The Alps look exactly like the Pyrenees.
Thru thirteen stages, the 2009 edition of the tour de France could be called the Tour Without Attacks. Day one in the Alps, the 200km ride from Vittel to Colmar, looked strangely similar to the first day in the Pyrenees. In other worlds, nothing happened to change the overall standings. Heavy rains put a damper on attacks and team Astana, even without Levi Leipheimer and his broken wrist, rode a hard tempo that kept everything under control.
To use the classic cycling expression, nobody “turned a pedal in anger.” Maybe “turned in frustration” would be a better description. Carlos Sastre noted there are very few places to attack. Lance Armstrong rightly predicted that little would happen until Ventoux. Although Saxo Bank had scouted the stage 13 climbs, whatever aggressive tactics they had never materialized.
The attack-free strategy left the day with two big winners: The always smiling Rinaldo Nocentini of AG2R who kept his Maillot Jaune. And baby-faced Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo), who finally erased the string of second places early in the year with a solo victory. After dropping Sylvain Chavenel (Quickstep) a long way out, Haussler showed his good form, pulling away and winning easy. The soaked peloton dragged themselves in almost seven minutes later.
For Armstrong it was perfect weather and a predictable outcome. A rider who excels in miserable conditions, he looked around and saw a soaked Andy Schleck in no mood to attack and losing morale and opportunities. Carlos Sastre probably wished he was riding in the hot sun of the Vuelta instead of the lashing rain. Christian Vande Velde and Bradley Wiggins rode strongly for Garmin but were content to travel with Astana.
Lance has always been a lucky rider and the script for this tour favors his age and experience. The fewer the attacks, the more gas he saves for the crucial final week. If you’re almost 38 and no one’s forced you into the red zone for two weeks, that’s a dream situation. No matter how dull it is for the spectators.
There’s a jersey awarded each stage for the for Most Aggressive Rider. The Tour organizers could certainly have handed out a hundred for Most Passive Peloton.