On the pave'
Thoughts on the first few days of the Tour
Stage 1. Bizarre crashes, but normal for the first week. Everyone's desperate to snag a win early to take the pressure off.
Stage 2. Guys, it's a rainy road, ride like it's a rainy road. Old racing adage : You don't win a race on a descent, but you can lose one. There's always been narrow roads and the risk of rain in the Tour. At least it wasn't raining on the pave ...
Stage 3. Pave. Always going to be decisive. Way back on '03 or '04 when it was last there, Armstrong and the other GC contenders were freed of Iban Mayo on the Pave. It's a selective surface. It's always been said that the first week of the Tour weeds out the specialists, ie: it hurts the pure climbers. The stages are long and hard and they soften up the lightweight mountaingoats. The first week is why pure climbers very rarely win the Tour. This time it was Frank Schlek, C'est la Vie. Armstrong lost time too, Contador, Andy Schleck and Evans coped well. Cancellara had a sook about it (two days in a row, Fabian, channeling Cadel eh?) as did the old cheat (Bjarne Riis, btw, he had his TdF win stripped of him for cheating, but read this .... Um, Bjarne ... You didn't win the '96 tour, you cheated and that result has been purged) but it's an important part of the Tour. Take out the hard bits of the first week and you may as well do half a dozen ITT's up mountains to decide the tour. The Tour is bigger than that. It's bigger than the riders. It's a race that requires a lot of all round abilities and a little bit of luck. The great riders make their own luck.
Stage 4. What is this, the rebirth of the old sprinters? Petacchi?! Two stage wins? Wow. Robbie McEwen's still got the smarts but hasn't got the legs anymore, but Cavendish, if I was one of his leadout riders I'd be furious. You bust your guts to set him up for a stage and he sits up and watches the finish. Not how to motivate your team mates. Roll out Zabel and Kursipu!