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2010 Tour de France – Final Weekend News and Analysis (Stages 18-20)

| by Sports Nickel

97th Tour de France

Stage 18 – Salies-de-Bearn to Bordeaux – 198.0 km (122.8 mi)

Stage 19 – Bordeaux to Pauillac (TT) – 52.0 km (32.2 mi)

Stage 20 – Longjumeau to Paris/Champs-Elysees – 102.5 km (63.6 mi)

23-25 July 2010

 My body aching — knees swollen, back taking on wave after wave of spasm, neck and shoulders locking up — we drove around for hours, finally finding a campsite on the last-ditch effort before we were ready to turn around and come home. Our car was stuffed to the gills, a double-sized bundle of firewood balancing on my lap as my wife negotiated the curves here and there along Oregon’s many waterways. The reservoir had dried out at the eastern terminus where we finally found lodging space, so the insect population had taken to the marshy climes to come out in force during the right parts of the day. But it afforded a lot of peaceful time… when the neighbors weren’t blaring music or yelling at the dogs they’d brought out with them only to chain to the bumpers of their cars.

We seem to have fewer and fewer weekends that align, though, so any chance to get outdoors is greatly relished. Aches and pains (of which were included the indignity of planning to have an air mattress for two nights only to feel it seep out air on the first night and render itself useless for the anchor leg of the trip) be damned, we were still bound to have our fun relaxing away from everything. Throw in the fact that a friend from across the country has been in town for the past week, and we had the ingredients for a great weekend.

And it was a great weekend… it just meant that, when it comes to this race, I was left to anxiously ponder what had happened over the final three days of the race. I consciously avoided all results of what had happened Friday morning; I ended up laying in bed, avoiding getting up for as long as possible, as I fought off how much it hurt to stand on my knees at that moment. Ambling to the computer, I edited a few things for the site… but not once did I glance over to Velonews or a video feed to see what was happening on the road into Bordeaux.

Sometimes, in this age where we are bombarded with the ability to obtain information about an event anywhere around the globe in real time, it’s hard to make a disconnect. But we always have our moments. This weekend gave me time to plow through a book that’s been sitting on my pile of “To Read Later” tomes for a while after finding it at the thrift store for a couple bucks. That book? Now I Can Die in Peace by ESPN’s Bill Simmons, a republishing with a wealth of asides from his column coverage of the Red Sox during the five-year period leading to their World Series title in 2004. It is as much a tale about the birth of his career in its nascent period as he evolved from near-anonymous internet guru to one of the pinnacle posts of his profession as it is about an ever-hungry baseball fan populace finally tasting the champion status for which they’d long lusted.

I bought it on a whim, expecting it to be a quick throwaway read. After all, I’m not a Red Sox fan — it’s not an affront, just a statement of fact that I wouldn’t go that bandwagon direction after being born to a life amongst the Brew Crew. But his own saga feels, well… it at least makes me realize that all of us aspiring writers do have that chance, if the niche is right. Perhaps going on this trip recharged me a bit, got me ready to cover the world of non-traditional sports for the rest of the year. Reading about how he had to miss “[o]ne of the most memorable weekends in recent Boston sports history” to go to a friend’s wedding (The Lost Weekend: Sept. 14, 1999, p. 43) made me realize that dedication as a writer isn’t merely about repetition in covering an event. It’s about a fresh spin on what’s been going on. So I didn’t forget about covering the race… I just took a detour in arriving at an understanding of all the happenings of the weekend. What happened in France? What happened in Oregon? Read on…

2010 Tour de France - Stage 18 Map

2010 Tour de France - Stage 18 Profile

Stage 18 – Salies-de-Bearn to Bordeaux – 198.0 km (122.8 mi)

It was the day we’d been waiting for all week — camping time! — and there I was, ambling around as I called in for the day at work to afford myself enough time to get the creaky body moving and things into order. We finally pushed off around one in the afternoon. By the time we finally settled in and started getting tents set up at, oh… around six, we’d already taken several detours trying to find vacancy in the great outdoors. I just wanted to sit down and relax, and as we nestled into the site everything fell into place after looking so bleak. Sausages grilled over the open fire were tossed with a quick pasta, and we finally settled into an evening under the stars with cocktails and conversation.

