Despite the fact that I can barely sleep at night due to the fact that I have so many writing deadlines coming up, there is still this daily one hour of serenity in my life, induced by the fact that my conscience apparently permits me to watch the last hour of the day’s Tour stage. Sadly, this year’s Tour is somewhat overshadowed by the whole doping discussion and the fact that they did not even have the decency to reveal that the winner used illegal substances to win the race until a few weeks AFTER the end of the Tour (at least leave us the chance for the construction of an illusion!). This year the more than likely winner (Rasmussen) is already facing more than slight suspicions regarding his ability to sprint up mountains like no one else, never tire and even excel in time trial racing, which his 50 kilogram body is definitely not built for. So, my afternoon hour of watching the Tour mainly consists of two things these days: watching all the previous favorites for the Tour victory disintegrate one by one and enjoying the audience. In fact, I believe that the two stages leading the field through the Pyrenees are the last chance to avoid a Rasmussen victory. No, not really because any of the other riders might be able to challenge him. Rather, I believe that the Basque fans (whom I love most among the crazy folk crowding the mountaintops during each Tour) may yet have it in them to punch him off the bike. It is not really the case that I am hoping for this. It is just that I think that this is the only thing that can still prevent a victory by Rasmussen, last of the chemical brothers.
But let’s depart from such morbid thoughts for a moment and instead let’s enjoy some of the interesting, colorful characters that flock toward the mountain stages of the Tour. This video shows a supported of Astana, the team from Khazakhstan built around their former captain Vinokourov (who is pretty much out of the race, which means that thay could finally commit themselves to pushing German rider Andreas Kloeden toward a potential podium finish!). You might recognize him.