Bills are paid, wine fridge stocked, Netflix account suspended and all systems go for the Tour de France, broadcast on NBC Sports Network beginning June 30 and followed less than a week later by the Olympics, starting July 27.
Call me a couch potato. It’ll be the only time it’s true.
JUICY: While most of my business is in order, I can’t say the same for team RadioShack and its manager, Johan Bruyneel. They’ve been publicly airing dirty laundry and wow – what fodder for gossip. Rather than summarize the list, I’ll defer to this article, which does an excellent job of it.
In the meantime, Andy Schleck was literally blown over by a gust of wind during a time trial (mix in a burrito, dude) in the Critérium du Dauphiné, injuring his back and solving an Andy vs. Chris Horner vs. Bruyneel conundrum. Andy’s out of the Tour and Chris is in. Team harmony restored.
But with the doping ruling against Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck is at least the official winner of the 2010 Tour de France. So… Andy’s always wanted to win the Tour and now he’s on record as having done so. Think he’s satisfied? (Of course not, silly.) And he can’t compete this year.
THE JUICE: Andy’s not the only one to miss the Tour. Bruyneel won’t be there, either. You see, the US Anti-Doping Agency blah blah Lance Armstrong blah latest charges blah blah EPO, “but I never failed a test” blah blah blah.
Don’t you sometimes wish it would just go away?
Bruyneel is implicated in the charges as well.
The thing for Armstrong is he’s still a professional athlete, competing as a triathlete. For now he’s banned from Ironman competition and if a conviction comes from these latest charges, would likely be banned from Olympic sports.
The super funny – and I do mean funny ha-ha – thing about what would happen if Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles is they’d would trickle down to the likes of Jan Ulrich and Evan Basso – both of whom were convicted of doping.
Speaking of the US Anti-Doping Agency, Barry Bonds was spotted at the Tour of California. Apparently, he’s a big cycling fan, chatted up by American Ted King at the start in Ontario.
Sports radio and TV personality Jim Rome says only three or four people in L.A. care about hockey. You might say the same about pro cycling. The Tour of California concluded in L.A. and the crowd was reported at 10,000 (including curious Kings fans on their way to the NHL Stanley Cup playoff game against Phoenix). Call me a cynic, but I’m dubious about the percentage who understood the significance of the race, which showcased many of the world’s best teams and international cyclists.
While mention of the race put smiles on the faces of local folks, they typically followed up with, “Are you riding in the Tour?” That’s the equivalent of asking me if I play for the L.A. Kings.
Picture it. I’m 4’10” if I’ve taken my vitamins.
TOUR OF CALIFORNIA: Robert Gesink won overall. Dave Zabriskie came in second for the fourth year in a row, and Tom Danielson placed third.
The Tour of California may have taken its toll on a lot of riders. In fact, one of the poor boys from the Bontrager development team was spotted in a restaurant bathroom with a bloody nose shortly thereafter. Perhaps it was the pollution. A local said Ontario and L.A. had the worst pollution it’d had all year. Even I felt it in the lungs. Imagine sucking in that air, breathing as hard as you possibly can, while hammering up mountain after mountain.
On the start line in Ontario, 39-year-old Robbie McEwen was another cyclist not feeling spry, though in the mood for a friendly chat. Turns out the Tour of Cali was his final race before retirement. At the race finish, he was presented with the Most Courageous Rider jersey.
Indeed, it takes an overstuffed “suitcase of courage” for a sprinter to slog over several wicked-high climbs knowing retirement is just a day away.
McEwen was in seasoned company in the ToC, alongside 40-year-old Chris Horner, 40-year-old Jens Voigt, who’s completed 14 Tours de France and George Hincapie, 39 years old this month and 16 Tours de France completed.
His 17th this year will set a record, after which, he’s announced he’ll retire as well.
NHL KINGS CROWNED: The Tour of California concluded in front of the Staples Center, where the L.A. Kings played immediately thereafter. Several pro cyclists popped across the street to indulge in a VIP box and enjoy the game.
Make that six people in L.A. who care about hockey if there’s a pro cycling race in town.
By the way, the L.A. Kings did go on to win the Stanley Cup championship. You might be thinking, “Wow, another one of the newer NHL teams got it.” In fact, the L.A. Kings have been in L.A. 45 years.
This is their first championship.
A Kings player was asked if the championship will change how the city feels about hockey. His answer was, essentially, that even when Wayne Gretsky played in L.A., it didn’t. (That would be a “no.”)
ALL BUSINESS: If you’re a cycling fan, you know the name Bradley Wiggins. If not, write him down as a likely winner of the 2012 Tour de France. He’ll do nothing less than challenge Cadel Evans, who’ll be defending his title.
Peter Sagan, the 22-year-old phenom, won five stages of the ToC by beating out sprinter Tom Boonen, among others. This sets up quite the thrilling battle for sprint stages in the Tour de France against Mark Cavendish.
If you want anything left in the glass, be sure to put down your champagne for these stages. Sagan tends to add to the already-nail-biting madness that is the sprint finish with things like nearly wiping out the barriers, accidentally unclipping and having to touch down, flatting in the final 3k, etc. Through it all, he still wins.
TIMBITS: Epic congrats to Ryder Hesjedal of Canada for stumping the big dogs and winning the Giro d’Italia, Italy’s answer to the Tour de France. That makes Hesjedal the very first Canadian to do so (duh). In fact, he’s the only Canadian to have won a Grand Tour (Vuelta, Giro and Tour de France). At this publishing, he’s 8th in the UCI WorldTour rankings. All this good news means his team will work for him as he competes for the overall General Classification in the Tour de France.
Let the epic summer begin (I’m exhausted just thinking about it)!