The Tour has wrapped up for 2009 and it fulfilled it’s usual place in the calendar as the biggest – but not greatest – cycling event of the year. It was strange getting up this morning and not having the Tour blasting on Versus while we got ready for work; I miss Phil and Paul already.
The organizers gambled everything on making the last week of the Tour exciting at the expense of having a very mediocre first and second weeks. Looking back, I believe this was the worst Tour I’ve witnessed – although the blame for that falls partly on the route planning and partly on the strength of Astana and the suffocation tactics they used to control the race and stifle attacks.
The route left the big racing to the last week, and Astana sucked the life out of the stages where attacking was a possibility. Worse yet, the race in the last week was still not very suspenseful, and the fireworks that were expected on Ventoux never materialized because Contador had an unassailable lead by the time they hit those brutal slopes. When all was said and done, the only exciting stage in terms of the GC was Stage 17 when the Schlecks tag-teamed over the high alps, and we were only left with the daily race for the stage wins.
For their part, the sprinters dished out some exciting racing in their quest for the Green Jersey, although Cavendish’s dominating sprint fit nicely into the predictable nature of this year’s race. Hushovd deservedly won the Green jersey after going solo in the mountains (also on Stage 17 – what a day!) but Cav’s sprint on the Champs-Élysées was most impressive. I have to say, the new camera angle they set up last year that follows the racers from the side is one of the coolest developments in recent memory.
The thing I’m happiest to see as the Tour winds down is the strength Andy Schleck showed on the Ventoux. After last year’s performance on l’Alpe, and the previous year’s performance on the Mortirollo, he is proving that he becomes stronger as a three week race wears on, and by the third week, even the most gruesome mountain becomes a toy for him. Andy has “Future Tour Winner” written all over him, and I, for one, look forward to that day.