I have been up watching the Tour de France online from one of the feeds at Steephill (look at the bottom for feeds) and with the extra help of the TdF Live Blogging from Cycling News.
I have to say, this is the best contest since Lance left the scene, and maybe even better without such a dominant force.
The race has entered its third and final act with several lethal threats still lurking at the top of the GC leader board.
Tommy Voeckler of Team Eurocar is still sitting on top with the yellow jersey. He is losing time little by little like a deflating balloon. He has led a valiant effort with pinache, but it may not be enough.
Australia's Cadel Evans is sitting in second. His style and ugly mug may be a turn-off for some, but he is looking flawless and strong after last year's curse of the Rainbow Jersey.
The Schleck boys from Team Leppard (I know) are sitting in third and fourth. Frank Schleck is 1:22 out, but he can't Time Trial. Little brother Andy is 2:36 out and he can climb and Time trial, but he is upset about the descents... boo hoo. They both seem apprehensive to go it alone without support. Neither has won the TdF, but Andy came in second last year after a dropped chain that allowed Alberto Contador to get away for a win.
Samuel Sanchez, the Spanish rider from Euskaltel in in fifth, and last year's winner Alberto Contador of Saxo Bank is in sixth 3:15 out of first-- a gap that can be overcome on a good breakaway, climb or descent.
Who to pull for tonight?
I think from the Hollywood standpoint it looks like this:
- Contador has got a couple big victories already. I'd like to see him as the Sports Movie Bad Guy this time around. The Drago from Rocky IV... The "Shoot" from Vision Quest.... The Italian team in Breaking Away... the Cobra Khans in Karate Kid... the Russians in that Red Dawn on Ice about the American hockey victory. You get the picture. Contador can play that guy. He can be a threat to the very end, but I don't want him to win it. It'd make a bad ending for my TdF movie. Sanchez would make a great toady for AC. Scheming Spaniards stroking their long mustaches and contemplating the plunder of innocents on their galleons in their puffy shirts.
- The Schlecks have the brotherly love thing going on, but they way they are doing it is pissing me off. The only way to find redemption is for one brother to sacrifice himself for the other in a selfless act of pain or danger. It taps into the whole Jesus thing of self sacrifice that Americans dig on. Maybe a biblical parallel on the scale of The Grapes of Wrath.
- Voeckler can't win. He has held the yellow jersey for too long and if he went ahead an won, it would be anticlimactic. Besides, he has a name most English speakers can't pronounce and he is too... European.
- Basso would just be camera fodder and maybe the surprise friend at the end who enables the good guy, who isn't sure where Basso's loyalties lie, to pull out the win is a surprising act of cross-team cooperation. He is also tainted by doping and can only be the seemingly morally ambiguous Han Solo who has a little heart... not the pure-hearted Luke Skywalker.
- Danielson would be a dark horse only because he's an American. Go America, yeah! Whoo! Home of the free land of the brave.
- I think Cadel is the better hero with all the adversity he has faced amid so much promise. He is the mountain biker who overcomes switching to the road after being told he can't do it... rises, falls... and rises again. Besides, he's a native English speaker and the hero must speak English.