What an annoying day yesterday was, I managed to go all day without learning the result of the stage only for the radio in my car to come on when I started the engine after work right in the middle of a sports round up item about the TDF.
It was also annoying for two further reasons: Andy Schleck isn't winning anymore; and we were robbed of a great battle (and possibly a great finish to the tour) by a mechanical gremlin. It's not helped by the fact that I don't like Contador very much. He's getting some stick today for not letting Schleck catch up, although that may be a little harsh on him as it was a bit of a borderline situation. He hasn't helped himself by saying he didn't see the incident and didn't realise Andy had a problem; Alberto, television pictures can confirm that you're a giant liar! You can clearly see him peering back at the turns to see how if Schleck is catching him and as for not seeing it, he was right behind him, he cannot have failed to notice the sudden deceleration and free-pedalling from a bike 4 feet in front of him.
Plenty of confusion in the non-cycling media (as usual, it's not the clearest of sports to the uninitiated), they don't seem to see what all the fuss is about. Comparisons have been made with F1, along the lines of 'Vettel wouldn't wait if Lewis Hamilton got a puncture' etc. A fair enough question on the surface of things, but it's not quite the same. F1 is a test of man and machine, the best (for arguments sake lets say most successful) combination of the two being the winner. The TDF is somewhat different, it's a test of endurance, human endurance; hence we hear almost nothing about the technology of the bikes themselves. All the teams have very similar machinery, and in a crucial difference with F1, they have plenty of it available to them whenever they need it. There are no rules preventing a rider from changing a wheel in the event of a puncture or even the entire bike if there is a serious crash. The riders have always acknowledged that it should be a test of who has the strongest physique and the most endurance, not who has the strongest bike and the best spanners.
I appreciate there's a giant shadow cast over this whole concept by the rampant drugs problem that infests cycling far more obviously than other sports (so large that I'm struggling to see the keyboard in this gloom). The odd thing is, this really doesn't affect the tone in which the riders approach the tour. Earlier in the competition the riders had a go slow protest of sorts when the stage included a lot of road that the riders felt was a bit dangerous. Several times during that day the main field slowed considerably to allow fallen riders to rejoin as the general consensus was that it was unfair to penalise those who had punctures or accidents due to the state of the road surface rather than the skill or endurance of the rider.
Lastly, the race itself could hardly be longer or harder than it already is, all the riders appreciate this and they all know how crushing it is to be taken out of contention through no fault of your own, hence another rule that allows anyone crashing in the last kilometre to still finish the stage on the same time as those around them. It was obvious yesterday that riders and fans alike thought Contador should not have kept going and if they weren't in their own battle for third spot Sanchez and Menchov would not have kept such up a hard pace. The fans at the presentation made their feelings very clear, roundly booing Contador on the podium, and he's come out and apologised today, to me that's all the confirmation needed.
Wow, sorry for the wall o text, guess who's bored at work today?