Before we talk about today’s stage, let’s spare a moment to remember the man who died on this day, July 13th 1967 on Mount Ventoux, Provence — world champion, winner of Paris – Nice, Milan — Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders and the Tour of Lombardy.
Tom Simpson is sadly missed but a legend, never to be forgotten.
He died pursuing an impossible dream; his frail physique wasn’t designed to withstand the rigours of a Grand Tour — dreams drove him to be champion of the world but they couldn’t drive him to a Tour win.
And like Robert Millar said; ‘there comes a time when you have to stop dreaming.’
In the first instance he meant it of himself, in the 1984 Tour he was 4th on GC, king of the mountains and a stage winner — it just seemed like a matter of time . . . .
He also applied the same axiom his to Z team mate Ronan Pensec — 6th in ’86, 7th in ‘88 and a maillot jaune — with a little help from Robert — in 1990 but it never got any better than that.
Today was another day of broken dreams, Cadel Evans showed us what the Tour really means, sitting on the team bus step, close to tears, apologising to his team — no need Cadel, Alpine cols aren’t the best place to nurse a broken elbow.
But it’s not just the Australian – Vande Velde, Karpets and Frank Schleck have all gone; Lance has blown; for Sastre, Basso and Kreuziger it looks very difficult and for Bradley Wiggins, it’s over.
But if you know your Grand Tours, the writing was on the wall from the prologue; if a man is serious about his challenge and a ‘chrono man’ at that, there’s no way he finished in the 70’s — rain or no rain.
I have huge respect for Wiggins, as a pursuiter he’s one of the best ever and last year’s fourth place in Paris was excellent — but there’s a big difference between being a ‘gallant outsider’ with no real expectations and a bona fide challenger.
Still, he’s going to ‘recalibrate,’ so I guess that’s all right?
I just wish that he’d give us some indication that he actually gives a damn about the race.
Look at Sandy Casar’s eyes when he started that sprint today, he wasn’t the fastest out of that group, but he wanted it the most.
Schleck was excellent but ask any experienced Tour rider and they’ll tell you; ‘the race is won in the third week.’
Don’t read too much into Alberto’s seeming lack of sparkle; he hasn’t won all of the Grand Tours due to a lack of experience and he’ll be more than happy to let Andy ride that tide of euphoria — for the moment.
Van Den Broeck continues to impress and when I see Menchov quietly taking care of business I think about the statement I made last year, ‘Menchov’s a Vuelta winner, but never a Giro winner!’
Perhaps he won’t be a winner here, but he’s looking better every day for the podium.
L’Equipe? — job done, albeit Saturday’s!
It’s no bad thing to look back a few days — it reminds you of how quickly the Tour landscape changes.
Cancellara in yellow and Geraint Thomas cited as a ‘menace’ — sadly not now.
And ‘Cav like a great,’ says the headline — absolutely.
Stage ten tomorrow — nearly half way.