Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tour talk

French journalists have had fun with the surname of the Schleck brothers, Fränk and Andy, from Luxembourg, who were the most prominent opponents of Lance Armstrong. We got treated to puns about blank Schlecks, bad Schlecks, rubber Schlecks, Schleck-mate, etc.

This afternoon, on the moonscape slopes of the terrifying Bald Mountain in Provence, it was touching to see young Andy doing his utmost to get his brother Fränk in front of Armstrong. The brothers ride together in synergy; as if they were identical twins. But Lance was too smart to be trapped.

There was a rumor, this morning, that Armstrong might have made a proposal to the Schleck brothers to join his forthcoming US team, sponsored by Radio Shack. If this were to eventuate, let me be the first observer to coin a nickname for the new team: Radio Schleck.

There was an intriguing moment just before the riders started today's climb. French TV journalists noticed that Armstrong, while pedaling hard, was conversing briefly with one of the Schleck brothers. First journalist: "What on earth could Armstrong be talking about with a Schleck brother?" Second journalist: "He's probably supplying them with last-minute financial details of a contract with Radio Shack."

At the end of the stage, Armstrong was most pleased with the way that things had turned out on the Ventoux. He was stunned by the record-breaking crowds of spectators, including a large proportion of Americans. At times, the density of onlookers was such that the effects of the notorious Ventoux winds appeared to be attenuated by the human walls. I noticed, too, judging by the flags, that crowds of Australians are following the Tour, which has become a truly international sporting event.

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