I’m breaking with my usual tradition of linking you to writing tips each Saturday, but it’ll be back next week.
Here‘s a cracked article on the Tour de France. Most of it doesn’t apply to Australia, because our commentators are refreshingly respectful and classy, and tend to actually talk about what’s happening in the race. #1, however, is utterly and frighteningly true. This article is PG/M (the site is often MA or more), and has a picture of a man in a mankini. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Stage 18 (I’m yet to watch 19) was seriously epic. I’ve spoken before about attacks, when one man races ahead of the pack. Most of the time they fail, especially if the attacker is a big name – no-one will let them get away. But they’re also the only way for the big names to break away and get ahead, so they happen a lot towards the end of each stage of the race. They’re utterly exhausting for everyone, especially the attacker, who has to pull sudden strength out of nowhere – and abandon the aerodynamic cooperation of the pack if he actually succeeds.
In Stage 18, Andy Schleck (who came second last year – by 23 seconds) launched an attack. . . fifty kilometres before the end of the race. It was an insane move, and surprised everyone so much that he got away. He rode with inhuman speed past THREE other smaller (non-threatening but startled) groups, pausing only to work with two team-mates who had been sent out ahead in deliberate preparation. His largely solo journey lasted over an hour – 9% of it uphill. In the Alps.
At one point, he was FOUR MINUTES ahead of the pack, and the virtual leader (after beginning the day in fourth place) of the entire Tour. He then went and won the stage, proving that the most outrageous gambles sometimes pay off.
Meanwhile, the pack slowly realised they were screwed – Andy really was going to win the entire stage on his own, and possibly the Tour de France as well. Unfortunately, despite attempts to share the load, they were simply too exhausted to catch up (ie when twenty men attempted to work together to match the speed of Andy Schleck – they failed). Finally Cadel Evans accepted that he was the only one with any strength left, and for the last 11 kilometres he bore the entire weight of the group, and slowly chipped seconds away from Andy. He singlehandedly cut Andy’s advantage in half, keeping himself as a contender for first place.
When Cadel pulled out all the stops and rode his desperate mano a mano race, more and more champions dropped off the back – including Alberto Contador (last year’s winner). One of the tiny handful that remained was Thomas Voeckler, who was meant to barely survive the intense mountain stages.
Instead, on the second last mountain stage of the Tour, he managed to keep up with Cadel – and thus keep the yellow jersey for one last excruciating day. By fifteen seconds.
And thus Stage 18 had three winners.