I will admit that over the past two weeks my interest in Le Tour dwindled. There had been high points, certainly. The combative Gilbert in yellow and green; the Norwegians (Thor and Edvald) rampaging; little Tommy V battling to retain yellow against all the odds; even Cavendish sprinting to four stage wins so far. But there was always the nagging feeling that not one of the real ‘favourites’ wanted to win the race. Until yesterday it had been a race of waiting and chasing rather than attacking.
Some have said that this is a reflection of a playing field levelled by a cleaner than ever peloton and the meticulous planning of sports science. Before yesterday I would have nodded sagely and agreed with that. In moments of devil-may-care outrage I’d even have suggested that if that’s the case then let’s bring back rampant EPO abuse. At least then perhaps we’d have the spectacle of rampaging attacks over several mountain passes rather than everyone waiting for the final kilometre of the final summit finish.
But wait! Yesterday Andy Schleck attacked with pretty much two whole Hors Category climbs and 60km to go. More than that, he held on to win by just over two minutes from his brother who led home the other favourites and the endlessly courageous Voeckler. It was like a blast from some barely remembered past (the world of the Tour before the dreary Armstrong era) and it was wonderful to watch. In an instant my waning respect for Andy (all that whining about descents was really getting on my nerves) was restored. “No guts, no glory” is a bit of an Armstrongesque soundbite, but surely we can cut the kid some slack for that. It was the kind of attacking riding befitting of a Tour winner, regardless of whether he actually ends up being one or not.
The same is true of Tommy V. He may not win the Tour this year, but my god he’s surely put forward a good case for his name being added to the list of legends if only for the impressive amount of suffering he’s put himself through during the past ten days. Can he hold on over the hairpins of Alpe d’Huez today? Can he time-trial himself to a podium tomorrow? The excitement is finally enough to make me forget my end of term exhaustion.