Cavendish wins Stage 18

The Manx Missile takes career Tour stage win number 14 with his ground-scorching victory into Bordeaux on Stage 18...

At that point, Mark Cavendish had already sealed his fourth stage win of the Tour de France in Bordeaux and had reinserted himself right into the thick of the contest for the green jersey. It was unlikely that he could overtake both Alessandro Petacchi and Thor Hushovd — but it was imminently possible that he would win the final stage on the Champs-Elysees for the second straight year and could overtake second place depending on the others’ placement in the results.

It was day without much other excitement, though, at least for the peloton. Contador and Schleck both finished safely amongst the main field in Bordeaux, conserving energy for the battle of attrition to come on Saturday. There were no more bumps along the road for anyone to challenge Anthony Charteau, the man in polka dots who had already sealed his spot as the King of the Mountains for the 2010 edition of the race, only the rolling terrain of the Gironde wine country that was simply worth too much geologically and viticulturally to slap a categorized climb in its midst.

The real showdown was to come Saturday. By the time the dishes were washed and we sat down to smoke cigarettes and drink tequila around the fire, the cyclists remaining in the Tour de France were all sleeping (or just as likely unable to sleep from their various bruises, batters, road rash, sores, strained muscles, sunburns and legions of other ailments) in Bordeaux in the wee hours of the morning. Cavendish now owns fourteen Tour stage wins in just three years of participation; the 25-year-old hasn’t needed the maillot vert on his back to inject himself into the discussion as one of the best sprinters ever to grace France’s finishing straights in July.

He’s already surpassed every other pure sprinter for sheer number of victories. That’s no small feat given the competition he’s had to compete against year after year: three-time green jersey Robbie McEwen, two-time points champ Thor Hushovd, Alessandro Petacchi, Oscar Freire and Tom Boonen from the established legendary generation currently racing as well as his contemporaries like Tyler Farrar and Julian Dean and Gerald Ciolek and Jose Joaquin Rojas and Edvald Boasson Hagen. He has also now proven without a doubt that he doesn’t need fearsome head-butting lead-out rocket Mark Renshaw to take him to the last stop before victory along the final kilometer of a sprint. At fourteen and counting, and with the potential to race another decade, is it really to insane to imagine — if things shake out just right for the Manxman — that we could potentially see him challenging Eddy Merckx’s all-time stage wins mark of 34 before his career is over?

STAGE 18 RESULTS

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC – Columbia 4:37:09  
2 Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin – Transitions    
3 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team Katusha    
5 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank    
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
7 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
8 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne    
9 Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
10 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi    

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 88:09:48  
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:08  
3 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi 0:03:32  
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0:03:53  
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:05:27  
6 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0:06:41  
7 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:07:03  
8 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin – Transitions 0:09:18  
9 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:10:12  
10 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack 0:10:37  

POINTS CLASSIFICATION

1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 213 pts
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team 203  
3 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC – Columbia 197  
4 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 167  
5 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team Katusha 162  
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team 152  
7 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 122  
8 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 115  
9 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi 112  
10 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 107  

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS

1 Anthony Charteau (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 143 pts
2 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d’Epargne 128  
3 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 116  
4 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 112  
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 99  
6 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi 96  
7 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux 93  
8 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step 92  
9 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 82  
10 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 72  

BEST YOUNG RIDER

1 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 88:09:56  
2 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0:06:33  
3 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:10:04  
4 Julien El Farès (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne 0:48:48  
5 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 1:21:28  
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo Bank 1:38:59  
7 Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Footon-Servetto 1:41:23  
8 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 1:43:27  
9 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 2:00:17  
10 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 2:02:02  

 2010 Tour de France - Stage 19 Map

2010 Tour de France - Stage 19 Profile

Stage 19 – Bordeaux to Pauillac (TT) – 52.0 km (32.2 mi)

As I woke up bathed in the refracted dappled sunlight filtering through the treetops above our tent, I had no clock to tell me with absolute certainty — but I’m pretty sure the winning time had already surely been set in France. Riders were setting off one after the other, kicking off on their thirty-mile date with nothing more than the clock to challenge them. And there I was, sitting on an air mattress that by noontime would prove to have sprung an irreparable leak, looking out into the sunshine and reading Bill Simmons rant about his favorite baseball team. Where I was sitting, the slice of Americana that is Fenway Park in Boston was as distant and alien a world to me as the grand cru vineyards that produce Bordeaux’s finest as well as the backdrop for the stage I was missing.

