I’ve mentioned it a few times over the last three weeks, so if you read this blog the you have probably guessed I am a big fan of the race. I haven’t always been. I watched the last three or four Armstrong victories pretty closely, lost much of the interest when he retired, and became far more obsessed by it than I would have guessed this year. I’m a huge Lance Armstrong fan for a lot of reasons. I think he’s the most ridiculously talented, freakish athletic there is. I am in awe of his competitive fire and his will. I’m also pretty loyal to his cause – my mom died of cancer last year when she was far too young, so I’m not a huge fan of the disease.
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The UFC scored a huge victory yesterday, and they didn’t even have to do anything. Former UFC fighter Josh Barnett was supposed to be in the main event of the next Affliction card against Fedor Emelianenko on August 1. Barnett was briefly a UFC heavyweight champion, but he was stripped of that title and booted from the UFC when he tested positive for steroids. He moved on to Pride and then to Affliction after burning that UFC bridge, and he established himself as a top heavyweight outside of the biggest organization. In his pre-fight drug test this week he again tested positive. That means he obviously can’t get a license for the fight, and he was booted from the card. Affliction didn’t have the time to replace him, so they took the unusual step of cancelling the entire card. That’s a huge blow for a fledgling organization, and it could even be a fatal one. EliteXC was forced to declare bankruptcy after less of a setback than this one. Whether Affliction survives or not, this only serves to further establish the UFC as perhaps the only legitimate MMA organization out there. At the very least, they are by far the most professional. The best possible outcome of this is that Fedor Emelianenko would finally get frustrated by not fighting in the biggest and best and would join the UFC like he really needs to do. That would open up a world of possibilities – Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar and so on. There is no better place for him to be, and no other way for him to prove that he is what everyone thinks he is – the best heavyweight in the world, and perhaps the best fighter period.
If you were well above the average age of competitors in your sport then you should probably just have stayed at home on Sunday.
First, Lance Armstrong had to endure what must have been the most frustrating 20 minutes of his career. He and teammate Alberto Contador were virtually tied in Tour de France overall standings, and there was still some public debate about who would be the team’s leader – the one who the rest of the teammates work for to ensure he can win. There is no question about that anymore. Armstrong and Contador, who don’t seem to like each other much, were wheel to wheel for much of the long ride. The final 10 miles or so of the race were pretty much straight up hill. Again, Lance was climbing with Contador and looked very comfortable and relaxed. Suddenly, Contador made a bold move to break away. Armstrong had the legs to at least give chase and try to chase Contador down, but tradition dictates that you don’t try to chase down a teammate if he makes a break. That left Armstrong to sit there and stew as his shot to win the Tour likely went right out the window. This was almost certainly a team-dictated strategy and not one that Contador pursued on his own, but it still had to kill a competitive guy like Lance. He’s used to winning this race, and he is unlikely to have many more chances to do so.
Just a few quick notes from today. I haven’t been watching any traditional sports all day. Instead, I spent the day at the Calgary Stampede, the self-proclaimed ‘Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’. There I was watching the rodeo and the chuckwagon races – like I did several times throughout the last 10 days. Today was the final day, and that meant that championships were given out in earnest. The rodeo gives away $900,000 in the six traditional events (calf roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, barrel racing, and bull riding for you city slickers) in less than an hour – exciting stuff. The chuckwagon races are a true and bizarre spectacle – one of those things that everyone should see at some point in their life. There is also a betting aspect, albeit a very informal one. There is no legal betting on the chuckwagon races, but virtually everyone there does betting of some time with those with them, and there are a few different ways to set up a very pleasing an potentially lucrative bit of action – friendly, but hopefully not too friendly. Calgary is sometimes a good place to live and sometimes not so much, but during the 10 days of the Stampede every July it shines.
There’s a lot going on in the world today, so let’s touch on a bunch of it briefly:
Aroldis Chapman – This is the Cuban left handed pitching savant who defected from the Cuban national team while at a tournament in the Netherlands this week. The hype is huge on this guy – they are calling him the left-handed Stephen Strasburg. He seems to intend to come to the majors, and there will surely be a Dice-K-esque bidding war for his services. There are some strange elements to the story. First, he is being reported as being 21, yet when he pitched at the World Baseball Classic he was listed as 26. He also wasn’t particularly good against major league talent at the WBC – 5.68 ERA in almost seven innings. That’s obviously a small sample size and all, but it gives you reason to at least pause in the face of the hysteria.
Wow, is the weather ever ugly at the British Open. If I showed up at a course and the sky looked like that I would turn around and go home. A links-style course does nothing to make the day look any nicer, either.