The Tour de France is THE bicycle race. Sure, there are older well established races (The Catford Cycling Club Hill Climb, 1887) in the world. There are longer races like the Race Across America (about 3000 miles). There is no other race in the world that comes close to Le Tour.
This year Lance Armstrong took third place in Le Tour. Team Astana, the team both Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador rode for, dominated the race from start to finish with the only dark spot in the team being the withdrawal of Levi Leipheimer after he broke his arm.
This is Lance Armstrong's first loss in Le Tour since his first win in 1999. Lance Armstrong is 37 years old and had he won he would have been the oldest man to ever win the tour. Older men do not win Le Tour because it is an incredible test of endurance, skill and strength. Of those three attributes older men can only lay claim to skill. Youthful riders claim the attributes of endurance and the strength and this years win by Alberto Contador proves this well known maxim once again.
For a 37 year old man to finish third in Le Tour is nothing to be ashamed of. Lance Armstrong was a long shot from the start. Had he won the same inconsistencies in the handling and evaluation of Floyd Landis's urine samples would have plagued Lance Armstrong. It has become obvious that the strained political relationship between France and the United States has taken it's toll on Le Tour officials to the detriment of Le Tour.
Floyd Landis is accused of having slightly elevated testosterone levels after completing stage 17 in the 2006 Le Tour. There are well documented inconsistencies in the handling and evaluation of Floyd Landis's urine samples. The supposed reason that Floyd Landis was stripped of his title is that Le Tour officials did not believe a man who suffered such a debilitating injury could finish Le Tour without drugs.
Amazingly Le Tour has 21 stages and supposedly Floyd Landis completed them with a debilitating injury and the only day he took drugs was the day right after the injury. Imagine completing four difficult rides in excess of 100 miles without drugs, stage 18, 19, 20 and 21 with a debilitating injury.
Obviously he had to cheat, right?
If Lance Armstrong had won Le Tour the same logic would have applied to him and the same well documented inconsistencies in the handling and evaluation would have suddenly occurred.
Le Tour is the greatest bicycle race in the world and as such it has become a political football where riders are attacked because of the political beliefs of Le Tour officials.
It sucks, but, such is life. Le Tour will still be the greatest bicycle race and Lance Armstrong the greatest bicycle racer of all time.
Not because Lance Armstrong is the fastest, or the strongest, but because Lance Armstrong is the most skilled.
Watch Team Radio Shack next year and I bet Lance Armstrong goes for the win to become the oldest bicycle racer ever to take Le Tour.