Sunday, 27 July 2008

The End

The End - 27 July

These days you can see Paris is some detail, any street, any building, even frop street level. You can go along the street and find the hotel you stayed in when you first met. You can see the Louvre and the Rue de Rivoli whenever you want. Even the “Most Beautiful Avenue in the World” is available on the screen, any time. BUT, and it’s a big but, it’s not on the last day of the Tour. The traffic is not blocked off, and the riders are not in the picture. I think Paris is one of the finest places on earth, and I love the Tour when it arrives there. I admit the race up and down the Champs is a trifle boring, a bit like a criterium, the Criterium of Paris. So how can I explain that every year I watch it from the time it gets within sight of the Eiffel Tower, all the way through. Go figure. But I do.

Not a lot to say today. Gerd Steegmans and his Quick Step team took care of business as they have conspicuously failed to do during the Tour. Gerd will be immortalised as a winner on the Champs 2008. He looked really happy. He seems to be a good sprinter of a particular type, but I didn’t look closely enough to figure out why the Columbia guys failed to delver Ciolek. Or who followed whose wheel, or why Robbie did not do it or …. and so on. Next year Steegmans will (probably) be going to the Russian team that has loads of gangster money and is named after a missile. Maybe that name is a joke, but they do often refer to the Katyusha team, although it is spelled in various ways in English, or maybe French. I am not sure how to spell it. I guess we will all know soon. A missile! Rather more an artillery shell. I wonder who else they will hire, besides Pozzato. Maybe Evans?

So it is over, and I guess it is time for serious reflection. I often think I am going to do this, but in the end I am so glad it is over, that I return to my real life very quickly. It’s similar to when I get home from a holiday or a trip, I just get stuck in and get back to reality. I don’t sit around for a couple of days not doing anything and just reflecting on my trip or holiday. There are emails to answer, lawn to cut, weeding to do, people to see. I feel that way about the Tour every year. But for the sake of the blog I guess I should try.

My predictions. Mediocre, but not hopeless, as usual. I got the white jersey right. But so did thousands. I identified Cavendish as a great sprinter, and “a winner” of the green jersey, even if I knew he would leave early. But I didn’t really have a clue on the green jersey and mentioning Freire along with others does not count. The mountain jersey going to Kohl was not predicted by many. The best I can say is that in a list of possible winners, I did not mention him. Although I did say, as an afterthought, “Maybe young Kohl”. I don’t think that counts as a correct prediction. My podium was Evans, Valverde and A. Schleck. They finished second, ninth and twelfth. Not a great record really, although I doubt that anyone on earth had Kohl on their podium. If I had bet I might have won a tenner and lost about forty euros, so that was not a good year. On the other hand, I might have won something on various stages, so it’s not a fair test really. Next year I shall save up some money to bet in France.

The Tour itself was a great pleasure to follow. Our “day out” was average, all things considered. I liked best that no one had any idea who would win or even do well. I like there were surprises, new people. In fact, with the help of one of the forums I go on, here is a list of “Good things about the Tour”.

Folk art everywhere.

Laurent Fignon and Laurent Jalabert, commentators for whom I have nothing but praise.

Generally the excellent, alert, professional TV coverage.

The French countryside in all its glory.

The winner actually taking a stage of some importance. If Cadel had won?

The strategic moves of Riis.

Didn’t miss the time bonuses one bit.

Not so many flat stages in a row before the mountains. Should be kept forever.

The explosion of Cavendish onto the scene, totally unprecedented AND he is British.

Evans, even in his misery. Doing so much with no team, reminded me of ADR and Lemond.

Such a close race in several respects. More of the uncertainty!

Emergence in the Tour of Velits, Terpstra, Monfort, Siutsou, Lovkvist, di Gregorio, Nibali, Kreuziger, Kohl, A. Schleck, Cavendish and other youngish guys, or riders I knew nothing much about and who will no doubt enliven the future for us.

The colossal work and dominance of the CSC team. Next year Astana too.

The masses of people on the road.

The attacks of Ricco, and finding out he was doping (BOTH).

Those helicopter shots of the heritage of France.

With some exceptions including Philippe Brunel in L’Equipe who I dislike, a more balanced and less frantic coverage of some drug busts.

Good racing, maybe even honest.

Guys like Sastre and CVV emerging from being workers to take some glory.

The mass sprints, especially the replays.

No team time trial, which although pretty to watch kind of distorts the results for several days.

The mountains and the racing therein.

The descents. Oh the descents!

The riders being slowly dropped as the pace goes up, nice pace to it.

Wim Vansevant winning the lanterne rouge for the third time, a record.

The plucky French escapees.

Til next year, at the same place, in the same way.