Well, isn’t this suprising? Alessandro Petacchi winning Stage 12 of the Vuelta in a group sprint after a picture-perfect leadout? Who would have thunk it? Seriously, though, why don’t we just give Petacchi all the remaining flat stages right now (and the Rainbow Jersey, while we’re at it), so we can jump to the final GC action in the mountains and TT? Speaking of, Roberto Heras got caught in a crash today at around 30k to go. One of his knees looks banged up, and the Live Commentary guys were making a big deal of it, but he didn’t seem too hindered.
But then, as always, we return to Armstrongate. In response to Lance’s threats to come out of retirement for the ’06 Tour to “piss off the French,” l’Equipe has said tha Texan is simply trying to “shift the focus of this issue definitively to one of a Franco-American war.” Forunately, the Brits, those level-headed purveyors of fine suits and warm beer have been quick to remind everyone exactly how this business got started. It seems that battle between l’Armstrong and l’Equipe is beginning weary even the French, 70% of whom believe the French papers accusations. 5-time Tour winner and poultry farming enthusiast Bernard Hinault, when asked what he though of Armstrong’s return, replied:
“I don’t give a sh!t about any supposed return. We’ll see whether it happens… whether he actually turns up at the start. It’s not my problem.”
Now why does that sound familar?
My take on all this is that l’Equipe needs something dramatic to write about. Having read many of their old clips from TdF’s past, they seem obsessed with the glory of riders who overcome the suffering and human meltdown that is part and parcel with the Tour. And since 1986, there haven’t been alot of Frenchmen doing that. The French response to this, unfortunately, has been to make excuses for the present, rather than plan for the future. “Armstrong’s on dope,” “the peloton is riding at two speeds,” “our best riders choose moutain biking;” the excuses come down like weird black and white tears in a Goddard film.
My advice would be to listen to Laruent Fignon when he says to shut up and ride. Spend less time making a big deal about how you suspend riders for ticky-tack infractions, and more time focusing on winning races. Be like sprinter J-P Nazon, who won yesterday’s Memorial Rik van Steenbergen, not by sitting on for the sprint, but by sacking up and going off the front. Yeah, it wasn’t a French race, and it wasn’t a famous race, but it’s damn good experience. If French riders got themselves into the selection in more races (even little ones) against tough international competition, then they might have a clue what to do in the Tour, after Jean-Marie (and I guess now the ProTour) gives them all a free pass to race. Seriously, when’s the last time you saw a French rider contending at Giro di Lazio, Rund Henninger Turn or the Scheldprijs? The fact that he battles it out to win races like Rik van Steenbergen makes it no suprise to me that Nazon is one of two active French riders with more than one TdF stage win.