I made it. It is actually hard to put in words how much I have been looking forward to getting over here and witnessing the Tour de France. Two cameras, two computers and a huge dose of child-like glee are all sitting in a hotel in Besancon, waiting for the Garmin-powered RBA Car driven by Chris Henry to meet me here today.
It is strange to read some of the comments that this Tour has been boring and that everyone is waiting for the climbing to begin on Sunday into Verbier. They must be watching a different Tour. Here’s what I’ve seen so far:
The greatest American Tour de France cyclist in history coming back from almost 4-years off the bike to be sitting 8-seconds out of the lead in an attempt to win his 8th Tour de France. It truly is one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sport. A visibly agitated Contador attacking on Arcalis during stage 7 hoping to help his team but also reminding the world he is the best stage racer in the field, by a long shot. Or is he? Brice Feillu, Thomas Voeckler and Pierrick Fedrig bringing hope and victory to their native France. Cav’s complete domination with 4-stage wins with a hopeful Tyler Farrar nipping at his heals and a determined Thor Hushovd refusing to stay too far away from the green jersey which he now holds again. And don’t forget the heroics of Bradley Wiggins, the potential of Christian Vande Velde and the inspiring and young, Nicolas Roche, chasing the ghost of his last name, while seeking to chart his own path in the peloton. Could you have predicted Rinaldo Nocentini would be in yellow for seven days? There are stories everywhere and there will be more. Yesterday as an emotional (who wouldn’t be?) Heinrich Haussler got the win, Oscar Friere and Julian Dean riders got shot with a bb gun?
What will happen with Cadel? Does Levi’s sad departure change the Astana plan and give Andy Schleck and Carlos Sastre more room to attack and weaken the unfaltering Astana game plan. What is the Astana game plan by the way? I’m not convinced they have one and are as surprised as the rest of us at their numbers at the top of the standings.
Speaking of Sastre. He’s quiet and unpredictable and will attack and then attack again. Count on that.
Maybe it’s an American mindset, that we need things lined up perfectly, we want it all sorted out so we can change the channel and move on. We want the mountains to make sense of it all for us. Those mountains will sort it all out, the sacred climbs that I’ve been dreaming about seeing for years, but there is more than mountains in the 2009 Tour de France. This race is remarkably unpredictable, passionate and French. Things don’t go as planned, but if you take the time to wait, to be patient, to watch the details, to taste it all and relish in the stories, it becomes obvious why this is the greatest three weeks of the year.
Last night after dinner, jet-lagged and walking home, I caught a glimpse of a local crit running in Besancon. A bunch of young French racers, full of the anticipation that the Tour would be in their town the following afternoon, riding with a little extra kick and dreaming that some day they may be a part of the greatest race on earth.
We will continue to bring you the stories you expect to read, and hopefully some that you don’t.
(Brad Roe is the editor of Road Bike Action magazine and will be writing about the Tour de France at www.roadbikeaction.com)