They put down their wrenches and gathered around the TV in the back of the bike shop. Most were pulling for Thor Hushovd. One rooted for Alessandro Petacchi. No one liked Mark Cavendish. “He’s too cocky,” one of the mechanics said. Another added, “My girlfriend loves him, but I don’t.” I ended up watching the end of the Tour in the bike shop because I had a morning appointment to get my bottom bracket sorted out.
In the final kilometers, the voices of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen sped up and became more impassioned. A Milram rider made an unorthodox move, swinging out of the peloton and soloing in the left lane. Paul remarked, “You put your head in the wind like that and it smack you in the face like a hammer.”
Everyone in the back of the shop seemed to gasp as Cavendish, with just a couple explosive pedal strokes, jumped out and took the sprint. Paul summed it up the best with one line: You can’t control that man when he feels a victory at the end of his fingertips.”
Posted: July 23rd, 2010 | Author: wafflesandsteel | Filed under: Paul Sherwen, Phil Ligget, Tour de France | No Comments »
Describing human misery. That’s what Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen do best. Sure, they’re also masters of describing and analyzing the drama, heroics and fast-changing plots of the final kilometers of a Tour de France stage. But they’re at their best talking about the pain.
Today’s coverage of Stage 17 on Versus featured a nice mini profile of Cadel Evans, a rider I’ve grown to admire. Footage was shown of Evans in severe difficulty, losing huge chunks of time in the yellow jersey as he raced with a fractured left elbow wrapped in physio tape on Stage 9. The clip includes a comment by Phil, who said, “He doesn’t have much power in the engine room. He really is suffering.”
The agony continued today on the Tourmalet, the last monster climb in this year’s Tour. Andy Schleck needed to drop Alberto Contador to gain time and win back the yellow jersey. But he was unable to do so with an explosive jump off the front, and trying to set a high tempo also didn’t work, as Phil noted. “Andy Schleck is dishing out as much pain as he can, but you can’t ride a man like Alberto Contador off your wheel,” he said.
“Schleck grits his teeth and all Contador has to do is follow,” Phil added.
At one point, Contador went on the attack with a powerful surge, which Schleck quickly matched. Phil said, “This is the killer blow by Alberto Contador, but you can’t kill Andy Schleck.”
It was a classy finish, with Contador apparently gifting the win to Schleck, who worked the hardest on the stage. “He gave him the victory and rightly so today,” Phil said.
As the other riders roll into the finish, Phil said, “They’ve dug so deep into their souls to get over the top.”
It wasn’t all about pain, though. There was a funny moment high up on the misty Tourmalet when three guys wearing Borat-style neon green sling shot thong swimsuits began running with the riders. The silly scene just begged for some type of comment, but Phil and Paul are often too buttoned-down and proper to remark on such things. They don’t do zaniness well. But Paul finally said, “I’m not so sure about the guys on the right side of the road.”
Posted: July 22nd, 2010 | Author: wafflesandsteel | Filed under: Paul Sherwen, Phil Ligget, Uncategorized | No Comments »
Lance Armstrong gets treated with great respect by our favorite English-language commentators, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, at the Tour de France. Today’s Stage 16 was a classic example.
After days of riding in the pack, Armstrong attacked today on a climb and was quickly joined by a few other riders. Paul noted, “This man still has a fine pair of legs when racing in the Pyrenees.” Then Phil added that Armstrong was expected to try to distinguish himself with a major attack or stage win in his last Tour. “We’re watching the death throes of one of the greatest riders in the Tour de France,” he said.
But Phil and Paul are professionals, not cheerleaders. When the younger riders in the breakaway accelerate and it appears that Armstrong is in difficulty and ready to be dropped, Paul said, “I think the man with the hammer smacked Armstrong in the face.”
Posted: July 20th, 2010 | Author: wafflesandsteel | Filed under: Paul Sherwen, Phil Ligget, Tour de France | 3 Comments »
Another great stage in the Tour de France today, and there was a bit of drama between our beloved commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. But as usual, the two professionals handled it masterfully as gentlemen, and their disagreement only enhanced the experience of watching the race.
It happened on the last climb when Andy Schleck dropped his chain just as he was making a major move against Alberto Contador. The Spaniard saw that the yellow jersey was in trouble and shot past him. Paul thought that Contador should have waited. He said, “This is where fair play has been thrown out the window.” Later, he added, “Contador’s move was a move of panic.” He suggested that Contador had to exploit Schleck’s mechanical because his confidence had been shattered by Schleck’s ability to match all of his attacks.
