Axel MerckxWhat Dave said.

It’s just sport, just a game, completely meaningless as compared to the plague of development on Albuquerque’s west side or that Darfur thing. But there it is, unfolding like a gut-gripping soap opera that you know is playing out in real time with no safety net.

So Vinokourov must be dead to me (but a tragic figure?) and Rasmussen, he was in “Italy.” And the poor boys on the ITV podcast last night were beside themselves with the hurt to their sport.

And then today, there is Axel Merckx, as iconic a figure as you’ll find in the peloton, getting away in a four-man breakaway, on the verge of retirement from the sport, speeding down the roads of France past little knots of cheering fans. And on his shoulder, Michael Boogerd, sharing the pace making. If there is a victim of Rasmussen’s evil in this soap opera, it is Boogerd, the faithful assistant who banged his way up mountain slopes for a team leader who has turned in the public eye to a disgraced, dirty cheat. The work, the work, for nothing. And then Sandy Casar, his hip bloodied by a crash, pulling away at the finish line.

If I were the soap opera’s writer, with my own grasp of story arc, it would have been Merckx or Boogerd taking the stage, but the ending – Casar’s bloody ass pulling away 500 meters from the line – was so epic that the writers did just fine, thank you very much. And there was Merckx after the stage, tears behind his sunglasses, talking about what it meant to ride all day past those cheering fans, about to leave the sport he grew up in, the sport he loves.

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