Monday, July 24, 2006

Tour De Landis

So how many of you paid attention to this (or any) years Tour De France? Lance Armstrong brought attention to the race to the masses in America. Not only with his compelling battle against cancer, but his dominance on the bike after he overcame testicular cancer.

I wasn't sure what to expect during this years tour, no Lance and then on the eve of the race favorites Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich were sent home amid blood doping allegations... Not the best way to start this years tour.

From early on it was evident that Floyd Landis was a force to be reckoned with, but he wasn't Armstrong dominant and he lack the flash of past greats. What he did do was pound the petals day after day and while his opponents showed cracks, Floyd rode strong and steady. It was going down as a rather ho-hum tour until the riders hit the Alps.

The Alps have lately been the place where Armstrong made his move and crushed the will of the other hopefuls. We waited and hoped for more fireworks amongst the leaders in this years tour. Landis set the tone on Stage #15 up the legendary Alpe D'Huez, gaining back the leader's jersey his team gave away days earlier. It looked as if the race was over, only two more stages in the Alps and Landis was in good form.

Stage #16. Everything was going to plan when the unthinkable happened, Landis bonked, he had no response to his opponents attacks and ended up crawling to the finish 8:10 minutes behind the new leader...his chance at yellow slipped away.

And then came Floyd Landis' defining moment. Instead of looking forward to wearing yellow into Paris, it appeared all Landis had to look forward to was hip replacemnt surgery for a dying hip socket from a crash years ago. It would have been understandable if Landis would have pulled out and gone home, others have over far less reasons. But on stage #17 Landis rode perhaps the greatest one day race there has ever been.

With 130 km Floyd attacked the Peleton (main body of riders) on the first climb on what some called the toughest stage of the tour. Breakaways rarely succeed in the tour and they have no chance if the peleton thinks the rider is a threat. Yet Floyd Landis went alone and rode those last 130 km like a man on a mission. The peleton tried to bring him back but his will to win was stronger and nearly erased the previous days results, he was only :30 behind the leader with the time-trial upcoming.

Needless to say Landis put in a great time-trial and rode into Paris on Sunday with a lead over his next competitor of nearly one minute. His guts and determination put him right up there with Armstrong, and once again brought a great story to light.

I've watched countless tours, sadly none in person, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the Tour De France is the single greatest sporting event on this planet and the strength it takes just to finish last is incredible.



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