Alberto Contador of team Astana took the overall lead in the Tour after today's stage. The other pillar of Astana - the New York Yankees of the TdF - Lance is second, but lagging by over a minute and a half. Given the hills and dales to come, that lead could prove insurmountable for another rider unless Contador was going to collapse. But this is Lance Armstrong. Seven time winner. International superstar. Surely, Astana is his team. Let's get his reaction.
The interviews boil down to this: I was not the best man out there today. I will ride the rest of the Tour as Contador's lieutenant (In French - "domestique" - the term for all the rest of the guys on a team who attack to tire out the field, ride in front to give you a draft, etc.).
This is the equivalent of having Peyton Manning sit after a lousy first quarter and say, "You know, I just didn't have it out there today. I'll review the photos during the first half, throw my support behind our backup QB, and hope we can win as a team today." Ain't gonna happen.
And yet, it did. More impressively, it happened after a blow out on Team Astana in stage 7, when Contador broke from the team at the end of the stage to accelerate on to personal victory. Reporters clamored around a meeting on the team bus at the end of the day. Riders emerged stone-faced. Now, Lance, famous for years for his style, equal parts ice and vitriol, has not only bowed his head to become a domestique to his domestique, but did so after that self-same domestique showed him up a week before. Depending on who you are, this is either a sign of maturity or the golden boy has lost some of that competitive lustre.
I, for one, couldn't tell you which it is.