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Editor’s note: Dan Wuori is one of the funniest Twitter bards in the cycling world (follow him at @dwuori). This month, he will be expanding a bit beyond 140 characters to share periodic journals during the Tour de France. Today’s is the first.
July is here and that means only one thing to American sports fans: six more weeks until college football. Men who shave their legs, however, will spend the month obsessing over a faraway bike race – pouring over wattage data, boring their spouses with terms like “torsional stiffness,” and memorizing the names of pharmaceuticals best-known within 4H scholarship circles. Yes friends, it’s Tour de France time.
In response to a lawsuit I recently filed against VeloNews.com – challenging their discriminatory practice of requiring expert commentary to be informed by “some discernible knowledge of the sport” – I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be sharing my thoughts in the form of this short blog throughout the month of July. Think of it as their way of saying — to you, the fans — “Fine, will it make him go away?”
I hope you’ll come to find these daily Tour musings as indispensable as Al Trautwig’s … wait, what OK … well, MORE indispensable than his, then. Never mind. Let’s just get on with stage 1.
The 2011 Tour gets underway Saturday, with an unusual first stage crossing the Passage du Gois, a cobbled road submerged under ocean water twice daily. While this may seem an odd choice for a “grande depart” (so named in honor of the thousand dollars I will drop adding the NBC Tour App to each of my mobile devices) it is actually the master stroke of Tour director Christian Prudhomme — who clearly intends to put controversy to rest from the outset by having Alberto Contador eaten by sharks.
Those surviving the neutralized start will find a largely flat first stage culminating with a series of short climbs and a sharp, uphill sprint better suited to the likes of Garmin-Cervelo’s Thor Hushovd and Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Phillipe Gilbert than the pure sprinters. The day won’t be lacking in speed, however, as changes to the green jersey points classification will increase the riders’ focus on intermediate sprints.
Once valued at a $10 Chili’s gift card, each intermediate sprint will now hold half the points value of a stage win. Look for twice the crashes and the possibility that at least one major sprinter won’t make it to gruppetto duty during Week Two.
Dan’s pick for stage 1: Sharks.