We’ve made it to the Champs-Élysées after three weeks of all sorts of drama and action, in a Tour decided by seconds. Of course, as we all know, there’s a “gentleman’s agreement” to ride today’s race in a state of truce, a celebratory ride into Paris before the final show for the public in front of the Arch de Triomphe. When I was full into the TV action, I’d often have to explain this stage to ESPN hosts on SportsCenter and other shows, trying to make them understand. “What do you mean they don’t try and race? Don’t they want to win?” I’d reply, trying in my allotted :20” to explain about the lack of obstacles that can make a difference, etc., but the Paris stage never did the sport much good for the general American sports audience. In fact, Howard Stern, in a memorable bit after having tuned into watch the Tour, went back and forth with Robin about the absurdity of the race: “why in the hell are they drinking champagne and wearing funny hats mid-race…??” sort of thing.
Romain Bardet is certainly being reminded of 2005 when Alexandre Vinokourov broke the mold and attacked on the Champs, winning the stage and taking fifth place away from Levi Leipheimer. Mikel Landa, sitting one tiny second behind Bardet for the podium, is thinking about this too. Landa, who is the one rider in this Tour to have digested the Giro-Tour double – he was aiming at the Pink Jersey in this year’s Giro, was taken out by a moto and lost massive time, so changed his focus to stages and the Mountains Jersey both of which he achieved – will be on duty to insure Froome gets safely to the line. But, it’s a race and in this Tour unlike any other in history, exciting things can always happen…especially with rain forecast for the day.
Rigoberto Uran was wonderful in this Tour. He clawed his way back to second after his disastrous opening time trial in Dusseldorf, which was a terrible race in general it must be said with too much danger build into it – losing 0:51” to Froome. In analyzing his TT of yesterday, Uran lost by my unofficial count, 0:12” in hitting the barricades and then maybe another 0:05” with the slower bicycle – yes, all of those aerodynamics make that much difference today – putting him in physical terms within somewhere around 0:10” behind Froome in the race. The Colombian really held the soon-to-be four-time Tour winner to parity over these three weeks and his stock now is astoundingly high. I hope that Jonathon Vaughters and Doug Ellis finally land that sponsor they so richly deserve and the great work they’ve done can continue and improve. Uran is a changed man since going to them and that speaks volumes about their program. It would be a shame to lose the Colombian to Astana or any of the other teams making soft eyes at him and it’s time for an American company to support, and support well, the one true American WorldTour team.
John Eustice, is the organizer of the Thompson Bucks County Classic in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and a long-time cycling analyst who has contributed to ESPN, ABC Sports, Time Magazine, and CNN among others. The Bucks County native resides in New York City. He was a pioneer on the European racing circuit and is a two-time United States Professional Champion.