by Bob Roll, Team Kryptonite
The 2008 Tour has been an absolutely fantastic race so far. There were a few speed bumps initially. The first was Manuel Beltran being positive for EPO from Stage 1. The second was Moises Duenas, also positive for EPO and in possession of doping products. But the big speed bump so far was the expulsion of Riccardo Ricco, whose two stage wins have been taken away, and his team mate Leonardo Piepoli and the withdrawal of the whole Saunier Duval team. Ricco looked fantastic in the Pyrenees, but now we know that looks can be deceiving.
Ricco was arrested and thrown in jail as part of the French authorities zero tolerance policy in the ongoing fight against doping in cycling.
Cycling, more than any other sport, has to present a clean and real and authentic spectacle for the fans. It’s not a sport that is fought in a stadium where the fans are far from the action. It’s a sport that courses its way through the neighborhoods and towns where people live. Because of that slight distinction cycling must be clean or it will die. It’s important for us to be critical but not allow our criticisms to disintegrate into cynicism.
Conversely, once the dopers were kicked out of the race, the actual competitive component came to life. Cadel Evans showed himself to be a very gifted cyclist but perhaps possessing a very fragile psyche. The pressure of the yellow jersey weighed heavy on Evans and he lashed out when it was completely unnecessary.
The Tour is mostly about the prudent expenditure and management of energy whether it is physical or emotional. And Evans proved to be vulnerable in managing his emotional energies. Schleck proved to be a bit more calm and a bit more steady and took the yellow jersey. But only to give it up to his own team mate Carlos Sastre on the stage to Alpe d’Huez.
Sastre’s main rival now is probably Cadel Evans. Even though he has a significant advantage of 1:34 he’s not the world’s greatest time trialist. All of which gives us a race which one of five men can still win this late in the Tour. Everyone still believes Evans to be the hot favorite but every pedal stroke that Sastre stays in yellow he gets a little bit stronger.
Stay tuned to Saturday’s stage! Never has so much been on the line for so many cyclists this late in the Tour.