A Prologue Of Couldnts

Jul 4 2010

Tour de France 2010 - Rotterdam (Prologue)  by Flickr user einnidThat’s what today’s stage—at least from the recaps, reports and clips through which I experienced it—seemed like to me.

In the rain, many contenders couldn’t take risks. With no time bonuses in the coming days, sprinters couldn’t really justify a run for yellow. Over a pancake-flat parcours, climbers couldn’t make any statements. And with all the variables in the equation, a suddenly fourth-placed Lance Armstrong couldn’t make any assessments of the day’s implications for the rest of the Tour.

In many ways, this race of couldnts was the perfect follow-up for a dope story that wasn’t. The rumors flew—some said Lance might not start, or would drop out before France proper—but in the end, the latest salvo of Land Grenades were little more than a fluffy fleshing-out of the initial allegations made by Landis at the Tour of California.

Don’t get me wrong—I think there’s merit to what Landis has said. The Dexter-esq preparation of the transfusion room would be fantastic physical manifestation of the Bruyneelian, no-holds-barred approach to TdF preparation, and certainly reckless driving, strip clubs, and recreational drug use are no strangers to the lives of world class athletes during their downtimes.

No, the real failing of Landis’ expanded accusations was not in content but presentation. WSJ, I guess because they still make money selling dead trees, tried to build up some hype for a forthcoming weekend edition. Cycling fans and reporters, perhaps out of habit, seem to think that every dark cloud on the horizon portends a hurricane.

The prologue, for all the drama and build-up, seldom settles anything (apologies to @chris_boardman). Sure, we foamed at the mouth for the familiar electronic chirps of the starthouse clock, but at the end of a the day—even one with more than a few missteps—nothing has been decided.

When a Tour-making ride happens, everyone knows it—no prognostication required. With the immediate and infinitely repeatable delivery of information, I think the same unambiguous significance applies to the stories that fill space between the finishes and starts and finishes as well. No question in my mind that were Willy Voet intercepted by gendarmes this afternoon, we’d see exclusions and expulsion by the start of the next day’s stage.

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