How about that Tour de France? Many predicted a wide open race for the GC, but did anyone think it would turn into one of the most unpredictable Tours in modern history? Right from before the start to the penultimate stage where Landis re-took the yellow for good. I was on an up and down roller coaster ride watching this thing. Here's my thoughts on what we all just saw.......
Pre-Tour Drama: Did any tour of the past even come close to the soap opera that preceded this Tour? Astana- Wurth: Are they in or out? Then they had to drop out because of depleted ranks after the dismissals of their suspected dopers. Bye-bye Vinokourov. Then the sucker punch that had Tour fans reeling in the dismissals of Basso and Ulrich. I think the clouds were rather dark and stormy looking just before the start flag waved. The fallout from all the suspected doping allegations has yet to be decided, and likely will carry on into the winter. I'm not very convinced that it will produce much of anything other than tainted careers and retirements. Maybe that's what leTour was after, I don't know. Maybe there weren't enough hotel rooms for all the riders that were originally invited and they had to thin out the ranks. Heck, anything is possible with this crazy Tour!
Opening Days: More rider attrition! Bobby Julich's horrible crash in the time trial was sad to see. Thor Hushovd's ripped and bloodied arm was shocking. Could he carry on? (Thankfully, yes and he wins the final stage!) And what is up with Leipheimer? His time trial looks as though he is towing an invisible stone around the course. Strange! However starnge things were, at least the Tour was off and running, and everyone was eager to distance themselves from the shock of the pre-Tour scandals and get on with the racing. Even if it was predictably sprinteriffic!
The Mountains: This is ususally where Lance sews everyting up, and we order more beers and go back to our normal conversations or go out for rides. Ho-hum! Not this year! The Pyrenees were good, and the Alps...........well, they were fantastic! Of course, the crash to the depths of dispair and the next days phoenix-like ride of Floyd Landis will be a Tour legend. You don't get "history in the making" viewing chances like that very often! The "off mike" chatter of Al Trautwig and Bob Roll was priceless! I wonder if that will make the Tour DVD?
It's Over!: Of course, Floyd made good in the time trial and it's all over now. What a great ending to a potentially disastrous Tour. Many riders put in super rides: Periero, Sastre, and Honchar( in the time trials) come to mind. Many riders bid farewell to the Tour: Zabel and Ekimov. Many new Tour stars were revealed: Fotham, Cunego, and Dessel amongst others. Of course; as we have seen from this Tour, nothing is predictable! Maybe somebody we've never heard of is ready to break in on the scene and dominate leTour like Hinault, Indurain, and Armstrong before him. That's what makes it interesting. You just never know.
My rating? I'd give this Tour a 8.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. The beginning sucked, the sprinting stages were somewhat predictable, and the loss of so many top riders was regretable. I scored it a little higher because of the history-making Landis fall and rise, which left us with a good final memory. After the blackened start, it's just what we needed! What say you?