The little problem with Big George
I guess now I know what soap-addicted housewives feel like when they’re denied the latest episode of their favorite daytime drama. I mean – if someone took my tour away this year, I think I’d seriously lose my mind.
This shit is good. And, up until today, it was good in the good way: exciting breaks, emotional victories, and big crazy sprints. The only thing that was lacking was the GC action, and I was content to wait until week three for that story to unfold.
You can’t talk about today’s stage without talking about George Hincapie and the Big Five Seconds that kept him out of yellow. It was the story of the day, overshadowing both the death of a 60-year-old spectator and the victory of Ivanov, who finished an amazing ride with a picture-perfect attack that looked risky but ultimately delivered the goods.
Today may not have been the Tour’s best day – but it was probably the most dramatic. Hincapie pissed at Garmin. Bruyneel denouncing Garmin. Garmin claiming innocence. Cavendish with a questionable and severe relegation that may ultimately cost him green. Thor thundering. AG2R confused but happy.
And George. George sitting there with his family in town watching Nocentini put on a yellow jersey that could have been his but for five seconds.
You can’t write this shit.
And as much as it sort of makes me want to cover my ears and scream, “JUST RACE YOUR BIKES!”, the high drama makes for some damn good television. Screw Days of our Lives – we have Days of Our Tour… our own rolling soap opera complete with villains and heroes and ridiculous plots and unexpected twists and really terrible commercial interruptions just at the wrong time.
It’s almost as funny as it is tragic because sadly, many of the same kinds of dramas play out in our local races, too. Just go to PIR and stand next to the officials truck after the race – you’ll be regaled with emotional complaints about “blocking” or bad tactics or bad riding or bad body odor – or whatever. Road cyclists are, frankly, renowned for their ability to piss and moan about stuff. Let’s not take ourselves too seriously – it’s what we do. We should own it.
It’s part of the deal. And putting the world’s fastest riders in the world’s biggest race, crammed with favorites and egos and ambition and money? It’s like a pressure cooker for all things road cycling.
It means career-making performances, sobbing German victory salutes, shit-talking sprinters, and steely-faced GC contenders. And it also means days full of drama and questions and accusations.
It’s a good Tour, with all its ups and downs – and let’s not forget that it’s also the first Tour in which we haven’t (yet) seen a huge doping scandal come to fore (someone go knock on wood for me, asap). I’ll take the inter-team drama over busted druggies any day.
Everyone gets to have an opinion (and unfortunately everyone also gets to have a blog), so we’ll have to deal with the debates and speculation.
Me? I think Garmin’s actions were suspect. I think George deserves to be in yellow right now. And I think (maybe I hope) that revenge is going to be a bitch for the argyle boys. But I also think George might have been able to ride harder. From where I was sitting, it looked like he sat up a few times to look around (for help? to see how things would play? was he thinking of the stage win?) I kept saying to Sal, “Why doesn’t George go? Why isn’t he going?”
Maybe he didn’t have it in him. Maybe there’s something we don’t know. But it seems like he should have been all-out, eyes-crossed, driving, driving, driving. Five seconds. Five. Could he have ridden harder if he hadn’t worried about what was going on around him? Only he knows that.
I wish he was in yellow. A lot of people wish he was in yellow. But he’s not. And it’s over.
Tensions are going to be high going into the mountains tomorrow. And the GC boys better start racing. Verbier is a relatively short climb, but there’s damage to be done and somebody better get to the doing. It’s time.