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.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tour de France Stage 19

Route: Cognac - Angoulême
Riders remaining: 141
Distance: 55.5 km
Climbs: None

I love the last individual time trial of the Tour de France. It is so full of suspense and never disappoints for viewing, especially if it is raining. Fortunately, no precipitation was evident on the road today, although the sky looked a little threatening as the day wore on. Also fortunate: most of the riders had a tailwind.

As with the flat stages of the Tour, the time trial can be a little dull while viewers wait for the “big names” to leave the start house. The riders in the top thirty or so places overall are the ones to watch. Usually approaching speeds around 30 mph, these guys just tear up the road as they charge all-out for a finish line that is often more than an hour away. Well, today was no exception and, with three men separated by less than three minutes on the top of the leader board, the race delivered the action.

The men of the hour were certainly the top three contenders for the overall lead in the race: Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, and Levi Leipheimer. They all must have been inspired because they all rode beautifully, each one maintaining his position in the General Classification. Personally, I enjoyed watching Mr. Leipheimer the most, although the live coverage didn’t feature him quite as much as Evans, the Australian. I am sure the appearance of Lance Armstrong in the warm-up area, and his presence in one of the team cars, had a lot to do with the motivation level of Team Discovery Channel. Alberto Contador has stated in the past that Armstrong is his hero. Talk about a dream come true: return to professional cycling after a cerebral hemorrhage puts a titanium plate in your head, ride on the team of your personal hero, and win the Tour de France while that hero is watching you clinch your victory. I imagine Alberto Contador thinks life doesn’t get any better than that.

As far as I could tell from the coverage, no one crashed (unlike the first individual time trial a week ago where several competitors hit the deck). Poor David Millar had some mechanical difficulties immediately upon starting his turn at the course. The chain all but exploded off his bike because of the power he was putting into his pedal strokes at the beginning of his ride. Mr. Millar changed bikes, only to have that machine fail as well. Finally, the third bike of the day behaved normally to put the cyclist on his way. What a frustrating day for the man from Great Britain.

Team Discovery Channel status
What can I say about the guys from Team Discovery Channel? What can anyone say? Except, perhaps, amazing. With four men (half their team!) in the top ten of the final time trial of the Tour de France, they are, without question, the strongest team in the race. Levi Leipheimer turned in the ride of his life, as I had hoped, finishing with the fourth fastest time trial in Tour history. Average speed: just over 53 km/hour (that’s ~32 mph for Americans). More impressive still was his reaction to the victory of his teammate, Alberto Contador, the youngster who, to some, outshone Mr. Leipheimer throughout the three-week race. Quoting from a Yahoo! Sports article:
“When I saw Cadel [Evans] had finished eight seconds ahead of me, then I was really hoping for Alberto. I was in the camper (van), shouting at the television for him to win. I’m as happy for him to win the Tour as for me to win today.”
Confession: I, too, was shouting at my television. This is what Levi had to say about his own stage win:
“It’s been a lifelong dream for me to win a stage on the Tour de France. I’m honestly very happy for Alberto. I didn’t really think I could win today. I started to hope only towards the end.”
Well, I am glad he hoped and I am glad he won the stage. Congratulations, Levi!

Final time trial results for the entire Discovery Channel squad:
- Levi Leiphiemer 1st place
- Yaroslav Popovych 4th place
- Alberto Contador 5th place
- George Hincapie 7th place
- Sergio Paulinho 25th place
- Vladimir Gusev 77th place
- Egoi Martinez 84th place
- Benjamin Noval 117th place

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, look at the standings of Team Discovery Channel in all the Tour de France contests:

General classification:
- 1st place (Alberto Contador)
- 3rd place (Levi Leipheimer)
- 8th place (Yaroslav Popovych)

Team competition:
1st place (by almost 20 minutes)

Youth classification:
- 1st place (Alberto Contador)
- 8th place (Vladimir Gusev)

King of the Mountains competition:
- 2nd place (Alberto Contador)
- 3rd place (Yaroslav Popovych)
- 9th place (Levi Leipheimer)

Sprint competition:
- 10th place (Alberto Contador)

And remember, in this last contest, they weren’t even trying! After results like these, if the men in the Planet Earth jerseys, who drive a “green” car and don’t take drugs, can’t find a sponsor, something is very wrong in the universe.

Race Withdrawals Stage 19
- None

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