I wrote previously of the drama of the early stages of the Tour. There was even more drama on the Tour's second stage as a huge crash on a slippery descent with 20 miles remaining brought down a significant portion of the peloton including a number of the favorites including Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador and the Schleck brothers.
Such as massive pile-up so far from the finish could have had major implications on the fight for the yellow jersey, but just when things reached a critical stage a patron of the peloton, Fabian Cancellara, emerged and asked everyone to slow down so that those affected by the crash could regain the peloton. It is a bit debatable, but Cancellara's actions to slow the peloton certainly allowed the lone breakaway rider, Sylvain Chavanel, to win the day's stage and by such a margin that he took the yellow jersey off of Cancellara's back.
At first this might appear to be a very selfless act by Cancellara. However, it must be noted that at the time he declared a truce, his teammates, Andy and Frank Schleck were still trying to regain the peloton after crashing. So, the reason for Cancellara's actions are not entirely clear.
Regardless of his reasons, Cancellara's decision to ask the peloton to ride slowly is something that is rarely seen in bike racing. If the yellow jersey crashes it is common etiquette for the riders to wait, but when so many racers are affected by a crash there is no written or unwritten rules of the road on what should be done.
Personally, I think what Cancellara did was the right thing to do. The fact that so many riders went down seems to indicate that there might have been something on the road which caused the crash. This is something that is out of control of the riders so they should not have to pay a heavy penalty for what has happened.
But, this is, admittedly a very slippery slope. Clearly the Tour race organizers are looking to add some difficulty by including cobbles on stage 3. So, what is the difference between a slippery road and slippery cobbles. If there is a massive pile-up on the cobbles on stage 3 should the peloton ride slowly to allow everyone to regain the lead group?
Lance Armstrong announced early this week that this would be the final Tour of his career. For most riders that usually means one more Tour after the announcement, but I think Lance really does want this Tour to be his last.
It seems like this year, Lance has been a bit more distracted with off-the-bike activities. To be fair, most of these activities have centered around his global awareness of cancer work, but it still means time away from training and focusing on the task at hand.
Up until the recent Tour of Switzerland, I would have been concerned that Lance was not going to be at full speed coming into the Tour. However, Lance finished second overall in Switzerland which is a good sign for a season plagued by illness and crashes.
Lance's second place in Switzerland was a combination of a good day of climbing in the race's critical mountain stage and a good day time trialing on the final stage. It is consistency which wins the Tour de France and Lance was consistent enough to place second at the Tour de Suisse.
But, there is a bit of a concern on the fitness side for Lance. He finished out of the top 10 in the final time trial. There are two areas of concern here. First, he was beaten in the overall by Frank Schleck. Frank outclimbed Lance and he was good enough in the final time trial to hold onto first place. That means that the gap between Lance and Frank is closing in the time trials. If the gap stays the same or continues to close, Lance may not have the same advantage over the Luxemborg rider which was critical for putting Lance on the podium last year.
Secondly, Lance is used to winning time trials or at least finishing top three. The fact that he finished 11th means that there is definitely more work to be done before he is ready to throw down at the Tour where the level of competition is much greater.
So, Lance's Tour de Suisse result was encouraging, but is he really ready to climb back onto the podium at this year's Tour? It will be his last opportunity to do so. That would be a fitting ending to a great Tour de France career.