Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Passive Aggressive Tour.

What a freakin' ride. Due to the generosity of a certain someone, I was able to watch the Tour this past week, and on Tivo, to top it off, meaning I didn't have to suffer through endless Enzyte commercials.

If you were to sit down and create a fictional Tour, with the perfect cast of characters, brutal stages, and intriguing side stories from the more minor players, I don' t think even the best writer could have come up with the plots and drama that unfolded this year. Really, the only thing that could have made it better would have been the presence of Ullrich, duking it out for second with Lance. Oh, wait. Lance got third.

First off, you have the Schleck brothers, who brilliantly played off of each other's moves and positively made the whole peloton scream MOTHER on the climbs.* The fact that they protected each other, worked for each other, and cooperated so brilliantly only added to the magnificent mountain stages. They were, perhaps, the only example in this year's Tour of individuals who were not engaging in The Passive Aggressiveness. Andy Schleck was also the only man in the race who even got close to making Contador wince. On Ventoux, it was almost heartening to see a brief flash of pain hit Contador's cheeks. It was a reminder that:

A. He is mortal.
B. If he's on the Dope, he's still capable of human moments.

So let's get back to The Passive Aggressiveness, because really, TPA, as we'll call it from here on out, was the real story in the '09 Tour.

It started way back in the fall, when Lance announced his comeback to the sport. Contador, understandably, was like, WTF? I'm the leader, bitches! And so it began. Contador blatantly ignored, I'm pretty sure, any attempted coaching by Bruyneel this year, since Bruyneel himself seemed pretty intent on getting Lance on the top podium spot for the eighth time. I have nothing against Bruyneel--I think he's a brilliant directeur sportif, but he clearly has his favorites.

Contador showed his TPA streak early on. In his attempt to put some time on Lance, he attacked on Andorra Arcalis and succeeded by gaining 2 seconds on Armstrong. He repeated such moves, basically any time the grade reached above 6%, for the rest of the Tour.

Contador is still young, and to be as strong as he is--really, the strongest, makes it difficult for him to submit to coaching. He has a bit of The Cannnibal's streak--I'm referring, of course, to Eddy Mercx, who often didn't race tactically. He raced because he wanted to hurt everyone around him, repeatedly and without mercy. The sport has changed a lot since then; it's now all tactics, aided, of course, by the race radios and the precise control they offer the directeur sportifs. But back before all that, racing was first about strength, with tactics second.

I do agree that it was a total TPA move by Contador when he attacked on Le Grand-Bornand, pushing his own teammate, Kloden, out of possible podium potential. It wasn't a teammate move; it was a giant F-you move to Bruyneel, and basically the whole Astana team. They weren't supportive of Contador; he wasn't supportive of them.

And Lance, of course, perhaps the king of TPA in this year's Tour, took advantage of every on-camera moment to show classic, well-constructed TPA. Take notes, my friends. Next time you want to be passive aggressive, Lance is writing the book. In fact--I have an exclusive preview for you! It's only available on this blog. Let's learn from the master himself:

How to be Passive Aggressive
by Lance Armstrong

1. In interviews with the press, smirk and say..."I'm going to hold my tongue on that one..." any time a teammate, i.e., Contador, outclimbs you, and the press asks your opinon on his tactics.

Reason: This my friends, says so much more than just plain voicing your distaste for something. Don't express things clearly! That's communication. Body language and vagueness make a much better Passive Aggressor.

2. When your teammate, i.e., Contador, is receiving too much press because he is, well, fast, take that opportunity to announce you'll be building a new team next year! Again, divert, divert, divert. And if that new sponsor happens to be known mostly for their limited electronic selection, all the better!

3. Secretly rally all of the support staff on the team behind you. This is facilitated if you already have won the Tour seven times and have the directeur sportif in your back pocket. I like to call this The Godfather move. You're the puppeteer, so delicately balancing the strings on which the other players dance, my son. You know what also helps? When you and your entire staff speak English, and your arch nemesis teammate, does not. It makes it entirely too convenient to shun that person at the dinner table and exclude him from conversation.

4. Take advantage of technology! I'm clearly a technological guy, now that I have RadioShack sponsoring me, and just to prove it, I'm now Twittering my passive aggressiveness! This is a great tool, dear students. Twitter is a perfect medium to shoot off little jabs, such as, "Hey pistolero, there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’. What did I say in March? Lots to learn. Restated.” **

5. When your team decides to have a celebratory dinner for your winning teammate, if you're not the one who won, don't attend! No, this is a perfect opportunity to draw even more attention to the fact that you're starting a new team, and that the little Spanish twit won't be sharing the same jersey with you.

That's all I can share with you for now, Internet ... like I said, exclusive preview. But don't you feel more passive aggressive already? I do.

Oh, there were so many more examples in this year's Tour. I haven't even touched Cadel yet! He's awesome at TPA. And then there's the whole story with the sprinters--Cav and Thor--but actually, they at least openly trashed each other, so that was refreshing. They un-subtly hated each other during the race, but seemed to be quite chummy after. True sportsmen.

Most of all, I'm sad the drama is over. Well, not over--things will get interesting when Lance announces who will be joining his team, when Contador decides where he's going, etc. I am going to miss the actual bike racing part. The drama lives on. The drama is just getting started...

* Just as a side note, it's worth mentioning that I don't think either of the Schleck brothers will be pursuing arm wrestling after their cycling days are exhausted.
** That is an actual Twitter quote, my friends. I felt embarrassed just typing that immature rubbish.

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