A few thoughts on who is up and who is down after the first week…
First up, it is safe to say things are not going to plan for Alberto Contador. He got booed last Saturday but like I said a week ago, he’d been avoiding the French media and whilst this was ugly, he missed a trick to get the public on side with some TV appearances before the race. At the least he could have started his opening press conference with a “fact pack” for the media.
Image and presentation aside, the real story was his time loss on the opening stage. Scanning the media during the week I couldn’t help notice a few headlines saying he might have lost the Tour de France and to this day bookmakers have been adjusting his odds. Now Andy Shleck is narrowly the favourite to win with the bookmakers.
For me it’s a bit like a stockmarket panic. The headlines are full of drama: “crash”, “meltdown”, “billions of dollars wiped off the value of stocks”. Yet when the markets go up, there’s rarely the matching headline of “melt up” or “billions wiped on the value of stocks”. The business pages and sports pages of a newspaper share the aspect that someone or something is constantly up or down but in reality Contador’s loss so far is small. There are many mountain stages to come and it’s quite possible that a couple of trade mark attacks put him in the lead. We’ll see, we won’t know until the Pyrenees arrive.
Stockmarkets have crashes just like riders. Several contenders for the race have gone already, with Bradley Wiggins crashing out today as has Janez Brajkovic and even outsider Christophe Kern. It’s all sad to see, because we want to see drama and action but not of this sort. There are videos on youtube of “best crashes” and people sometimes laugh at certain riders and teams but for me it’s rarely entertaining.
That said there was a moment when Cofidis’s David Moncoutié braked hard to avoid a crash and came to a stop alongside others who’d just avoided the same crash, only to find Moncoutié falling sideways and they went down like dominoes. Nobody was harmed so you can look back and chuckle if you want.
Tom Boonen left the race but he was never quite this week, I was expecting him to enjoy the varied finishes a bit more given he’s no longer contesting the pure sprints.
Two stage wins and the yellow jersey for several days, the team could quit the race tomorrow and hail the race a total success. One of the best things with the team is the obvious joy in winning, sometimes crossing the line first is about more than “being professional” or “doing the job well”, it’s a dream come true and you could sense the enjoyment and pride in the team.
Plus if I had to pick a rider of the week, perhaps it’s Thor Hushovd. His spell in yellow was sealed by using the big ring up to Mûr-de-Bretagne and we saw him give Tyler Farrar a stage-winning leadout.
Missing in action?
It’s early but I’ve hardly seen Katusha in the race. Liquigas are very visible thanks to the lime green but they seem to pop up and guard Ivan Basso at certain moments before vanishing. Talking of bright kit, if it wasn’t for Adriano Malori’s move yesterday I’d have almost missed Lampre-ISD. This isn’t meant in mockery, just an observation, perhaps things will change this week.
The best week?
More broadly it’s been an exciting first week. Riders might be worried about safety and some of the sprinters complain about the lack of flat “boulevard” finishes but few viewers will complain too much, especially those who lived through the 1990s and the forumula of first week = sprints.
Yes every breakaway gets reeled in but the varied terrain before the finish line has provided plenty of excitement. Whisper it but once the race hits the mountains it’s possible the overall classification takes shape too quickly and the excitement fades a bit. We’re not there yet and here’s hoping things continue. Vive le tour!