Sunday, July 25, 2010

Log No 199: Tour finale: Spaniard wins the race; Englishman wins in the Champs Elyseés; Italian takes the sprinters’ title

Nothing in sport matches the arcane nature of the final stage of the Tour de France, the one in which they race 20 times around the Champs Elyseés in Paris.

It is hard for a layman to follow what is going on. First, the guy wearing the yellow jersey (top man) seems to be assured of it, wherever he finishes. So Alberto Contador, the man in question, dodged along in the middle of the group known as the pelaton, comprised of most of the 170 riders who finished the Tour.

Secondly, the stage itself was won by an Englishman, Mark Cavendish, who, although obviously he is a long-distance cyclist, somehow or other seems always to have saved enough to overcome every other cyclist with his sheer finishing speed. Cavendish this year won no few than five of the 20 stages, and in his three Tours he has won a total of 15 stages. Yet this year he finished in only 154th place, close to being among the slowest of all the riders! How’s that? Somehow or other he keeps going through the mountains, and manages to triumph on the flat.

Thirdly, even though he won so many stages, Cavendish did not qualify as winner of the Green Jersey, that is, he was not the fastest sprinter overall. That was won by Alessandro Petacchi, of Italy, who obviously must have done better times than Cavendish in the mountains. Does all this make any sense?

Lance Armstrong, who won seven Tours, came in 23rd this year, 39 minutes behind the leader. Presumably, this will be his last effort.

The Canadian Ryder Hesjedal finished in seventh place, overall, an outstanding ride, although not, as I said in an earlier post, the greatest result ever by a Canadian cyclist. I had forgotten about Steve Bauer, who finished fourth in an earlier year. I had an interest also in the New Zealand rider Julien Dean, who finished second on the last huge climb, and came in third on the final stage, an excellent result.

Anyway, Contador has now won the Tour de France three times, and at 28 he is young enough that he will no doubt be trying to win more.

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