Sunday, July 5, 2009

Le Grand Depart 2009 - mimitig

It’s the beginning of July and that means only one thing: the summer of sport is about to get even better: motor sports reach the crucial half-way point in their season, the biggest contest in cricket starts (The Ashes) and the men in lycra embark on the toughest challenge in cycling.

Literally millions of people, the world over, become armchair cycling fans for the duration of Le Tour de France. A fair few haul out their old replica strips and take to the roads in a vain attempt to convince themselves that they could have been a contender.

However, before Le Tour takes over completely, mention must be made of the incredible achievement of Valentino Rossi last weekend in Assen.

At the circuit known as ‘The Cathedral of Speed’, Rossi gave the fans and the field a master class in speed, determination and technique to claim his 100th victory in MotoGP – the pinnacle of motorcycle track racing.

The great Giacomo Agostini describes Rossi the Greatest of all Time, and who could argue with that?

As the MotoGP cavalcade moved off to the USA for the next race at the breath-taking Laguna Seca circuit, nearly 200 men on two-wheeled machines with no engines, prepared to race for 3500 km in the most gruelling ordeal known to sporting man.

This year race director Christian Prudhomme decided to honour the Principality of Monaco by granting them the right to host day one of the Tour – Le Grand Depart. Even before the day arrived there was much excitement buzzing around. Not since London in 2007 has an opening Time Trial generated so much hype. For a start there is just something special about Monte Carlo – the amazing mountain scenery, the dramatic views across the harbour, the scent of freshly banked money and of course the preponderance of “beautiful people”. Then there’s the course itself: 15.5 km making it one of the longest Time Trials in Tour history, and including a steep ascent at the start and a testing technical descent of 4 km before finishing on the flat.

Happily the racing on the day did not disappoint. All eyes were on Lance Armstrong – returning to the Tour after a three-year lay off. How fast would he go? How fit would he look? Well the answers to those questions are: pretty damn fast (he came 10th) and lean, hungry and fit as a butcher’s dog. For all those who have mixed feelings about his return to the Tour, there is no denying that he has put in the hard yards and is most definitely not there for the publicity or to make up the numbers.

Lance chose to go out quite early in the Trial and for a while was second only to Astana team mate and fellow American Levi Leipheimer. But the big guns, the really big guns were the last to ride and the tension mounted.

First of the true challengers to set off was our very own Bradley Wiggins, Olympic gold-medallist and potential stage winner this year. He put in a great ride, gave it all he had, but only made the bottom step of the podium. Unfortunately for Brad, not only was the course less suited to his skills than a flatter route would have been, but he is up against two of the strongest riders the Tour has seen in recent years.

Alberto Contador, many people’s favourite for Tour winner, was on fire when he took to the track. As we watched him make the ascent look easy and hurtle round the corners, it seemed impossible for anyone to beat him. Only one man in the world could – Fabian Cancellara. According to Phil Ligget, Cancellara “flew down the mountain like an eagle”. According to Phil’s co-commentator, Paul Sherwen, the Swiss was “in turbo jetville”.

And so ended a thrilling day of cycling. Le Grand Depart of 2009 lived up to all expectations and three weeks of thrills and spills, sprints, breakaways and crashes lie ahead before the peloton rolls down the Champs Elysees on Sunday 26 July.

31 comments:

Rooto said...

Thanks mimi, enthusiasm shining through as ever.
I had hoped to video or write something about the tour passing through Nice (where I live), but I, my girlfriend and our 2-year-old (the baby was back at the flat with Granny) didn't last very long on the Promenade des Anglais. We arrived in time for the start of the promotional "caravane": oddly-shaped vehicles with young girls flinging sponsors goodies to all the spectators, but - Alas! - the horns and blaring music frightened the toddler rigid, and we had to hotfoot it home in time to catch it on TV instead (or, if she's more educated than I thought, maybe the rampant commercialism, and ugly snatching of free hats shown by those around us were what upset her!).
Never mind, my biggest interest was to see the roads which I cycle on at weekends (though not since the baby was born) being ridden by the pros. That on-the-spot report will have to wait a few more years!

mimi said...

Thanks Rooto. I was on the edge of my seat, in fact on my feet tonight watching Cav win. I love the sprints.
Also on my seat to follow the race at Laguna - damn me if Rossi didn't nearly pull it off.

offsideintahiti said...

Great stuff, Mimi. looks like I'll be chained to the computer for the duration of the Tour, so I'm counting on your reports to keep me updated. Excellent start.

Rooto, did they go through Antibes as well, or straight into the hills?

David Barry said...

15.5 km making it one of the longest Time Trials in Tour history
You missed the world 'prologue'. ;) I think it's because of the length that it's actually called stage one.

For all those who have mixed feelings about his return to the Tour
My feelings on Armstrong are not mixed in the slightest.

David Barry said...

