about, but which was the last corner before the straight, meaning everyone wanted to get around it first. The crash was almost certainly caused by Cavendish being surprised by the corner and seemingly going straight across the various riders who were turning right. However, the small crash took out Cavendish and my own pick Freire, as well as Mirko Lorenzetto of Lampre and Jeremy Hunt of Cervélo TestTeam. Check all this out on under the topic 'crashes and finish'. Later, it looked like the entire peloton, save about twenty five riders, just stopped, in a wall of tangled bikes. No idea whatever how that one happened, you just can't see. The third crash was caused by, in my mind a pretty ridiculous switch from one side to another by Allessandro Pettachi. The switch took everyone with him and somehow Tyler Farrar's bike got tangled up with Lloyd Mondory's. One often gets crashes like this in the first days of the Tour, when everyone wants to win and be in front. But not usually THREE in several hundred metres! Later things cool down, and life gets more relaxed, except for a few sprinters. Both David Millar and Eddy Merckx, in post race interviews, had no complaints about the road, it was wide enough and seemed to be one of the longest straights in the Tour this year. The whole thing at the end was just bizarre. What can we learn?

Maybe that Thor Hushovd is not in bad shape, as he finished third. Maybe that Pettachi is a wily old guy, since he avoided the problems. Maybe that even if Cavendish crashes, his last lead out man is pretty fast, as Mark Renshaw got second. But maybe we can draw no conclusions at all, except there might be more crashes, and results that were not predicted. One thing is clear. The first three are well recognised sprinters and they won the first bunch sprint. I assume that in future stages, guys like Cav, Farrar, Freire and others will be closer to the front. The jerseys changed a bit but not much. No one has even put on the mountains jersey as there have not been any hills at all. This will change tomorrow, although the winner will not have anything to do with who eventually will win.

I must admit I am glad I spent a couple of hours in front of the screen today. Not so much for the racing, which was pretty anodyne for all but the last kilometres and then got just silly. It was more a gentle immersion in the Tour, kind of like walking slowly into the sea on a very shallow beach, rather than plunging in from a rocky cliff. Laurent Fignon was absent from the commentary box, his place taken by Jalabert. Laurent is fine, but I do miss Laurent. I suppose Fignon sounded so poorly yesterday, his voice being more a growl than a voice, that they just had to take him off. I will find out what happened and tell you. I shall miss him. For those who do not know, he is fighting cancer of the digestive system, which somehow turned into the lung cancer, as far as I know. Heavy chemo. Probably death soon. I did like his commentary though, incisive, honest, insightful, funny … a great loss if he does not come back.

No point in prolonging this blog, there is not much more to say as far as I know. Tomorrow is a day that ends with a few shortish climbs, so it should NOT be sprint finish.

Vive le velo.