July 25, 2009

Tour de France: Stage 19 and Stage 20

Sorry for slacking on yesterday’s stage.  Here are my feelings on both stages: Cavendish is awesome, Contador is unbeatable, and Andy Schleck is the most exciting rider in the field.

I’m sure the Tour organizers hoped that the ride up Mont Ventoux would decide the yellow jersey, but unfortunately Alberto Contador ended that suspense a few weeks ago. 

Andy Schleck attacked time after time, but couldn’t put Contador into any kind of difficulty.  Frank Schleck looked much more distressed, which caused Andy to back off just a little bit.  Lance Armstrong held on and did what he needed to do to hold onto his podium finish. 

Tomorrow is nothing but ceremony, with the easy ride into Paris and then possibly some drama about the green jersey (but not likely).  It’s been an exciting Tour, but in hindsight it was all but over after Contador showed what he could do on the ride up to Verbiers.  We’ll have a recap of the entire Tour tomorrow.

Rider of the Days

I love watching Andy Schleck because he doesn’t make it look easy.  He’s clearly giving all he has to try and beat Contador, but at this point he’s looking like the Phil Mickelson of cycling.

July 23, 2009

Tour de France: Stage 18

Contador is amazing.  He’s proved that over and over again.  Today, he not only held his overall lead and beat all his rivals, he also posted the best time overall, beating the time trial specialists.

Andy Schleck also rode a great stage, holding on to his second place position, and only losing 15 seconds to Lance Armstrong.

Truth be told, the time trial was kind of boring.  In years where Jan Ullrich was trying to gain 30 seconds on Armstrong, the final time trial was exciting.  Today with Mont Ventoux looming on Saturday, the time trial seemed like a bit of a sideshow. 

Rider of the Day

He could well be rider of the next 5 years.

July 22, 2009

Tour de France: Stage 17

The Schlecks threw everything they had at Alberto Contador, and still couldn’t put any time on him. They did manage to dislodge the rest of the field, though, and vault themselves into second and third places overall. They attacked over and over, and no one except Contador could keep up with the pace summiting the mountains.

Hopefully Andy will be able to keep pace with the other leaders in tomorrow’s time trial. Between the TT and the ride up Mont Ventoux on Saturday, there is still a lot of doubt about who will comprise the podium (other than Contador) in Paris.

Contador has moved from looking unbeatable to looking superhuman. He’s easily the strongest rider in the field, and there’s a good chance he’ll stretch his advantage tomorrow.

Lance Armstrong put up a good fight again, and he can still compete for a podium finish, but his age is definitely showing. I’d really like to have seen a Tour de France with both Contador and Armstrong in their primes, as they are both likely to be remembered as among the all-time greats.

Rider of the Day

Andy Schleck is going to have years of great rivalries with Alberto Contador. Those two young riders will be the two favorites in the Tour for the foreseeable future.

July 21, 2009

Tour de France: Stage 16

Wow, now that was a stage!  Attacks coming throughout the stage, elimination of some of the major competitors, and mountains, mountains, mountains.

For such a great stage, nothing much changed in the overall classification.  All the leaders finished together.  Cadel Evans is out, but he’s looked terrible all Tour.  Somehow Carlos Sastre managed to claw his way back and not lose any time, but he looks to be on borrowed time.

Mikel Astarloza of the Euskatel-Euskadi team managed a great stage win, the first of his career.  You’ve got to love a team who concentrates on one thing, winning mountain stages.

At the same time, Franco Pelizotti took a stranglehold of the polka dot jersey by taking the maximum points.  Bradley Wiggins also turned in an impressive performance, looking like a revelation of this year’s Tour.

Alberto Contador, however, continued to look unbeatable.  Andy Schleck repeatedly tried to attack him, but Contador never looked tired at all.  I’m sure Schleck will try again tomorrow, but the Spaniard is proving over and over that he’s the best in the world.

Tomorrow is more mountains (4 separate 1st category climbs) and then we get the final time trial. 

One last note, our thoughts and prayers are with Jens Voigt, one of the toughest riders in the peloton.  He crashed badly today, and is out of the race with injuries.  Here’s the video, but it’s not for the faint of heart.


Rider of the Day

Many riders had great performances, but Lance Armstrong’s individual accomplishment bridging the gap back to the yellow jersey group was amazing.  Just when everyone was thinking that the sport had passed the old man by, he proved that he’s still one of the elites.  He may not be able to beat Alberto Contador, but no one else can, either.  Lance admirably defended his second place position, and reaffirmed his decision to return to cycling.

Reasons I Love the Tour #16 - Mountain Attacks

I love seeing the riders struggling and trying to break their rivals.  These are elite athletes hitting the wall and reaching the point of exhaustion.  That’s just not something you see very often.

When Ben Roethlisberger and The Wire Collide

So by now it's old news that friend of the Baltimore Ravens, motorcycle helmet enthusiast, and resident bootyologist of Miami University, Ben Roethlisberger, has been accused of sexual assault by an employee of Harrah's Lake Tahoe.

Big Ben growing out his Stanley Cup beard. Or maybe his flip cup beard.

This is the woman who has accused Big Ben of sexual assault. She goes by the name of Andrea McNulty. Apparently she was asked by Roethlisberger to come to his room to fix his television and then he forced himself on her. Compare her to the girls in the above picture. Although Andrea McNulty is about a perfect 10 compared to the average Pittsburgh girl.

According to multiple sources to us here at ECB, the gentleman pictured above, one "Jimmy McNulty," Baltimore Police Department (retired), formerly of the Homicide Unit and Major Case Unit, is giving one last gift to his beloved city of Baltimore. Jimmy McNulty is a cousin of Andrea McNulty on her father's Irish side. He is using his experience at staging crimes (he was forced from the police department after he staged a series of serial killings in order to raise awareness of underfunding of the department), to give the hated Pittsburgh quarterback a major distraction just weeks before the start of training camp by planting just enough evidence to give rise to a civil suit but not a criminal suit.

July 19, 2009

Tour de France: Stage 15

After the first stage in the Alps, it looks like our 2-man race may have become a 1-man victory lap.  Alberto Contador looked head and shoulders better than anyone else in the race.  There are still quite a few mountain stages left, and we’ve seen larger gaps recovered in the past, but the way Contador is riding, it’s difficult to imagine anyone gaining 2+ minutes on him. 

Lance Armstrong looked old for the first time this year, and even though he’s still one of the top 10 riders in the Tour, he admitted that he’s not the strongest rider anymore.  I think you’ll see Lance supporting Contador more, and the Astana strategy will shift to a singular focus on keeping Contador in yellow.  Armstrong still has a great shot at a podium finish, but he won’t gain time on his teammate.

Andy Schleck also turned in an impressive performance, but unfortunately it only highlighted the fact that Contador is simply a stronger rider than he is.  Schleck should also compete for a podium finish, and he may gain some time on Contador in one of the remaining mountain stages, but it would be shocking to see him gain the yellow jersey at this point. 

After a rest day tomorrow, there’s another big mountain stage that could shuffle some of the standings, but if Contador looks half as strong as he did today, he’ll easily stay in the lead.

Rider of the Day

Reasons I Love the Tour #15 - The Crowds

The mountain stages bring out legions of fanatic cycling followers.  They crowd the narrow roads, dress in crazy costumes, and run alongside the riders, often frustrating them.  But there’s something about the energy of the fans along the mountain roads that raises the intensity of the stages and makes them even more exciting sitting home and watching them on TV.