Congratulations to Carlos Sastre for taking the 2008 Tour title. Congrats to all the riders really. It was a fantastic Tour—the best in recent memory. Over 3 weeks of racing and almost every day was exciting. From the first stage in Brittany with Alejandro Valverde winning in an uphill sprint through the Massif Central, the Pyrenees, the Alps and all the way the Champs Elysees in Paris. The race did not disappoint.
Up until Sastre blew everyone away on Alp d’Huez, 6 riders were within a minute of the lead (Evans, F. Schleck, Kohl, Menchov & Vandevelde). The racing and attacking was fierce. And here in the States, the coverage by Versus was unprecedented in terms of the length, often going on air before the start of the start so we were actual able to see for the first time how breakaways are formed, established and nurtured. (My only complaint about Versus was Craig Hummer. Nice guy, but not a great commentator. What happened to Al Trautwig?)
In all, there were seven men in Yellow, including 2 from Luxembourg and even a Frenchman for day. The 4 Americans and the two American teams in the race acquitted themselves well. Christian Vandevelde exceeded all expectations finishing 5th and announcing himself as one of the top contenders in the peloton. Team Columbia took 5 stage victories—4 alone to British sprinter Mark Cavenidish and held at times early in the race, the Yellow, Green and Polka-Dot Jerseys. I would have liked to see George Hincapie do better. He almost won a stage in the Alps, but lost some time on the last climb and couldn’t quite make it up on the descent.
Team CSC was just remarkable. They only won 2 stages (Kurt-Asle Arveson ans Sastre), but they controlled the race like no other team I’ve ever seen and dominated in the mountains led by the indomitable Jens Voigt, the brothers Schleck and Sastre. In the end the won both the Yellow Jersey and the White Jersey (Andy Schleck) for the best young rider and ran away with the team competition.
Of course, there were the normal problems with blooding doping. Three riders, including the winner of two stages Ricardo Ricco, were kicked out of the Tour after testing positive for EPO. Sad really. Hopefully these riders will be begin to understand that if they take the drugs, they will get caught and it only stains the reputation of the sport and they will never ride again without the major blemish of being labeled a drug cheat.
This has been a incredible summer for the Spanish. First they won the European Football Championship. Then Alberto Contador, the reigning Tdf champ, won the Giro d’Italia. Now Sastre has won the tour and Oscar Freire become the first Spanish rider to win the Green Jersey. Meanwhile Rafa Nadal has won the French Open and Wimbleon on the trot and overtaken Federer for world’s #1. Fairly amazing work for in such a short time for Spain.
As always, the Tour is more than a race. It is a grand journey, a travelogue and a movable circus around one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Now that I’m a cyclist myself, my love and respect of the Tour and the men who ride it has only grown and as always, I will sink into a mild post-Tour depression while I wait 11 months or so for it come around again. Hopefully if the Dollar ever strengthens against the Euro, I can make the trip to Europe and do some cycling in France myself.