Today was the day, Floyd rolled into Paris and claimed his rightful place as the Tour de France champion for 2006.
I've been reflecting on the tour, and Floyd's comeback, trying to capture a sense of a feeling for the past 3 weeks.
Amazing is the one word answer to that reflection.
To me, it is indeed amazing that Floyd could lead, crack, then attack and win back the Tour within 4 days time. Amazing that he could come back from his monumental cracking on Alpine stage 2 and drive so hard that nobody could stay with him in the very next stage.
I think the fact that Landis' chances of winning an attack on Stage 17 were so utterly impossible was part of why his audacious move worked. Once ideas were planted in the heads of other riders, like "nobody can overcome 8 minutes" or "he can't stay away long enough before he's caught" the chance of Floyd doing just those things could work.
The impossible seems to have worked in two ways from my perspective: first, the peleton was lulled into believing that Floyd's attack was full of folly, doomed and impossible. But secondly, these thoughts by his peers likely gave Floyd the drive to prove them wrong and that he could do the impossible. A dangerous combo, once you see Floyd's history of pulling off the impossible. Today, I also found myself utterly pleased for Floyd.
This year's Tour was indeed wild, unpredictable and emotionally challenging, but I've come to see how wonderful this is. After 7 years of Lance predictability, a Tour where anything can and seemed to happen, has made cycling exciting again.
Along with this, I will miss the daily flow of events from Europe: Phil and Paul on OLN, stats from the Daily Peleton and daily fixes of Martin Dugard's excellent road trip Tour blog. I do hope some of these wonderful resources will return in 2007.
Fellow Tour fans, thanks for the comments and emails. I hope you enjoyed this wild Tour as much as I have and are pleased at Floyd's improbable win. I'm so very happy for him and wish him the best as he heads toward hip surgery and recovery for 2007.
Until 2007, au revoir, Tour de France!
Updates: After some contemplation shortly after the original posting, I felt my comparison between Landis and Armstrong seemed a unfair to Lance. I still admire both Floyd Landis and Lance Amrstrong — what I realize is that knowing neither man personally I've decieded to step back a bit — each man is different while in some ways the same.
Also: shortly after winning the Tour this year, Floyd Landis has been accused of having an abnormally high testosterone level. At this point we're awaiting results of a B sample from Floyd, and there are some questions about the change in ratios from 6:1 to 4:1, connections between the Tour organization and L'Equipe and other confusing details. So now we wait for the results and Landis' defense.
"Dick Pound's recent defamatory and absurd public comments - in the midst of a process where the highest ethical standards should support a fair and just outcome - highlight the dramatic and systematic problems with global anti-doping enforcement and adjudication,"
"Absolute testosterone levels are not even part of the allegations. The LNDD (Laboratoire National Depistage de Dopage - the French lab that tested Landis's sample) tested a clearly contaminated sample of my urine, against WADA rules, and even then my testosterone levels fell into the normal to low range."