I’ve been disappointed with this year’s Tour de France. At the end of the race, there will be a winner, but, so far, there’s no champion. A true champion wins with confidence and courage. There have been no epic, merciless attacks. Instead, each contender appears to be overly conservative, afraid to lose time rather than anxious to gain time.
It’s true that Lance Armstrong’s Postal and Discovery squads perfected the tactic of gradually increasing the pace in the mountains until a small, elite group remained on the final climb. Several teams appear to be employing this strategy, but they have forgotten that once Armstrong had the lead group small enough, he attacked.
Jan Ullrich, seemingly a perpetual second to Armstrong, still tried to attack his foe. He was not going to lose the race without a fight. Others, like Pantani, Virenque, and Vinokourov, appeared fearless and attacked against all odds. Often, after an attack failed, they would attack again. Then again. Then again.
The current Yellow Jersey, Floyd Landis, does not attack. When he somehow finds himself ahead of the other contenders, he nervously looks over his shoulder as if inviting them along. Boring. To be a true champion, just once Landis will have to look over his shoulder, sneer, and put the hammer down. If his attack fails, attack again. If in the end someone else was faster, then at least he gave his all.
A true champion of the Tour earns it. He throws down the gauntlet, gives his best, and lets the chips fall where they may. Playing a statistical chess match might earn the victory, but it does not make a champion.