The invisible Schlecks. Unseen is uninjured.

Schleck. Safe so far...

Andy and Frank, the invisible brothers.

As many riders have been painfully reminded once again, the first week is all about survival, avoiding crashes and injury.

Losing your chance at a stage win or podium because of a crash in front throws you to the ground is a cruel way to exit Le Tour. Boonen still has headaches, Horner doesn’t even know what country he’s in, Vinokourov is in a Paris hospital, Van Den Broeck is in intensive care in Saint Flour, the list goes on.

But so far, so good, so happy to be alive for the Brothers Schleck, the boy scouts from Luxembourg. They made it through the first 9 stages in good shape. Both are ahead of three time winner Alberto Contador and unlike the Spaniard they’re not complaining about a sore knee. (How’d you like to be headed for the Pyrenees and Alps with a painful knee?)

Contador is acting optimistic but after a death march Giro and a hard luck first week in the Tour, you can’t help but think he’s cooked. If he pulls this out, we are going to the Court of Arbitration in SPort to work for his defense — he’ll deserve to keep the win.

It’s the first rest day in the Tour and they’re starting a new tradition this year. Instead of an easy ride outside Aurillac, the teams are visiting their mates in the hospitals. In fact, given that several people have gone done hard and abandoned the tour every day, even a recovery ride may simply be too dangerous. If you say the headline, “Evans hit by truck on rest day ride” would you really be surprised?

You know things are horrific when Radio Shack comes to France with four possible GC leaders — and it isn’t enough! Brajkovik and Horner are gone, Leipheimer is over four minutes down and Kloden, their best-placed rider and last hope has severe muscle tenseness in his back and hematoma. Tense? Wouldn’t you be with crashes happening all around you every day?

The Giro felt like a war of attrition. Le Tour de France feels like the sequel. Still, Andy and Franck Schleck and Cadel Evans are in one piece.

At least for the moment …

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  • http://www.wafflesandsteel.com Waffles and Steel

    Wonderful post. I love the part about the Cadel Evans headline. I haven't analyzed all the crashes, but so many of them seem to have been caused by inattention or poor bike handling. Is this a sign of a cleaner peloton? Riders are getting sloppy because they're not juiced up and more fatigued? Just throwing that out there….

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      Waffles, welcome back from China and to France via Twisted Spoke. You bring up an interesting point about bike handling skills but me, if one of two guys go down in front of me at high speed, I'm not sure my skills are gonna save me. I was listening to French Tour radio today and some old French guy who won two tours was going on and on about riders needing to do cyclecross in the off-season to improve their bike handling. Well, how many riders wanna do that? And he insisted that Wiggins crashed because he got his skills riding on the track, not the road. A tough call all around. Matt

  • Ken

    I must watch too much TdF. Fell down in my driveway this morning on my way out for a ride. Nice big gash on my face. Not a press car in sight.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      Ken, sounds like a "chute san gravite" a fall without consequence as the French like to say. Matt

  • Sam

    When you have 3 of the most experienced guys in the group out in front, finding the correct spot for you to hide, it will make it far easier to get around the country side without incident. O'Grady, Voigt, and Cancellara are great bike handlers, incredibly strong, and certainly have been through the ringer with crashes (O'Grady and Voigt in particular). Those three could hide you and me, Mr. Twisted, and we are big guys. Not sure they could make me look any faster, though. The Schlex are very fortunate.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      I wish I had Fabian out in front of me when I go for a ride. I'd get back home a lot faster. Matt