Tour de Gaul

After week one’s crashes and withdrawals (including fav Bradley Wiggins), it’s a wonder there was any lycra or cyclists left to get up all those hills. Poor old Johnny Hooglerland’s arse was all over the globe’s tellys after this appalling bit of driving. His polka dot jersey and continued presence in the race is a reminder of how hard tour riders are and how much this race means to them.

My rider of the tour so far has been Thor Hushovd, the World Champion who took yellow after the team time trial, held on to it for a few days as well as dragging his big sprinters’ frame over two mountain stages to take line honours. Super stuff.

Getting into the Pyrenees, Richard Williams wondered where the attacks were – the GC leaders were marking each other into oblivion and not pinning their ears back to make the death-or-glory breaks. Andy Schelck was even nicknamed ‘stiff neck’ by French press for endlessly riding while looking back at his rivals. He must have been reading – his 60KM solo attack in this morning’s 18th stage was the moment of the tour so far. Bizarrely, Eddy Merckx himself appeared in a car, sticking his head out the sunroof like R2D2 to give the cannibal seal of approval to the attack. Little Aussie bleeder Cadel Evans was left to slog up the hill by himself, dragging the other GC contenders up behind him like naughty children.

And so it comes down to the last hill climb, the time trial, and the Champs Elysée. New Zealand fans can cranks the MySky and get up for what should be some compelling stuff. Tomorrow morning’s stage is the Alp D’Huez, the Tour’s equivalent of T20 cricket – let’s see if Evans and A. Schleck have anything left after their long rides today.

Who’s going to win? I’m with BikeSnob, and would like the fairytale, please. Voeckler, who would be the first winner to spend race time in someone’s car port, or Evans. It will probably be a Schleck. Any way it winds up, this has been a dramatic tour.

World Cup tentacles, All Black skiting and unwritten rules

In the last two weeks, while has had its cyber thumb wedged firmly in its virtual arse, we’ve had a World Cup final, dramatic scenes on bikes in the French Alps and the Pyrenees and the All Blacks have treated the Springboks like Frodo treated the Cuba Street fountains.

Like the 1995 All Blacks, who made the tragic mistake of going to a dodgy seafood restaurant the night before their South African final and contracting mass food poisoning in the process, Holland made the tragic mistake of going to see the Karate Kid remake and contracting a bad case of Wanting To Kick The Shit Out Of Everything Syndrome. WTKTSOOES severely reduces your ability to play football, and your ability to think clearly – Mark Van Bommell was found ten minutes before kick off attempting to Kick The Shit Out Of a soft drink vending machine in the players’ tunnel, while Wes Sneijder wanted to Kick The Shit Out Of himself, and it took several men to pull him off himself.

Arjen Robben is so crippled by Wanting To Kick The Shit Out Of Everything Syndrome, he is still on the pitch at Soccer City trying to decide between kicking the shit out of Nelson Mandela or a puppy.
Meanwhile, Spain’s tactical approach was kind of like inviting the girl of your dreams on a date to play Spirograph – sure, you’re going to make a lot of pretty patterns, but you’re not doing your chances of scoring any favors.
Looking back, this World Cup will be remembered as one of the most football-free World Cups ever. Between the vuvuzelas, the ball dodgier than a three week old boiled egg and the fucking octopus, there wasn’t a lot of *actual* kick-ball-score-goal-football to talk about. All the big European stars looked like they’d rather be in Ibiza or Hello Magazine and couldn’t wait to get the first plane out of the biggest sporting event they’ll likely play in. At least the French had the style to flounce the fuck out of Dodge with a bit of flair. As Sione Lauaki says about the days he could beat people up without ending up in the paper, things aren’t what they used to be. Roll on the blooming Champions League already.
Back home, the All Blacks provided one of the biggest sporting surprises since the Dean Lonergan’s apparent absence of permanent brain damage by beating the World Champion Springboks not once but twice. The results shook people who make their living by thinking of things to say on telly for the half hour before test matches start to the core, and has seen a complete 180 degree re-alignment of the games’ top two powerhouses. With two defeats first up, South Africa fine themselves in a situation stickier than Shane Jones’ iPad.
The All Blacks now have ‘bragging rights’ which, in the modern era, takes place mainly on social networking sites:
The All Blacks’ decision to employ online coaches (Conrad Smith appears at 44 seconds) to maximise their ‘bragging rights’ has been hailed as genius, and is sparking talk the All Blacks could go fully viral in time for the 2001 cup. There hasn’t been this much All Black noise online since Grizz Wylie had too much scotch at his Marlborough crib and made an anonymous reverse charges abusive toll call to John Hart in the summer of 1994.

