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.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tour de France Stage 9

Route: Val-d’Isère - Briançon
Riders remaining: 171
Distance: 159.5 km
- Col de l’Iseran 15 km; 6%; H category
- Col du Télégraphe 12 km; 6.7%; 1 category
- Col du Galibier 17.5 km; 6.9%; H category

There may have been only three climbs today, but two of them were “Hor Category,” or beyond categorization. Translation: they are so torturous that no one in their right mind would climb them on a bicycle. Of course, the Tour de France organizers being who they are put two of them on the same day. I’m not sure, but it may be the first time they have done that. Phil Liggit summed it up perfectly in the live coverage introduction:
“Welcome to the hell that is the mountains of the Tour de France.”
And it was pretty hellish by the end. The day began with the climb up the Col de l’Iseran, followed by a speedy downhill section (~45 miles) before turning markedly uphill again to the Alpine heights of the Col du Télégraphe and the Col du Galibier. Of the contenders for the General Classification, no clear leader emerged; some strong domestiques made a good showing though, especially Yaroslav Popovych of Team Discovery Channel and his teammates Vladimir Gusev and Alberto Contador. Popovych attacked the peloton early on the first climb and managed to stay away with various riders almost to the end of the race. However, he was overtaken at one point by newcomer Juan Mauricio Hernandez Soler of Team Barloworld. What an amazing ride by this gentleman! He made up well over a minute on the road in order to catch Popovych, and then continued on to win the stage. Definitely another young cyclist to watch in the future.

Team T-Mobile had another rider down today, this time in an altercation with a dog of all things! A spectator did not have his pet on a leash, allowing him to trot across the roadway directly in front of Marcus Burghardt. The front wheel of the machine collapsed completely upon impact, sending the cyclist over the handlebars and onto the pavement. Fortunately, neither Mr. Burghardt nor the dog were injured.

Update on Stuart O’Grady: The live newsflashes on the Tour de France website reported that Mr. O’Grady wants to ride in the next big grand tour, the Vuelta a Espana. Darren O’Grady, the brother of the injured cyclist, had this to say, quoting from the live coverage:
“His legs and head are good,” said Darren O’Grady, “even if the rest of his body is a mess. He has five broken ribs and has had a lot of treatment from the medical staff, but we managed to get a smile from him before we left.” The injuries are enough for most riders to consider ending their season, but O’Grady told his brother: “I’ve got about seven weeks to get better, so I’ve told the team: sign me up for the Vuelta a Espana! I’m not wasting the good form I’ve got…a few broken ribs shouldn’t slow me down for too long.”
Team Discovery Channel status
Wow, what can you say about the “Disco Boys” this afternoon except BRILLIANT? By the end of the race, these guys had reclaimed the white “youth” jersey, this time for Alberto Contador, and had moved into second place in the team competition, sitting only six seconds off the lead of Team Caisse d’Epargne. The next closest team now sits over three minutes behind. The strength of Team Discovery Channel was obvious. At least two of their riders were ahead most of the day, while another four managed to remain with Levi Leipheimer in a select group of riders ahead of the peloton. With only eight guys remaining since the withdrawal of Tomas Vaitkus on Stage 3, that means 75% of the squad had a great day. With such demonstrated fortitude and some wise riding in the Pyrenees (assuming no injuries, of course), first place in the team contest is definitely within reach.

Current standings for the team per all race competitions:

- General Classification: Levi Leipheimer moved up into 9th place overall from 13th at the beginning of the day. Alberto Contador is currently in 5th place overall.
- Points Competition: Discovery Channel has not focused on this contest in the entire time I have watched them race (even when they were Team U.S. Postal).
- King of the Mountains Competition: Yaroslav Popovych is currently in 3rd place here. Alberto Contador is behind him in 9th place.
- Youth Classification: Alberto Contador leads this competition at the moment. Vladimir Gusev in 5th place.
- Team Competition: As previously mentioned, Team Discovery Channel is in 2nd place.

Knowing all that, some reporter for the Austin American-Statesman posted an article online yesterday with this title:
American riders struggling in Tour de France
Well, with 171 men still in the race, if the team results listed above are what struggling looks like, I will take more of it, thank you. I just pray the team stays safe and uninjured.

Race Withdrawals Stage 9
- Patrick Sinkewitz (Germany)

Race Trivia
- French President Nicholas Sarkozy attended the race today.
- Only 8 of the original 21 teams are intact with nine riders.
- Each individual cyclist will consume 123,900 calories over the course of the Tour de France. It is no wonder these guys are so thin!
- The Tour de France television broadcast goes out to 170 countries daily.
- 750,000 spectators line the sides of the course EVERY DAY. That is like taking the populations of Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island and lining them up on the sides of I-95 from New York City to Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Frankly, it is amazing that the race doesn’t have more spectator-cyclist accidents.
- Alberto Contador of Team Discovery Channel has a metal plate in his head, the result of surgery following a massive blood clot in his brain in 2004. Remember, this gentleman is only 24 years old.

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