[No time for feedbags...]
I spent a long, whiny winter complaining about this year's Tour de France parcours before finally making my peace with it in the past month. But it's not without its flaws nonetheless. IMHO this is a backloaded Tour -- one with the major fights postponed til as late in the race as possible. This is a legitimate way to keep competition alive when you've got a heavy favorite (sound familiar?), and maybe that was part of ASO's intentions this year.
Another possible justification for how things have gone is that the Tour is trying to make up for what was a terribly muted green jersey competition last year. Apart from the riders themselves (blogged about last week), the course did little to extend the competition. After about three days of flats, the rest of the Tour featured scads of small climbs when not featuring huge ones. If Thor Hushovd took green without a stage win, it was as much because every day's sprint was for fourth or so.
Turning to this year...(on the flip)
The race has officially become maddening. The race for green was great for several days there, but once Robbie seized control things have gotten pretty tedious. Check the numbers of comments to our daily open threads and you'll see where people started losing interest. Add to that two false starts: Saturday's time trial, which gave us some info, but teed up the competition more than it kicked it off; and today's pseudo-climbing stage, which looked fabulous but only exposed a few weaker hands like Mayo (duh) and Leipheimer (huh?). And you've got one hungry audience.
Some of us, like myself, have been waiting for a year for the Tour to kick into high gear. Others have been waiting more patiently for a certain Era to end, waiting even seven years for the Tour to become a wide-open race.
Well, the waiting is pretty much over. Tomorrow morning, the world's greatest riders will contest the world's greatest race over a course that offers no shelter to the weak. The competition will be dramatic, the scenery will be blotted out by the entire Basque populace and a sea of orange and green flags, and Phil will be in top, top form.
I've got to run, and it's early to bed tonight so I can see y'all here tomorrow at 5:30am. Sharp.