Monday, July 25, 2022

Thoughts on the Tour 2022

 Thoughts on Le Grand Boucle 2022

Harry & Leather at LeTour 2019

No live, in-person viewing for us this year, just a lot of time watching on TV. We're spoiled-for-choice here as RAI broadcasts intensive daily coverage with commentators we mostly like while Eurosport/Discovery/GCN streamed the whole thing live, every stage, start-to-finish with a duo we really like, Luca Gregorio and Riccardo "Magro" Magrini. Eurosport usually got the nod as there are no commercial interruptions with their service. We'll get into their coverage later in this post.

First, the race was pretty entertaining overall, a lot of thanks goes to Pogacar who tirelessly attacked day after day, sometimes all alone and in ways you thought (against hope) would be fruitless. Perhaps the defending champion came in a bit over-confident and under-trained but he's still a kid after all!

The best comparison Zio could come up with was "El Diablo" Claudio Chiappucci once the very real weaknesses of Pogacar's UAE team were revealed. The team UAE wanted to bring didn't even make it to Denmark due to Covid with another member testing positive once the race began but somehow deemed non-contagious enough to continue while at the same time a different UAE rider was sent home, followed soon by another plus a team director! They lost another due to intestinal issues, leaving Pogacar with only three helpers at the race' end. Zio predicted pre-race that Covid would have a far greater effect on the race than any individual team or rider and it's hard to argue otherwise in his opinion.

Meanwhile, super-team Jumbo-Visma had all eight of their riders until Stage 15, using them well to tag-team attack Pogacar, fouling up his eating regimen enough for him to suffer hunger-knock and lose two minutes to J-V's now solid team leader. JUMBO somehow dodged the Covid bullets, losing two riders instead to crashes which usually are not contagious, though their leader did manage to fall off himself once or twice! Another JUMBO rider later left the race for personal reasons but by then the race was all but over.

So while teams eventually were down on strength UAE soon would be even worse-off when they lost yet another key man, this time to equipment failure. While it was great to see the American on each team (Kuss on J-V, McNulty on UAE) perform so well in support duties, just like with "El Diablo's" constant attacks against the likes of BigMig or LeMond it was hard to see Pogacar getting away to gain any real time barring a crash or major mistake by Vingegaard or his team.

But that didn't stop him from trying! Just like the old daze with Chiappucci it was great to watch - a guy racing-to-win rather than not-to-lose whether he had a white or yellow jersey on his back. Even on the last day he was smiling and riding off-the-front. Hvala vam Pogacar!

It was also great to see Michael Matthews get a win, a win for the French with Christophe Laporte and the amazing performance of Wout VanAert. Some talk of slimming the guy down so he can win a Grand Tour but we ask why? Does everyone have to have GT's as their goal? The fair-play handshake episode between the Tour protagonists was nice to see as well, making it clear you don't have to hate your competitor to beat him or her. CHAPEAU!

Other positives: Is the "kite-man" dead? One crashed out while another, who actually won Le Grand Boucle with the "mow 'em down in the chrono, defend in the mountains" method could do neither this year. Is the kite-man idea dead or was this guy just too old? His team's "marginal gains" strategy didn't seem to help much either while the winning team reportedly spends only 1/2 as much as those guys, with most of it coming from a chain of grocery stores and a cloud software company rather than petro-sheiks or fracking kings. CHAPEAU!

Now for the criticism: Zio Lorenzo criticized the Giro's TV director, a guy he assumes works for the broadcast company EMG? Seemed like the same guy was running things at LeTour, way-too-often showing meaningless, unimportant images while ignoring the action, only to cut to an attack after-the-fact, relying on instant replay far-too-often. That same EMG logo was visible on trucks in the broadcast so it seems fair to blame them rather than French TV and while we're at it, who is the guy at the post-race interview? He sounded like the same guy they had at the Giro and asked the same banal questions. Surely there are better people out there?! 

On that same subject, more Wiggins-less Contador on the moto in the race caravan, please. While you're reducing things hand some pink-slips out to some of the UK "experts" who way too often blather-on in interviews with their own opinions, then try to get the people they're interviewing to agree! Nobody cares what they think, it's not an interview of THEM! But keep Bernie Eisel, he does a great job!

This race set a new average speed record, despite the claimed record heat while the winning team's members never seemed to get tired or sick, a few of them crashing out instead. The race winner ended up gifting the final chrono stage to his teammate while other chrono specialists got trounced. 

"Incredible" was a word tossed around a lot during this race but Zio Lorenzo's wondering if this is true in a more literal sense? Cynics can look up "Danish cycling dope-cheats" and find a disproportionate number compared to the total number of pro cyclists from that country while the winning team can be traced back to the scandal-plagued Rabobank squad. They admit to using substances others say should be banned and they are not members of the MPCC. To be fair UAE'S not a member either, but performance comparisons of these two teams in the Tour shows a wide disparity once you go beyond the two team leaders.

Eyebrows should be raised and questions should be asked. Let's hope time will tell. Fans want more than just WWE-style entertainment, they want results they can trust and believe in.

Vive LeTour!

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