Before I talk about this stage, three things.
Hey CN, remember this post of mine? Thomas Voeckler is 25, not 24 (look for "Voeckler gets by").
The other two. I mentioned Matthias Kessler of T-Mobile and Sebastien Hinault of Credit Agricole yesterday, and I wanted to follow up. CN posts the medical communique in the evening (EST) after each stage. Here are their notes for Matthias and Sebastien.
> Sébastien Hinault (Crédit Agricole) - Brief loss of consciousness after crash at km 180. Sustained back injury and was taken to the emergency room in Saint-Flour for examination. X-rays revealed a fracture of the fifth vertebrae without neurological complications. He will remain under observation in hospital.
> Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) - Injured back after crash at km 172, taken to Saint-Flour hospital after finishing stage for further examination. X-rays revealed a fracture of the ninth rib on the left side and a bruised lung.
Although Matthias finished the stage yesterday (I still have no idea how he managed it), he obviously couldn't start today. The other "causality" of the day? Magnus Backstedt of Alessio-Bianchi. He abandoned a little over half-way through the stage. It wasn't long, just on the hot side. He hadn't been doing too well since his unsuccessful day in the break (the same break that brought such good fortune for Stuey and Thomas). Now, onto the rest of the stage.
A three-man break again. Phil and Paul and I were all wrong about this one. Phil and I, I believe, both picked Flecha (who as at it again, he must be taking lessons from Jakob Piil and Jens Voight) while Paul (I think) picked Martinez. Flecha attacked Martinez while the third member of the break, Moncoutie (from the bedraggled Cofidis team), seemed to be barely hanging on. Martinez jumped on Flecha's wheel and they settled in. No sooner was Flecha's attack under control, when Moncoutie came out of 'nowhere' and road right by them. He didn't stop, opening up a 30 second gap that eventually ended at just over two minutes when the two Spanish riders crossed the line.
Yet another great day for the French. And for Cofidis, who so desperately need all the good news they can get. It was a really great move by Moncoutie and it caught all of us by surprise.
There were more mountains today, but nothing like what starts tomorrow (everything is a half hour earlier for those of us watching OLN). Even so, Richard got more points and Fabian Wegmann (check out my friend April's fansite for Wegmann), who won the green mountains jersey in the Giro D'Italia this year, put his name on the board.
Voeckler didn't appear to suffer as much as yesterday, and the cows (pictures anyone?) that briefly divided and disrupted the peloton provided much needed entertainment for the cyclists.
BLB had another great day on the front. They pushed the pace when they needed to and kept it in check the rest of the time. There wasn't too much running the peloton into the ground today. Although I don't expect that to last once USPS (color me optimistic) gains control.
Will Thomas keep the jersey tomorrow? It's a good question, I think he might be able to. I certainly hope he does. And if he does? He might keep it even longer. The big worry, though, is that when he finally does (that is -- if he does) run out of steam, it'll be a big fall. Which makes sense, because he's been riding under the weight of the jersey, and if he cracked, that's a lot of pressure on the shoulders of that 25-year-old boy. I'm holding out for a few more days of Thomas in yellow. Then? My guess is that Lance will take over. But I'm not counting Mayo out just yet, or Tyler and Jan, of course.
Tomorrow should be even more interesting, entertaining and fun. I look forward to stage 12. Oh, and one last thing. A year ago on Stage 11, Matt Wilson didn't make the time cut. This year? 164th. Good job Matt!
2004 Tour de France Prologue. (gettyimages)