Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Half way almost in Le Tour – The Phil and Paul Show - mimitig

As Gertrude Stein should have said “Le Tour est Le Tour est Le Tour” and no doubt if lycra had been invented in her day, she no doubt would have. The sight of nearly 200 fit young men straining their hearts and minds, let alone their muscles, for three weeks through the French countryside would have been enjoyable art for La Grande Dame.

Well, she’s not with us, but thankfully the Phil and Paul Show is going strong, with the usual fabulous support from Gary Imlach, Ned Boulting and the utterly amazing World Famous King of the Hour, Britain’s Most Famous Cyclist Chris Boardman.

For our pleasure, these top dogs of commentary and presentation are working their little sweaty socks off to bring us the best of the action in the world’s biggest and best bike race. Chris has revisited the scene of his awful crash and managed to smile about it. Ned has ridden up a mountain and managed not to be sick in front of the cameras. Gary has avoided saying anything legally actionable about “le dopage” while letting us all know exactly what he thinks about certain riders. Paul and Phil have resolutely remained with some of their extraordinary but very welcome pronunciations – my personal favourite being the killermeter.

The “killermeter” is a particularly apt description of almost any specific duration of Le Tour. In the long flat stages when the breakaway looks like they might hold off til the end, then those last few ks when the peloton starts to hunch over the leaders like an eagle with the claws out, must feel like death to the leaders. “They will be caught, within the last few killermeters” say Paul and Phil, and sure enough, they almost always are.

The last 200 metres of the sprint must feel like death to the legs for the mad fuckers like Mark Cavendish who live and die in the wet and dry to get over the line.

On a sprint they are saying about Mark – got to have the doors wide open, got to keep the sprint wide open, but here is Zabal then the champion of France has found some power in those pistons we call legs as he races to the finish, but Kim Kirchen is leading them out, we can feel the pressure, Quickstep on the front, and Cav bursts out – Look at the speed of Mark Cavendish. He clearly is the fastest man over 200 metres.

FANTASTIC.

In the mountains, most of the day must feel like torture as the riders attempt to drag tired bodies over ridiculous heights. It is a strange type – such as The Cobra Riccardo Ricco – who can find strength to sprint up an almost vertical mountain side.

So, where are we half-way through? Paul and Phil haven’t quite decided whether Evans is Cad-del or Cad-ell – if you know what I mean. But we have seen Cadel attack in the mountains despite a nasty fall (blood on the elbow and knee) and take yellow. We have seen Ricco spookily remind us all of Marco Pantani (and we didn’t need Phil telling us that he rides with a picture of “The Pirate” in his jersey).

We had a short time trial early on – just stage 4 round Cholet and won by Gerolsteiner’s Stefan Schumacher. This brought the first hints of controversy to this year’s Tour. Quickstep’s Sprint Specialist, Belgian Hero Tom Boonen had been refused entry to Le Tour a cause de an out of competition drug thingie (allegedly he took cocaine in a nightclub). Schumacher was also subject to some police interest prior to the Tour – as he said to journalists after his win in Cholet: “It was only a little bit of these substance [amphetamines] and I did not consume.” Yeah?

The French papers took perhaps as much interest in this as Herr Schumacher did in the substances – or maybe not. We must be careful.

“En Jaune Pale” was a headline in L’Equipe – as Gary Imlach said – “A couple of shades short of the full egg yolk”. A delightful translation, and one very very short of insinuation. Not.

But there we go – nothing proved, Schumacher rode on. We’ll follow his progress with as much interest as anyone else. Not.

To cleaner things – or anyway things of interest to GB Cycling fans who know exactly what the drug testing is for the cyclists riding under the GB banner.

We have seen two remarkable wins for The Manx Express. Not yet 24 years-old, this young man is a Commonwealth and World Gold Medallist. He’s decided to go road-racing (though if he gets through Le Tour without injury he’ll be in Beijing with our Brad going for gold in the Madison) and so far this year he’s got two wins in the Giro.

Matched now by his two Tour Stages. Respect. And if he can make it through the mountains there’s one more chance for a win next week.

With these four wins in Grand Tours, we may have seen the crown of sprinting pass from Robbie McEwen to Cavendish – and it would be apt as they are so physically similar. In fact, I cannot think of another young sprinter more fitted to take Robbie’s crown. I confidently predict many Green Jerseys for Mark Cavendish in the years to come.

