Thursday, July 23, 2009

A tale of two racers

Obviously, I admire Mark Cavendish. The guy’s results speak for themselves. Which is why I don’t get why he feels such a need to augment that by shooting off his mouth unnecessarily. I don’t see anything wrong with talking to reporters, celebrating success, and even giving competitors a good-natured rub. But to call someone out for having a “stain” on his jersey is going a bit far. Far enough that I’d call it not-classy.

Hushovd’s response on the other hand—going solo over several first category climbs in order to win 12 points from intermediate sprints shows class, determination, and maturity of an almost singular nature in today’s sporting world. Chapeau, Thor, for showing why the green jersey is given to the most consistent rider, not the rider who wins the most stages.

Don’t forget that Thor’s listed weight is 180 pounds, some 30 pounds more than Cavendish, who was biding his time in the gruppetto. But the only way Thor really weighs that little is if he’s just returned from a six hour training ride in 100 degree heat wherein he consumed no more than two water bottles. Even then, he’d probably need to precede it with a six week bout with giardia. He’s a big dude, so to lead the rest of the skinny peleton over some serious hills is quite a feat.

Contrast Hushovd’s behavior with that of Alberto Contador. Contador was comfortably in the yellow jersey going up yesterday’s final climb, having opened an insurmountable gap over anyone who could come close to beating him in today’s final time trial. And yet, he still found it necessary to attack his own teammate, dropping Kloden and in the process knocking both Kloden and Armstrong off the podium. Is he that insecure?

Then, after he attacked his own teammate on the climb, he refused to take a pull on the descent, ostensibly using the excuse that he had teammates behind and didn’t want to widen the gap on them. The Schlecks had no choice but to tow his sorry ass across the line. At least he had the decency to let Frank cross first, thus sparing us from that stupidly annoying “pistol” routine, though he was particular that there was no separation, lest the officials declare a meaningless one second gap between the racers.

Today El Ratón Contador won the final time trial, beating Fabian Cancellara by just a couple seconds. Cancellara is too classy to say it was anything but the fact that Contador was more or less motorpacing behind two gendarmes on motorbikes. Other analysts have postulated more complex theories, citing examples such as the last guy to beat Cancellara in a TT was Schumacher. Or that the two next fastest ascents in tour history after Contador’s climb to Verbier were by a couple guys named Riis and Pantani.

I can see why Contador climbs so fast—he weighs nothing. It’s physics. But those same physics also suggest that a guy that size should not be able to go as fast as a larger, stronger rider on a mostly flat course. Cancellara, Wiggins, Armstrong, and Kloden (the last two being far from squeaky clean when it comes to doping accusations) all should have had an advantage today. And yet El Ratón somehow beat them.

Two years ago, everyone was wondering how much time El Ratón would lose on the final TT and whether he had built up enough of a cushion in the mountains. Today he won the final TT and we’re all left to ponder where the time trialing prowess came from.

If it looks like a rat and smells like a rat…


  1. ...then it's definitely one of those fluffy, stuffed lions that goes with the yellow jersey.

  2. Something(s) about the guy rubs me the wrong way too... Big fan or Thor...

  3. What a soap opera. If the fans want spectacle and something to talk about, the Tour delivers.

  4. THOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. I told my wife last night when he was on the podium, "If he pistol whips, I officially hate him." I officially hate him.

  6. Ain't a rider I'd rather see test positive. And I hate to say that.

  7. I'm just waiting for the doping announcement to come. He's already ducking questions about it.

    He's a chump.