Congrats to Cadel Evans for his second place in Le Tour – the first time an Aussie has attained a podium finish in this prestigious event. And big kudos to Alberto Contador for winning the yellow (oh, and the white).
It’s only in reent years that I’ve begun to understand this event, due in no small part to some bike riding nutter friends of mine (here’s lookin’ at you AdrianU, JasonV and ColinC) practically forcing me to take a look at it. I’ve always respected the riders for the insane level of fitness required – these guys are serious athletes – but watching a bunch of bike riders? Not for me, or so I thought.
I was wrong; this event is remarkable and compelling. I had no idea that it took a team, working closely together, to achieve victory. No idea that tactics played such a large role. Didn’t realise that riders had such radically different specialities. There’s a lot more to Le Tour than I imagined.
Saturday night Adrian came over and we watched the second last stage – a 55.5 kilometre time trial. It was Evan’s last chance to try to improve his second place and, being an excellent time trial rider, the odds were good that he would reduce the 1:50-odd lead Contador had amassed.
Initially we were both struggling to stay awake. (This is one of the great problems with the tour here in Australia; due to timezone differences it’s always televised at an ungodly hour.) However as the top few riders hit the tarmac the blood started pumping. When Levi Leipheimer (third place) began riding we knew we were in for something special. He was a man possessed. By the time he went through the first timing gate he was some 1:20 faster than anyone who’d preceded him – an incredible feat. Evans and Contador were going to have to ride hard.
Ride hard they did. Evans, while more measured than Leipheimer, still ripped up the road. When he passed through the timing gate he was slower, but still in the game. Contador was also a man on a mission. He knew he was going to lose time to both of the other riders but be damned if he was going down without a fight.
In the end Leipheimer took the stage victory by 51 sec over Evans who finished 88 sec ahead of Contador. Although Evans had closed the overall gap to just 23 sec it wasn’t enough to take the yellow jersey. Contador wins Le Tour, Evans second and Leipheimer a well-deserved third.
Despite the drug controversy (three riders out due to drugs – one of which was wearing the yellow at the time) I really enjoyed watching this Tour. And particularly that stage!