Editorial by Tom Demerly.
speak to you about dreams. Perhaps you are watching
the Tour on TV. I hope you are.
What a beautiful dream, a grand spectacle, so rare and
amazing in this age. What drama. These young men, heroes
really, pitted against one another. Prepared with the
dramas and hopes of their lives. You want reality TV?
My God, nothing is better than this. Before our eyes
dreams are granted, dreams are shattered.
For want of a front derailleur David Millar's career
is compromised forever. Because his team mechanic wanted
to save 91 grams. A poor decision. The 91-gram savings
by leaving the front derailleur off his bike in the
prologue could not have possibly won him the race, but
it did loose it for him. As in life, sometimes poor
decision making brings ruthless and irreversible ramifications.
David Millar knows. Can you feel for him late at night
when he faces this disaster? What if?
Stage one. As if scripted
by a screenwriter it contained all the drama that is
a tour stage. Everything was there. The heroes went
out on their own. Bold and audacious.
These men know their chances are virtually
zero. But still they play the dream, and they play it with all
their heart, soul and effort. And they fail, withering in the
predatory grasp of the sprinters. Again, ruthless. Zabel flats
at the worst possible moment. In a mini-drama within the race,
and a massive lesson in perseverance for those keen enough to
notice, the man refuses to yield. Zabel is all class. He regains
the group with the service of his teammates and forces his way
through to the front. He does not accept defeat. A flat tire
with 18 km. to go is plenty enough excuse for most people to
surrender, but not Zabel. He is a Knight. He will not lie down
on the field of contest. He fights to the finish, and finish
he does- nearly winning the stage. Incredible. I tell you, it
took my breath away.
The desperation of the tour at a stage finish is like a starving
mob trying to get to the last grains of food. Safety is such
a distant concern I doubt a single brain cell is devoted to
it in the final 5 kilometers. It is all about the race. For
about five men it is all about winning. Make no mistake as you
watch this bicycle race. These men have no compunctions about
dying for a victory. They will take any risk. Before your eyes
you see men who have put in years of work and effort, disciplined,
for most, in every single aspect of their lives for this one
thing. And since their entire life is focused on that one thing,
you know they will give anything to win. Anything.
The crash at the end. It was so predictable. You knew it was
only a matter of where and when. Even the best riders in the
world were so over extended. And you know what happens then.
As it is, it destroyed the dreams of one of the most promising
riders in the race. Tyler Hamilton broke his collarbone in the
30-rider crash. Armstrong went down too. You know it wasn't
supposed to be this way for Hamilton, but the Tour is ruthless.
It could have been Armstrong. Just like that. Do you see how
fragile his hold on the race is?
And then there was the sprint. Alessandro Petacchi. I will brag
here. I picked him with 5km to go. It wasn't that hard if you
know what you are looking for. Petacchi's Fasa Bortolo cartel
was surgical. From the Wescam mounted on the Antennae 2 helicopter
you could see the conspiracy of speed and exploitation forming
on the narrow streets at over 32 miles per hour. Fasa Bortolo
ganged the front. They made the speed so dangerous and impossible
no sane man would dare try to overtake. The ones that did fell.
That is how a lead out works. And Petacchi? What can you say?
His men must revere him as a God. This is the rise of a new
star. Remember Cipollini? Abdujaparov? Kelly? The flamboyant
sprinters. Welcome Alessandro Petacchi, he is the new man. His
lieutenants guard him during the race like a thoroughbred. Then
they waste themselves in ritual sacrifice to launch him at the
line. And he delivers.
So in this first stage we lost a promising hero, Hamilton, to
a crash. Armstrong has a close call in the same crash- as if
to suggest "Hey guys, it isn't in the bag for three weeks
and anything can happen". We see a dramatic breakaway and
the inevitable catch within miles of the line. It makes you
say, "How does that always happen?" Then there was
Zabel, the German Knight, he does not accept defeat. The man
nearly won with minimal support in the critical final 400 meters.
Amazing. And of course, Petacchi. A win with surgical precision.
So that is how it works. A series of dreams- some granted some
dashed. It is at once jubilant and tragic. Sometimes when I
watch I feel like I may cry. Other times I feel renewed. But
I never fail to be moved. And isn't that why it is so incredible?
© Tom Demerly, Bikesport
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