Tuesday, July 28

Tour de France

I've been following the latest Tour de France, which has been quite an interesting one in its own way. Not as many spectacular attacks on the mountains as in the past (more on that in a moment), but for those Brits of a national bent very good with the performance of Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins.

Cavendish is clearly the most dominant sprinter since the days of "Super" Mario Cippolini, with the added note that Cav doesn't get off his bike in disgust at the first sight of the road going upwards, which means he's not only got a win on a stage that had a significant climb in it, he's also got to win the final stage on the Champs Elysee. And by a huge margin, too - I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd given the peloton a different time to him.

Bradley Wiggins has also done remarkably well - losing 7kg of weight without seriously affecting his power shows he has both dedication and a good team of nutritionists behind him. So credit also to his Garmin Slipstream team and the GB Cycling set up. It's not just the weight loss that has made the difference - Wiggins is now taking the road as purely seriously as he took the track in the past. He's also in an environment that will help him, with the American team he is on having a modern mindset beyond their zero tolerance for drugs. Wiggins was previously on French teams, and has been quote somewhere as disliking their old fashioned methods and a mindset of "it was good enough for Hinault..."

The Tour bosses will be delighted that the TdF has gone the full distance without a cyclist being kicked off for a drugs offence, although the announcement of Giro d'Italia runner-up Danilo Di Luca's failed test did come up in the middle of it. The history of the tour means that some are already pointing fingers at anyone who does well, with debates about Contador's climb of Mt Verbier already circling. As others have pointed out, though, the drugs used in the TdF in the past were often to aid recovery - a one-off performance isn't that astonishing, particularly if the Tour has been almost in truce mode for the GC for several days in advance.

So - a good Tour? Yes. A great Tour? Well, Contador was a bit too far ahead of the rest to make it truly thrilling, although the battle for the podium was close. A clean Tour? I hope it was.

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