Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Victory

Today's stage in the Tour de France was among the greatest in the history of the race, or so said the commentators. If you're not a Tour follower, the details will take too long to explain. But these pictures, as usual, are worth thousands of words:

The rarified heights of today's stage climb—the highest in the history of the Tour. There were places where the road literally clung to the side of a sheer mountainside:

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This young man, Luxembourg's Andy Schleck, broke away from the pack and crossed the finish line alone, moving up to second place in the overall standings:

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His father, Johnny Schleck, a former Tour rider himself, had to help Andy walk after he got off the bike:

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The price these guys pay is unimaginable to us who haven't done it -- up to six hours a day on the bike for 21 days (w/ two rest days) riding and climbing from one end of France to the other:

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But the rewards are sweet. Not only did Andy win today's stage (first pic), he also won the Most Aggressive Rider award for his solo breakaway (second pic):

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This man, France's Thomas Voeckler, has been leading the Tour for the last 9 days, and he held on to the leader's (Yellow) jersey today by a mere 15 seconds after nearly three weeks of racing. He was cooked when he finished:

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Voeckler couldn't even get off his bike at the end. He stayed in this position for a full minute, trying to get oxygen at 8,000 feet, while his team manager kept the press away—who stood respectfully quiet while Voeckler tried to recover:

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But recover he did, to receive his tenth Yellow Jersey as leader of the Tour:

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It was appropriate, after such a historic stage, that Belgium's Eddy Merckx (background, in blue shirt) was on the podium to congratulate Schleck and Voeckler. Merckx is considered the greatest professional bike rider in history, and was known as "The Cannibal" in his racing days for the way he chewed up opponents on the road:

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ABC Sports' Jim McKay was well known for opening the Olympic games on ABC for decades by describing the "thrill of victory and the agony of defeat." Today's Tour stage showcased not only the thrill of victory, but the agony of victory as well.

Vive Le Tour!

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