Devon O’Neil: Why this year’s Tour deserved more
July 28, 2008
With few exceptions, the news that Carlos Sastre had won the Tour de France on Sunday made as much of an impact on the sports world as Jose Canseco’s second book.
SportsCenter ” ESPN’s flagship measuring stick of mainstream relevance ” showed only a brief, obligatory clip of Sastre (with an I-don’t-give-a-hoot narration) some three quarters into Sunday night’s show, along with a graphic that listed the podium finishers.
The spot aired right after the Orioles-Angels highlight, in which last-place Baltimore won its first Sunday game since April 6, prompting its manager to toke a cigar in the postgame press conference. Wahoo!
The Associated Press writer spent much of his story on the ceremonial 21st stage discussing a mid-pack Kazakh rider’s positive doping test, relegating Sastre’s victory to second-tier news of the day.
This was not only irresponsible. It was egregious.
If you missed it, either on purpose or because you just didn’t have time, the 2008 Tour was one of the best sporting events I’ve followed in years, even from afar.
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Seven different riders wore the leader’s yellow jersey during the three-week race ” which, for those who insist on portraying it as a “doping-scarred” event, was the first Tour in many years not to have a major contender linked to cheating.
The result remained in doubt until the final meaningful stage, Saturday’s individual time trial, when it became a two-man race: Sastre, the 33-year-old do-good father who had spent his 11-year pro career racking up almosts and coulda-shouldas, against Cadel Evans, the 31-year-old runner-up from 2007 who was easy to root for because he took on not only Sastre, but all of CSC over the course of three weeks, like a dominant, lone-ranger pitcher on a pitiful team, trying to beat the New York Yankees all by himself.
Sastre entered Saturday’s time trial with more than a minute and a half lead on Evans, thanks to a historic display of pain threshold on the famed Alpe d’Huez climb last Wednesday. And when he bucked the numbers, somehow willing himself to hold off the scintillating Aussie time trialist, it proved more an upset than anything else.
It is a shame the mainstream media outlets lumped this year’s Tour with all the deceit-riddled ones of recent years simply because the correlation would resonate with ignorant readers and viewers. If any of those other sports tested their athletes half as stringently as cycling does, you can bet we’d see their credibility drop, and probably much faster than cycling’s did.
Most of cycling’s true fans have been betrayed tenfold over the past decade, to the point where the sport is lucky to have retained them. But this year’s race was their reward for staying, for continuing to believe in the potential for superlative competition.
Over a three-week race, the best rider will win. A former pro who once rac
ed against Cadel Evans told me that before Saturday’s time trial, as he stopped in to the grocery store for some coffee before the action.
His eyes were wide. He was in a hurry. He didn’t want to miss a moment. Not after all the sport had endured to get there. …
Holy Rockies. Nine wins in 10 games has Colorado officially back in the hunt for Rocktober Part Deux. Looks like they’re going to keep Holliday after all. And Fuentes. The fans will surely appreciate an extra two months of hope. …
Happen to catch the WNBA brawl last week? Talk about theater. It was only too perfect that it happened in Detroit, site of the infamous Pacers-Pistons free-for-all, and involved a pair of ex-Bad Boys, one of whom, Rick Mahorn, accidentally threw the league’s posterwoman, L.A. center Lisa Leslie, to the hardwood.
As sad as it is, the 20-second melee probably did more to boost that league’s profile on a national level than any display of brilliant play ever could. …
In parting, when Goose Gossage became the first Colorado native to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame last weekend, the game won. We’re talking about a guy who played for nine big-league teams in his career, who needed nine chances to get voted in, and most notably, who became the fifth reliever to be enshrined.
Someday, statistics will play a much larger role when evaluating a reliever’s candidacy. But in the Goose’s case, fittingly, the deciding factor seemed none other than Hall of Fame intimidation.
Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at email@example.com.