All over but the shouting now. The Chicken rode an intelligent race today, solidifying a likely victory in the Tour de France. Anticipating correctly that Discovery would use Leipheimer and Contador to bash away at him on the final climb, Rasmussen marked every attack -- at his own pace -- and outlasted all challengers. He pulled away in the final KM for the stage win and the death blow to pretty much everyone's hopes of dethroning him, proving that this was indeed a climbers' Tour.
There is almost nothing left to accomplish at this year's Tour. Tom Boonen has a couple days of defending the Green Jersey, but he needs to only make it into the sprint, or hope a large breakaway dilutes the points. One last stage win would also seal the deal.
The Maillot Pois competition is up in the air, technically, but Rasmussen is unlikely to risk anything for this lesser prize. Mauricio Soler can scoop up some small points in the next two stages to make sure.
The podium is just about set. It's not unthinkable for Cadel Evans to make up 1.57 in the final time trial and swap places with Alberto Contador, but Levi Leipheimer is a bad bet to join the party, nearly a minute down on Evans who's better against the watch anyway. Leipheimer's missed dream is Australia's finest Tour moment: no Aussie has finished higher than fifth before.
Finally, my Discovery sneak-attack scenario is fun to contemplate but is almost if not entirely without precedent. Bears watching, but Rabobank have been too strong to give in to such shenanigans.
Meanwhile, I've got a soapbox moment in me, join me on the flip if you dare.
There has been a lot of negativity on the forums here lately, and with good reason: the Chicken is an unpopular champion for a variety of reasons; the Vino mess disappointed the real fans and provoked the vultures; the racing has been more conservative than many people would prefer, etc. On occasion people have pointed out the tone of one comment or set of comments, and all that is fine. I'm completely comfortable with all of the above, and think it belongs in a blog.
But it does make me think that it's worth talking about the purpose of blogs for a brief moment. The "angry blogger" story being kicked around the mainstream media rings pretty hollow (or worse) to me. Politics aside, to get upset about strident language on blogs is to miss their point entirely. IMHO at least, while the internet brings us all together, it's the blogs that provide a deliberately informal medium for unfettered conversation. Formality and decorum are not only unnecessary but a hindrance. Blogs aren't supposed to mimick the floor of the Senate; blogs are a place for people to be themselves.
So when we talk about a bike race, or hot button (doping) issues, we often calmly analyze the situation, but sometimes we also exaggerate, whine, shout, cheer, curse, joke, make shit up, and otherwise express the full range of human/sports fan words and emotions. In other words, we behave like people do in ordinary life. Sometimes on blogs people go too far, but of course free speech isn't limited to intelligent speech, and anyway that pretty much never happens at this site. Instead, the comments here feel like people hanging around a cafe, saying what's on their mind about the sport we all love, often whether anyone agrees with them or not.
This is the concept we were going for all along. I love the unedited interaction. I don't even mind when people point out the negativity -- people are just as free to chide each other as they are to opine in the first place. The only real danger in such a forum is that it's easy to forget we're mostly strangers in the traditional sense, and not everyone can see subtle humor or other messages in what we write. But that's not terribly different from real life either.
All I'm saying is, if people get concerned about the tone here, that's your prerogative, but remember that unbridled conversation, replete with normal human emotions and all the messiness that implies, is what blogs are about. Also, I'm not trying to claim credit for anything. I'm really, really just trying to clarify my concept of what a blog -- any blog -- should be. We have one rule (no personal attacks) and one sub-rule (avoid politics!), and that's all we need.
P.s. Rasmussen sucks!