It’s been a positive Tour de France when the misgivings about the manner in which Alberto Contador won this year’s ultra-tortuous race surrounded how he seized upon a chain slip by his main rival Andy Schleck to build a 39-second advantage; the exact difference between the pair after Saturday’s penultimate, decisive time trial stage. Suspect sportsmanship maybe. But let’s just say worse things have happened on the way to Paris in the past.
Luck also evaded Lance Armstrong who fell victim to accident and age on what was a Tour too far for the 39-year-old seven-time champion. Having started out aiming to prove he was better than last year’s third-place finish behind the same top two, he finished licking his wounds fully 40 minutes behind them, with a federal investigation to face as he starts his second and final retirement.
Seán Kelly, commentating for Eurosport (during which he admitted to once careering down a mountain in the Pyrenees at 124km/hr in the heat of TdF battle… yes, on a bike!) spoke about cyclists generally having excellent genes, enabling them to withstand the drastically fluctuating conditions encountered in long stage races in particular.
Apropos of which, “proud Irishman” Nicolas Roche achieved his goal by finishing a very creditable 15th overall (a placing that earned him a mere €2,000 or a hundred quid a stage) after three absorbing, agonising weeks of racing which sent riders across cobbles, cols and every pain threshold imaginable.
His candid daily diary in the ‘Irish Independent’ made for intriguing reading, bringing home the occupational hazards and torments that the typical top-end professional endures. Moreover, one suspects, when you’ve the extra burden of a famous father to carry, even if both are as proud of each other. “Although he mostly leaves me to my own devices, sometimes it helps having a former Tour de France winner as a dad,” Stephen’s son said. And no doubt sometimes it can, like the rest of it, be a pain in the ass.