Cancellara on TT course, Stage 19

Nobody has been able to catch the world champion lately in a race against the clock, whether in grand-tour time trials or soloing away at the cobblestone classics...

It was put-up-or-shut-up time for the two contenders at the top of the standings. Barring an unforeseen collapse of the most epic proportions, either Andy Schleck or Alberto Contador would be the 2010 Tour de France champion when they stepped off their respective time-trial machines in Pauillac. But it was not the ride of either the Spaniard or the Luxembourger that dazzled today. Instead, today’s tale was best told in the eyes of a Swissman, a German and a Russian: the stage winner, the runner-up and the man who claimed his spot on the podium in Paris.

That Swissman was Fabian Cancellara. Starting early, the reigning world time-trial champion took off from Bordeaux in his rainbow stripes ready to set the checkpoint times against which the remaining contenders would measure their efforts. Working his way rhythmically along the course, Cancellara covered the 52km course northward from Bordeaux to Pauillac in just 56 seconds more than an even hour. At this point in his career it doesn’t really matter. Like Cavendish the day before, Cancellara is a man seeking history. Back during the prologue, which seems now like a lifetime ago yet had occurred just three weeks ago in Rotterdam, we saw him claim the much-shorter 8.9km time trial through the Dutch city’s streets.

It doesn’t matter how long he has to pace his effort; Cancellara might just be the most superb cyclist in history at this discipline. No other cyclist can measure out his full allotment of effort consistently and without a single ounce of waste or overexertion like Cancellara; even when it isn’t a pure time trial, as in his two Paris-Roubaix victories, his innate sense of how much he has left and how far he has to cover still to snatch victory from the charging field behind is uncanny and a reason why, despite the fact he never did get to break the record for most days in yellow without winning the overall race, he will be the favorite once again to defend his time-trial title when the cyclists line up in Geelong for the World Championships yet again this September.

His speed (51.2 km/h, a.k.a. 31.75 mph) was so astounding that just one man would even come within a minute of his winning time. Tony Martin, just 25 like teammate Cavendish and another member of Columbia’s stable of skilled young riders, has been right there alongside Cancellara as the second-best time trialist this season. He won the time trial at this year’s Tour of California in May; he won the time trial at the Tour de Suisse right before the Tour de France started in the Netherlands. And as the German national champion, Martin — bedecked in the white TT skinsuit with the black, yellow and red tricolor band — ended up falling just 17 seconds short of eclipsing his Swiss counterpart in the rainbow stripes.

If the stars stop aligning Cancellara’s way come Australia time, we are likely going to see this budding time-trial specialist with the ability to pace himself in the mountains emerging as the new world champion this year. And as his level of experience and attendant comfort grows, watch out — we could have a future challenger to the Contadors and Schlecks of cycling on our hands in Martin. Of course, the current crop of contenders fell short once again, as no one could come within two minutes of the winning time. Contador would claw away 31 seconds more from Schleck after all was complete, leaving things forever separated by 39 seconds… the same amount Andy lost on the infamous stage up the Port de Bales when his chain slipped off.

But in Russian cyclist Denis Menchov we at least saw the perseverance of a proud former grand-tour winner giving it his all to claw his way onto the final Tour podium in Paris. Finishing just outside the top ten in 11th, nearly four minutes off the winning pace set by Cancellara, Menchov put in a spectacular ride that must’ve had both Contador and Schleck a little pensive as they heard the splits at each checkpoint. In the end he would surpass Samuel Sanchez to claim the third rung of the podium, sealing his spot as one of the best in the peloton yet again. Now the former Vuelta champ must decide whether to return to Spain for a shot at a different golden fleece; either the lure of another grand tour will beckon him or rainbows of his own will make him lust for that world championship…

