The Tour de France is, without a doubt, my favorite sporting event of the year. So today, on the first rest day of the 2011 Tour, here my thoughts on this year edition so far:
- Obviously, crashes have dominated the first nine stages. There are always crashes, but this year’s are something different. They’ve happened in later stages than usual, they’ve affected a lot more of the big names than usual, and they’ve been just weird. Alexandre Vinokourov, Chris Horner, Janez Brajkovic, Bradley Wiggins, Tom Boonen, Jurgen Van Den Broeck: All of these guys were expected to make an impact on the Tour, and they’re out because of crashes. Add to that Nicki Sorensen getting clipped by a motorbike and — of course — Juan Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland getting taken down by a television car and it’s hard to imagine talking about anything but crashes. (But, of course, I will.)
- It’s awesome to see Thomas Voeckler back in the yellow jersey. He’s a very different rider than he was during his magical run in yellow in the 2004 Tour; I’m glad that he’s living up to some of the expectations created back then.
- Thor Hushovd is climbing as well as I’ve ever seen in him, due no doubt to the extra “suitcase of courage” that comes with the maillot jaune. I’m very impressed with how long he held onto it. He’s another rider who I’ve been watching for long enough to see make transitions in his career, which make me feel like a good fan.
- Philipe Gilbert is having a magical season. The first week of the tour has suited him extremely well, with many of the finishes resembling the Spring Classics races like the Amstel Gold that he rides so well. He’s been amazingly consistent and I think he’s got a shot to win the green jersey ahead of the pure sprinters.
- Speaking of the green jersey, I’m quite liking the intermediate sprint changes. They’ve certainly made the first few stages more exciting. We’ll see if that continues.
- Last year’s top finishers, Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, have not particularly impressed me thus far. Contador has had a great year, but he’s made some mistakes and suffered from some bad luck. Schleck, on the other hand, hasn’t looked anywhere near as good as he has in the past. Neither has had to rise to the occasion so far, so it remains to be seen what they have in reserve.
- This could be the year that Cadel Evans finally ends up on the top step of the podium in Paris. He’s the only one of the big contenders who hasn’t made a mistake so far, and he seems to riding extremely well. Still, we haven’t had real test. Contador, the Schleck brothers, Tony Martin, Damiano Cunego: All of them seem to be right there at the finish when there’s even a slight uphill. Any of them could have a breakout in the mountains, and any of them could crack. Cadel has a history of having one bad day in the mountains that sinks him. If he avoids that this year, he could be on top.
UpdateFitness: One Hundred Pushups, Week 1, Day 1
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 336 words, 309 seven-day average, 256 average, 26406 total, 1594 to go for the week