Luck

The first week of the 2007 Tour de France ended with a win for Tom Boonen, neatly bookending this sprinters festival with the first stage win of Robbie McEwen. While there were surprises in how the wins came, the reality was that the crème de la crème of the sport still took them and those looking for upsets were largely disappointed. Still it was an interesting and exciting week of racing.

Often it’s said that you need a bit of luck on your side to win, especially in the first week, where getting the leadout and sprint just right is a difficult thing, but as the cliches say, you have to be good to be lucky and winners make their own luck. Oh, and there is one more, the better they are the luckier they get. So here’s a snapshot of the past weeks lucky guys.

Fabian Cancellara didn’t need any luck to win the prologue, he just blew everyone away, brute force is all the prologue really requires, and Cancellara has that in spades. In stage one there was a lot of bad luck for the winner Robbie McEwen, but then he made his own luck and managed to find a way to win. Winners are like that, they surprise while not really surprising. Then there was stage two, where Gert Steegmans found himself in the lucky position of winning a stage that he wasn’t supposed to. Yeah, that one was pure luck.

Stage three was another for making your own luck. The really good guys can always sniff a win, and Fabian Cancellara did just that. Sensing weakness in the other riders after the Tours longest stage he went for the eleven and held on from a long way out to take the win. Lucky or good? It’s your pick. In stage four there was no luck involved, just a classic set up by Julian Dean for his team leader, a case of everything going right for both, in the end just about everyones pick for the stage took it.

Stage five was the most dramatic of the first week and the luck was all bad for Astana, unfortunately this time it didn’t matter how good Vino and Kloden were they still couldn’t get lucky, in the end the class of Phillipo Pozzato won out on that leg. Stage six went to Tom Boonen. Finally ending a week of frustration, he nailed the win, but not without, you guessed it, luck. Here is what Boonen had to say.

At last another victory. You need so much luck,” blasted Boonen after the win. The sprint did not come easy for the man from Flanders. “Someone touched my rear wheel in the final kilometre. The bike’s rear end was making noises. I was forced to do my sprint in my 11 [tooth gear] and it was not possible to shift.

There was something else about stage six that summed another aspect of the race to date, the futility of the breakaway in modern cycling, Bradley Wiggins long solo and capture. For this I blame the radio contact that team directors now employ as they stage manage the race for their respective teams. They have removed an important aspect of the breakaway in cycling and replaced it with ruthless calculation. And that aspect? Luck.