Friday, July 23, 2004

Stage Eighteen - Day Twenty One

Today's stage was possibly the least interesting stage of the tour. I was a really bad fan and only paid half attention, I don't plan to repeat that tomorrow or Sunday. But today? I don't know.


There was a break that eventually ended up almost 12 minutes ahead of the peloton. For a brief moment, before OLN's coverage began, Lance Armstrong and Filippo Simeoni (Domina Vacanze) bridged the gap to the break for reasons that I don't quite understand as I'm not sure of the complete story (more can be found at cyclingnews) and then sat up and waiting for the peloton. We saw tape of the two catching up with the gap, but that was about it. Apparently one of the riders in the break asked Lance to drop back, and he said he would, only if Simeoni (who is suing Lance) did. And eventually they were captured.

That was, of course, the most exciting thing until the final sprint for green jersey points. The scenery was nice, but the stage didn't really catch my interest, except for a few times. Of the boys in the break, only Sébastien Joly (Crédit Agricole )and Marc Lotz (Rabobank) caught my interest. And, of course, neither of them won. Instead, Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step-Davitamon) beat out the more experienced José V. Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears - Banesto) for the stage win. Acosta just got caught in a bad position and Mercado moved at just the right time. He sat on Acosta's wheel and then launched himself. It was a somewhat exciting win.


I'm not sure how many wins Quick Step has now, but it's at least three. Tom Boonen won, then Richard and now Mercado.

About six minutes later, Sandy Casar attempted an attack off the front of the peloton. He wanted to gain time for the white jersey on both Thomas Voeckler and Vladimir Karpets (Illes Balears - Banesto). It was an excellent attempt, but Karpets' team put pressure on the front of the peloton and brought Casar back after a few minutes. Then the sprinters' teams took over and there was a short race to the finish.


I was screaming for Zabel, of course. But once I saw he'd gotten himself boxed out, I was yelling for Hondo, Stuey, and Hushovd. Thor did, in fact, take the highest sprint points. But he was followed by Robbie, Hondo, Stuey, Carlos Dacruz (FDJ) and Zabel. Unless something horrible happens to Robbie, his teammates will probably protect him well enough on Sunday that he'll ride away with the jersey. But the numbers are close enough that it will be exciting.

Robbie: 238
Thor: 227
Zabel: 221
O'Grady: 215
Hondo: 201

Thomas still has his 45 second lead for the white jersey, but anything can happen tomorrow. My fear is that Karpets is going to wipe Thomas off the charts during the time trial. But we'll just have to wait and see. And, of course, Lance is still in yellow. And, barring disaster, I believe he'll remain in yellow tomorrow and wear it into Paris. As for second and third? It'll be Jan and Klodi, I just don't know which order.

It is time for the time trial yet? I'm so ready.


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