It is difficult to comment on the Tour de France because of the cognitive tension: we would like to be able to believe in the concept, but we have seen too much of the real.
There are statistical indications of improvement:
the fastest riders on three of the last climbs in the Tour, including the famed Alpe d’Huez, were still three minutes slower — a lifetime in cycling — than many of the fastest riders on the same climbs during the 1990s and 2000s.
The following gems seem to be legitimate:
- The best athlete and the best strategy, won in the last days.
- Chapeau, the Schleck Brothers (aka Frandy Schleck)
- Chapeau, Thomas Voeckler - for staying there
- Chapeau, Yohann Gene - for getting there
- Chapeau, Johnny Hoogerland - for getting back on the bike.
- Chapeau, Laurens ten Dam - for being a hard man
Lest we be too upbeat, we suspect that Alberto Contador took a dive in the 2011 Tour. He simultaneously kept the cameras on his sponsor's logo and made himself a much more sympathetic character when his 2010 doping hearing begins in August. Paradoxically his status is better after losing the Tour de France; I think Occam's Razor applies.
If you prefer legitimate heroes and clean competition, Pittsburgh is hosting the National Veteran's Wheelchair Games August 1-6, 2011.