Tuesday, August 07, 2012

[Sports] Flat Tour

Flat Tour: I continue my tradition of being the only North American who follows the Tour de France, and this year it was rather a dull one. The winner was Bradley Wiggins and he had the race pretty much sewn up in the first few days. It was his unless he snapped a femur and couldn't continue. He was head and shoulders above anyone else on the time trials and he clearly had the best team around him, including the guy who finished second, so it really was no contest. Normally if the top two guys are on the same team, there is a controversy over who should be number one, but that never got off the ground because the number two guy immediately said "I'm the number 2 guy; I'm here to support the number 1 guy, and that's that," or words the that effect.

Last year's winner, Cadel Evans, was clearly not in condition to compete, to the point that another rider on his team taking over the top dog spot from him. A couple of other possible contenders were sidelined with injuries. Blah.

Oh, there were bits and pieces of excitement. There were massive crashes for about five days in a row. Some of these crashes are action-movie vicious. Imagine being hurled out a car moving at about 30 miles per hour protected by nothing but a helmet and a layer of spandex. More amazingly, during one stage, in a monumental act of asshattery, someone covered a stretch of the road with tacks and nails. But this only served to highlight something I love about the Tour -- the sportsmanship. The leader, Wiggins, managed to avoid any tack-induced flats, but the guy who was at that point still considered a main rival, Evans, suffered two blowouts (as did many others). Wiggins, upon hearing of this, intentionally slowed down (and the rest of the field slowed with him) until Evans changed tires and regained his ground. The overriding principle being that you should not lose the Tour because of mechanical problems. You should lose because the other guy raced better. This is really quite unique in sports, to my understanding. I guarantee you no NASCAR driver has ever slowed down because his rival had mechanical problems. In no running race has anyone ever held up because a rival's shoelace snapped. It's just the purest example of old school sportsmanship. It's the sort of behavior that is long gone from the wider world.

Of course, you can counter that with all the doping that goes on cycling may also be the dirtiest sport in the world. But viewed narrowly, it's pretty cool.