Tour de France


STAGE 19 : July 19

Le Bourg-d’Oisans → Le Grand-Bornand


There is nothing, I’m learning, that can drive me up the wall as severely as losing internet service while trying to watch the Tour. It totally derails me, to the point where I’m beginning to fear it’s a character flaw. I may also be getting preemptively sad for the end of the Tour, so much fun has it been. In any case, I spent the first hour and a half alternately glimpsing the race and reloading the page. When we were teenagers, my friends Luke and Jamie and I spent hours trying to wedge a penny into the right spot at the back of the cable box while one of us flipped + and - back and forth past Cinemax. Once in a while we’d see the ghost of a person through the static. Things have not really gotten any better.

In fact my Stockholm syndrome (to Time Warner? to the Tour itself?) has gotten so severe, and my acclimation to shitty (read: New Aesthetic) screencaps so second nature, that now I’m shocked when I see proper photographs from the race. How did they do that, is my first thought.

Anyway, I caught only the last part of the race no thanks to the internet (and NBC, whom I did pay for access and whose feed never loads and who has forced me to watch pirated channels — today it was an Arabaic broadcast that was getting Liggett and Sherwen). It’s a crazy world of technology that’s impossible simultaneously in a good sense and a bad sense. Fuck it.

Today was a day of repeats and defeats. Ruy Costa took a second stage on a gorgeous solo, his second of the week and a repeat of stage 16. He won the two road stages thrillingly and in between time trialed like shit (6 mintues 50 behind Froome for 134th place). No offense. If you put him, Quintana, and Valverde on one bike, Movistar would be formidable. But their tactics, like Saxo’s, are so vague and ill-executed as to make Sky seem downright crafty. In fact Sky is playing it as defensively (read: safe) as anyone could. Bernard Hinault should be preemptively rolling over in his grave.

Likewise a great ride today by Pierre Rolland, he of the smooth pedal stroke and former polka-dot pajamas. Rolland gets today’s red number for being French the most combative rider. The line of the day was Sherwen’s: talking about Cadel Evans’s season so far, he said the cold and snow of the Giro ‘leave a real trace on your organism.’ I’m quite sure it does.

I say a day of defeats because today really felt like the end of any challenge to Froome’s overall lead. It’s all for individual stage glory now (read: slobbering over Cavendish on Sunday though you’d be crazy not to root for Marcel Kittel this year). And I have to believe that Richie Porte’s bottomless heart has got the GC challengers believing there’s just no point in trying to get away from Sky. Froome owes him so much and I wonder if Sky’s greatest asset is the feeling of futility with which they’ve dosed Contador, Quintana, Kreuziger, and Rodriguez. Porte can reel in anything — we’ve seen it happen again and again. This image of Froome and Porte at the end of Alpe d’Huez. Today Contador had nothing, Rodriguez a tiny effort, Quintana also nothing, and Kreuziger even less. Perhaps Contador’s attack on the descent from Col de Sarenne and Rodriguez’s on the last climb yesterday will be the last kick of defiance from the challengers. Sunday will be here too soon and it is, alas unless you’re a Froome fan, perhaps all too late now.

But then, it IS a brutally hard course this year, clearly. So many crashes, so many riders hurt. I missed Jack Bauer crash hard today but got bits and pieces of Hesjedal’s effort in the early portion today — he’s riding with a cracked rib from (I believe) the big crash at the end of stage 1 thirty-eight weeks ago. We’ve seen Bauke Mollema and young Kwiatkowski fall away, not to mention Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck making little to no impression on the peloton. Easy for me to say, but a brutally hard course it should be. It’s the Tour de France, motherfuckers. Harden the fuck up. Ride with heart and glory is yours and we’ll love you forever.

Regarding Froome, I say first, above all, get a better nickname. ‘Froomedog’ is unacceptable. People need to get on this. Second, he rode really strong, won big on Ax 3 Domaines and huge on Mont Ventoux, and big again in the time trial. He even showed some weakness yesterday, almost bonking before buying a snack from the race organizers for the low low price of 20 seconds. I should rewatch Mont Ventoux — that really was a monster ride and perhaps I’ll catch some panache to his work. He flashed a little attitude on Twitter, such as it is for a fundamentally nice guy (that is not at all a knock on him), and we shouldn’t hold that &l squo;be more careful’ against him. I admire him but cannot get over his being the favorite and so do not find myself loving him. As frustrating as it has been to see Quintana’s passivity (I forget this is his first Tour), my heart swells when he puts on that white jersey and my biggest hope today is that he has a good ride tomorrow and shuts Kreuziger out of the podium in Paris. And I like Kreuziger too!

Paris in two days. What a race.

Here is your daily champion for Stage 19:
Charly Gaul, L’Ange de Montange, ‘Angel of the Mountains’
Considered one of the greatest climbers of all time, rival of the great Bahamontes. Winner of La Grande Boucle in 1958, he was always better when it rained.
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