Yes, I am suffering (like all pro cycling lovers out there) - and so blog posts have dried up this week. But I am back today to review the first week of the tour, and give my view on the winners to this point.
Cadel (right) puttimg the hurt on Alberto Contador
1. Cadel Evans
I have to start with "our Cadel". The leader of all the "overall contenders", and in 2nd place (by only 1 second) in the entire field. He is riding with confidence and panache, and already has a stage win to his credit. This year's Tour has already been a success for Cadel - let's hope it continues in the same vein.
Tyler Farrar, paying tribute to his friend, the late Weyter Woulandt
2. Tyler Farrar
Came into this Tour as one of two sprinters in his team (Garmin-Cervelo), and considered not in the same class as Mark Cavendish. However, he has turned that idea on its head, and is now a clear co-favourite with Cavendish ("The Manx Missile") on the flat-land stages for the pure sprinters.
3. Andreas Kloeden
His team, Radioshack, will be feeling like losers right now. But Kloeden is the inadvertent 'winner' out of Radioshack's disastrous Tour so far. Radioshack entered the Tour with four (not one or two, but FOUR) overall title contenders - Kloeden, Levi Leipheimer, Jani Brajkovic, and Chris Horner. So far, all except Kloeden have suffered massive bad luck. Leipheimer has been caught out in time gaps caused by crashes. Brajkovic DNF'ed a stage due to injury. And last night, Horner suffered a severe concussion and head injury in a crash (and is an unsure starter for the rest of the Tour). As a result, Kloeden finds himself the undisputed leader of the team - albeit with much less support in the mountains than he might otherwise have had...
Philippe Gilbert, pulling on the yellow leader's jersey.
4. Philippe Gilbert
He has continued on his crushing one-day Classic form, taking a stage win and a 2nd place. Also has worn both the Yellow and Green jerseys. He could quit the Tour tomorrow with a huge sense of achievement already. Only downside is the possible fracturing of his team, Omega Pharma-Lotto. Gilbert has taken wins ahead of the team's designated sprint leader Andre Greipel (who has expressed his dissatisfaction). And during one stage, chased down his team-mate Jurgen Van den Broek who had attacked less than 1km from the finish line... Apparently, and not surprisingly, the OP-L team bus has been a little tense...
That'll do for now. It has been an outstanding Tour so far in terms of excitement, drama, and results. Hopefully that will continue, starting with tonight's first mountain-top finish (although not a 'high' mountain) at Super Besse in the central Massife Centrale region of France.
As for me - I am off to watch the rugby tonight!! The Super 15 grand final between my beloved Queensland Reds and the Canterbury Crusaders is on at Suncorp Stadium. I'll be there with my Dad, dressed in red and cheering like a lunatic. Then I'll sneak quietly into the house, get cosy on the couch with my wool blanket, and watch tonight's stage of the Tour... Heaven!!