Sunday, 25 July 2010

The 2010 Tour de France: Rotterdam to Paris in 22 days of chaos, peril, and stunning sprints

23 days ago, 198 riders filled out in front of fans, officials, press and public to stand shoulder to shoulder with their team mates on the eve of the epic three week 3,642 km race. With 1 prologue, 9 flat stages, 6 high mountain stages with 3 summit finishes, 4 medium mountain stages and 1 Individual Time Trial, the race was set to visit 11 new stage towns and 7 sectors of cobbles making up 13,150km of the total as it travelled from its start in Rotterdam, through the towns and cities of Belgium and into France.

Controversy has always seemed to be part of the Tour in recent history as much the racing itself, and with Lance Armstrong fresh from more Landisgate scandle in the States, this Tour was sure to be no exception. Having said that, it was a Cervelo rider, Xavier Florencio who was the first to go courting a little controversy of his own. Having used a non regulation hemeroid cream he was ejected by his team for breaking internal regulations.

As the rain poured down on the streets of Rotterdam, the Tour's first casualties were Manuel Cardoso of Footon-Serrveto Frank Mathias of BMC. Suffering a broken thumb, various cuts and bruises and a tear in the right thigh, he was forced to abandon his Tour without starting stage 1. He joined Cardoso, the Prologue Lantern-Rouge who had sustained a head injury forcing his withdrawal despite his pleas to his director sportif to be allowed to continue.

Stage 1 saw a rogue dog bring down several riders and saw Adam Hansen of HTC-Columbia out of the Tour with a broken collarbone, the injury that would become a trend in the 2010 edition of the Tour. As a non starter on stage 2 where Mikael Delage suffered nasty cuts to his face and a broken cheekbone forcing him to abandon, Hansen and Delage appeared on the Tour website withdrawal list. The run into Spa for stage 2 saw as many as 70 riders hit the tarmac, with both Schlecks injured Cancellara negotiated a controversial neutralisation and go-slow to protest the stage route that saw many riders injured who would later abandon. Meanwhile, Christian Vande Velde sustained fractures that saw him fail to start stage 3.

Overnight, the fever that would sweep across the peloton started, causing Niki Terpstra to add his name to the list as a non starter for stage 3. While the peloton suffered the Hell of the North that the pave of the Paris-Roubaix presented them with, Frank Schleck hit the ground once more sustaining fractures to his ribs and collar bone. His injuries requiring surgery, it was clear from the length of time he lay motionless on the ground that his Tour was over. David Le Lay also sustained injuries to his collar bone forcing him to abandon along with him.

Amets Txurruka was the next rider to suffer a collar bone fracture. Hitting the deck on stage 4 as the race headed into Reims, he was forced to abandon without starting stage 5. Suffering since his fall on stage 2, Juan Jose Oroz called it a day, without starting stage 7. Meanwhile Stijn Vandenbergn earned the distinction of being the only rider for the 2010 edition to fail to come in within the time-limit.

Stage 8 and the Col de la Ramaz saw several riders crack under the pressure in the heatwave that the peloton had endured. With the Col de la Madeleine ahead of them, Fabio Felline, Simon Gerrans, Roger Kluge and Vladimir Karpets failed to start stage 9. Karpets and Gerrans had earlier sustained fractures to his arms. The youngest rider to start the race, Fabio Felline aged just 20 years old, was forced to pull out due to contusions suffered in previous stages. Despite starting the stage, Markus Eibegger was forced to abandon the stage shortly after the stage left the depart town.

Stage 10 saw history made with the first full disqualification for a reason other than failing a drugs test in as long as anyone could remember. Mark "bad boy" Renshaw faced the wrath of the Tour organisers for his actions in bringing Mark Cavendish to the line for his 13th Tour stage victory of his career to date. Head-butting Julian Dean and blocking Tyler Farrar, he was ejected from the Tour for his conduct. The decision deeply hurt Cavendish who was a close friend and room-mate of the Aussie lead-out man.

Charles Wegelius was the only British rider from the eight strong contingent to abandon, failing to start stage 11. Suffering a stomach bug, the rider admitted that he may now quit cycling all together. Having broken his elbow earlier in the race, Robbie Hunter was forced to abandon, joining Wegelius on the list of non starters for stage 11.

As the race headed into Bourg-lès-Valence for stage 11, the fatigue was too much for some riders, and Samule Dumoulin became the latest name added to the list, failing to start stage 12. Having failed to win a single stage and suffering with a fractured wrist since stage 2, Tyler Farrar was forced to abandon on stage 12 as the race headed in Mende.

Stage 13 saw the race head from Rodez to Ravel for a final plain stage before the Pyrenees. They say 13 is unlucky for some and for Rin Taaramae that was proven true as he was forced to abandon his Tour on the road to Ravel.

As Evans struggled to perform at his best, his team mate Mauro Santambrogio was forced to abandon the race on stage 15. The rider had been sick and pulled off the side of the road before the start of the Portet d'Aspet, calling an end to his Tour there and then. Stage 15 would become the most talked about stage, as Schleck dropped a chain as he started to attack, Contador taking full advantage and a lead of 39 seconds, a time that would come back to haunt the Luxembourg rider.

Following a crash on the descent of the Col d'Ares, Iban Mayoz suffered fractured ribs forcing him to abandon his Tour. Joined by Bram Tankink, the two riders were the only non starters for stage 16. Midway through stage 17, Slovenian Simon Spilak peeled off his race numbers withdrawing from the race as it headed up in the mists to the summit finish on the Col du Tourmalet.

Francesco Reda became the 28th rider to be added to the official list of withdrawals on stage 18 as the peloton headed into Bordeaux for one last sprint finish before Paris. The Italian rider was very dizzy and looked livid. The doctor unable to find the exact reason immediately, he was tranferred to the hospital for further examination.

In 170th place, Adriano Malori was the 2010 edition Lantern Rouge. Aged just 22, this was his debute Tour. Riding for Lampre-Farnese Vini he is sure to return next year and place higher in the final standings. He joined 169 riders who made it to Paris through the Alps and over the Pyrenees; cobbles, crashes and all. Some riders achieved a lot, some simply survived. There will be many riders whose names may have been mentioned once, others whose names were not mentioned at all. But their blood, sweat and tears have become part of the rich embroidery that is the Tour, their collective experiences as part of the peloton forever part of history. That is what makes the Tour what it is. Pain and passion, guts and glory; for three weeks of July they endure everything the Tour throws at them. A travelling community, they make their way across France and any other country who will welcome them. The tifosi follow them up hills and over mountains, the journalists wax lyrical about their triumphs and tribulations. All in their honour. Once every year. Until the next. Vive le Tour.

1 comment :

  1. why didn't you mention the time andy gained on alberto over the cobbles when alberto had bike issues?