The Landis Rollercoaster
I don’t know if you’ve been following the Tour de France, but if you haven’t things just got really interesting.
The big story this year, of course, is that there’s a huge power vacuum in the Tour. Lance Armstrong has retired, which itself would leave a crater the size of Texas. Then you through in the exclusion of Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, and Vinokurov (spelling?) , who between them were supposed to contest the first post-Lance Tour, and the crater could swallow the continent.
So, in this Tour without any favorites, there’s this American who’s been lurking near the top of the standings. Floyd Llandis. He grabbed the yellow jersey for a day about a week ago, then gave it up the next day effectively because it’s harder to hold than it is to win back. Then, about three days ago, he strikes as the Tour is beginning to enter the Alps and wins the maillot jaune again – presumably this time for keeps.
But tragedy struck on Wednesday – Landis, the rider who’s supposed to excel in the mountains, cracked and couldn’t keep pace with just about anybody. From a lead of over 2 minutes over his main rival, he lost 8 minutes – an eternity in cycling, considering the Tour ends on Sunday. Oh yeah, and the last day of the Tour is traditionally a leisurely jaunt around Paris – so that’s one less day to make ground up.
This morning, the last day in the Alps, Landis pulled a Lazarus and made up almost 6 minutes on every other rider in the field. He’s in third place, within 30 seconds of the lead.
Today’s achievement reminded me of the stage a few years back where Armstrong struggled in the mountains, giving his rivals hope that maybe, after 4 or 5 years of dominance, he was only mortal. On that day, halfway up one of those climbs that’s officially off the difficulty charts, he glanced over his shoulders with a look that said “gotcha, suckers” and took off leaving everyone in his wake. For me, Landis bested that performance today.
In this Tour, you never know what’s coming next. One thing I do know, though: I’ll be following the Tour webcast at work tomorrow.