Posted by: bkivey | 25 July 2010

3,600 km later. . .

Le Tour finished up today on the Champ Elysees as it has since 1975. Pre-race favorite Alberto Contador came away with his third win with Andy Schleck and Dennis Menchov rounding out the podium. The best placed American was Bend, Oregon resident Chris Horner in 10th overall, which is a great result for someone who spent the first two weeks of the race working for Lance Armstrong and then for Levi Leipheimer until he was allowed to ride for himself late in the third week.

Contador is currently the best cycling stage racer in the world, with five Grand Tour victories in his palmares , but Schleck gave him all he could handle. Eight seconds down at the start of the final mountain stage, the expectation was that Schleck would use the finishing climb of the Col du Tourmalet to put time into Contador. After Schleck’s Saxo Bank team set a murderous pace on the run-up to the climb the Luxembourger took off with Contador right beside him. Soon both men had ridden the peloton off their wheels but could not gain an advantage over each other.

The climb up the Tourmalet with both men riding shoulder to shoulder through increasingly thick cloud will probably go down as one of the legendary Tour stages. Schleck won the stage by half a wheel and his time deficit to Contador remained the same. The final time trial on Stage 19 was seen as a place for Conatador to extend his lead as the time trial is not Schleck’s strength. However, Schleck rode the time trial of his life and limited Contador’s gain to 31 seconds on a day when many predicted that the Spaniard would gain two minutes or more. The final margin of victory by Contador over Schleck was 39 seconds; the margin last year between the same two men was over four minutes.

As has become common the last few years the fight for the green (points) jersey went right down to the final sprint in Paris. The yellow, polka-dot (King Of the Mountains – KOM) and white (best U25 rider) jerseys are usually decided by the time the Tour leaves the mountains, but the race for the green jersey is often far from over. Mark Cavendish won five stages this year, including the final stage in Paris, but veteran Allesandro Petacchi won two stages early on and then stayed in the hunt to edge Cavendish by 11 points for the final maillot verde.

Chapeau to the French in this year’s Tour. French riders took five stage wins plus the KOM competition. In fact, six of the top ten places in the KOM were held by French riders. The French haven’t enjoyed a lot of success in their signature event since Bernard Hinault’s win in 1985, but they had good results this year.

And finally let us take a moment to salute lantern rouge Adriano Malori. His final time was 4 hours 27 minutes behind Alberto Contador, but he covered 3,600 km of terrain ranging from cobblestones to mountain tops in 96 1/2 hours. Adriano, lo saluto.

Word Watch

During the course of watching the Tour this year I learned a new idiom: ‘a stomach full of anger’. During the post-race interview after the infamous Chain Incident on the ascent of the Port du Bales during stage 15 Andy Schleck said that “My stomach is full of anger.”

I thought that perhaps this expression was an artifact of speaking a non-native language so I typed the phrase into a search engine and did find the phrase in the comment section of a British website. It is possible that the phrase is a French, German, or Luxembourgish idiom as those are the official languages of Schleck’s native Luxembourg.

From context it’s plain that ‘A stomach full of anger” is not the same as “Fire in the belly”, the American metaphor for ambition. Although ‘a stomach full of anger’ could lead to ‘fire in the belly’, or even ‘fire in the eyes’ if a person had a stomach especially full of anger or they suffered from acid reflux.

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