Concentrating on being in France meant, among other things, paying even more attention than usual to the Tour de France.
Blognor Regis did a terrific job of covering the Tour, and so did the T de F blog. I’m confident all my readers were assiduous in keeping up to date with those sites, so there’s little for me to add here.
French cycling appears to be in an even worse way than usual: no Frenchman finished in the top ten in either the CG or the points competition; the only French riders to make big headlines were Christophe Moreau (above all for his pursuit of Rasmussen with Jens Voigt on the second day in the Vosges) and David Moncoutiï¿½ (above all for his stage win — the only French stage win — in Dignes-les-Bains, suitably enough on Bastille Day). The Tour needs its local heroes, and it’d be good to have a few more of them, especially now Richard Virenque’s no longer around.
Tragedy is never too far away from cycling, and the saddest cycling news in July came not from the Tour itself, but from Germany, where the Australian women’s cycling team was hit by a car while training, and Amy Gillett was killed. Aussie Cadel Evans made a heroic effort to win the following stage to Pau by way of an inadequate memorial gesture, but was beaten in the final sprint by Oscar Pereiro (who rode a terrific tour, and deserved the prize for “combativitï¿½”). This was around the time, too, that the Tour was marking the tenth anniversary of the death of poor Fabio Casartelli, who crashed on the descent from the Col de Portet d’Aspet in 1995.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s race. There’s been a bit of this kind of thing, but it doesn’t bother me. It’ll be good for the Tour to kick off without one overwhelming favourite. Potential winners include Jan Ullrich (who won the Tour in 1997), Alexandre Vinokourov (especially if he learns how to ride more consistently over three weeks), Ivan Basso (especially if he learns how to go on the attack), Alejandro Valverde (especially if he can find a way of getting to the end of the race) and Mickael Rasmussen (especially if he learns how to time-trial, if that’s a verb). Next year’s teams are beginning to take shape: Vino, for example, has just signed up with Liberty Seguros, and we’re all waiting to find out what the new line-up at Discovery is going to look like in the post-Armstrong era.
As the man said, Vive le Tour!