You know what’s ironic? That I was finally able to watch both Stage 7 and Stage 8 this weekend, but not to find the time I needed to post on either of them. There was a lot of that going around this weekend – not quite irony always, but something close. For example, Slate rejected my article pitch, saying they were all set for TdF Coverage; thus far, they’ve run only a single, recycled story, with a new preface that I felt compelled to correct for them.
Continuing the trend, the first active, high-profile rider to confess to doping was rewarded by being stripped of his ’96 Green Jersey, while Astana thanked an uncooperative dope suspect for his “honesty”. The two stage winners during the Tour’s first forays into the Alps were won by riders from Germany and Denmark – the two countries hit hardest by doping revelations in recent months. The day after taking the Yellow Jersey, T-Mobile sent two riders to the hospital and third to the sag wagon. And despite a hilly parcours, inchoate race situation, and the best French hopes in a decade, the only thing blown apart on Bastille Day were fireworks.
They say these are all the the signs of a cleaner Tour, and I’ll agree with that. Heck, if anything, Linus Gerdemann looks like he needs quite a bit more in the testosterone department (I promise – my first and last joke about Gerdemann’s astoundingly boyish countenance). Tactically, though, I could really stand to see things spiced up – as far as GC goes, Stage 7 might as well have been a flat stage with a successful break. Rasmussen certainly put one to the favorites the next day, but watching the group behind told the real tale of the race – Moreau trying to break free, Valverde interested in going but not working, and Contador, Kashechkin, and Schleck just marking for their alleged team “leaders” struggling in the group behind.
Don’t get me wrong – Stage 8 was epic in all the ways that make the Tour’s mountains such a spectacle (much to the chagrin of the riders listed here). But with so many of the big names and big teams waiting for the Pyrenees, it could be a long, boring race until then. Astana’s talking like Vino’ is looking to take back some time, but I think Moreau’s hit it on the head by noting that there’s no overpowering authority in this year’s race to look toward for pace, or to plan attacks against. Like Brad Wiggins, I’m skeptical that any of the big contenders will have the stones to shake things up before the first TT on Stage 13.