Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WHAT'S UP WITH THE TOUR DE FRANCE

10 reasons to tune into the last four days of this year's race

Frank Schleck of Luxembourg is currently in 3rd place and
should shine in the Alps Wed-Fri.
Some of my friends are wondering if I've lost my enthusiasm for the Tour de France.  

Usually, by now I'd be beside myself, ranting and raving about the subtleties of each stage.  Usually, by now I'd have fired off several Tour de France (TdF) updates, regardless of my friends' actual interest.  Usually, by now my "Tour de France for the Rest of Us" blog would be populated with hyperbolic TdF rhetoric.  But, alas, I have not, to date, written a bit.

 Until now.

So, here are ten reasons why you should tune in to the last four days, or stages:

10. The next three days are in the French Alps. For whatever happens in the race, the photography in these mountains will be amazing.

9. Thursday's Stage will see the cyclists climb three "above categorization" mountains, with the highest mountain finish in the history of the TdF.  A category 4 mountain is hard. Cat 3 is harder. Cat 2 harder still.  Cat 1 is crazy hard.  HC or above/be yond categorization mountains are unbelievably difficult.  Race organizers have created this sadistic stage to separate the men from the boys.

8. As of Monday, over 5000 people were already camping out on fabled L'Alpe d'Huez--the final climb on Friday's stage.  Those crowds will multiply.  It will be the final mountain-top showdown of this edition of the Tour de France.  L'Alpe d'Huez is straight-up steep.  A heartbeaker and champion-maker.

7. Frenchman Thomas Voekler wears the Yellow Jersey (Maillot Jaune) as the overall race leader.  Voekler is a determined and charismatic cyclist.  Can he hold onto it and give the French their first TdF champion in decades?  Not likely, but he has lots of Francophones fantasizing.

6. Aussie Cadel Evans has been runner-up in the TdF twice.  He may be more than second-best this year.  He's currently in second place and is expected to take the race lead on Thursday.  Cadel can climb as well as his rivals, but he is better than his rivals at time trialing (which I'll explain shortly). Unless he implodes, he's in the catbird's seat.

5. The Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank, of Luxembourg, are currently in third and fourth place.  They are known as the best mountain climbers in the Tour.  Working together, they could get the better of Evans and other top contenders on Thursday and Friday's epic mountain stages and catapult themselves to the top of the heap.

4. Defending champion Spaniard Alberto Contador is over three minutes behind the Yellow Jersey at this point, back in sixth place.  But he is fully capable of pulling even with rivals in the mountains and surpass them during Saturday's Individual Time Trial.  He's down, but not out.

3. Once the mountain fireworks end, Saturday's Individual Time Trial (ITT) may well settle who will be this year's TdF champion.  An ITT is an individual cyclist's ride against the clock over a long distance.  If the times are close among Evans, Voekler, the Schlecks and Contador, their individual performance on Saturday will determine the race outcome.

2. If you haven't listened to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin call the race on Versus TV, you're missing a treat.  These two old cyclists not only know and reveal the inside of the race, they are colorful and make the race accessible even to first-time watchers.

1. Sunday: the final stage of the Tour de France.  The Yellow Jersey will be settled, but the race for glory on the Champs Elysee in Paris among sprinters will be furious.  Currently Brit Mark Cavandish wears the Green Jersey (Maillot Vert) as the best sprinter.  But American Tyler Farrar could win this stage .  Who knows?  If you have never seen it, this stage is really incredible to watch.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:57 PM

    Now my world is spinning on it's normal axis again. A JHJ post on the TdF. Yay!

    ReplyDelete

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