Perhaps I was a little premature in my earlier post. Whilst still a way from being a classic, today at least saw the touch paper ignited effectively. And whilst the determination was clear to see in the attacks of Contador, Evans and Sanchez, the Schlecks, Andy in particular, did themselves no favours at all. I’m sure they are having an awkward enough evening already and their comments from Sunday are likely being quoted back at them across cyberspace if not around the dinner table, but today they were given a lesson in how to make attacking riding pay. And to cap it all by, in the words of Chris Boardman, “throwing everything out of the pram” shows they are a long way from being Tour champions. In highlighting their petulance, I can only take my hat off to Thomas Voeckler. I did him a disservice in my previous post and his attacking style is a welcome relief in any race. To be still in yellow tonight highlights his guts and determination and is the colour that every Tour needs. As I said to MrsAB this evening, this race is between Evans, Contador and Voeckler. Maybe, just maybe, there is hope. We’ll see.
Having written the piece I did yesterday reflecting on the British national road race championship, it might be easy to fall into a pessimistic mood. So what a difference a day makes. For a start, Bradley Wiggins is quoted as being unimpressed by the tactics of his teammates in the final kilometres of the race. Even if this was tongue in cheek it shows that the race perhaps didn’t run exactly to the plan envisaged by Ellingworth pre-race. However, we are a long way from a La Vie Claire or Astana falling out between teammates.
But the result that puts it all into perspective comes from Luxembourg. I have to admit the knowing the names of only a handful of Luxembourgish cyclists thought this may be a few fingers more than others. It should therefore come as little surprise that the title was won by a rider called Schleck. This year, breaking with what seemed to be a trend of alternation, Frank retained his title ahead of brother Andy. The brothers crossed the line together, in the same time, riding for the same team. Laurent Didier (rising for the Schlecks old team Saxo Bank-Sungard!) was over a minute behind with the rest of the field over 4 minutes in arrears. We’ve seen this Schleck one-two before at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and though admittedly it was home by a regal Phillipe Gilbert questions were already forming. For one, it makes you wonder at the conversations between these brothers – without any disrespect I know I would be hard pushed to have convinced my brother to let me win a bike race. And importantly in this debate it questionsthe Luxembourgish depth to Team Leopard Trek, a squad which has been repeatedly billed by its riders, management and backers as a Luxembourg cycling project. The British national championships did highlight the depth of talent that there is in British cycling and the way it can be fostered if the right structures exist. Team Sky highlights how a project can be developed to be internationally competitive whilst nurturing domestic talent into that arena. These are two major positives in relation to Luxembourg and Leopard-Trek. Whilst (Swiss rider) Fabian Cancellara has indicated in this month’s Procycling magazine that Leopard is still forming and isn’t last year’s Saxo Bank team (as indicated by Didier), it is light on Luxembourgish talent purchasing and cajoling its riders from around the globe (albeit predominantly from one source – Saxo Bank-Sunguard). Hardly a Luxembourg project and more a vehicle for the Schleck’s and their mates. One has to wonder what good it is doing cycling in the Duchy. At least David Bralisford has got something right for all the doom-mongers.