Sunday, July 27, 2008

more spainiards

Spaniards. Everywhere. Even on the Champs Elysee. It's 3 times in a row in Le Tour for the Spanish.
2006 - Óscar Pereiro.
2007 - Alberto Contador.
2008 - Carlos Sastre.

Pereiro , who backed into the '06 title after Flance was exposed as a Big Dope, crashed out of this years tour after a 15 meters drop from one side of a hairpin curve to the other on a mountain descent. Result. Broken collarbone, fractured femur.

At least in '07 and '08 the winners were supported by the best teams. Discovery Channel's swan song in '07 and this year CSC drove the train through the Alps and no one could come close to staying with them. Cadel Evans, the great-white-hope-from-down-under couldn't do it in the final race-of-truth, the Saturday 53 km time trial before the run in to Paris. That leavess Carlos Sastre to stand atop the podium come Sunday in Paris and he did so in his last great chance to win what is still the greatest cycling event in the world. Forget what the American naysayers say about problems with doping, the dopers are losing their footing and nothing else even comes close to this event unless you have to be a football fan. And I'm not talking about the American version.

Two American teams, both in their first Grand Tour event, had impressive showings. Team Columbia (formerly High Road, as in take-the-high-road) and Team Garmin (formerly Slipstream Chilpolte) were impressive. Columbia threw up 5 stage wins, four on the back of the world's best sprinter, Mark Cavendish (Brit) who then left to prepare an assault on the Olympics and one by Marcus Burghardt (Ger).

Team Garmin had the American Christian vande Velde finish 5th in the General Classification, not bad considering that he had almost no support from his teammates in the mountains and that his teammates with the most Grand Tour eperience, David Millar, didn't perform to expectations after the 2nd week.

Next years tour to be wide open as more and more dopers retire, or are forced from the sport. This leaves teams with progessive training programs and an emphasis on clean racing, like Columbia and Garmin, in a good position to make an even bigger mark next year. Of course, they'll still have to contend with the Spainards. And next year, Contador will be riding again.

image: Carlos Sastre by Pascal Pavani, Agence Frace-Presse

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