Monday, July 25, 2011

A Touch Of Grey

I would be remiss if I didn't note the spectacular and thrilling Tour de France victory of Australia's Cadel Evans
At 34, he was the oldest winner of Le Tour since 1923, when 36 year old Henri Pelissier chipped stone wheels and attached them to a couple of oak branches.
It was hard rooting this year: Andy Schleck, the young Luxembourgan who was basically robbed last year by Clenbutero Contador of victory is an engaging, earnest young man (along with his brother Frank, who also is a top competitor and could have won this year, too). Evans is a war-horse who, like Schleck, had been a bridesmaid twice but has the added attraction of having been on some miserable teams and having fought through enormous physical pain in racing the Tour (in 2010, he rode with a broken elbow for more than half the race.) This year, his bad luck held off.
Evans is a rider with passion and grit. He's not afraid of his emotions showing, which is refreshing in an endeavour where people have to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and do it all over again the next day. That tends to damper any highs and level lows.
You sensed from the beginning of the Tour that the final days would belong to the Schlecks and Evans: Contador was rattled early on by the enormous pressure he had put on himself to fourpeat as champion, particularly after winning the Giro, all with the looming cloud of suspicion still hanging over him with a court date over steroid use. He was treated pretty roughly in the mountains by the fans (one wag even trotted alongside his bike wearing surgical scrubs and carrying what looked like an oversized syringe,) although when he made a courageous break on the Alpe D'Huez, fans cheered and jeered pretty equally.
The Schlecks, as Evans, had something to prove. The Schlecks executed a game plan almost to perfection, save for the fact that Cadel Evans had an answer for everything they did. Andy Schleck ended up about two minutes short of where he needed to be coming into the final time trial. Evans saw to that with a masterful counterattack in the Alps. He personified what the term "leader" is all about.