With the World Cup and Wimbledon, the Tour de France had had to take third billing which is a shame as it’s an intriguing competition this year with many issues. First, would Chris Froome be allowed to ride and if he did would he win his 6th Tour and 4th successively; could Mark Cavendish overhaul the great Eddy Merckx’s number of stage wins; where would the threat to Team Sky emanate: Tom Desmoulin,Vincenzo Nibali, Qunitani could all state claims.
I advised John Pargiter to back Nibali handily placed in the chasing pack as the Tour hits the mountains. Leader Greg Von Avermaet is not a climber but gamely hang onto his yellow journey. Yesterday’s stage from Annecy was won by a Frenchman Julian Alaphilllippe which will be as exultantly received as Les Bleus winning the World Cup.
I enjoy the Tour as much for the beautiful pictures of France as the competition. Yesterday’s stage 10 began in Annecy, a glorious lake side town which I have visited. I know of no more attractive lakeside setting. Then it ascends to the high Alps with a moving memorial to the Resistance in which their songs was played. Some say that is it’s a procession over in seconds but this is a silly criticism. Because there is no arena, you can get close to the riders. The best way is to have a good lunch, assume your roadside spot, there is much brouhaha as the Tour caravan approaches, watch it go by and repair to a nearby cafe with TV to follow the rest of the stage.
The charge that cycling is a dirty sport is harder to defend. One aficionado I know said the winner is the team with the best masking agent. My view is that winners like Lance Armstrong were supreme cyclists with a dodgy moral compass who felt that for all their exhaustive prep and prowess they might still lose out to so someone on drugs and “as they are all at it …”. The cycling federation and sponsors have been weak but it might be the case that as a test of endurance it is beyond mere mortals without some supplements often in the form of relief for asthma.
The other fascinating aspect of cycling is its politics.
Whilst a team sport, it is centred around the team leader, the rest called rather disparagingly domestiques (servants).
Geraint Thomas is placed second but will he have to make way for leader Froome who still has a time trial near the end and two days in the mountains? It’s a bit like that famous scene in The Godfather when Pete Clemenza was given permission to start his own family rewarded for his loyalty.
Miguel Indurain was number two to Greg Lemond and won 5 tours. Richie Porte, once of SKY, did not fare so well, he had to bow out with a broken collar bone.
At 32 Thomas might be too old to attract another team and seems happy doing the heavy lifting for Froome. Avermaet will be dropped in the Alps and you will see the likely winners emerge. Compulsive viewing even with the Open.