Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tour de France Stage 14

Route: Mazamet – Plateau de Beille
Riders remaining: 165
Distance: 197 km
- Côte de Saint-Sarraille 9.0 km; 5.3%; 2 category
- Port d Pailhères 16.8 km; 7.2%; H category
- Plateau-de-Beille 15.9 km; 7.9%; H category

What gorgeous weather, and what gorgeous scenery, for the first day in the Pyrenees. The early morning temperatures must have been chilly since all the Versus Channel commentators were wearing jackets and talking about the gale force winds at the summit of Plateau-de-Beille. Cycling reporters also mentioned that it wasn’t unusual, even in July, to see snow in the higher altitudes of the Pyrenees. Talk about “upsetting the apple cart.” Snow could certainly do that. A day of great racing could also turn things ‘round the wrong way, and that is exactly what happened on Stage 14.

With three climbs in the profile, two “beyond categorization,” attacks were to be expected…early and often, and that is exactly what transpired. Most of these excursions away from the peloton were reeled in quickly, although one group of escapees managed a lead of eleven minutes at one point. The picture of a lone rider forging ahead was not to be, however. Instead, an elite group of overall leaders eventually materialized, men who marked and paced each other until the last climb.

After a hasty descent off the Port de Pailhères (at speeds approaching 60 mph), the “group maillot jaune” hit the slopes of Plateau-de-Beille. With Michael Rasmussen and the Rabobank boys setting a tough pace, the “weaker” competitors steadily dropped away, men like Iban Mayo, Haimar Zubeldia, Alejandro Valverde, and Oscar Pereiro. Eventually, when the pack of strong men consisted of only the top five riders in the Tour de France, Alberto Contador and Michael Rasmussen began a game of “cat and mouse” that lasted into the final stretch. Alberto Contador won the game…at least today. Showing incredible mental and physical stamina, Mr. Contador demonstrated that he is a considerable threat to Michael Rasmussen, one that the yellow jersey dare not ignore.

Saddest sight of the day: Alexander Vinokourov, after such an impressive time trial ride, came in almost thirty minutes behind Alberto Contador. To his credit, Mr. Vinokourov did not “time out,” a cycling term that means to arrive at the finish line outside of the regulation time limit for completion of any particular stage of a race.

Team Discovery Channel status
Today was the kind of day that Team Discovery Channel had been working for, a day when one of their riders won a stage of the 2007 Tour de France. The gentleman who did it for them: Alberto Contador, the wearer of the white “youth” jersey. Levi Leipheimer, his team captain, was just a short distance behind in fourth place. Their teammate, Yaroslav Popovych, rode home in tenth place. Not bad for the first day in the Pyrenees: three top ten finishers on the stage. Congratulations!

The Versus Channel also had a video camera in the Discovery Channel team car so viewers could see and hear how a talented sports director manages a long and difficult climb. Gem of advice from Johann Bruyneel: ride conservatively, unless something happens that requires a response. Sounds like good counsel to me.

Race Withdrawals Stage 14
- Francisco Ventoso (Spain)

Race Trivia
- David Millar of Team Saunier Duval is suffering from a skin allergy that, even in the hot weather of a few days ago, is less severe if he wears a long-sleeved jersey. Apparently, Mr. Millar is allergic to the sun and cannot use any of the normal treatments that would, most likely, alleviate the condition because the medications are banned under the current doping regulations.
- Juan Mauricio Hernandez Soler began racing bicycles when he was 17 years old. He is now 24 and holds second place in the King of the Mountains competition in the Tour de France. Who says children need to start sports at an early age in order to compete at an elite level?
The most difficult part of today: watching the race with my husband, Mr. Channel Surfer Extraordinaire. He just doesn’t understand how quickly the network switches between commercials and live coverage, not to mention how Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin give important tidbits of information just before and just after the commercial breaks. Aaarrrggghhh! Where can you hide a clicker where a man won’t find it?!

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