First, my story of getting caught out......
Sunday afternoon after our return from Heber Springs, I headed out for a little ride. I ran into friend Daryl Peeples on the NLR trail and headed over the Broadway Bridge to Little Rock. At Markham and Broadway, a few rain drops fell. I checked radar on the old Blackberry and it looked like we might get a sprinkle, so we headed toward the BDB. My mistake. By the time we got to Cathedral School, it was seriously raining and I turned tail for home. I hit a wall of water as I crossed the Broadway Bridge, so I ducked for cover at Dickey-Stephens Park, where the baseball game was in the rain delay mode. In five years, I've ridden in from bonks, breakdowns, crashes and injuries. I've only called Diane for a rescue once, twenty miles from home with debilitating cramps. This was the second time. No answer. I called back and forth from her cell phone to home as the rain intensified. When the lightening started bouncing around, I decided to make a run for it, as things were not getting better. As I rode through running water, I noticed several unusual things. With every pedal stroke, water squirted out of the vent holes in my shoes. I had a weird sensation around my hips, then realized that water was running down the small of my back into my bibs faster than it could run through the fabric.When the bibs could hold no more, water gushed out the legs in a sort of wave. Kind of like when you get in the creek in baggy shorts and the trapped air comes rolling out, only different. I also discovered that lightening could inspire me up the hill on JFK at speeds that I had thought unattainable.
Now, here's what happened to Alberto.....
Hell, you guys already know. There was a split in the last 35k of today's stage, which had shaped up to be a typically boring sprinters stage. The whole of Team Columbia-HTC was at the front, chasing the break-o-the-day on behalf of Mark Cavendish, when a turn into a crosswind allowed for a little split as Columbia went into echelon. George Hincapie and Mick Rogers put the hammer down and a group of 27 was soon motoring away from the peloton, which could never get really organized to chase. Cancellara and Armstrong made the break. Contador did not, nor did the Schlecks, Carlos Saste, Levi nor any of the other contenders for GC and this lapse in attention cost them 40 precious seconds.
Owe it to savvy, attention to detail or just plain luck (or a wisper in the ear from Hincapie, as was suggested in one commentary), Lance Armstrong is now in third place and the best placed among the front-runners. A very positive thing about this development for Lance is that he is now leading teammate Contador on the road and he did so on a sleeper stage without having to attack, risking ill-will, nor did he have to go to the front and work.
Mark Cavendish continues to kick ass in the sprints. He has his own style, along with Robbie McEwen's spunk and a Petacchi-like lead-out train. He's also very young and could be at the top of the game for many years. When asked last year if he was "the next Robbie McEwen", he responded smilingly, "No, I'm the first Mark Cavendish." And so he is.
This Tour is going to keep getting better and I expect more big surprises. A couple of years ago, I was afraid we were seeing the coming of a dark age for professional cycling, but this is as good as it gets. We have the return of a legend generating world-wide interest and cast of true contenders capable of driving this race in many directions.
Bring it on. I can't wait!