What is it with Tour De France and superhuman people and superhuman performances? Why do people suffering from excruciating pain (read Landis) or ones with near death experiences (read Armstrong) keep winning it? I mean why can’t a normal guy win it, in a normal way.
This Landis chap, in lead till stage 15, goes bonkers on the 16th stage, and decides that he can do a daredevil act on his own, breaks away from the peloton and gets screwed. The guy who led till Tuesday, comes 23rd on Wednesday, is out of the top 10 and many felt this was perhaps the end of the race for him. He himself says that he has probably lost his podium chances in this years edition.
Then he goes to sleep, clears up his mind, fights all his ghosts, and on Thursday, stage 17, does once in a lifetime act. Again he breaks away from the peloton so early in the race that people were ready to take him to a mental asylum at the end of the stage. But he rode like a man possessed to give us one of the greatest days of cycling history. The man formed a solo breakaway for, yes (hold your breath), an astounding 120 kms. Carlos Sastre, the guy who came in second, finished the race close to six minutes behind Landis. Landis erased a huge part of the deficit and jumped back into third position and only 30 seconds behind the then leader Oscar Pereiro.
Stage 19 was an individual time trial and our guy, Landis, one of the best time trialists in the race. He carries on with motivation and finishes third behind Honchar and Kloden (eventual third). He erased a 30 second deficit, gained around a minute and also the yellow jersey going into the ceremonial final stage that passes through the scenic city of Paris (you can see the Louerve at points). The final stage passed off without any further drama and Landis succeeded Armstrong as the champion followed by Pereiro and Kloden. Team Mobile (Jan Ullrich’s ex-team) won the teams classification. Australian Robbie McEwen won the points classification and Rassmussen successfully defended his Kingo f the Mountains jersey. 25 year old Cunego of Italy was declared the best young rider.
So there you go. One of the most dramatic turn arounds of the recent times. After seven years of Armstrong we were so used to see him easily winning the race that a fight for the yellow jersey came as a whiff of fresh air. Yes, the race was without Ullrich, Basso and the company, but it did provide all the ingredients of being a great race, and I am certainly looking forward to the 2007 edition. By the way, the prologue of that edition starts in London.
Did I mention here that Landis is suffering from degenerative hip defect and is scheduled to undergo a hip replacement surgery sometime in September!!!
Meanwhile, a very very emotional Tiger Woods successfully defended his Open Championship (his 9th Major) last weekend, and dedicated his victory to his father Earl. He also remarked how he had tried to win a Majors for Earl at Augusta Masters and how he missed his father. Woods remained very calm till the very end but the flood gates opened once he won the Championship and cried uncontrollable on the shoulders of his caddie and then in the arms of his wife. If Earl was watching this, from wherever he is, he would have been a very very proud father indeed. Almost reminded me of the Tendulkar knock against Kenya in the World Cup after his fathers demise.