Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tour de France: Stage 11

Stage 11 began as one of the happiest days on the tour. The roads of the Drome Valley were wide and flat, and fields of sunflowers smiled on relaxed riders. Lance Armstrong was seen chatting with Mark Cavendish. Alberto Contador rode alongside arch-rival Andy Schleck, talking away. Fabian Cancellara waved at the camera. What a happy bunch.

I thought to myself: what a nice painting I'll create later tonight, with the colors of bright sunflowers, big hayfields, and clear blue skies...

Then wham! ... we entered the sprint phase and it all blew apart. Saxo Bank began by hammering out a blistering pace, keeping Andy Schleck in the front, but spinning exhausted rider after exhausted rider off the back. Then the lead-out trains started to form like giant dragons rearing up, ready to strike. HTC-Columbia, Team Sky, Lampre, and an abbreviated Garmin-Transitions all jockeyed for position on the road. They passed under the one-kilometer-to-go banner, gracefully made two sharp turns without incident...

And then things got ugly.

It began when Mark Renshaw headbutted Julian Dean. Did Dean encroach on Renshaw's line? I replayed my recording again and again, and it's tough to tell. Then Mark Renshaw made a second foul when he moved to the left and blocked Tyler Farrar, who was in a good position to contend the final sprint.

Now we all know that bad things sometimes just happen on the final 500 meters of a sprint. Renshaw does have a reputation for being a safe and fair rider, and it's a rough neighborhood in those final moments. But the organizers couldn't let a headbutt and a block go. That was too much. And so they threw Renshaw out of the Tour. Wow.

This has quite simply been the most bizarre Tour de France ever. Even a stage that began so peacefully just had to end with everyone mad at each other. What new mayhem will tomorrow's stage bring? We'll see...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jason, I just finished watching stage 11's end sprint to the line over and over, your explanation was a big help, thanks. When Renshaw said he moved his head to balance himself I thought to myself, no, it sure looked like you did that on purpose !! And then we can see Tyler put his hand out. A little too exciting and thank heavens no crash. From Leah