no surprise for you to read that we are loving the tour de france in our household glued to the tv for the hour highlights each week night and catching the live stages over the weekend on ITV2 (good old freeview!). today's was a huge stage over 200km through the pyrenees with 6 mountain climbs ending on a huge climb to the finish. it is an astonishing event - i seriously think it is the single most impressive and difficult sporting event.
anyway if you don't follow it, lance armstrong has won the tour 6 times and is going for an unbelievable 7th win after which he will retire. yesterday and today were crucial days if his rivals were to seriously threaten his chances. but they simply couldn't shake him off however hard they tried so he looks set to win a record 7th tour next weekend. but today's stage was a wonderful surprise - there was a breakaway group of several riders, which included lance's team mate george hincapie. now he had not gone with the group to win the stage, but simply to be there for lance when the following group caught up to help him up the last climb. but as the stage progressed it became clear that the breakaway group were not going to be caught. so hincapie and pereiro were left to battle it out on the final climb and i was absolutely delighted when hincapie won. he couldn't believe it. (lance was fine as he kept ahead or up with is main rivals).
what you may not realise if you don't follow the tour is that there are several teams and each team has a lead rider. the other riders in the team all ride (or should) to protect and lead out their rider. george hincapie has riden the tour for 10 years and been part of lance armstrong's team for every one of lance's victories. what it means is that though he is a brilliant rider he will work for lance and the team rather than himself so he had never ever won a stage of the tour or really been in a position to before today. it only dawned on him in the later stages of the race that lance and co were not going to catch them late in the race and he then got the go ahead to win it for the team. this was the most difficult stage of the tour so we loved it when george who has riden and served the team and lance so faithfully for 10 years got the stage. brilliant!