Monday, July 27, 2009

27 July 2009: Meatballs

Actually, that title is just to make McDougal happy.

As I've been following Le Tour fairly closely this year, I thought I should mention a few pertinent points that the mainstream media may have missed.

Firstly, the fact that Mark Cavendish won six stages and yet didn't win the Green Jersey (although without his somewhat harsh points deduction on that middle stage, he would have won it)... shows that Cavendish may well be, as he himself claims, the best sprinter in the world, but being the best sprinter in the world doesn't necessarily equate to the Tour De France Green Jersey. I suspect he's learned a lot from this experience, most notably the importance of tactical riding on days that are not sprinter-friendly in order to minimize losses to Green Jersey rivals. In other words, I think he's going to learn from this and come back next year to win Green simply by being more tactically astute.

Secondly, there have been notably few references to drugs in this years Tour. Is that because they're all clean?

Right, that's what I thought too. This thought-provoking article in the Guardian delves a little deeper into the question of third-generation EPO and blood doping, and asks some very key questions, including how it could be that Contador could climb the mountains so hard, so fast - in fact, harder and faster than anyone in the history of the Tour, with Greg LeMond (who should know) feeling that there has to be more going on with Contador than meets the eye.

Key quote:

Greg LeMond, the Tour champion of 1986, 1989 and 1990 and a noted critic of doping, used his French newspaper column to examine the implications of the statistics of the climb in which Contador soared away from his rivals, covering 8.5km of road with an average slope of 7.5% in 20min 55sec, averaging just over 30kph up a series of steep ramps linked by hairpins.

"No one in the Tour has ever climbed as fast as that," LeMond wrote, going on to talk about the findings published recently in LibĂ©ration, in which Antoine Vayer, a performance expert and former trainer with the defunct Festina team, estimated that, judging by his results, Contador must have a VO2 max figure – the measurement of a body's ability to take in and use oxygen – so high that, in LeMond's view, it would have to be superior to that of any athlete who ever lived.

Cynical? It's hard not to be, that's the thing. Bradley Wiggins going from track star to mountain expert and team leader in a little under a year? Hmm.

The fact that Armstrong can come out of retirement and hang with the best implies perhaps that simply the standards aren't as high as they used to be. OK, but the absolute stats are that Contador was out-of-this-world this year. He was unstoppable and even the mountain specialist Schleck brothers couldn't shake him on the highest of the Alps. Those standards are very high. And Contador was unbeatable.

Presumably, if he's that good, we should expect another Indurain/Armstrong-esque domination of the Tour for the next few years.


Postscript: This is the sixteenth blog this month, thereby surpassing all previous months since I began this lark in 2004. Didn't expect that.

Post-post-script: The "Markus Liebherr" Google News count stands today at 331, down from over 400 at its peak.


Doug said...

great title,

I know you love this sort of thing but the text commentary on the 3rd test is a classic this morning

Ladies and gentlemen I give you our national broadcasters coverage of the cricket.

DuncMcRae said...

Caroline of Brunswick was a cricket fan?
BRANDY please!!!