STAGE 19 RESULTS

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 1:00:56  
2 Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC – Columbia 0:00:17  
3 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Team HTC – Columbia 0:01:48  
4 Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Cervelo Test Team 0:02:34  
5 David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin – Transitions 0:03:00  
6 Koos Moerenhout (Ned) Rabobank 0:03:03  
7 Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Caisse d’Epargne 0:03:10  
8 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank 0:03:21  
9 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:03:33  
10 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:03:38  

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 89:16:27  
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:39  
3 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0:02:01  
4 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi 0:03:40  
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:06:54  
6 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0:09:31  
7 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin – Transitions 0:10:15  
8 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:11:37  
9 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:11:54  
10 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack 0:12:02  

POINTS CLASSIFICATION

1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 213 pts
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team 203  
3 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC – Columbia 197  
4 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 167  
5 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team Katusha 162  
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team 152  
7 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 122  
8 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 115  
9 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi 112  
10 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 107  

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS

1 Anthony Charteau (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 143 pts
2 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d’Epargne 128  
3 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 116  
4 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 112  
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 99  
6 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi 96  
7 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux 93  
8 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step 92  
9 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 82  
10 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 72  

BEST YOUNG RIDER

1 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 89:17:06  
2 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0:08:52  
3 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:11:15  
4 Julien El Farès (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne 0:52:43  
5 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 1:24:33  
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo Bank 1:37:53  
7 Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Footon-Servetto 1:41:48  
8 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 1:46:03  
9 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 1:59:26  
10 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 2:01:19  

2010 Tour de France - Stage 20 Map

2010 Tour de France - Stage 20 Profile

Stage 20 – Longjumeau to Paris/Champs-Elysees – 102.5 km (63.6 mi)

And like that, the Tour de France is over once again. It is funny how — when you’re into your third straight week of sleep deprivation after waking up to watch stages live at five in the morning, writing as much as you can for daily coverage and generally thinking about little else besides the sport — a writer can suddenly find himself all too willing to embrace a weekend away right as the race is culminating in its crescendo of catharsis after twenty-two days of questions. I found myself waking up, starting some water heating on the stove to brew some coffee… and wishing I could watch the final stage into Paris. There’s just something about missing that moment of history that can be a little unsettling after investing so much time in following a stage race.

Cavendish wins second straight on Champs-Elysees

1, 2, 3, 4, 5... Petacchi held onto his green jersey in the end, but Cavendish still had plenty of time to count off all his stage wins in the 2010 Tour...

But after the tents were packed, we headed the thirty miles or so (yes, after driving for five hours looking for a campsite we ended up finding a place less than an hour outside of town) back to Eugene. Thinking we’d be in cellular range after getting about halfway home and back into some semblance of civilization, I turned on my phone to see who’d won the finale on the Champs-Elysees. At least I tried to turn on my phone — the phone has locked on its start screen and remains there to this moment. (How a phone, which I shut off as soon as we got on the road Friday afternoon and left in the glove compartment until two days later, could go from fully operational to utterly dysfunctional in 48 hours is beyond me, but there it is…)

So I would have to wait until we arrived at home, unloaded the gear and got food back in its requisite places in the kitchen before firing up the dinosaur desktop and waiting for the boot-up to check the final results from one of the most intensely-contested Tours in ages. There wasn’t going to be much drama between Contador and Schleck today; the maillot jaune and maillot blanc were all too willing to ham it up for the cameras as they coursed along the short promenade into Paris. At one point they jokingly began to sprint; in a pretty quality coincidence, Schleck endured his chain slipping yet again. (What are the Saxo Bank mechanics doing?) This time the Spaniard was all too happy to wait, knowing that neither of them would be taking time from the other with the sprinters adamant on getting their last chance to decide the green jersey competition.