But Phil insisted, rather bluntly, that Paul was being “unfair.” He noted that Contador was riding with two others, Sanchez and Menchov, who were setting the pace.
As Schleck got his chain sorted out and started hammering up the road alone to catch Contador, Paul said, “This is courage at its absolute best. Andy Schleck hasn’t asked for anything from any rider here.”
As Schleck started descending, Phil added, “Look at his face now. He’s going to rip down this mountain!”
One of the two commented on the speed of Schleck’s descent as he dodged the photographers on motorcycles: “Look at the way he’s using that road! Excuse me Mr. Motorbike!”
Phil and Paul had plenty of nice things to say about the Stage 15 winner: Frenchman Thomas Voeckler. As he soloed it home after a long breakaway, Phil said, “This has been a remarkable escapade by the champion of France.” One of them noted how Voeckler just “danced his bike over the highest climb of the day.” Paul added, “He really does rise to the occasion, this young man.”
Posted: July 19th, 2010 | Author: wafflesandsteel | Filed under: Paul Sherwen, Phil Ligget, Tour de France | No Comments »
I used to believe Lance. I respected Greg LeMond but thought he turned churlish in recent years. I liked Bernard Hinault because I have a soft spot for crusty, pugnacious, anti-social, extremely talented people who don’t really give a damn what others think of them.
Now, my opinions of them are changing.
I’m not so sure about Lance anymore. I don’t want to get into a debate about the issue, but I have my doubts now, especially about the first couple of years of the comeback. Still, I won’t deny he’s an incredible athlete and symbol for the sport.
I’m a big LeMond fan again because I think he’s just an all-around likable, good guy. This article influenced my new appreciation of LeMond. It’s wonderfully written. The author shares my favorite observation of LeMond. In most of the photos I’ve seen of him winning a race, he’s crossing the line with this wonderful “Jeez, I can’t believe I won!” expression of wonderment on his face. The article also points out that the French public loved LeMond because he had a certain panache. He often found himself in some sort of crisis or trouble and managed to dig his way out of it. I wish the article explored why LeMond decided to speak out against Lance. He did it at a great cost. Perhaps LeMond knew something that he couldn’t publicly bring up because of libel issues.
One more thing about LeMond. If you haven’t yet, check out this clip of LeMond beating Fignon in the Worlds in 1989. Fignon attacks on a hellish climb and Phil Ligget says it appears that the Frenchman is going to win the race. Then, seemingly out of no where, LeMond pops up on the screen and catches Fignon. Ligget pronounces, “That is a fine piece of riding by the American.”
Now for the “Badger.” Lately, I’ve been watching the three-disc set of the “Red Zinger/Coors Classic.” It has been fascinating for me because I know a bit about Euro racing in the late 70s and 80s, but I’ve never paid much attention to the race scene in the U.S. during the time. Last night, I was watching the 1986 edition of the race, with Hinault riding in the last stage race of his career. He’s on LeMond’s team, of course, and they battling it out again. LeMond says something like he spent the Tour fighting with Hinault, and he was hoping to come to the U.S. to just race without all the extra drama.
There’s a classic scene in a mountain stage where Hinault is in a three-man breakaway with Davis Phinney and someone else I didn’t recognize. I don’t think the third guy was on Phinney’s team. Anyway, Hinault declines to pull and spends the entire time sucking wheel. In the final few meters, he rockets off Phinney’s wheel and wins the sprint. He crosses the line with a huge grin on his face, as if it’s the first victory in his career (It is his first win in the US). In the post-race interview, Phinney is obviously angry and agitated. As he wipes his face with a towel about 20 times in five seconds, Phinney says something like, “If you want to win a race like that, you can win like that.” When Hinault is asked why he didn’t help out in the breakaway, he says something like, “It would have been stupid to do that. I wanted to save my energy for the end.”
I’m not an expert on race ethics and honorable cycling behavior. But Hinault was already a legend, and his tactics seemed desperate, far beneath him. For me now, Hinault = Jerk.
Posted: October 31st, 2009 | Author: wafflesandsteel | Filed under: Bernard Hinault, Greg Lemond, Lance Armstrong, Laurent Fignon, Phil Ligget | No Comments »