Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Festival Of Cycling Comes To An End

After 21 days of racing, the anthem of The Tour De France echoes for the last time in the famous cobbled streets of The Champs-Élysées. This year’s winner of the Tour, Carlos Sastre, another Spaniard after last year’s winner Alberto Contador, was in the saddle for 87 hours 52 minutes and 52 seconds.

This year’s Tour was again brutal and hard but the spirit of the riders was unwavering. If the Alpe-d'Huez was the Mecca for the climbers, then the Champs-Élysées is the Mecca for the sprinters. It was really special to see the former lead out man for Tom Boonen, Gert Steegmans, a sprinter winning the final stage.

As usual, like every other year, this year too the shadow of doping hung over the race, as three riders were kicked out. Race director Christian Prudhomme, made the usual noises proclaiming that this year’s Tour was a victory over doping cheats. But really, somehow I get that sinking feeling that the Tour will never free itself from the clutches of doping scandals.

One of the highlights of the Tour was the dominating victories of one man by the name of Mark Cavendish, winning 4 stages. It was a purist’s delight watching this sprinter rack up those victories. Though he retired early after those victories in order to concentrate on his Olympic preparations, he is a rider to watch out for in the coming years.

95 Tours and still running, the pinnacle of cycling, for some it’s the holy grail; but for me it will always remain a festival of sport. With hope and eagerness, I await the next year’s edition.

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