Saturday, July 10, 2021

The Tour: Woods on the podium

After starting horribly amid a chaos of crashes and injuries, the Tour de France has become lively, competititve, and unpredictable. The super-Slovenian Tadej Pogacar (roughly "Tah-day Po-GAH-chah") remains the leader. In most years his almost five minute lead would be immune to challenge, as these days dominant riders and teams can usually impose control on events. But this year, contenders seem to gain or lose five or ten minutes with reckless abandon, and the top ten places change hands violently almost every day.  Pogacar himself looked about to lose a big handful of minutes on the long mountain stage to Tignes last week. He got the time back before that stage ended with the kind of roaring comeback that one remembers from the druggy days of Lance Armstrong et al.

Meanwhile, Canadian Michael Woods, put out of the quest for overall leadership by early crashes, has been distinguishing himeself by joining breakaway groups on almost every hilly stage. He has not won a stage yet, but there are lots of little intermediate climbs for which points are awarded. By winning those regularly, he today earned the King of the Mountains polka-dot jersey, one of the four leadership prizes of the Tour (yellow=overall lead in time elapsed, green = sprinter points, white = best rider under age 25). Woods's is the first jersey win by a Canadian in many years.   

There is an Everest's-worth of mountain climbs coming up this week, and Woods has rivals close behind.  No guarantee he'll carry the jersey all the way to Paris.

The remarkable Mark Cavendish keeps winning all the sprints, and he is now tied with the immortal Eddie Merckx with 34 each. He could take the 35th on the Champs d'Elysee in Paris next weekend. 

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