We have seen the tiny wee country of Luxembourg punch way above its weight. Where most of its countrymen are busy doing banking things, three men have been really giving it beans in The Tour. Kim Kirchen has had yellow on his shoulders for days – and thus been given lots of those cuddly lions – and the Schleck Brothers have been up where it counts. Andy has had the White Jersey and Franck was within a second of yellow today.

Two teams have been outstanding in this half of the Tour. Team Columbia, formerly High Road, formerly T-Mobile, have their two stages with the Cav and in Toulouse they got a 1-2 with Ciolek following sprint-meister Cavendish home.

Saunier-Duval is my other star team: Ricardo Ricco has two wins and the team had a 1-2 on the Hautacam yesterday with Piepoli and Juan Jose Cobo Acebo.

Team CSC are working hard, but Alejandro Valverde is falling away – maybe the first of the really big names in the GC to do so.

Cadel has taken Yellow, Franck Schleck is second (Andy sacrificed himself on the mountains today), the surprise is to see Christian Vandevelde up there in third (though not to me – I had a bet on a year ago, but sssshhh!). Denny Menchov is in contention still and you never know. We have the Alps to get through and maybe, just maybe Alejandro can find a way back.

Personally I doubt it.

I’m not sure Cadel can get to Paris – he looked pretty banged about before the Rest Day, so if ain’t him, where would my money go?

Not being a betting woman I really don’t know.

Maybe Denny, Evans and Schleck on the podium, but don’t know what order. If Cav makes it all the way, I wouldn’t put it past him to win the sprint on the Champs d’Elysees. And if that happens, it’ll be an absolute bugger cos I’ll be away and not see it!!

Grrr! Oh and bad grrrr – there has been one positive drug test and an old Spanish cyclist has been chucked off Le Tour.

And the next day we hear of a cricketer testing positive for some substance so cycling is not the only villainous sport.

Enjoy the rest of a clean Tour.

33 comments:

bluedaddy said...

Great stuff Mimi. I loved the mental picture of the peloton eagle, sounds like something out of Studio Ghibli.

Cavendish is a star.

munni said...

Mimi, you have succeeded in making le Tour interesting even to me. I went so far as watching a bit of it the other night, and thanks to you felt vaguely like I sort of knew what was going on.

(I am supporting Cavendish because he is Manx, and so is the wondercat).

bluedaddy said...

If it's wondercats you're after:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbutBhkrrZk

zeph said...

Don't understand any of it, but your enthusiasm shines through every word of this piece, Mimi.

zeph said...

Ah yes, BD, the catbus, truly excellent!

guitougoal said...

Mimi,
very exciting stuff as always-Unfortunately one of your top star once again let us down.Ricco and Saunier Duval out for good..ouch! that hurts!

mimi said...

Gui: my heart is absolutely breaking. I could take the first two "retirees" cos they were part of the old guard, but Ricco? I am so gutted - it is perhaps the beginning of the end of my love affair with Le Tour and as we all know breaking up is hard to do.

When I wrote admiringly of the achievements of Saunier Duval, it was thinking they had signed up to the new deal. Seems they haven't and what a bugger for those guys who finished behind them.

It makes a mockery, and it truly makes me question my belief. I will listen with great interest to the views of Boardman, Liggett and Sherwen.

bluedaddy said...

There were whispers about Ricco already on the blogs, and when I watched him zip ahead of everyone the other day I feared the worst. Damn shame.

But keep the faith mimi. If the authorities are relentless, then they will win through. If they learn from the timidity of athletics, and come down harder on the transgressors, I believe that cycling can regain its credibility.

And as for Cavendish. For me that's the greatest British sporting achievement since Kelly Holmes' double gold. Outstanding.

guitougoal said...

Yes indeed Marc Cavendish is a great finisher, the new star of the last 200 m.
Rico was a cobra all right, but he killed himself with his own venom.
Yes Mimi keep the faith, its clean-up
time.

mimi said...

Thanks for the support chaps.
Mark's done the triple today, and being part of Team GB is one of the most tested men in the world let alone the peloton.

I have to admit a doubt when Ricco accelerated in a Pantani way, but I trusted that as part of the young ones, he wouldn't play dirty.

Wrong, I was so wrong, and I wonder now if the only teams we can trust are French or the recently cleaned up acts from Germany and Denmark. Spain and Italy are surely now, with all their riders, under the microscope.

