Tour de France: Stage 18 Lessons

Out of the blogging world all day after seeing the last third of the time trial on the tube. The lessons:

Contador is in an amazing place as a rider. At age 25, he’s already showing himself to be the all-around force Armstrong was when he came back from cancer. Who can stop him? The doping cops. Anyone else? Maybe himself, if he insists on stunts like ignoring his team director and dropping a teammate on a decisive climb. Then again, the apparent me-first bull-headedness — if that’s what it is — is reminiscent of Armstrong’s youthful reputation.

Listen to Armstrong when he says that he doesn’t have what it takes to win the Tour. That’s what he said after Contador rode away on the Verbier climb on Sunday. I haven’t been able to decide whether it’s genuine belief or a ratings-driven need to stay on board the Armstrong train, but it’s been fascinating to watch the various members of the Versus TV team pick Lance to win in the mountains day after day after day. No matter that he hasn’t been close even once, and no matter that Contador has shown himself capable of riding away almost at will–the predictions keep on coming. But for all that, there’s something about watching Armstrong in this Tour that gives him more dimension as a man and racer; and there’s something that makes me realize how amazing his domination of this race for so long really was. I’m actually looking forward to seeing him race again next year.

Other topics that could be spun, perhaps will be some day: Wiggins. The Schlecks. Kloden. Bruyneel. Vinokourov. Splendor and Death at the Tour de France. The Armstrong who rides in our heads.

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