So on Saturday nice George Hincapie—everybody loves George, one of the genuine good guys in professional cycling—is the maillot jaune virtuel (that is, he’s leading the whole race, timewise, but the stage isn’t over yet, so he could still fall short), but then Garmin (an American team) turns on the jets and pulls the peloton faster toward the finish line, in the process getting the current maillot jaune wearer, Rinaldo Nocentini, who rides for a different team altogether (Ag2r), closer and closer to the line and enabling him to make up time on nice George and dropping nice George back into second place rather than first. Too bad, as nice George is nearing the end of a fine career and it would have been so nice for nice George to get to wear yellow.
Well, it turns out that bad feelings have been simmering for months between Garmin and Hincapie’s team, Columbia (the other American team in Le Tour—no, Astana, the team Lance Armstrong rides for, is not American). Garmin did this deliberately, charges Columbia, to keep nice George out of yellow. I am insulted, pouts nice George. We were just riding our ride, protests Garmin. The Garmins are bad people who did my best buddy nice George dirty, proclaims Lance (who himself is considered bad people by lots of folks). Nice George, by the way, is also p.o.’ed at Lance’s Astana team, which used tactics during the race much like those employed by Garmin at the end. No, no, no, say the Astanas, we’re above that sort of thing. Columbia vows revenge, a frightening prospect when 150 or so highly caffeinated young men, all bursting with testosterone, some probably full of exotic drugs, any many of whom don’t seem to like each other very much, are riding bicycles very fast within just a few inches of one another.
You probably thought a bike race was an uncomplicated affair in which the competitors are just trying to ride as fast as they can for as long as they can. Silly you.