Thursday, July 8, 2010
Stage 2: Sylvain Chavanel's Big Day
This guy was in an early breakaway. That's when a half-dozen or so guys jump out from the peloton early, forming their own little group, hoping to stay ahead so they can win the stage. Most of the time these breakaways get caught, as it's impossible for a small group to break the wind as easily as a larger one. (Each rider has to take a turn up front. The more riders, the fewer turns up front for each.)
Anyway, on the rain-slicked roads of the Ardennes, this guy eventually left the rest of his breakaway in the dust, flying ahead on his own to win the stage. What amazes me, is that it was just back in April when he crashed so badly he fractured his skull. Doctors even had to put him in an induced coma for awhile to reduce brains swelling.
Yet here, just three months later, he absolutely flew across the short steep hills of the Ardennes forest. And not being particularly fast at descents, he had to make up for it in the flats and uphills.
It's the riders like these, who surprisingly, even inexplicably, win when no one thought they would, that makes this sport worth watching. Not only that, but because of the number of crashes in this stage the rest of the riders protested the conditions, riding en mass to the finish rather than sprinting at the end.
Hey, if the conditions were adequate for a guy with a recently-fractured skull, they were good enough for you. Quit being pansies.