I'll give it another day before crying.

guitougoal said...

mimi,
I saved a pink sexy hanky for you..

mimi said...

So kind Gui. I read today that SD have now sacked Ricco and Piepoli without waiting for further results. So that's a big fat guilty verdict then.

guitougoal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
guitougoal said...

beamish Cavendish!

mimi said...

I'm desperately trying to avoid full details of today so that I can sit on the edge of the settee again during the highlights!

Even knowing the outcome it'll be great cos I don't yet know how - and it gives me a great reason to put off doing any organising at all for going on holiday. tomorrow morning. So I should have at least started thinking about it, but I haven't!

bluedaddy said...

I don't know what to say. What a rider!

mimi said...

I think Gui describes him. Beamish Cav.

Oh my Beamish Boy:
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'


One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

I wouldna recommend anyone on the Tour to galumph but when it comes to a sprint, young Cav is like the vorpal blade. He can cut through and is the fastest man in the world.

The mantle passes from Robbie McEwen to Cav.

offsideintahiti said...

Just heard a doctor on TV saying there's a new brand of EPO that is, as of yet, undetectable. Apparently, Ricco was just silly for using "generation 3" EPO, when there's already better stuff on the market.

Please note, I'm not trying to taint young Cavendish's triumphs. I don't know anything, nor do I want to insinuate.

offsideintahiti said...

Nor do I care very much, to be honest. I was only watching a bit last night because I couldn't sleep and they were going through my favourite region of France. For any pseuds going on holidays, I can't recommand enough l'Aude et les Châteaux Cathares.

mimi said...

Offie: David Millar was on the telly talking of this stuff today.

Cav is clean - no rider can be part of GB cycling and not be. Also his Pro team is part of the new guard.

But it is still hard to see a win and think - oh that chap is fine.

I am so unhappy that cycling has had more scandals. I think that while I'm on holiday for the next week, I might ignore everything.

guitougoal said...

mimi,
Rest assured if Offie recommend Chateau d'Aude, it's a good wine-
I think the Tourmalet should be a good judge about the state of D.E among the bikers.

guitougoal said...

btw,sadly it all ended today at the bottom of the Alps for the cav man.

mimi said...

Nah - Cav abandoning is no surprise and actully a good thing for him and Brad in the Madison.

I really should forgo being obsessed with reading these blogs.I'm on holiday.

No doubt read you soon.

MotM said...

Lovely, lovely stuff Mimi. They (the cyclists, not the equally lovely bloggers) don't deserve you.

I can't watch the Alpe tomorrow - it's no fun if some are on motorbikes and some just pedalling. Is Cadel clean? I thought Floyd was and Tyler... Ho hum...

offsideintahiti said...

motm,

Floyd Landis! The last time cycling had me in stitches. Washed up one day, flying up the mountain the next, and after testing positive, stating in in his defense that he'd had a few drinks that night. lol et mort de rire.

offsideintahiti said...

Almost as funny, in fact, as Richard Virenque's "à l'insu de mon plein gré". He's a pundit on Eurosport now, oh dear...

greengrass said...

offie,
as long as it doesn't become a habit, mort de rire sounds like a good way to go.

guitougoal said...

mourir de rire a habit est-ce possible?
it's like being addicted to a great way to go?
what about mourir d'amour?

mimi said...

Pretty good day at Alpe d'Huez. Still unsure about Schumacher but at least he faded.
Believe in the Schlecks and Sastre.

Not sure about you lot and your morts. Makes me think Morte d'Arte and also so much morte d'amour that I am trying to stop thinking about because that amour was there then and isn't now.

Do think about love of home - first time ever being away and understanding what homesickness is all about. Never happened before but this time I cried myself to sleep the first 2 nights away just wanting to be home.

greengrass said...

guitou,
I tried that mourir d'amour business lots of times in the days when I was convinced that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence - and, believe me, it's overrated.
Just a dash of mort de rire now and then helps to keep the pipes unclogged.

guitougoal said...

You're all dead right.

Humphrey Bogart said...

I changed my mind:
you're all dead wrong.

mimi said...

Depending upon our Lord, the Good Lord Ebren, there might be another chance to rant and rave about Le Dopage and such soon.

ie: I have sent a review of Le Tour to our Uberlord.

Tweet it, digg it