Meanwhile, the Australians, already regarded as outsiders for this year’s Tri-Nations, have no ‘bragging rights’ whatsoever, nor ‘skillz’ or ‘cred’ ‘online’ and are playing ‘catch-up tweeting’ before clearing a single nostril on the field:

In Europe, the Tour De France has had cobbles, slick roads, crashes and more dastardly moves than Winston Peters sorting out his minibar bill. People everywhere are talking about Alberto Contdor’s sneaky maneuver around Andy Schleck while his chain was half way down the mountain, a move that went completely against the unwritten rules of the sport. Sport is full of unwritten rules, as outlined below:
  • Tennis – at Wimbledon, don’t look Cliff Richard in the eye. Just keep walking, bro
  • Rugby League – NSW players only shit in Queensland hotel corridors, and vice versa
  • Lawn bowls – throwing bowls at the ref is frowned upon, generally
  • American Football – players must whoop at least 33 times for each completed first down
  • Knitting – I see that Maureen bitch brought that yappy fucking dog again
  • Netball – no elbows above the neckline
Luckily for cycling fans everywhere, there’s always Jens Voigt, who manfully took one for the team by falling off his bike. A Jens Voigt faceplant from his bicycle brings the sporting world together like only an Australian cricket test series defeat or Colin Montgomerie looking cross can. Voigt’s selfless act, and determination to cycle to Paris like a callous circus freakshow, dragging his useless, useless legs behind him has warmed the hearts of sports fans everywhere. Vive le Tour!

Riding with the Blue Train

Red Kite Prayer has part one of two guys’ story of training with the US Postal Service team in 2002 – this was @lancearmstrong’s ‘Blue Train‘ team at the start of his seven  tour titles.

No matter how long the ride was, there he was—at the front, leading his team. Headwind, tailwind, uphill and down, Lance set the pace and rode like a motorcycle. He lead some of the smoothest, fastest five hour rides of my life.

The hotel and surrounding resort community sit atop a steep, mile-long climb. This simple “driveway” served to bring already broken men (Bill and me) to a state of groveling at the end of each day’s training ride.

Follow @letour


Tour De France riders must be better at riding no hands than sportreview. You can follow @lancearmstrong, @ghincapie, and @LeviLeipheimer on the twitter. Kiwi @Greghenderson1 tweets too, but isn’t on tour this year

Speaking of which, there’s two Kiwis to follow this year, Julian Dean, a sprinter who could nick a stage win, and sportreview fav Hayden Roulston

For coverage, The Guardian has a dedicated Tour section and Richard Williams reporting live, while The Times has Paul Kimmage, Rough Ride author and ex-pro. Here he is talking to Brit David Millar, the guy with the sweet bike. Luckily, Sky carries pretty much the entire tour here in En Zed.

Here’s a Google Earth thingo. If you can get it to work, let me know(!)

Blog wise, Belgium Knee Warmers and Red Kite Prayer will have some good reading and hopefully The Big Picture will have more amazing photos (this link is not dial up friendly)

Links on Friday

London. It’s fantastic, and it’s holding the Olympics after China – but surely that crap mascot can be improved?

The BBC’s John Motson is yer archetypal statto / sheepskin coat-clad football commentator – but he’s still got a potty mouth

Some footballer scores – only to have it saved by the world’s bandiest-legged doctor guy. He’s not happy

Some mountain bike buy gets fully rad over the Tour De France

Bike of Le Tour so far

Britain’s David Millar (here he is talking to Rough Ride‘s Paul Kimmage) may have placed third in this morning’s time trial, but he definitely takes the cake in bike design – here’s his time trial machine, complete with Union Jack wheels to match his British TT champion’s jersey.

You might look like a dork riding to work in gear that matches your bike, but hey, if you’re in the Tour De France you can get away with this shit.

Not so sure ’bout the socks, however.

Le Tour

Le Tour started early yesterday morning – here’s the best places for coverage on the web:

The Guardian and The Times have extensive coverage and photos, alongside Le Tour’s official home page. Cycling News has loads of reports and photos, along with geeky bike porn

Here’s a Google Map, with loads of interactive bits n bobs

Interested in having a go? Each year the Etape du Tour gives weekend warriors the chance to ride a real live stage before the pros. This year the 189km stage took in the terrifying Col du Tourmalet – a 23.5 km climb at an average 7.5% gradient. Here’s two accounts of riding Tour stages, but to truly get a picture, watch this video of the notorious Mount Ventoux. Bugger. That.