Jul 2, 2005

tdf - stage 1

The Tour de France began today. It is without a doubt my favorite sporting event. I've been watching ever since Greg Lemond took the first American tour win back in 1986. I understand why it's not a popular sport in the US. It's not the easiest sport to understand. It seems like it's just a case of getting from point A to point B. It's only when you watch it that you realize that it is so much more. Oh it is so much more. In my mind it's the perfect fusion of raw athletic ability, mental strategy and gamesmanship, and pure guts. It is no coincidence that young riders seldom win the tour. It is just too grueling. There is a certain constitution gained through age that is absolutely necessary to win the tour. Many look at Lance's cancer as an impediment that he had to overcome to win. But in my mind it was the kind of mental conditioning that is necessary in order to win the tour.

Today was the first stage - a time trial. There are really only two places to win the tour; the time trials and the mountains. Why there? Well it's only these place where drafting can be eliminated. Any long straight stage means you can tuck yourself behind your team or a tour contender and draft off of his hard work. It's just too hard to break away. On the mountains the speeds are too slow for drafting to have a huge impact. And bursts of energy can take you far ahead of your opponents to eliminate even that small help. On time trials you are generally on your own. Each rider goes one after the other. It's a lonely stage where you battle against the times of your opponents at checkpoints that your coach is shouting to you.

Today Lance took second on the time trial. He lost to Zabriskie - another American. However Zabriskie is not a contender. He's not a mountain climber and he's not the lead on his team. The contenders were in general about a minute behind at the end of the race. Is that good? This is why it's hard to follow the tour. What does a minute mean? Well the winners of the tour generally win by 1 to 7 minutes. 7 minutes being a completely dominating race. To beat your opponents by 1 minute in the first stage is utter and complete domination. I personally didn't think Lance had it in him. Now I think bar an accident or sickness, he wins. It's that simple. He was so dominating I'll be surprised if he doesn't win.

No comments: