The little problem with Big George

I guess now I know what soap-addicted housewives feel like when they’re denied the latest episode of their favorite daytime drama.  I mean – if someone took my tour away this year, I think I’d seriously lose my mind.

This shit is good.  And, up until today, it was good in the good way: exciting breaks, emotional victories, and big crazy sprints. The only thing that was lacking was the GC action, and I was content to wait until week three for that story to unfold.

You can’t talk about today’s stage without talking about George Hincapie and the Big Five Seconds that kept him out of yellow.  It was the story of the day, overshadowing both the death of a 60-year-old spectator and the victory of Ivanov, who finished an amazing ride with a picture-perfect attack that looked risky but ultimately delivered the goods.

Today may not have been the Tour’s best day – but it was probably the most dramatic. Hincapie pissed at Garmin. Bruyneel denouncing Garmin. Garmin claiming innocence. Cavendish with a questionable and severe relegation that may ultimately cost him green. Thor thundering. AG2R confused but happy.

And George. George sitting there with his family in town watching Nocentini put on a yellow jersey that could have been his but for five seconds.

You can’t write this shit.

And as much as it sort of makes me want to cover my ears and scream, “JUST RACE YOUR BIKES!”, the high drama makes for some damn good television.  Screw Days of our Lives – we have Days of Our Tour… our own rolling soap opera complete with villains and heroes and ridiculous plots and unexpected twists and really terrible commercial interruptions just at the wrong time.

It’s almost as funny as it is tragic because sadly, many of the same kinds of dramas play out in our local races, too.  Just go to PIR and stand next to the officials truck after the race – you’ll be regaled with emotional complaints about “blocking” or bad tactics or bad riding or bad body odor – or whatever.  Road cyclists are, frankly, renowned for their ability to piss and moan about stuff.  Let’s not take ourselves too seriously – it’s what we do.  We should own it.

It’s part of the deal.  And putting the world’s fastest riders in the world’s biggest race, crammed with favorites and egos and ambition and money? It’s like a pressure cooker for all things road cycling.

It means career-making performances, sobbing German victory salutes, shit-talking sprinters, and steely-faced GC contenders. And it also means days full of drama and questions and accusations.

It’s a good Tour, with all its ups and downs – and let’s not forget that it’s also the first Tour in which we haven’t (yet) seen a huge doping scandal come to fore (someone go knock on wood for me, asap). I’ll take the inter-team drama over busted druggies any day.

Everyone gets to have an opinion (and unfortunately everyone also gets to have a blog), so we’ll have to deal with the debates and speculation.

Me? I think Garmin’s actions were suspect. I think George deserves to be in yellow right now.  And I think (maybe I hope) that revenge is going to be a bitch for the argyle boys.  But I also think George might have been able to ride harder. From where I was sitting, it looked like he sat up a few times to look around (for help? to see how things would play? was he thinking of the stage win?)  I kept saying to Sal, “Why doesn’t George go?  Why isn’t he going?”

Maybe he didn’t have it in him. Maybe there’s something we don’t know. But it seems like he should have been all-out, eyes-crossed, driving, driving, driving. Five seconds. Five. Could he have ridden harder if he hadn’t worried about what was going on around him?  Only he knows that.

I wish he was in yellow. A lot of people wish he was in yellow. But he’s not.  And it’s over.

Tensions are going to be high going into the mountains tomorrow.  And the GC boys better start racing.  Verbier is a relatively short climb, but there’s damage to be done and somebody better get to the doing.  It’s time.

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  1. David Brower

    Garmin did what was right for Garmin’s GC hopes. Now Astana gets no help from Columbia tomorrow, which is good for Garmin.

    If George really wanted it, he might have raced harder himself and done a little less cheerleading when the group was falling apart from 5k in.

  2. George couldn’t go 100% full gas because a lot of his breakaway companions only wanted a stage victory. So if he went too deep, an attack would go, and the others would look to him to close it up. He would have probably ended up floating back to the pack to simmer in frustration with Jens.

    I don’t know why Garmin or Lotto (?) were pulling so hard in the end, but it doesn’t really matter. He needed five more seconds, and you can’t expect the entire race to keep track of the time split and gift him the jersey.

    Bummer he didn’t get yellow. I really wanted him to succeed, but he came up five seconds short. Pity.

  3. Maybe George was waiting for someone to shoot him with a BB gun?

    • Joe – that made me laugh. Even though it isn’t funny. :)
      Erik – I mostly question his tactics at 10k to go and less. I think he should have just raced balls out and not worried about antics that were happening around winning the stage. But then, I’m just a girl with a tummy-ache in Portland, Oregon. What the hell do I know?
      Oh well. pity indeed.

  4. John Hall

    I personally think Astana maybe tried to micromanage the time gap a little bit (too much?) to put George in yellow, but just barely. I don’t think they really wanted to give up too much time between the yellow jersey and Alberto/Lance. When Garmin came to the front and increased the pace I think they were caught with their cycling shorts down. It seemed to me that they were as surprised as anyone when Garmin took that initiative. But I guess that’s why they call it a race. Can’t wait for tomorrow.

    Excellent blog.

  5. Excellent article. Thank you and have fun in Bend next week.

  6. JW PdxRunner

    The deal has been around almost since the early days of the TDF. You get the stage win, I get the Yellow Jersey. If George Rides too hard or even looks like he’s going after the stage, he gets more than no help from his breakaway companions. He needs them and they let him come along for the ride. Garmin had NO advantage to ride against George. It’s more ride against Cavandish and his team. Columbia will help Astana, they have no great GC hope. Garmin has Vande Velde. Payback is a and a dish seved cold. Wil get you my pretties! Heh Heh!

  7. It looked like Cavendish was thinking about Hincapie during the sprint. Like he wanted to beat Thor, but only just, so as to not cut into George’s time. what do you think?

    • Lee – I agree. I’m not sure what was going on in the sprint (it looked abnormal in general) but it my guess is that’s why Cav looked over his shoulder? I’m sure all of Columbia must have been aware of trying not to bear down on George’s gap. Weird stage!

  8. “Road cyclists are, frankly, renowned for their ability to piss and moan about stuff.”

    You got that right! Go to any cycling-related blog or discussion group.

    Did you notice Ivanov after the stage, sitting on the curb, bike lying next to him, head between his knees, and chest heaving? That’s how a break-away stage winner should look. Great ride!

  9. Great article.

  10. Yes! I loved the image of Ivanov. I wondered where his entourage was.

  11. Frankly, if Columbia wanted Yellow, they needed to risk losing Green. By setting up a sprint for Cav (even if they did not go full gas, which it surely seemed they weren’t), they were also guilty of contributing to the five second gap that cost Hincapie the jersey, albeit perhaps less so than Astana. To do that, and then point the finger at all the other teams.

    All the finger pointing at Garmin is theatrical BS. And Stapelton has revealed himself to be beyond arrogant w/ his comments about talking to Vaughters’ boss, Doug Ellis. Gimme a break. Every team rides for their interests, and to think they somehow made it personal discredits the whole peloton. Yes, Garmin had riders on the front, but to say those riders did all the work that “caused” Hincapie to miss the jersey is just foolish, no matter if it’s rabid fans saying it or veteran DS’s.

    I agree: Hincapie should have left it all on the road. The clock was ticking for him, and him alone. You don’t get to try and win the stage and ride into yellow. Pick one, and fall on the sword. I would have loved to see him in yellow. So would most of the field, including most of the Garmin riders. To single that team out is just absurd. In bike racing, like all sport, things unfold in ways that are not scripted or able to be micro-managed to precise outcomes. Unless you’re Brunyeel 5 years ago, or course…

  12. Dan Kearl

    Whining and moaning by Hincapie. Columbia has talked smack about Garmin for months so payback is a bitch. The feud is between Cavendish and Wiggins. Astana was trying to help him and he was pissed at them also. When Astana was at the front the gap went UP to the break, not down. Nobody was chasing him down, Hincapie was disappointed but wrong about what went down.

  13. This whole whine makes the sport look disingenuous. Hincapie is upset because other riders put in too much effort. Puhlease! Next time, hang on Ivanov’s wheel and you win. As far as ‘payback’, this IS payback. Mark “ride-like-juniors-get-results-like-juniors” Cavendish is beyond disparaging and obnoxious after his wins. If he were a nicer guy, Hincapie would have worn yellow and that pathetic penalty against Cavendish would have been overturned for sure.

    I guess it’s karma, rather than payback that can be a bitch.

    • Agreed that the grudge is against Cav and not George and that Cav had it coming to him.
      Unfortunately, for George, he was the one who got Cav’s due.

  14. And it just keeps getting better. Cadel’s Very Bad Day, Jen’s scary scary crash leaving FrAndy Schlenk one less rider to pull them up… I’m no big lance fan, but that bridge today was a mighty piece of work and boy is he positioned well… Watch tomorrow. A less than stellar day by Contador and if they go into the the time trial separated by seconds, teamwork be damned – Lance will twist the knife.


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