Here is a scene from today’s ultimate stage of the Tour de France, won by Daniele Bennati. The Italian rider averaged 23.55 miles per hour on the 90.7-mile course. Here is the story. Here is the New York Times report.

Addendum: I don’t know how to evaluate my predictions, but here they are. (“Predict” means, literally, say [“dict”] before [“pre”], or foretell.) I said that Alejandro Valverde would win; he finished sixth. I said that Levi Leipheimer would finish second; he finished third. I said that Alexander Vinokourov would finish third; he was kicked out of the race for blood doping. I said that Cadel Evans would finish fourth; he finished second. I said that Stefan Schumacher would finish fifth; he finished 87th.

Addendum 2: The winner of this year’s Tour, with an elapsed time of 91 hours, 26 seconds, is Spaniard Alberto Contador. It’s been said that he could win several more Tours before he retires, given that he’s only 24 years old. I’m not so sure. It’s one thing to win when nobody knows who you are or what you’re capable of doing. It’s quite another to win when you’re watched like a hawk by everyone else. Next year, everyone will be focused on Contador. He will get away with nothing. To win again, he will have to overpower everyone the way his countryman Miguel Indurain did, and the way Lance Armstrong did for seven straight years. I’m not saying that Contador will never win again; I’m saying that it’s silly to predict that he’ll win five or more Tours. That said, he rode well. I congratulate him. I hope he is clean and stays that way.

Addendum 3: Six of the top 10 places went to Spaniards. The highest-placed French rider was 27th, more than an hour behind Contador. One wonders why France, with its long history of cycling, doesn’t do better in its beloved tour. Is it because the French people are soft; and if they are, is it because of the welfare state they’re so proud of? Just askin’.

Addendum 4: Next year’s Tour is going to be wide open, even though there will be a defending champion. You can be sure that Cadel Evans will be back to win, and so will Levi Leipheimer. I don’t think Leipheimer and Contador will be teammates next year. Leipheimer needs to be the undisputed team leader, and he won’t be if Contador is on his team. Michael Rasmussen should be back. He hasn’t tested positive for any banned substance, so all he needs is a team that is willing to tolerate his eccentricities. I also expect Floyd Landis to be back in action, new hip and all. He will come back with the aim of winning. Who knows? Maybe Lance Armstrong will come back as well. I’m sure he’s in great shape. Had he not retired, he might have nine Tour victories right now.

Addendum 5: Here is a scene from the Tour de Toona, in Pennsylvania. The scenery reminds me of the rallies I do in Texas.