The Week That Was...
Ian Melvin comments on the happenings in the world of cycling.
So what's been going on in the world of pro-cycling this past week? Let me spell it out for you: T-O-U-R D-E F-R-A-N-C-E! Doesn't matter where you are, there's no getting away from the greatest show on this planet. Now I'm just like all you guys, I'm a bike riding fan and so just like you I've spent the past two weeks reading every race report and interview with the star riders that I've been able to get my hands on. Lance, Tyler, Ullrich, Beloki, Petacchi.
Now I'm not going to deny this, I'm a Lance fan; I have been since I was the tender age of thirteen when he was riding for Subaru-Montgomery. I've grown up with this guy; he's a part of my life. I watched him win the worlds and mourn for Casartelli. I wrote to him when he had cancer and received a nice photo and pre-printed card from him. Watching him now is like watching a friend, a member of the family even. And it's been with great sadness that I've had to sit here and watch every pretender within the bunch try and attack him and dethrone Lance from the top of the sport. I think I even sat here a day or so back and contemplated that my hero wasn't going to win five Tours never mind the magical sixth. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>
Imagine the joy I'm now feeling having just seen him storm up Luz Ardiden and increase his lead over all his rivals following a crash and then a slip when his rear mech didn't function properly. Today was bike racing, today was the day all my dreams came back together and my faith has been restored. Now don't get me wrong, Ullrich, or even Vinokourov winning wouldn't be a bad thing but it won't be Lance. It won't be the Nike ads, the Letterman show or the trip to the White House. Lance has taken our sport into the houses and minds of the average person in the street. Who hasn't heard of him? Love him or hate him, we and our sport owe this Texan a great deal of gratitude.
So forgetting about him for a while, let's talk about the race. This is better than 1989. Back then we had the epic battle between Lemond and Fingon, which finished with an 8 second victory for the American. Up until the past few days we've had five riders all within striking distance of the maillot jaune. Who would have bet against Mayo dancing his way up the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>