Andy Schleck Wins Stage Eighteen of the 2011 TDF

Stage 18-200.5 km
Pinerolo to Galibier Serre-Chevalier

The Heroes had just settled in for our traditional morning coffee and light breakfast. We sat cross-legged at the table gingerly sipping from steaming cups. The dulcet tones of motorcycles and Britishisms emanated from the nearby computer. The riders still had more than sixty kilometers to the finish, plenty of time to relax before Stage 18 really started to shape up.

Then the Luxembourger went off. None followed. Spilled coffee. Shouts from all sides at the screen as Jen Hero’s favorite brother suddenly attacked the Col d’Izoard. An attack so audacious it had Eddy himself leaning out of a car shouting encouragement. The entire Hero HQ staff was glued to the screen for the next two hours.

The Heroes imagined what the Schleck household must have been like: father Johny motor pacing the lanky teens up a mountain training climb. Frank encouraging, dutifully looking-back periodically to check on his younger brother. Andy looking straight up the mountain with a glint in his eye. That night by the fire, after paging through a well-worn copy of Hero favorite and fellow Luxembourger Edward Steichen’s ‘The Family of Man’ (like we imagine all enlightened Luxembourger families do in the evening) Andy turned to his brother in the flickering light and said “I have a competition in me.”

The French newspaper men will have epic novels to write about Tommy Voeckler’s hanging on and having a totally for really real chance of winning the Tour de France. Bert indeed cracked, a defeat so thorough some around hero HQ have started to feel a bit sorry for the Spainiard, with everyone gleefully pilling-on and all — though maybe a more relaxed pace will help with some of his nagging medical issues.