Monday, July 27, 2009

2009 Tour de France Review

Photo credit ©Sirotti
The 2009 Tour de France came to an end yesterday with Mark Cavendish taking his 6th stage win on on a packed Champs-Élysées in Paris, and Alberto Contador taking the top top step on the podium with a well deserved victory overall.

Photo credit ©Sirotti
For me, however, the last week of the Tour was an anti-climax. All the ingredients for an exciting showdown in Alps were there, but unfortunately the team tactics, and the supreme power, of the Astana Team prevented this from happening.

The gentleman's agreement that exists between cyclists prevented 7 times winner, Lance Armstrong, from showing his potential in the high mountains. Could he have attacked Contador and claimed victory for himself? We'll never know. Contador proved himself a worthy winner though, and even more than his seemingly effortless marking of any attacks on the big climbs, his victory in the final Individual Time Trial showed that he was a worthy winner of the this year's Tour.

Photo credit ©Sirotti
In second place overall, Andy Schleck of Team Saxo Bank showed his form in the mountains, and was the only rider to remotely challenge the dominance of Contador. Contador was up to the task though, but Andy has many years left in the sport, and I have no doubt he'll claim the top step in the coming years.

Photo credit ©Bettini
Third, of course, was Lance Armstrong. Some people thought Lance would win his 8th Tour this year, others wrote him off due to his age. Armstrong proved his detractors wrong, and despite some serious conflict in the Astana camp following the stage into Andorra, where Contador disobeyed team orders and attacked on the final climb, he adopted the supporting role to Contador, and undoubtedly assisted the Spaniard to his victory.

Photo credit ©Sirotti
Normally, I wouldn't comment on 4th place, but Bradley Wiggins of Garmin - Slipstream deserves a mention. A former track star, and multiple Olympic Gold Medal winner, Wiggins was, for me, the revelation of the Tour. His ability in the mountains was totally unexpected, and I would not be surprised if he were to improve on this position in the years to come.

And so, while we reflect on the last 3 weeks, I can't help looking forward to 2010.
Lance Armstrong has announced he is forming a new team with sponsorship from RadioShack, and probably with his mentor, Johan Bruyneel, at the helm. I have no doubt Armstrong will be the undisputed leader of the new team, which is as it should be. There is only room for 1 leader in a team. At 35, can Armstrong make a bid for win number 8? Contador and Schleck will have other ideas, but Lance will be better prepared after a full year training and racing; I'm looking forward to it already!

Thanks for reading.