Clean and full of intrigue, Tour hits comeback trail |

Clean and full of intrigue, Tour hits comeback trail

Devon O'Neil
Vail, CO Colorado
Devon O'Neil

Finally, Le Tour de France is back.

For now.

One doping infraction in 10 stages? That’s cause for a ripping party at this event. If the Tour can maintain such fair play as the pressure to win the greatest bike race on the planet mounts, we could have one heck of a single-year turnaround in this sport.

Still a week and a half to go, but you get the feeling the strategy has finally turned this time. As in, win it, but win it fairly. Or maybe that’s just my naïve take.

When Cadel Evans’ eyes glassed up as he accepted the yellow jersey after Monday’s 10th stage, an equally scintillating and punishing 97-miler with two climbs beyond classification, the satisfaction dripped off purely, undiluted by the television cameras.

I am a believer that even professionals celebrate differently when they know they have earned something. So although Evans leads by only a second over Frank Schleck (Luxembourg doesn’t seem so tiny anymore, thanks to Schleck and Kim Kirchen, who wore yellow for four days), his achievement meant everything, especially since it came just a day after he crashed and thought his Tour hopes may have vanished.

As victims in the mess of the past decade, cycling fans no doubt can appreciate little things like that. …

As for the contenders, we are finding out fast that Garmin-Chipotle’s Christian Vande Velde is no one-week wonder. The guy can race with the best, plain and simple ” over crippling mountain passes, down vicious wind-blown straightaways, through the loneliest of time trials ” as evidenced by his third-place standing in the GC, where he sits just 38 seconds back of Evans.

If only Vande Velde’s post-race interviews weren’t so awkward. …

Does Saunier Duval-Scott climbing specialist and two-stage victor Riccardo Ricco have the best nickname in sports? I’m starting to think so.

Thin as a stripped pipe cleaner, Ricco earns his moniker ” The Cobra ” by striking whenever he feels like it, leaving the world’s best cyclists in his cocksure Italian dust as he sprints uphill four hours into a mountain stage like it’s nothing. …

Speaking of nothing, that is what the Packers owe Brett Favre right now. Not because Favre pulled a Michael Strahan and kept everyone in suspense over whether he’d play so he wouldn’t have to attend all the silly offseason workouts. That’s not what he did at all.

On the contrary, Favre retired. He held a press conference. He cried. He went home to Mississippi to start his second life. And the Packers moved on just as their Hall of Fame quarterback did.

Now, for Favre to pull what he’s trying to pull ” asking Green Bay to release him so he can sign with any team in the league, even though he’s under contract with the Packers ” is bush league.

Favre played in the NFL for 18 years. More than anyone, he should know that nobody is bigger than the game. …

Interesting guy, Kenny Perry. The 47-year-old has won three times in his last five PGA Tour starts, including Sunday in a one-hole playoff at the John Deere Classic. He’s basically carried the Tour in Tiger’s absence.

Yet instead of accepting an invitation to play in the British Open that came with his recent success, Perry declined the nod in favor of playing a tournament in Milwaukee to which he’d already committed. He also declined to try and qualify for the U.S. Open last month because he was tired from winning the Memorial. …

Depending upon how you view the importance of the RBI as a statistical measure of a baseball player’s performance ” for my money, no offensive stat is more important ” this year’s All-Star selections might puzzle you.

Ryan Howard and Carlos Lee are second and third in the majors in RBIs, with 84 and 76, respectively, but neither made the NL roster. …

Oh, by the way, Howard is also on pace to strike out 218 times this year, which would slaughter the record of 199 he set last year. …

In parting, CBS announced Monday that Mr. Inappropriate, Billy Packer, will be replaced as Final Four analyst by Clark Kellogg next year, ending Packer’s run of calling 27 straight Final Fours for CBS.

To use Packer’s one-time description of Allen Iverson, it took a tough little monkey to last as long as he did.

Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at

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