Yesterday's eventful (not "epic", I have stricken the term "epic" from my quiver of word arrows – I am so tired of hearing "epic" cycling occurrences – epic Tours, epic stages, epic sandwiches in the feed zone — "epic", the moment has passed, time to move on) stage which saw Alberto Contador scamper away with the Brothers Schleck as they worked to put time into the ITT menaces of Kloden, Wiggins and Armstrong. The Schlecks have to gain time in the mountains because when they fold their lanky Luxembourgian frames onto their time trial bikes, the clock hands start spinning wildly like a prop clock from a 1950's time travel movie.
But the real story of the day for me was the escape of Thor SMASH, as he went on the attack to prove that he deserved the green jersey. There had been some squawking from Cavendish about Thor SMASHing his way to green through a Cav relegation for irregular sprinting. Here's Cav's comment from the rest day (from cyclingnews):
Cavendish said he told Hushovd, "You've won the green jersey now but that's always going to have a stain on it.
A stain? You're complaining about the relegation after your team roostered up George's race by committing to a lead out and then soft pedaling on the front at the pack sprint? Is there anything Columbia can't complain about? Is the bus AC set at 75 instead of 74? Do they have to pay French taxes on the stage win money from this Tour? Is the caviar at the team dinner an off brand? Thor SMASH felt that he needed to prove himself worthy of the green jersey, so he broke away on the hardest day of the Tour, and collected the 12 points on offer for the green jersey, here's how he described it:
"I think I had my best day on my bike ever. I enjoyed every second on my bike today."
Let's run that through the schmalz translator, shall we? "I am to having the green, and the only stain for having on the tooo-nic is from the body juices that I squeezed out of my rivals."
In other cycling slap-fight news, there are whispers that Alberto might not be the best teammate in the world, and is not paying attention to team orders. Alberto lifted the pace in the break yesterday, which resulted in his teammate Kloden getting dropped off. Kloden then rode to not get caught by his own teammate Armstrong, who in turn caught Kloden near the finish, and dropped him right before the line. There are so many levels of disfunction going on here, it's hard to keep track; it seems that Astana has become the hot dog of the Tour – just a collection of random parts, lips and rectums shoved together in a light blue and yellow casing. In fact, some are even calling for a separate phallometer for Contador, as he may be revealing himself as a "Richard". This of course, bears investigation, so let's take a peek at Berto's phallo-history.
Contador came into prominence after his first Tour victory in 2007 with Discovery and Johan, here's his reaction to that win (from cyclingnews):
"I want to celebrate it and to have parties, then go on holidays, enjoying this first win," commented Contador on the overall win. He came back from a near-death brain clot to capture the greatest cycle race. "I could not image when I was there [in the hospital] that today I would be here with all these people watching me and with these results."
That sounds pretty non-dicky to me, and even more so when you consider that Johan before the Tour didn't really have a lot of faith in Alberto:
"A week before the Tour I scanned the rivals for the Tour's white jersey and sent him an e-mail with names like Gerdemann and Dekker," explained Discovery Team Manager Bruyneel. "He answered, 'I hope my rivals will be Valverde and Evans.'"
So Alberto overcame expectations, won the Tour and now everybody's happy. Then we move on to the 2008 Giro, which Alberto started at the last moment because the new Republic of Borat team that Johan had brought Alberto over to got excluded from participating in the Tour, robbing Contador of a chance to defend his title. Here's Alberto's reaction from that win (from cyclingnews):
"I am glad that I left my vacation to come here," Contador said with a grin while dressed in pink. "It was a Giro that many could have won and it is at the same level as the Tour de France, maybe at a higher lever."
So Alberto seems to have taken the Tour exclusion in stride, though it did cost him a chance at adding to his total Tour wins and adding to his place in cycling history.
So far we have a story about a happy go lucky guy who enjoys vacations and winning any bike race he's actually allowed to race in. But then along comes Johan's former best bud Lance Armstrong to complicate matters. The thing about Alberto's alleged dickiness is that you never heard anything about him being prickly or having any difficulties with teammates before Lance's arrival. It is only after the arrival of the Awareness Generator that we started to hear about Alberto's troubles. But he might have a case for dickiness:
The Hog didn't have a lot of faith in him initially. (Granted, the Hog didn't have any reason to believe in him, as Contador hadn't shown any of his Tour winning potential yet.)
The transfer to Astana cost him a chance at a Tour victory .
He's won all three Grand Tours and he now has to face the prospect of sharing the team leadership to a guy coming out of retirement.
Johan's already mentioned that the new team he's starting with Lance probably won't include Alberto.
To be honest, I'm not surprised that Alberto is acting a little dicky, or that he isn't listening to team orders or that he's attacking his teammates. What really surprises me is that he's not punching Lance and Kloden in the mouth at the sign-in every day.
Today should also bring the announcement that Radio Shack will be sponsoring the new team of Lance and the Hog. This is a surprising announcement for two reasons: Lance and Johan will be moving on without Alberto, and Radio Shack is somehow not insolvent.
I tune in to watch today's ITT, an event which I confess to find a very dull endeavor. It's just endless pictures of panting and pedaling. It like a long weird stag film, except without ladies or a Casio soundtrack.
Here's a Fabian interview – he says the course is harder than some might think, and that he needs to get to the team bus to freshen up his spray tan.
They show DZ out on the course as he passes Tommy Voeckler and his pain face™.