Mark Cavendish would fall short in his quest to take the points race this year, but he would outkick his contemporaries to score his second straight win on the Champs-Elysees and literally grab a handful — with five stage victories this year he vaults himself further and further up the list of legends who have won regularly in their Tour de France careers. He’s got fifteen now to his name, already amongst the ten most-decorated stage winners in the race’s history. With two more stages next year, he will surpass the number of stages won by five-time champion Jacques Anquetil (16); four or five would put him level with former winners Francois Faber (19) and Nicolas Frantz (20). It’s hard to believe we were discussing his demise after Petacchi won the first two sprint opportunities of the opening week; if he can find some consistency over a three-week stretch, we might just see Cavendish eventually breaking — dare I say it? — Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 stage wins. Merckx, the five-time champ who dominated the sport in the late 1960s and early 1970s, won his stages over seven editions of the race. At the pace Cavendish has been going, he could easily be getting number 35 on the Champs-Elysees in 2014.

2010 Tour de France final podium

Schleck, Contador, Petacchi and Charteau -- winners of the jerseys in the 2010 Tour de France...

Today would not be his alone, though. By finishing just behind Cavendish in the sprint on the cobblestones of Paris, Alessandro Petacchi held on to take the first green jersey of his long career by just eleven points over the young Manxman. For the longest time it looked as though this jersey was Thor Hushovd’s to lose — after all, the defending champion wore it for long stretches of the race, having the savvy of former success to know when to scoop up intermediate points and the strength to stay with the peloton up the mountains when his fellow sprinters dropped back into the gruppetto to try to beat the time limit in the Alps and Pyrenees. The inability to actually unleash a lethal finishing kick proved the Norwegian’s undoing. As Petacchi won the first two bunch sprints of the race and Cavendish emerged thereafter to find his form and steal five more away, Hushovd withered in the pole position. The Italian earned his measure of redemption from one of the rare instances where you could truly declare a doping sentence unjust, coming back at the age of 36 to prove why he was so feared earlier in the decade in a field sprint and finding unparalleled success to anything he’d achieved during those halcyon days.

Anthony Charteau, capitalizing on the Tour’s inability to make the King of the Mountains “competition” more competitive, grabbed the polka-dot jersey and held onto it through the last three days without a climb to don it on the podium in Paris. We once again saw a rider storm away with the polka dots after a few opportunistic breakaway maneuvers and conservative riding from there to hold off his foes. Not since Michael Rasmussen was summarily dismissed by his Rabobank team while holding both the polka dots and the yellow jersey in 2007 have we seen a rider able to really challenge in both competitions. I’ve heard some thoughts to add time bonuses to these summit finishes in an attempt to motivate the top GC contenders to do more than mark one another over the top of all but the last climb on a given stage. Could it work? Perhaps… but even if it ultimately didn’t, it would be worth a try. Something needs to be done to spice up what should be challenging the green jersey as the most compelling side story annually.

But the biggest story, one that will never fade, is the man wearing yellow at the end of the Tour. Once again, after fending off all challengers on the time-trial route from Bordeaux to Pauillac, Alberto Contador can breathe a sigh of relief. It was always hard to bet against this man — even though he didn’t look any stronger than his main challenger, Andy Schleck, he also had not lost any of the past five grand tours he has entered and would have likely seen this year’s Tour be his fourth title in a row had ASO not excluded Astana from participation in 2008. Schleck gave it all he could, but that slipped chain — both on the Port de Bales and as the incumbent white and yellow jerseys dueled for the cameras on the road into Paris — was indicative of the fact that this simply wasn’t to be Luxembourg’s year. Contador got his victory, number three to put him in that pantheon of the rarefied elite. After all, just eight other men besides the current champion have ever taken at least that many Tour titles in the century-long history of the race.

This may not have been Schleck’s year, but the defending champion of the best young rider competition invariably proved he’s right there alongside Contador as the best GC riders of this moment. With a few breaks going the other way, he would’ve been bedecked in yellow rather than white in Paris. Imagine, for instance, how different this race would’ve been with his brother Frank alongside him for support in the mountains rather than exiting the race with a broken wrist after crashing on the cobblestones of Stage 3? The Tour always has its twists and turns, but Alberto and Andy are now inextricably linked after finishing 1-2 each of the past two years and by decreasing amounts of time along the way. This duel is only just heating up and should be a hell of a show for years to come.

2010 Tour de France - Radio Shack win team title

... and Lance Armstrong got the opportunity to at least wave to the crowd from the podium one last time in Paris as his Radio Shack squad won the team title...

