Le Tour has begun…
OK…I admit it, I’m a sports junkie (geek?). In addition to the American standards of baseball and football (college and pro), I watch golf (when Tiger’s in the hunt and all majors), tennis (majors), basketball and hockey (playoffs), and certain nascar and indy races. In the last month, I watched every game of the European UEFA soccer championships, I’ve seen every night of olympic qualifying for swimming, watched Tiger’s impressive performance and will watch Federer v. Nadal tomorrow morning. Heck, I’d watch full Ironman competitions if they would air them!
Today, however, my interest turns towards one of my favorite events of the year: The Tour de France.
With Lance out of the mix, this race has fallen back into obscurity for 99% of the American public. The Tour didn’t help itself out any when it excluded Team Astana due to its mixup in the doping scandal last year and which has plagued the race and its perception in the general public. The tragedy behind this move by the race organizers is that they are punishing riders (and a team frankly) who had nothing to do with the doping. Astana completely remade itself this year and replaced all its riders. Two of the riders on the current team– ALBERTO CONTADOR and LEVI LEIPHEIMER are from Team Discovery (which has since disbanded) and finished first and third, respectively, in last year’s tour. Contador is fresh off a win at the Giro de Italia despite being invited only two weeks before the race started and Leipheimer is likely missing his final chance to win the yellow jersey.
Although the Astana situation is unfortunate, it’s only strengthened my rooting interest against the French as I see this move as a bitter reaction against American riders and American teams (Contador is Spanish, but Discovery was an American team) winning the race for basically the last decade. Personally, I’ll be rooting for team Slipstream Chipotle this year even though I know they don’t have a realistic chance of winning. Their best riders are well beyond their prime and their younger riders probably don’t have what it takes to win the race. Nonetheless, their “race clean” approach has revolutionized the drug testing in the sport and is a significant step in the right direction.
The tour airs from 8:30 to 11:30 eastern on Versus and Versus HD. If you’ve never watched a race before, I’d encourage you to check it out. The announcers for the race are some of the best in sport and do a great job of explaining the nuances of the sport to audience.
Personally, my favorite stages are the time trials (but that’s only because of the bike “porn” show). The most exciting stages are typically the sprint finishes, but if you actually watch the race, you’ll find yourself being caught up in the stages where the riders are going so slow you might actually delude yourself into thinking you could do it–i.e. the big climbs. These stages are where the race is won and lost and there have been some dramatic moments on these climbs.