'word', not 'world'.

Ebren said...

Twitter - might not be the most popular in these parts - but keeps you updated nicely. For example, Wiggo was having photos of himself in green sent to Cavendish ahead of stage two. Which was fun.

guitou said...

Mimi,
Cav of course and It's just the begining.

Rooto said...

offie
No, they turned off the coast at the Hippodrome in Cagnes-sur-mer, and went up towards Grasse.
I've only really got into cycling since I've been in France, so I learnt a lot of the words connected with it in French first. Of course, 'peloton' is fairly international. But, what is the English name for yesterday's tactics (pushing on into the wind to break up the peloton and leave the poor saps at the back behind)? Please forgive the pretentiousness of my question, but I know I'm amongst friends!
BTW, great to see that Cav is walking the walk, and becoming the new 'boss' of the peloton!

offsideintahiti said...

Are you asking me? But I know sod all about cycling! I'm learning it all from Mimi. I'm not even sure I understand the question. Could you rephrase, please, Rooto?

guitou said...

Mimi,
Another day, another win for Cav,is he on his way for an all time record?
Rooto, isn'it "gone with the wind" ?

Rooto said...

offie,
No, sorry I wasn't asking you in particular. (Hope I've not added insult to injury now:-))
To answer my queston: how about 'breaking wind'?
Hopefully a couple more Cav wins now before what the French call 'the explanation' on Friday. Some on GU are expecting it to be in the balance until Ventoux, but - assuming that the tour is more or less between Armstrong, Contador and maybe Schleck - I can't see Armstrong being able to resist the first mountain-top finish. That's just what he does, so we'll soon see if he's up to it.

Mouth of the Mersey said...

Rooto - I hope to read that local report in years to come!

If, and it's a big if, Contador falls off, LA becomes favourite for the race! Dave knows why, but I'm not so sure. Why would LA risk everything to publicise his Foundation? It would make no sense to use PEDs in this edition. Contador looks unbeatable though.

Great to see Wiggo up front and Cav is the new Chippo!

mimi said...

Does anyone actually want another piece about Le Tour? It's a lot of work, I was thinking about doing a mid-Tour round-up, but only if people care.

guitou said...

Mimi pleeaaaase.

offsideintahiti said...

Yeah, and the crickit too. No coverage on french TV, so a summary would be appreciated. (Five days and it's a draw? Sounds fascinating.)

mimi said...

Scoff ye not, Offie. The last half hour of play in Cardiff tonight was one of the most exciting and tense that I have experienced in sport.

offsideintahiti said...

Well, tells us about it, then.

mimi said...

Offie: I have a sick cat to look after tonight, but will do something on Le Tour and cricket before Lord's on Thurs.

The French are having their best tour for years. Well done Fedrigo. What a win from a fantastic breakaway.

offsideintahiti said...

Any chance you could chuck the sick cat Andrew's way? He's good with the furries...

Wisden Greengrass said...

offie,
the redeeming virtue of cricket is that it leaves the French even more confused than usual.

If you want to make even less sense of it, see "Chanelle's world".

mimi,
try singing for the poor kitty!

Guitou said...

Offie, The" french confused" isn'this hurting your national pride on the July the 14th national célébration of la prise de la bastille ? I think you should stand up for Sarko's sake
he is a true hero de brise de la pastille.

offsideintahiti said...

I'm not bothered. It's already tomorrow in Sweden anyway.

mimi said...

Cav's in Green again. There's a new piece with Ebren.

mimi said...

Cav, cav, cav, Oh boy you winner!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCAUo-oUlj4&feature=related

offsideintahiti said...

Has l'Équipe used the title Le cave se rebiffe yet?

guitou said...

they did probably four times, I think mimi can use a cookie-cutter approach for her piece on the tour de cav.
Cavindincation again and again-He is so predictible
they keep only his size for the green jersey until Paris-This guy can win with a flat tire!

Rooto said...

This stuff in L'Equipe is a bit ridiculous. I mean Cav may well be a bit of an "arsehole", but I'm sure he never called anybody a "fucking Frenchie". It's a common misconception in France that we rosbifs call them Frenchies, and it proves it's just a stupid allegation. Although he may well have said "fuckin' Frogs"... (present company excepted)

mimi said...

I heard Cav on the radio this morning sounded very upset about L'Equipe. He said he was even learning French though he couldn't speak it yet.

Rooto said...

True, mimi. After yesterday's stage he was interviewed on French TV, and although he was answering in English, it was only when he struggled with a question that it became apparent that he was working without a translator for the questions.

guitou said...

"fucking frenchies" it's an under statement to qualify the people from l'équipe, they have a pie brain.
Cav is great he'll survive.

offsideintahiti said...

This fucking frog has a message for you.

(Which, admittedly, sounds like it's been on the answering machine for quite a while.)

Tweet it, digg it