THERAPEUTIC RIDE. It seemed like the riding today started like the sidebar--not the main thing, but the thing you just needed to do. As the peloton got underway and rode awhile, Stage 17 seemed more like something therapeutic the cyclists needed to do to clear their heads and search their hearts, something the support staff, directors, sponsors, broadcasters, the press, and fans needed just to have happen without incident or revelation.
CYCLING IS PARTLY SPIRITUAL. This is one reason I ride--to process things, to get perspective, to bring things that are troubling me into focus, to bring the things that seem to loom large down to size. My cycling jaunts around and outside of Indianapolis are not merely recreational, they are spiritual. There's more than a bit of simple and sophisticated contemplation on life that goes on while I pedal through the streets and countryside. Cyclists don't just ride for recreation or competition; they ride as a way of expressing and processing life. So, I think today's Stage represented that processing a bit more than usual. Not an ordinary day at the office.
MENCHOV'S DECISION. Denis Menchov must have come to some conclusions during his ride today. The Rabobank rider from Russia entered this Tour de France as his team's leader; he could have contended for the Yellow Jersey. But he was relegated to ride for Michael Rasmussen after Stage 8. Since then he's been working hard as a domestique. And for what? So, while Menchov started today's stage, about half way through he stepped off his bike, gave up his numbers, and got into his team car. For him, it must seem like there is nothing left to ride for this year. Such is the impact of cheating. He'll need time, but he'll be back.
BREAKAWAY STAYED AWAY. A breakaway got away and stayed away today. The peloton didn't seem to have the heart or motivation to chase it down. The four riders grabbed some glory for themselves and their sponsors and the top sprinters still had some points to chase for as the peloton pulled into the destination town. Italian Daniele Bennati won the stage (in Lampre pink in the photo). A similar scenario could occur tomorrow. Contenders are saving themselves for the individual time trial, the sprinters are grabbing points as they can, and the pack is pedaling in a bit of a fog that we can only hope will lift before they pour onto the Champs-Elysees on Sunday.
END OR NEW BEGINNING? It's hard to fathom how the past 48 hours has changed this Tour de France, or professional cycling. Some are saying it is the death of the sport. Others are saying it is the birth pangs of its renewal--a difficult renewal that bears new commitments and accountability for clean riding. I was glad to see so many folks from France and all over the world along the roadways today. They seemed quite positively animated, in good humor even (as in this photo) in a different mood than the booing we saw and heard yesterday. Who knows, this may well be the beginning of a new era.