Thursday, July 07, 2005

Le Tour de France

I don't know how many people here really follow The Tour, but I am a great fan. Ever since Ten Sports started showing it live I have been hooked because as with Formula 1, this is as much a race of tactics, experience, teamwork as of raw talent. I know that the people on top in most sports also put in that amount of hard work, dedication etc. but nowhere is it as evident as on the Tour.

Case in point is the ever-faithful George Hincape. He is the only person who has stayed with Armstrong on each of his 6 triumphs, first with the US Postal team and then with Team Discovery Channel. As most people know the race is won in the mountains. Mainly after stage 11 and the level 3 and 4 ascents of the Pyrenees is what separates the wheat from the chaff. But on all such stages as yesterday's and today's which saw dangerous, possibly fatal pile ups at the dangerous turn in the end are lose-lose situations for all the top runners. The only people looking forward to race on the relatively flat pieces of road are the specialist sprinters like Boonen, McEwen and Stuart O'Grady. For the title contenders like Armstrong, Basso, Ulrich etc. the most they can hope is to finish with the peleton and ensure safe passage to the next day. Where a person can win is in the time trials, like how Armstrong pulled out a large gap to his main rivals in just 20 minutes of riding on the first day compared to no significant mileage gained in the ensuing 5 day-long stages.

However what these stages do test is the ability of a team to hold together, protect its main man and warm up the legs for the big climbs in the mountains. Racing jostling for positions among 150 riders at 50 km/hr on extremely thing tyres and on narrow bending lanes is as dangerous as racing in the tried and tested cockpits of F1 cars. I think more men have died in the last few years in cycling than in motor racing.

It will be exciting to see how the race pans out in the next few days as to how Armstrong will handle the steep ascents of the Pyrenees. He has not raced much this year (being in a Pete Sampras like state) and it needs to be seen if he can pip Kazak rider Alexander Vinokourov who I think will be his main rival to the maillot'jaune come 21st of July at the Champs Elysses.

Till then, au revoir!

1 comment:

Anand said...

For such a physical sport, the intricacies are multifold.
Will be a pity if he didn't win !