Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tour 2010: Our boy in the big leagues

This is becoming a terrific Tour de France. I thought after the Alps Ryder Hesjedal's glory days were over.  Fourteenth overall and barely five minutes behind the learders, he seemed too highly placed to be allowed a breakaway on the flat stages, and though he has been very consistent in the mountains, he didn't look likely to get up them ahead of ten or so of the best climbers.

Then yesterday! He did break away with a crowd of strong riders. At one point he was "virtual third" -- that is, if the stopped the race at that moment he would be third. Problem is, you have to finish the day.  After going out ahead in a group of four and getting a ton of attention from the cameras and commentators, Hesjedal was caught by the fast-attacking peleton in the last few kilometers, and so he came in as part of the crowd, holding on to his overall standing while losing a minute or so to the overall leaders. Coulda been really something, ended up just a holding action.

A week to Paris. What's up next? If he maintains his consistent standard for the next few days in the grim, steep Pyrenees, he will stay in the top 15, even move up. He'd need some heroic above-expectations mountain days to move up more than a place or two. And of course every day there are riders who break under the strain.

Update, July 19: Did fine on Sunday, too.

Update, July 20: Moving up; tenth overall after yesterday's stage, as some leading contenders slipped back on another tough mountain stage. Two more mountain days... Meanwhile Bruce Arthur in the National Post has a lively summary of what went on between the maillot jaune contenders up on the big hill.
Schleck delivered perhaps the most interesting quote ever uttered by a Luxembourger, saying, "My stomach is full of anger. I want to take my revenge."

Coming from a fresh-faced stick insect with teenage sideburns, that was eminently enjoyable. And however he takes that revenge, you can bet he'll do it with sportsmanship, and that's why everybody should be cheering for Andy Schleck.
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