cycling matters


Le Tour de France 2010, Stage 17: Pau – Col du Tourmalet; Top Two Ahead, Big Gaps Behind

'Andy talks tough !' say the headlines, he did try his best yesterday, his men used whatever was left to drive up the lower part of the Tourmalet - then he went for it.

However, not for one moment did it look like Alberto Contador was under pressure.

Andy talks tough.

Andy talks tough.

I long ago stopped putting posters of my heroes on the wall (except Ezequiel Mosquera, of course) but I have huge respect for Alberto Contador - he's undoubtly the best Grand Tour rider of this generation and as one of a very select group of riders - including Merckx and Hinault - who have won the Giro, Tour and Vuelta is arguably one of the all time best.

The 'problem' is that he's small, reserved, doesn't really play the 'sound bite' game and rides for that 'dodgy Astana mob.'

Give me a Kazakh team any time, you know where you stand.

There are teams in the race with far more dubious managements than Astana, but they're smoother at 'spin' and playing the media game - not to mention reptilian.

Bert sits comfortably behind Schleck.

Bert sits comfortably behind Schleck.

But back to Bert - I don't feel he gets the respect he deserves from the media and this year in particular he's been the 'bad guy' to 'good guy' Andy.

The wee Madrileno is a master of making just the right move at the right moment with minimal wasted energy - just like Anquetil and Indurain did before him.

Unless you are Merckx, it's about winning with as little effort as possible, not scattering your physical and nervous energy like confetti.

Hi love. Yes, he won the stage. No, Bert was right there.

Hi love. Yes, he won the stage. No, Bert was right there.

I was reading this morning that Schleck asked Bert to come through, on the Tourmalet, yesterday - why the hell would he want to do that?

Schleck was attacking the man, then he wants a 'spell?' - a pro at his level shouldn't embarrass himself with a statement like that.

The media goes along with the 'poor Andy' stuff because he's 'such a nice guy' and any sign of Contador 'weakness' is seen as the 'beginning of the end' for the Spaniard, but if Bert does the business in the time trial, tomorrow then he'll be 'majestic' or some such superlative.

Schleck is capable of winning the Tour, but not if Alberto Contador continues to perform at his present level.

We're about to set off on foot up the hill.

We're about to set off on foot up the hill.

The Tourmalet was hard work for us, we had a four K walk up, then a four K walk down - I'm not sure what was tougher, lugging my blubber up there or the pain in my toes as gravity tried to push them through the front of my shoes on the descent.

A great experience, though.

The trouble with being on the Tour is that the experiences come at you so thick and fast it's hard to savour them - there's always the next place to get to, more words, more pictures, more angles.

But sometimes, weeks later, a thought will come in to your head; 'that was really special.'

No doubt it'll be like that about the Tourmalet - it's such a small area that there physically can't be that many folk at the top - but we were there and watched the riders appear from the mist.

Oscar wends his own way up the climb.

Oscar wends his own way up the climb.

Some were fighting hard to better their stage or GC position, some were wasted from their efforts in the break and some were simply surviving.

And those sprinters, who perhaps suffered the most yesterday, they have to get body and mind together to strut their stuff into Bordeaux, today - respect!

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