This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France follower
The air pistol salute seen once again!!
With the race set to move into the Alps, the frenzy of the tour moves from France to Switzerland. The fans traveling across to the high mountains in campers is a sight to thrill any sport lover. The energy of the mass gathered on the sides of the road waiting for over 5-6 hours just to cheer on their favourite riders shows the popularity of this sport.
The publicity caravan adds to the frenzy by doling out gifts to all those lined along the race route and in all makes this one big festival. So much so that today TdF is considered the biggest annual sporting event in the world!! (Yes, Olympics & Football world cup are bigger – but they occur only once in four years!!)
Switzerland has been one of the last countries to join the European Economic Union & still has its own currency – the Swiss Franc. With leading watch brands being the biggest global players to come out of the country and its exports, the global recession has slowly taken its toll on the local population and the tourism industry too. Verbier with a population of 3,000 is hosting the TdF for the first time, but its slopes have played a decisive role in many a Tour of Suisse.
The 15th Stage of the Tour de France started off at Pontalier in France and finished at Verbier, in Switzerland – a distance of 207 kms, with some serious climbs – 4 climbs of Cat-3, 1 climb each of Cat-2 & Cat-1.
There was a breakaway today also and they kept at it for a long time. But with 20 kms to finish, the peleton which was catching up with the riders sent in new riders to the front and started reeling in the breakaways. At one stage Cancellara, now running the interface for the Schleck brothers set a real hard pace. Both him & Jens Voigts sacrificed themselves to set up Andy & Frank Schleck brothers. But the best was yet to come.
And after all the major climbs, when the ascent to Verbier started, only one rider, Team Lampre’s Spilak was ahead of the peleton. That was when Contador attacked and there was no one who could follow him up the climb!! He left behind the peleton & some of the biggest contenders with only Andy Schleck trying to reel in the Astana rider.
With such a show of power & acceleration, Contador just raced away to the finish & into the Yellow Jersey. With a lead of over a minute & quarter on any other riders, it looks like a one way race from hereon. At the finish line – Contador raised his hands & shot an imaginary air pistol, which is his favourite way of telling fans that he is ready to rule!!
Armstrong was very gracious in his message after the race and reiterated that his aim is to finish the tour at Paris on the 26th. He acknowledged that Contador was way too strong for him & the others in today’s stage. He also conveyed that he would be more than happy to help the Spanish rider ride to a win in this TdF.
Contador after the Yellow Jersey ceremony summed up “It wasn’t a long climb, but we started it really fast and in the end I managed to do what I wanted to make the difference. If I wanted to leave my rivals behind me in the standings, that was the only way I could do it.”
For the record in Stage 15 – the winner was Alberto Contador of the Team Astana. The individual standings at the top changes its look totally with the Yellow Jersey on Alberto Contador. Rinaldo Nocentini of the AG2R team from France who was in the lead slips to 6th place. George Hincapie who started the day in the second spot is now 13th. Lance Armstrong moves up to second spot – but 1’37” behind Contador. Bradly Wiggins of the Garmin Slipstream team moves into the 3rd position. The Green Jersey remains with Thor Hurshod of Norway & Andy Schleck moves into the White Jersey.
But the surprise of the tour so far is the British rider Bradly Wiggins of the Garmin Slipstream team, an indoor track champion with 2 gold medals in Beijing Olympics, as he is turning the race upside down with a very good possibility that he might on the podium at Paris to become the first person from UK to get the award after a long time.
The 16th stage of the tour after a day of rest is from Martigny in Switzerland to Bourg-St-Maurice in France a distance of 159 kms which will also see the race pass through Italy & has one of the toughest climbs of the race. Armstrong prophesied on day one of the tour – in the Alps is where this tour is going to be decided, but me thinks its already been decided!!!
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