A friend recently commented that she was not sure who to root for in the Tour de France, in these post-Lance years. This was after Christophe Moreau had kind of dropped back, so even her Franco-philia would not provide the answer.
I had a look at the standings and came up with this list of options:
1. Big George H., although he is not set up to win, and I don't think Levi will either, although he may do OK.
2. Vinokourov and his scraped up knees, because Astana really did put the hurt down last night, and I think he could pull it together.
3. Poor Christophe Moreau, because he is French, but he seems to be out, too.
4. Rasmussen, if he does not waste away first, because there is nothing like a.... Oh never mind.
5. The Belgian Tom Boonen, because even after his wreck yesterday he kicked butt today, AND Belgium makes great beer.
6. Alberto Contador, because even though he is Spanish he rides for Discovery.
7. Andreas Kloeden, also Astana, who is supposed to be pulling Vino, but seems to be doing well in his own right.
8. Kim Kirchen because he is from Luxembourg, for God's sake.
9. Thor Hushovd because his first name is Thor.
10. A whole bunch of Spaniards.
But then this afternoon, as the PP and I sat down to watch today's time trial, I said to him, "I think from now on I am pulling for Alexandre Vinokourov." There were good reasons for that. First, I knew that he had been hurt in an early stage, and although I had not seen the big crash (I have since, since it provides such spectacular footage), I did watch a medic in the Astana team car replacing the bandages on both his knees the other night, and that was amazing. It turns out the man is riding with 60+ stitches in his body. As someone who recently had a few stitches in her shoulder, and who was mostly sitting around afterwards as a result, I can say, that is a shitload of stitches!
Second, his team is unbelievable. Did you see Astana put the hurt on the peloton during Thursday's stage? It was a flattish stage, and apparently there were serious crosswinds, which they took serious advantage of. I think at that moment, everyone in the peloton would have been happy never to see light blue again.
Third, he has the yellowist sunglasses in all of cycling.
Then there is this photo:
It comes from Vino's own website (taken by Tim de Waele) and it gives you some idea of all his bandages. But what I noticed right away, and what secured my choice to pull for him, was that little netting he is wearing on his right arm, to protect his elbow bandage. You see, during my little love affair with the PICC line, I had to keep the whole apparatus enclosed in this little mesh sheath, so that all the piping and so forth would not get stuck on stuff or get yanked out accidentally. In other words, I felt just a little connection to this Khazakh, even though I know that there is really no comparison between my fitness level and his. (Or my leg strength. Or my speed on a bike. Or, OK I'll stop there.)
So Vinokourov is now my man. His time trial today, through the streets around Albi, was pretty amazing, too, so I think that bodes well for my choice. (And did you notice that Astana had 3 of the top 4 riders?) Besides, watching someone have such a horrible crash, keep going, ride hard with his team once he is just the tiniest bit recovered, and then pull out such a performance today at Albi? Inspirational.
Go go Vino!