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Post Tour de France, and British Open
Created by John Eipper on 07/21/21 3:45 AM

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Tour de France, and British Open (David Duggan, USA, 07/21/21 3:45 am)

Haiti is unraveling, Europe's flooding and Covid's resurging, but the sports world continues with two world championships decided over the weekend, one that even amounts to something.

Slovenian Tadej Pogacar won his 2nd Tour de France, by a stunning five minutes over Belgian Jonas Vingegaard and seven minutes over Ecuadoran Richard Carapaz. At 22 Pogacar of the United Arab Emirates team is the youngest multiple TdF winner. In addition to the maillot jaune, he achieved cycling's triple-crown, winning the "king of the mountains" polka-dot jersey, and the "best young rider" (under 26) white jersey, all three of which he won in 2020. Hard to understand how a rider who has already won the TdF could still qualify as "best young rider." But they didn't ask me. The advantages of youth are apparent as Tadej won April's Liege-Bastogne-Liege "monument" race, a 250 km Sunday in hell through the Ardennes forest, along with the five-day Tour of Slovenia.

The real stories of this year's race were the resurgence of sprinter Mark Cavendish and the prevalence of disc brakes on the road bikes. Cavendish, sometimes dubbed the fastest man on 2 wheels, won four of the TdF stages, tying him with cycling legend Eddie Merckx (the "cannibal") at 34 over his career. On the cobbles of Sunday's final stage along the Champs Elysees, Cavendish narrowly lost the stage, banging his hands on his bars as he crossed the line behind Belgians Wout van Aert and Jasper Philipsen. Cavendish's Deceuninck team couldn't get him in the leadout that he needed, and he was boxed in, unable to accelerate around the others. Accelerating on cobbles already going 60+ kph? Don't try that at home. Still Cavendish won the green jersey as the best sprinter, in part based on points he racked up in intermediate sprints during the flatter stages. Not bad for 36 years old, but he'll have to wait ‘til next year to beat Merckx' record.

I was surprised at the number of disc brakes that I saw on these TdF carbon-fiber steeds. A disc brake adds weight to these cycles which have a minimum weight of 6.8 kg (approx. 15 lbs), but with the carbon-fiber technology, they've managed to produce disc-brake sporting bikes in the 7 kg range. I still occasionally ride my 24-year old 1st-gen Trek OCLV frame (19 lbs.), the one that Lance rode to his first 3 TdFs in the late 1990s. Disc brakes have to be bolted to the forks, and the minute distance between rotor and pad can lead to rubbing and heat-induced warping of the rotor, leading to what amounts to brake failure, not exactly what you want to have in the mountains. Legal since the 2018 TdF, disc brakes were thought to be unsuited for high-end road bikes ($6-12,000) because the cyclist couldn't "feather" the brakes on the descent (i.e., pull the levers just enough to give partial braking): the hydraulic piston interface meant that the rider didn't have the manual feel for what was happening to the wheel. But the riders have learned to adapt: they can brake later in a turn, and then release earlier, gaining seconds. On the hills along M-22 near Arcadia, I had my bike up to 40 mph and thought I was at the limit of the bike. I haven't approached that speed in years. These guys are doing 60 mph. No thanks.

The other "world" championship was golf's British Open, won by Yank Collin Morikawa on Royal St. George's course, Sandwich England. The "sceptered isle" is the home of golf and when the chief executive of the R & A (that's Royal and Ancient, the name for Britain's golf governing society) hands the "claret jug" to the winner, he announces that "the champion golfer of the year is ..." Last seen winning the 2020 PGA tournament in his first try, Morikawa won the British Open with a 15-under 265, not carding a bogey on the links-style course over the last 31 holes. That's nearly two rounds. Third round leader Louis Oosthuizen faded in the stretch and settled for 3rd behind Jordan Spieth. With two majors before he turns 25, Morikawa is 3 behind Tiger's pace and 1 behind Jack's at comparable ages. Let's hope he stays out of those hydrant-seeking Escalades.

JE comments:  David, you're recapped two very WAISly sporting events, as both golf and cycling are truly international.  Along these same lines, we're just a couple days away from the opening of the Tokyo Olympics.  Any thoughts on these historic, pandemic-delayed games?

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