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 29, 2007

Tour de France Stage 20

Route: Marcoussis - Paris
Riders remaining: 141
Distance: 146 km
- Côte de Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse 4 category
- Côte de Châteaufort 4 category

As usual, the last day of racing was congenial for the riders who made it through three weeks of mountains and flats, crashes and breakdowns, victories and disappointments; yet, the weather must have somewhat more unwelcoming as many of the competitors could be seen wearing jackets and long-sleeved jerseys. Keeping with tradition, the early part of the final day of this most famous of cycling’s Grand Tours provided a bit of attitudinal respite from the contests of the days just past. The maillot jaune enjoyed a glass of champagne; the guys who had gone head-to-head for almost a month chatted with each other about their favorite part of the event; and some of the competitors even got a little goofy, donning cartoon character masks and the like. I guess three weeks of torture on a bicycle is bound to make some people a bit loopy. I certainly couldn’t attest to my sanity after such an effort.

Still, when the peloton hit the Champs Elysees, the heat of competition returned. With nine laps around a course predetermined by Tour de France history, the sprinters went all out for those last few points, and that unknown rider broke away to gain himself (and his team) some recognition, all while the yellow jersey just worked attentively to get home safely.

Thank goodness 2007 was a year without rain on the famed route to the finish. Since the lap portion of the final approach takes place on cobblestone roads, precipitation is the last thing anyone wants, most especially the riders. The pavement becomes like ice and it takes every ounce of concentration to stay upright and uninjured. This year, the young winner of the Tour de France, Alberto Contador, arrived unscathed, beaming with joy at what could only be a dream come true.

So, the race is now over; July is coming to an end; and the cyclists will relax, at least for a few days, before looking ahead to the Vuelta a Espana and the World Championships. September and October are looming on the horizon. The time to prepare has arrived (for homeschoolers as well as for athletes).

Note from Stage 19: I learned from commentary today that the problem with David Millar’s time trial bike yesterday was not his chain, but the carbon fibers associated with his tires. Apparently, they shredded as Mr. Millar began to ride. It all sounds a bit technical to me. Supposedly, the phenomenon is quite rare. Unusual or not, the cyclist considered it an ill-timed marvel.

Team Discovery Channel status
The men without a sponsor for the 2008 racing season turned in what could only be described as the best performance in the history of the team, even though Lance Armstrong was not there. With two men in the top three overall podium positions (Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer) and another in eighth place (Yaroslav Popovych), plus acquisition of the team prize, no one could effectively argue that Discovery Channel was not the strongest team in the race. They were wonderful to watch, not just per their competitive tactics but also per their attitude. The men consistently demonstrated quality sportsmanship, teamwork, and humility, all while zealously pursuing their main goal: put one of their own in the yellow jersey. In the end, they accomplished what they set out to do…and then some. I, for one, cannot wait until next year. Hopefully, someone will step forward to underwrite the team and their racing efforts.

Yesterday, I posted what were the final results for Team Discovery Channel after the Stage 19 individual time trial. The official end-or-Tour outcome was unchanged.

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)

Race Withdrawals Stage 20
- None

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