Forget CadelMageddon. This year we could see a Tour de France outcome that would make a Cadel Evans victory seem as mundane as another sale on Bike Nashbar by comparison.
When Thomas Voeckler took the maillot jaune on Stage 9, it seemed inevitable that he would eventually crack on the slopes of the Pyrenees and that the roads would run yellow with the yolk of his punctured defiance. Now, though, it looks like we may need to re-set our egg timers. Sure, we all knew Voeckler was the embodiment of tenacity, but he has proven himself to be even more hard-boiled than we originally thought.
Certainly Voeckler will hold his jersey through tomorrow’s flat stage. Then on Monday he has the day off, and despite all the various changes to the points competition this year, as far as I know it’s still not possible to lose time on the rest day unless you’ve been eating the “naughty steak.” This means that, come Tuesday, Voeckler could enter the Alps with close to two minutes over second-placed rider, Frank Schleck.
So can he do it? Can Voeckler keep his “yolk of defiance” intact until the race reaches Paris?
Sure, he’s got some formidable adversaries, but so far none of them has displayed anything resembling dominance, and at least one of them—Alberto Contador—is clearly not getting full bars on his “smartphone of courage.” As for the rest of the GC riders, today’s final ascent of the Plateau de Beille was packed with drama, but much of it lay in Voeckler’s solid jersey defense. Otherwise, the final kilometres resembled the fights I recall from middle school: lots of shoving, but nobody really willing to throw a punch.
It could be that the riders are holding some energy in reserve for the final week, and there are certainly plenty of opportunities left for Voeckler to crack.
Nevertheless, it’s impossible not to at least consider the implications of Voeckler giving France its first Tour de France overall win since 1985. That’s a seriously long time ago. In 1985, clipless pedals were cutting-edge technology. In 1985, today’s stage winner, Jelle Vanendert, was not even a year old. In 1985, the big movie was “Back to the Future,” and people still listened to Huey Lewis and the News.
Of course, for the riders on Katusha and Astana, all of these things are still true today (just look at Vladimir Karpets’s haircut), but for the rest of us it’s a bygone era.
So while he’s still far from being the favourite, Voeckler is now officially among the contenders. And should he win, the streets of Paris will be filled with people dancing to the sounds of Huey Lewis.
Vladimir Karpets should feel right at home.