Thursday, July 22, 2004

Stage Seventeen - Day Twenty

Three more stages left.

I was reluctant to post right away for three reasons.

One: There usually aren't a lot of good pictures so soon.
Two: My emotions were running high and my personal bias would have shown through a lot stronger that I would have liked.
Three: I was (and still am, for the most part) completely exhausted. Yes, I woke up at six am to watch live cycling. Granted, it didn't start until 6:30, but that's another story.

Anyway, I'm finally ready to tackle this stage.


My personal bias was/is related to Andreas Klöden ('Klodi'). I don't know why, but as soon as the final group was thinned to Landis, Armstrong, Ullrich, Basso and Klöden; I knew that Andreas was going to do something. I actually pegged him for the stage win, and I really thought he had it. Then again, I thought Carlos had it, too. And, even earlier, I thought either Gibo or Richard was going to get it (or even Christophe if I was lucky). Turns out I was wrong on all counts.

It was really disheartening and I was kind of annoyed with Lance, but I've since overcome it.

People have been calling Lance selfish and I am not sure what my feelings are. Sure, he just won four stages, but Jan Ullrich himself said that "Lance is too strong" (BBC Sport). Again, I have to confess that I really wanted Andreas Klöden to win. I'm not sure why (thought I've provided April with a bit of fun -- she's been calling me a traitor the past two days), but I think it has something to do with my irritation with Jan Ullrich (although that's changed -- something I'll probably address in Wannabe at some point in the near future). Also, part of it was the whole 'he's finally going to be able to prove himself' idea. But, in the end, it was Lance who pounded out the win.

Not to say that I wasn't impressed. Or that I would have been happy of Landis (or even Ullrich, really) had won the stage. Just not Lance. I almost feel bad saying -- especially since I think the final time trial will determine the winner of the tour (not as tense as last year, but it'll be something not to miss) that. But it's true, I would rather have seen someone else win the stage. Anyway. There were several men of the day, including Gilberto Simoni and Christophe Moreau (and Richard, but I'll talk about him later), but the man who impressed me was Floyd Landis.

In the past week, Jose 'Ace' Azevedo has been the man at the front of the peloton. He's been the guy driving the pace, keeping up with Lance until the end. Today? It was none other than Floyd Landis. I have never seen him ride so well, and it was my impression that neither had anyone else (with the exception of Lance and the other Posties, of course). Before Andreas made his move, we (my family and I) were all rooting for Landis. It would have been amazing if he'd won, and I'm still a little upset about that as well. I know Lance wanted him to win.


But he didn't. Though it was incredibly nice of Lance to dedicate his win to Floyd, and the rest of the team. They deserve the phrase.

This morning I loved OLN. Why? Right at 6:30 am I got to see cycling. Live cycling, none of the Bob and Al show for at least 20 minutes. And not only that, but it was the first mountain. And then? I got to watch the amazing wonder that is Richard Virenque. The man is amazing. He and Christophe bridged an almost six minute gap to get to the leading group. And, although Simoni tried hard and shook up the break, there was no stopping Virenque.

I have to say that when people ride with Virenque, they do amazing things. Watching Virenque, Simoni and Christophe riding up those mountains was like watching art in action. It was also interesting to compare the styles of those three to non-climber Rolf Aldag. The three climbers were sleek and smooth, graceful even. But Aldag? Not so much. He was struggling and you could see it in the way he rode. I was impressed, though, that he stayed with them for so long. But, in the end, they proved stronger and the mountains did him in. It wasn't enough to help Team CSC in the overall classification, but I hope that changes tomorrow. Since I predict T-Mobile will get two podium places.

Back to Virenque for a moment. One of his most impressive feats of the day was being able to ride up the Col de la Madeleine and fight the points out with Simoni. I am a tiny bit sad he didn't win them, but he's pretty much wrapped up the KOM, so it's all good.


And last, the saddest note of the day. Thomas Voeckler was only just able to hang onto his white jersey. The Russian Vladimir Karpets (Illes Balears - Banesto) is 45 seconds down from Thomas. Sandy Casar is a minute 56 down. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but tomorrow's not necessarily easy either. Though certainly not as hard as today's stage. It was nice to see that Thomas didn't get dropped too far back. And the scene between Casar and Virenque sharing a water bottle was nice. But, oh Thomas, I want you to hang onto that jersey.


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