Pierre Rolland Wins Stage Nineteen of the 2011 TDF

Stage 19-190.5 km
Modane Valfréjus to Alpe-d’Huez

French dramatist and Nobel laureate Romain Rolland once plainly stated “A hero is a man who does what he can.” As an advocate for a “popular theatre” Rolland rejected the bourgeois appropriation of classical drama and championed a theatre open to the masses where “an epic historical theatre of “joy, force and intelligence” could remind the people of its revolutionary heritage. Being men of the arts, the Tenspeed Heroes often find ourselves caught in a world between lofty ideals and humbling realities. Riding bicycles gives us respite from our lofty pursuits, and reminds us that we are still just men (with heads, two arms, and two legs).

We are unsure if there is any relation, but today’s stage was won by Pierre Rolland –just one of many heroes that did what they could. Not before we saw the l’etente cordiale between two rivals, a slow fracture of the otherwise heroic Thomas Voeckler, and the fierce attempt of a past champion to find his legs one last time, we saw the first Frenchman to take Alpe-d’Huez since Bernard Hinault. Released from his duties as Lieutenant to Voeckler, the 24-year-old Rolland rode with “a young man’s legs and an old man’s head” launching an unanswerable attack on defending champion Contador. Today is a day for the French history books as another Rolland joins their pages. We expect a grand chapter to follow.

To date, our general classification reportage has been a mold formed of mediocrity, as so little has been given to us by this year’s prospective champions. Whereas our ill-informed generalizations and blatant biases have been hidden behind obscurities and cheap puns, things now appear to be all too serious. The final selection has been made, but alas we still have no idea who will actually win the Tour de France. Andy Schleck has taken on Yellow, Cadel has not cracked in the mountains, and last year’s winner appears to be too far from the top of the podium. Tomorrow will bring a time-trial worthy of any great drama: a drama in skinsuits, full of joy, force, and intelligence. This year Andy has shown his true self as a champion, but can he be a Hero in the time trial? We now know he will have to do what he can.