Monday, July 16, 2007

Hecatomb for Aussie cyclists

Yesterday was a particularly nasty day for three Australian cyclists in the eighth stage of the Tour de France, between Le Grand-Bornand and Tignes.

Stuart O'Grady, winner of this year's strenuous Paris-Roubaix classic, suffered terrible injuries—five broken ribs and fractures to three vertebrae and a shoulder blade—when he crashed on the descent of Cormet de Roselend, between Beaufort and Bourg-Saint-Maurice.

Michael Rogers was racing downhill splendidly when he crashed. At that instant, he was what the commentators call the virtual yellow-jersey holder, which means that his theoretical lead, timewise, put him in front of all the other riders, including the real yellow-jersey holder. Then, in a split second, Rogers was hurtled, as it were, from heaven to hell. There was a tragic TV sequence that showed Rogers lying on the road while a fellow-rider crawled back up out of the dense greenery on the slopes of the curve where he and the Australian had crashed. Later, viewers witnessed a sad event: Rogers weeping profusely as he stopped on the roadside, his right shoulder and arm in pain, and let himself be guided into the automobile of his team manager. [For a moment, I was tempted to take a photo of this event, as seen on TV, to include it in my blog. But there's no point in retaining such negative images.]

— As for the sprinter Robbie McEwan, who fascinated spectators by appearing out of the blue to win an earlier stage, he simply couldn't make it to the finishing line in the maximum allowed duration for the stage, so he was formally eliminated.

Meanwhile, the Danish rider Rasmussen won the stage and picked up both the yellow and red-dotted jerseys.

Talking of Australian cyclists, I'm always amused by the way in which French commentators speak of Cadel Evans, who is now well-placed as a forthcoming yellow-jersey candidate. His unusual first name [he's the only Cadel I've ever heard of] has the merit of being perfectly pronounceable by the French, with no risk of error, but things are not nearly so easy in the case of his surname. The French know how to pronounce the English words "even" and "heaven". Well, they figure that the Evans surname looks more like "even" than "heaven". So, they call him Cadel Ee-vahnz. Personally, I find this pronunciation as quaint as his first name.

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