They interview Millar, and he says that unlike the "fat" Wiggo, the new Wiggo will go like a rocket today.
There's Cadel starting, he's been cryptically hinting at some sort of problem with this Tour, and he's not speaking to his teammates or the press. Could that have to do with the fact that his team's craptacular TTT screwed him out of contending for the overall? He's riding today to prove that he still deserves 4th place.
There goes Moreau, who's been revisiting his dance with 10th place on the last two stages.
P&P mention there could be some rain today, a notion which delights me, as it will mean I can watch Menchov slid his way across France on his rear end. Is there any way we can get Razzy to ride a guest ITT today?
I've been neglecting to mention the "Underdogs" commercial that VS has been playing, a lot of the underdogs they mention makes sense, but I think when they show the hunter and mention coming back against the odds, I'm a little confused. Wouldn't the deer or the baby bunny he's shooting be the underdog in that situation? And what would that comeback be like? Would it be a goring by a deer or a gnawing of the genitals from a rabbit?
We get a shot of Cadel pedaling his bike, slowly losing his mind.
So if the rain comes, I'm sure we will have a situation where Contador's teammates will give him valuable feedback about the course for his ride, things like applying extra lard to his tires and using his butter-based brake pads.
Here's a Levi interview – he says that it was frustrating to watch Alberto drop Kloden as he was hoping for Kloden to win the stage. They discuss how Alberto's move really screwed up Astana's chances for a podium sweep, now why would Alberto do that? After Astana's been so good to him?
Here's Frankie talking to Lance, he's cheekily says his goal is to "Go fast", just barely neglecting to say, "Duh!" That bugs me, so I will take one phallometer point off.
Wiggo is off. Let's see what he can do. It looks dry for him right now.
Lance is lining up to ride the ITT on a special yellow bike, that's a -5. A yellow bike, are you serious?
George finishes his TT, with a bruised, not broken (it's not broken because he refused to have it x-rayed) collarbone from yesterday's crash. Shockingly, his bike does not burst into flames as he crosses the line.
Lance is about to start his TT, insisting on using a yellow bike, which must be good luck, I'm sure. He ducks a punch from noted wanker Bernard Hinault and moves to the starting ramp.
The Schlecks are having a quick spoon before the start.
Franks starts down the start ramp, he's already lost a minute!
Andy starts, and only loses 30 seconds immediately.
Alberto starts – on a white bike – as Johan just has it made for him. It's a special composite made of eggwhites and powdered sugar.
VDV is on the course, but there's sadly little mention of his presence, sigh...
Wiggo is coming to the time check, he's got the fastest time at the first check! Go Wiggo!
According to the internet, VDV came through 10th at the first time check. Ouch.
Kloden comes through with the 3rd best time at the first time check.
Wow, Wiggo is thin! He looks like the third Schleck brother, except, of course, he's fast on a TT bike.
VDV 14th at the second time check, more ouch.
Lance 9 seconds slower than Wiggo at the first time check, but beating his main rival on the GC, Andreas Kloden.
In their wisdom, VS decide to show a spot for their show "Fanarchy" that shows a large man in a Yankees jersey making fun of the Tour by screaming "They're riding a bike!!" That's some savvy cross-promotion there. I would get upset, but I believe that fan will be claimed by heart disease in a matter of moments, and I will not speak too badly about the dead.
VDV grunting over the climb.
Andy Schleck comes through the first time check in 8th, which is surprisingly non-crappy.
Carlos Sastre's fancy P4 should have a stamp based paint job, as he is surely mailing this TT performance in.
Contador coming to the first time check. He gets the best time of the day by 18 seconds. Thanks for coming everyone...
Frank is down about a minute and a half to Wiggo already.
Lance is at the third time check, and he's 42 seconds down to Wiggo, but how much has he conceded to his rival Kloden?
VDV finishes 19th at 57 seconds down.
They show Andy Schleck, he may be coming close to catching his brother who started 3 minutes ahead of him. Will Frank offer him a lead out?
Frank down 1:16 to Wiggo at the time check, Wiggo is the virtual Frank Schleck on the day?
Wiggo finishing, he won't have the best time of the day
Andy is 47 seconds down on the second time check.
Contador is 30 seconds ahead at the second time check, the Hog radios up to tell him he's down by 4 minutes.
Kloden finishes 8th overall, and will now have to sleep in the tent previously used by Levi at this Tour.
Lance is finishing, he's riding hard to beat Wiggo, Kloden and un-awareness.
Lance finishes 15th, losing 1:26, maybe he's saving himself for 2011?
Frank Schleck finishes at 33rd at about 2:30 down.
Here comes Andy. He finishes 1:41 down, maintaining his second place and taunting rights over his brother.
Alberto coming in, he could win this stage.
Alberto wins by 3 seconds, that performance, along with his dominance in the hills, will not be looked at (not even by the French) as being suspicious in any manner whatsoever. Nope, no sir.
Let's wait and see how the GC shakes out, shall we? It looks like it will be Alberto, followed by Andy Schleck, and then Lance. Look like Alberto has one more chance on Ventoux to knock Lance out of the top three.
You know that old box of bike parts you've put in your closet?
Recorded inside the press room at Grenoble Velodrome, we bring you Episode #8 of the Insider from the 2011 Tour de France, our final podcast.
Recorded 1,850 metres above sea level atop the famed Alpe d'Huez, we bring you Episode #7 of the Insider podcast from the 2011 Tour de France.