Tuesday in Paris, the City of Lights, they presented the route for the 2011 Tour de France. Alberto Contador and Alessandro Petacchi couldn’t make the show for obvious reasons and dark clouds but the Brothers Schleck were on hand.
We’ll leave it to the route wonks and Tour historians to delve deep but we do have some quick reactions on what is once again shaping up to be a thrilling and leg thrashing three weeks.
1 No time bonuses on offer. Is this just the general way of the world in a global economic crisis? Nobody gets any bonuses, not even a measly 10 seconds for getting up the mountain first. We like bonuses because it encourages aggressive riding and tactics. Bring the bonuses back and maybe some free Festina watches.
2 Time trials lose time again. Somewhere in not-so-merry old England, Bradley Wiggins and the entire deep pockets Team Sky groaned out loud. Jonathan Vaughters said the 2010 tour wasn’t suited to Brad. Neither is this one. Look for Bradley to make a significant adjust to his grand tour plans: hello Giro.
3 The foreign soil trick. Intentional or not, the Tour’s quick dips into Italy and Spain mean that any riders banned for doping in those countries can’t ride the stage. This is a brilliant and simple strategy for keeping dirty GC riders from having any shot at the Tour. Just ask Alejandro Valverde how it works. This year’s stage 17 finishes in Pinerolo, Italy. The Tour should always cross into Italy and Spain for a few kilometers just to help keep the dopers the hell out.
4 Carlos is a dead man. Little Carlos Sastre says he plans to ride all three grand tours in 2011. This is a terrible idea because ever since Sastre won the 2008 Tour de France he’s complained about crushing fatigue. Uhh, cause at 35 you’re too old to ride that many tours, senor. This year features what, six mountain top finishes? Look for Carlos — who will be 36 for the next edition — to die in the Alps in week three.
5 This Tour blows hard. The first week has the potential for plenty of dangerous winds. Brittany has some of the best sailors in France because they train in sail-ripping conditions. This is going to be a challenging and unpredictable first week. Good chance a top GC guy will crash or be caught out in a split. It certainly suits the classics guys from the hellish North and hardmen like Thor Hushovd.
6 The Miracle returns. Stage 13 — yes, it’s good luck — will take Andy Schleck to Lourdes, the medieval city of Roman Catholic miracles. Twisted Spoke is on record as procuring Schleck the 2010 tour victory by lightening a candle and praying in the famous Lourdes church for Andy to beat Alberto. That very day, the rest day in nearby Pau, Contador tested positive for minute traces of clenbuterol. God works in mysterious ways but he does work. Andy is thrilled his lucky town is on the route.
7 No Giro-style sex appeal. We’ve said this a hundred times but the Tour presentation rates a zero on sexy map pointer girls. No model-slash actresses fondling trophies or doing the game show hostess routine.
Giro organizer Angelo Zomegnan never misses an opportunity to bring in his sexy latin eye candy. A lack of babe is an inexplicable oversight in a country known for beautiful women, racy lingerie and acceptance of extra-marital affairs as long as they’re poetic and accompanied by whimsical accordion music. We suspect this sexless presentation can be explained by our translation of Prudhomme’s name — Prud and homme = Prude and man. Quelle tristesse.
8 Gorilla in the mix. We’re already goose-bumped by the possibility of a sprint war between the Gorilla and the Manx Missile. Andre Greipel and Cavendish will square off — throw Garmin Transitions into the mix and you’ve got fireworks. We’re also pretty sure Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler wouldn’t mind lending a hand to see Cavendish go down.
9 Is Alejandro Valverde riding this years’ tour? Surely this ain’t true but a route story in the nearly infallible cyclingnews says that Valverde’s two year suspension ends May, 2011. His Italian ban may end then but by our calculation (and wikipedia’s citation on the Spaniard) his two year ban began on January 1st, 2010. We say nada Alejandro.
10 My wife’s summer family reunion in Wisconsin is scheduled for the last week in July, during the critical days in the Alps that will decide the tour winner. My presence is mandatory — not in France, Wisconsin. Why do in-laws not schedule around the Tour de France? This is Greg Lemond’s home state. Get with the program, in-laws! There should be a law for this.