Saturday, July 24, 2004

Stage Nineteen - Day Twenty Two

One more stage left.

(cbs sportsline)

It was certainly more exciting than yesterday's stage. The weather started off poorly, but unlike last year the weather completely cleared for the top half of the classification. What happened? Well, barring disaster, Lance will be riding into Paris in yellow. He'll be breaking that record. But enough of that talk, he said in an interview with Craig from OLN that there's still one stage left. My guess? He'll be fine. But you never know.

As for the stage, well, there were a lot of impressive rides today, many of them from the Americans. Although the rest of the USPS team, as well as Jens Voight, Vladimir Karpets, Andreas Klöden, Ivan Basso, and Jan Ullrich (among others), were amazing.

The top 15 looked like this:
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor 1.06.49
2 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 1.01
3 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team 1.27
4 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor 2.25
5 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 2.48
6 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 2.50
7 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 3.19
8 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears - Banesto 3.33
9 Jose Luis Rubiera (Spa) US Postal p/b Berry Floor 3.40
10 Jose Azevedo (Por) US Postal p/b Berry Floor 3.49
11 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor 3.56
12 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank 4.06
13 Santos Gonzalez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 4.17
14 Aitor Gonzalez Jimenez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 4.33
15 José I.Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Illes Balears - Banesto 4.53

Although USPS had a high number of riders in the top 15, they're still 2 minutes and four seconds behind T-Mobile for the team classification. I suppose since Jan won't make it onto the podium in third, the team win will have to do. Oddly enough, the same thing happened to Tyler Hamilton last year. He was fourth behind Vino and CSC won the team classification. I wonder how common that is.

As I said before, there was some amazing riding. Although Christian Vandevelde (Liberty Seguros), didn't make the top 15 (he was 24) he started the American "take over" of the time trial. But, aside from Lance, the two most impressive rides of the day were by Bobby Julich and Floyd Landis, who appears to have the potential to go win stages, maybe even next year. Bobby was the first man that broke the one hour and ten minute mark. And then Floyd flew through the course and blew away all of Julich's times. For a brief moment I thought Floyd might have a chance to come in second or third.


But, of course, the four strongest men of the race still had to finish. And Lance, Jan and, surprisingly, Andreas sent Landis down to fourth. Which, all things considered, is still excellent.

Speaking of the top four, Ivan Basso's time trialling skills were much improved, even compared to earlier in the tour. I think he should have been praised for coming in as high as he did. I thought (and secretly hoped -- as I wanted Jan on that podium) that he was going to lose a lot more time. Instead, he just slipped (by a few seconds) into third. I have to admit I was rooting for Lance to catch him, but in the end it didn't happen.

As for the man who is now in second? Andreas Klöden continues to impress me, as well as live up to the national champion jersey on his back. He is being heralded as the new leader for T-Mobile, but (as I said in the previous entry) that's something I'll talk about later. His ride today, though, was just beautiful.

(cbs sportsline)

Near the end of the stage, I thought (as did Phil and Paul) that Klodi was going to overtake Jan. He didn't, which is probably good for both of them, but it was close. 26 seconds between Jan and Klodi. I had no idea he was that good of a time trialist. But it was obvious he'd set his sights on second and he wasn't going to stop until he got it. And somehow he did. Although he is six minutes and thirty eight seconds behind Lance, he's only twenty one seconds in front of Basso. It was some ride that Klöden did today.

Richard Virenque came in at a respectable 36th and will ride to France tomorrow with his seventh (record breaking) KOM jersey. As for the green jersey? We'll see where that leaves us tomorrow. I'm pretty sure Robbie with take it, but you never know. The race is tight. Thor could surprise us all.

And what does that leave us with? The sad story of former race leader (and French darling) Thomas Voeckler and the white jersey. He had 45 seconds to lose and he did, in dramatic and heart wrenching fashion. His two closes rivals, Sandy Casar and Vladimir Karpets, beat him to the line in spectacular fashion. Casar came in six minutes and four seconds behind Lance, Karpets was three minutes and thirty three seconds behind Lance. Thomas came in nine minutes and forty one seconds behind Lance. It's not fair at all, but Karpets certainly deserves that jersey.

As for Thomas? There's always next year, for yellow anyway. And I'll be there (at least metaphorically), cheering him on.


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