Tour de France: When the Second Best Man Becomes the Best (Or: Showdown in Angoulême)

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Yesterday, Spanish Boy Wonder Alberto Contador won the Tour de France. The time trail from Cognac to comics capital of the world, Angoulême, was in reality the last chance to change the top in the general classification (GC). Indeed, this was an exciting time trail, in which the three leading riders rode as though they were fleeing from the Devil himself (or perhaps just from the scandals of the Tour?). Discovery Channel’s Levi Leipheimer beat everyone, but his competitors Cadel Evans and fellow Discovery rider Contador rode spectacularly as well, leaving the top of the GC unchanged.

So, later today, Contador will be celebrated on Champs-Élysées, standing on top of the podium, next to Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer. Did the best man win? As a commentator on Danish network TV-2 noted: “Yes. If you’re prepared to accept the fact that the man on top of the podium is the second best“. Rasmussen-gate will probably haunt Contador’s victory in the years to come.

Though rumours (ah, rumours!) speak of a manifestation arranged by the riders themselves (suggesting that the peloton will stop just before the finish line, ending the race without an official winner), and though Cadel Evens might try to attack in order to get points/seconds for the GC, Contador is unlikely to be threatened as the winner of Tour de France 2007. Congratulations, Mr. Contador!

On a more serious note, Stanley and Laurel, err, I mean: Patrice Clerc and Christian Prudhomme, announced that the organization behind the Tour (and many other important races), ASO, will split from UCI, the International Union of Cyclists. Though this decision might seem like a matter of bureaucracy, it’s really an outrageous decision. From this moment on, ASO will be able to decide for themselves which teams to invite for upcoming Tours and races. Which could make the Tour a private race, designed for the friends of Clerc & Prudhomme, meaning primarily the French teams. It’s admittedly a worst case scenario, but chances are that this decision is a bigger threat to Tour de France than doping.

So, here’s to the cliché: vive le Tour!

Photo showing Tour-boss Christian Prudhomme and ASO-chief Patrice Clerc: Francois Mori/AP (detail)

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