Andy Schleck gains zero seconds on Tourmalet, Twisted Spoke maybe ten.
Time, disappointing time.
The guy who wanted to trade that teenybopper white jersey for the man’s maillot jaune attacked Alberto Contador on the Tourmalet. What he got was a chunk of deja vu from last years’ stage up Mont Ventoux. Multiple attacks, nothing to show for it.
We’re all disappointed in that can’t-we-make-this tour-tighter way. Nothing to do now but watch the quiet Russian Denis Menchov try to beat the other Spaniard Sammy Sanchez for third place. Its own kind of riveting but still, not the sumptuous dinner we had in mind when La Grand Boucle launched weeks ago in Rotterdam. We repeat the damn part.
Maybe we did slightly better with our lousy ten seconds but we’re just as frustrated and peeved as Andy. After a hard, wet four kilometer hike up to the Tourmalet summit, we arrived at an over-crowded, muddy, disaster area that doubled as as an iconic finish line. It had rained hard off and on all day, the mist and fog was constant and the weather switched from humid to cold and back.
We made a slippery climb up a hillside just in time to hear the cheers from the switchback below, not that you could see a thing except maybe ghosts. Then from a distance of 75 feet, high and above the road, we saw a guy who might have been Andy alongside a guy who might have been Alberto. Ten seconds at most. Stage 17 Tourmalet, high drama, bummer.
Although it pains me to say this, it was an entirely under-whelming experience. Like watching one basket of the NBA finals or a minute of the world cup soccer final. I can’t help but think Schleck felt the same way.
He and his Saxo Bank team had worked like dogs lower down the mountain to set up his attack but Contador was always on his wheel. Deflating, tire going cartoon flat. You can bet Schleck had a Jan Ullrich moment in the last 24 hours, fearing he’s marked down for second till he dies.
That was Tourmalet. The signature stage of the defining Pyrenees. Next year we’ll latch on to some charming Dutch couple in a camper van and be on the mountain the night before. I’ll charm them with my stories of disappointing google adsense sales and they’ll regale me with details on how the flat and rainy Netherlands. We may or may not have a rabid but cramped threesome. Either way I’ll see more than ten seconds of the stage.
Next year, Andy loses his good natured smile, gets junkyard dog angry and drops the man with the thick eyebrows. I won’t hike four kilometers to see next to nothing. The Tour de France 2011. The year Andy Schleck and Twisted Spoke turn the tables.