And we got to see the swan song of a legend end with at least one podium visit for the man who went up there in yellow in Paris more than any other. Lance Armstrong, racing his final Tour de France, was able to ascend the steps on the Champs-Elysees as his Radio Shack squad earned the team title over Caisse d’Epargne. Wearing rogue uniforms after signing in for the stage in regulation wear, the commissaires made the team pull over to change soon after the stage started today. But with the race now over, they climbed the stairs wearing all-black kit bearing the number “28″ — as in 28 million cancer sufferers worldwide.

I’m not one to ride Lance’s jock… lord knows I’ve ridiculed the man more than most American writers have been willing during his reign in the sport’s highest echelon. But even if the Landis allegations do prove to be true (and I’m certainly not one to instantly cast a man’s earlier indiscretions in a permanently-damning light over his future credibility), it’s hard to deny the global impact that this Texan from the Hill Country has been able to achieve simply by riding his bicycle. Whatever happened, he did come back from some pretty damn advanced cancer. However the victories were achieved, he won them by the standards of the time. And until proven otherwise, he’s been nothing but an inspiration for both millions of cancer patients and survivors as well as countless more millions of Americans who would otherwise continued to lead sedentary lifestyles and letting their bicycles collect dust like so many other toys from childhood.

Because that’s what the Tour, and indeed any sport, should really be doing. The childlike quality of sports at their finest is that they inspire us to get out there and be active ourselves. I may not have summited a slope on my bicycle this weekend, but at least I got out there and played. So get out there, dust off that old ten-speed and take a spin around the neighborhood. Dream you’re Lance, dream you’re Tyler Farrar, dream you’re top-ranked North American Ryder Hesjedal — the best-placed Canadian since Steve Bauer took 4th over two decades ago in 1988. Dream you’re Cavendish, dream you’re Charteau if you’ve got a hill on your route… just get out there and let your imagination soar. The pain begins to fade as the miles pile up, and then next year you can have a little empathy for what your heroes on the screen are going through. I hope you’ve enjoyed this race as much as I have… now it’s time to sort through the rest of my outdoor gear after a wonderful weekend…

STAGE 20 RESULTS

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC – Columbia 2:42:21  
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
3 Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin – Transitions    
4 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
5 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank    
6 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram    
7 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team    
8 Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
9 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team Katusha    
10 Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo    

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 91:58:48  
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:39  
3 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0:02:01  
4 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi 0:03:40  
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:06:54  
6 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0:09:31  
7 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin – Transitions 0:10:15  
8 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:11:37  
9 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:11:54  
10 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack 0:12:02  

POINTS CLASSIFICATION

1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 243 pts
2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC – Columbia 232  
3 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team 222  
4 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 179  
5 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team Katusha 179  
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team 161  
7 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 135  
8 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram 126  
9 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 124  
10 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 119  

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS

1 Anthony Charteau (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 143 pts
2 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d’Epargne 128  
3 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 116  
4 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 112  
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 99  
6 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi 96  
7 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux 93  
8 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step 92  
9 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 82  
10 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 72  

BEST YOUNG RIDER

1 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 91:59:27  
2 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0:08:52  
3 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:11:15  
4 Julien El Farès (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne 0:52:43  
5 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 1:24:33  
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo Bank 1:37:53  
7 Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Footon-Servetto 1:41:48  
8 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 1:46:03  
9 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 1:59:26  
10 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 2:01:19  

BEST TEAM

1 Team Radio Shack 276:02:03  
2 Caisse d’Epargne 0:09:15  
3 Rabobank 0:27:49  
4 AG2R La Mondiale 0:41:10  
5 Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:51:01  
6 Astana 0:56:16  
7 Quick Step 1:06:23  
8 Euskaltel-Euskadi 1:23:02  
9 Liquigas-Doimo 1:29:14  
10 Bbox-Bouygues Telecom 1:54:18  


Related posts:

  1. 2010 Tour de France – Stage 11 News and Notes
  2. 2010 Tour de France – Stage 16 News and Notes
  3. 2010 Tour de France – Stage 12 News and Notes