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Final Countdown, Part II

Posted by MDugard on Jul 22, 2006 10:10:26 AM

Notes from the wait...Hanging out in the pressroom at the finish line, waiting for the time trial to be decided. Floyd and company don't go off for more than two hours (the Australian press assures me that Cadel Evans will move into a podium spot, by the way). Since we're all forced to watch time trials on TV, thanks to the nature of the TT, I almost dropped Austin off at the finish and then pushed on to Paris alone to watch the finale in my favorite cafe (he's on deadline, and will be staying in Dijon to write, anyway). But then I realized that I needed to be there at the finish line to see the look on the face of Pereiro/Landis/Sastre/Evans (?) when they realize they've moved into yellow for good. How could I not be? It would be like leaving a movie before the final ten minutes, or leaving a boxing match before the final round. Sure, I could see it on TV. But someone's going to be very happy right around 5:55 local time and someone will be on the verge of tears. That's what sports is all about. After three weeks of watching this drama unfold, I need the closure of seeing the ending for myself. Paris can wait. And yet ... it's bad form to attack yellow on the final day of the Tour, but this Tour has broken all the rules. Why should tomorrow's push along the Champs Elysees be any different? In fact, it's almost guaranteed that there will be some sort of battle. Even if the yellow jersey is decided today, and the green jersey (sprinters; won by Robbie McEwen yesterday when Freire, the Spaniard, abandoned), those final steps on the podium may be wide open. Absolutely nobody except bike geeks and the Velo News staff (with all due respect guys, there's no difference between the two) remembers who finishes fourth at the Tour. It's all about podium -- 1, 2, 3. If the fourth place guy is within striking distance tomorrow morning, there will be blood. An aside: I'm starting to check in with the world again. I know about the Angels surging in the West, Isreal doing what they do (damned if they do, gone if they don't) in the Middle East, Le Backrub, and I'm finally catching up on Doonesbury. So I look at ESPN.COM and see that Barry Bonds and Pat Tillman are the top stories, that Tiger has the lead on a bunch of sites, and that the LA Times hasn't sent anyone to cover this race, even as the NY Times has sent a business writer to do a man's job. Part of me feels like I've got some sort of great scoop because I'm witnessing, one of the lucky few witnessing, one of the year's great sporting moments in person. Part of me is absolutely pissed that today is being marginalized by someone as ludicrous as Barry "Asterisk" Bonds. OK. Rant's all finished. It's 2:46 here. The finish area is rather charming, a little island between the Saone River and a deep green canal. The weather has turned very warm and preposterously humid. Because the start and finish are separated by a dozen miles, I can't tell you exactly what's going on, but right now is exactly the time that the top riders are emerging from their team busses and beginning their hour-long warm-up on a wind trainer. Crowds are gathered around the busses, standing ten feet away behiind yellow caution tape, watching the riders get ready like they'd watch apes at the zoo -- only you don't ask the ape for an autograph, nor gape so respectfully. Onward. Incredible press buffet here today: sauteed steak, goat cheese, baguettes, some sort of fabulous boiled potato, and yellow plums for desert. Thought you'd want to know. Talk to you after the stage.

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