Monday, July 19, 2004

Rest Day Two - Day Seventeen


My top ten (since I really did ten last week as well) list:

1. Thomas Voeckler
Oh, come on, like you totally didn't see that one coming. He was first on the previous rest day as well. Why? The kid (even though he's just about a year younger than I am) is amazing. He never quits. Watching him climb those mountains -- especially on Saturday, was amazing. Inspiring as well. Even Richard Virenque agreed, he said something to the effect of Thomas 'putting ants in their [French cyclist's] pants.' He's proving to be a strong rider. And, of course, now Thomas (and Sylvain) are going to the Olympics. What a way to round a good year.

And, of the record, I knew who Thomas was before this tour.

2. Brioches La Boulangère
Again, not really a surprise. They're called the 'baker boys' for obvious reasons, but really? They're just damned impressive. Over the past week and a half or so they've been working harder than any team out there -- even USPS at some points. They know how to drive the peloton. And they know how to support Thomas. Especially (and I know I wax way too poetic about him, forgive me) Sylvain Chavanel. He is Thomas' right hand man, and he is almost always there. And if you look at the results for those two mountain stages? Sylvain comes in right around Thomas' time (either before or just after). Why? Because he's right there, helping. I said it before (and if someone can find out where I read it, I'd really appreciate a link) and I'll say it again, Sylvain said he'd give everything to keep Thomas in yellow -- and he is. The whole team is. It's a pleasure to watch.

3. Ivan Basso
Phil (or Paul) said that Lance and Ivan are some sort of friends. And Ivan, like so many others in the peloton, is wearing a yellow bracelet. His mother apparently has cancer, so that win? Must have been so amazing for her. Like Thomas, Ivan is young (26) and really just coming into his own. Part of why he's so high up is because of his DS, Bjarne Riis. I swear that man works miracles. Just look at Bobby Julich (well, not now -- poor guy and his wrist). And now, Ivan. Taking full advantage of his talent. I know why so many riders flock to CSC. Working for Bjarne seems to be really rewarding. Part of me thinks Tyler never should have left. But anyway, back to Ivan. It was really fun to watch Lance and Ivan fight out both wins. I don't know if Lance gave Ivan that stage win or not, nor do I care. It doesn't matter. It was fantastic to see someone else up there, pushing right up next to Lance. I hope Ivan can take second on the podium (that is, if Thomas can't keep himself in yellow).

4. Lance Armstrong
I don't know if you've heard of him ... Doping scandal aside, this man is amazing. Just watching him (and USPS) pushing up those mountains blows my mind. And it makes me smile to think that people kept saying "Lance is so far down, he'll never make up that time" and then he flies back up the classification in just two days. I know, not surprising to most cycling fans, but still fun to watch.

5. Breakaways.
Every single one. Even if they don't make it, don't play it just right, or if they win the stage. Regardless, they're usually a pleasure to watch. It's always fun when they do win. Like Phil says, when they've been out for that long -- you feel they deserve to win. And it's always sad when they all can't win the stage. Some of the best sprint-finishes have been in breaks. But I must confess that my favorite break was the one with Virenque. He took charge and dropped poor Axel and then won the stage. My kind of break.


6. Tyler Hamilton
All I really have is 'poor Tyler.' Those photos of his back hurt to look at. Sometimes I wonder if he'd been better off with CSC still, but we'll never know. I'm so sad he had to abandon. I was hoping he'd make it all the way through. Next time, as I think I said before, Tyler needs to fall before the tour. Maybe next year, Tyler.

7. Iban Mayo
Those Euskaltel riders like to ride in the mountains, it's too bad we didn't get to see it. One of the most heartbreaking scenes as Iban when he wanted to quit. And then, when his teammates, fans and riders from other teams pushed him along? One of the most amazing sights ever (just like when people were helping Thomas up the mountains). As April said to me, one day they'll have their tour. Just not this year.

8. Jan Ullrich and T-Mobile
Obviously Vino was a huge loss, as was leaving Cadel off. I don't know what's wrong with Jan -- perhaps nothing. After all (again as April said), he's only down by about seven minutes. It's not the end of the world. Sure, Andreas is doing well, but whose to say this isn't just a ploy? Get everyone thinking that Andreas is team leader and then, when they're not paying attention, Jan will come creeping back up the classification. Don't count that boy out just yet.

Some many problems with the team. Lost form, losing riders, sickness and, well, Bernhard has a problem with his bottom. At least Sandy's doing semi-well. I'm still (as I bet they are, too) hoping Baden'll pull out a win. Paris it is, I guess. It's hard to watch and think about last year. They did so well (even though Matt didn't make it past stage 11) and Baden won the green. And this year? Not their year. I'm crossing my fingers, though. At least Matt's still riding.

10. Everyone who has abandoned so far.
From Sven to Haimar (Zubeldia) to Jakob (Piil). Nothing's harder, I guess, than abandoning (or not staring). Of course, Sven's was the hardest, emotionally. He broke down by the side of the road. Sebastian Hinault and Rene's were the hardest to actually watch. Major crashes always are. I wish everyone speedy recoveries.

The good, the bad and the painful. I am looking forward to the last week of tour. Then I'll pack up my room and move out. I'm heading to an apartment without OLN, such a travesty. I think I've accepted my fate of missing la Vuelta. Hopefully I'll have OLN in time for the Giro next year. I've enjoyed my cycling watching and don't intend to be without for that long.

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