My armchair Tour takes a rest – time to stock up on beer!

Tour de France 2012 logo

So far, so good!

“The Tour de France is chaos. It is a month in disarray, a 3500-kilometre circus in which hundreds of thousands of people all attempt to occupy the same small spaces at the same time. Factions are in pitched battle for position: press against teams against the organisation against police against fans.” [1]

This certainly sums up the positions of the riders and teams, as the Tour enjoys its first Rest Day, after 10 days of hot competition.

The rest day marks the end of the opening segment of three, before the 3-week event ends in Paris. Time for evaluation, analysis and predictions by all and sundry.

British progress

The pre-Tour favourite, Bradley Wiggins, is now in yellow, almost 2 minutes ahead of last year’s winner, Cadel Evans of Australia, after thrashing him (and the rest of the field) in yesterday’s time trial. Wiggins covered 41.5 km in 51’24”, at an average speed of 48.6 kph/30.2 mph.

Throughout the opening 10 days, Brits have done exceptionally well. In addition to gaining and holding the yellow jersey, the’ve pulled off: 2nd. and 11th. in the Prologue; a win on Stage 2 for Mark Cavendish, the Manxman, followed by his 5th. position on Stage 5; 1st. on Stage 7 for Chris Froome, with Wiggins in 3rd. place, displacing Fabian Cancellara to take yellow; the time trial win for Wiggins yesterday, with 2nd. place taken by Froome.

Other highs and lows

Peter Sagan, aged 22, won no fewer than 3 sprints in his debut Tour. Frenchman Thibaut Pinot staged a coolly-calculated solo breakaway effort to win a stage for his home country. Great stuff!

The bad news was a series of crashes throughout the opening week that took its toll on many fancied riders. In particular, a horrible pile-up on Stage 6 sent 10 guys to hospital with a selection of broken shoulders, collar bones, legs and ribs; not to mention one punctured lung, and a ruptured spleen. Luckily, most of the hot favourites were not involved in all this carnage, but 20 riders have already been forced to abandon through injury or ill-health.

And now?

Wiggins and his Team Sky are forced to defend their position in yellow and as team leaders on general classification for the remainder of the Tour. As the race moves into the mountains, everything is up for grabs. One bad day, one wrong tactic, another big crash, even a puncture – any or all of these could turn the race upside down. And a rider like Cadel Evans is well-respected as a hard, gutsy fighter. There are also a few good names lurking around in useful positions, perhaps ready to pounce over the next several days. [2]

Some pundits are already saying the Tour result is cut-and-dried; Wiggins is wiser – he knows what he has to do, the pressure he’ll be under, the way Lady Luck may withdraw her favours. Let’s hope he keeps his cool, that his team continues to be able to support him, and we’ll see what happens before the next rest day!

Speaking his mind

Wiggins was provoked in a Sunday press conference when a press reporter teased him by asking what he thought of those who believed that, to win the Tour de France, riders must be doped “to the gills” (a reference to ongoing proceedings against Lance Armstrong and others, and a social media campaign targeted at Wiggins and his team). Wiggins is already well-known for his ‘flamboyant’ use of English / Anglo-Saxon. Here’s what he said in reply:

“Honestly they’re just fucking wankers. I can’t be doing with people like that,” Wiggins said. “It justifies their own bone idleness… because they can’t ever imagine applying themselves to anything in their lives.

“And it’s easy for them to sit under a pseudonym on Twitter and write that kind of shit rather than get off their arses and apply themselves and work hard at something and achieve something.” [3]

He paused, tossed the microphone on the table and left.

Who says the Tour de France is a dull, never-ending procession through the sunflower fields?

[1]: velonews

[2]: WalesOnline

[3]: velonews

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