Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Stage Sixteen - Day Nineteen
That picture illustrates what might end up being the defining moment of the 2004 Tour de France. Lance, after starting two minutes behind Ivan Basso, flies past him. He climbs that mountain, all 10 miles of it, in just under 40 minutes. The man is insane. And if anyone is going to win six, Lance seems like the guy to do it.
Not that I'm counting out the others. Basso is only down 3.48, Klöden - 5.03, and Ullrich dropped down to 7.55. So you never know, tomorrow, after all, does bring more mountains. I have to say the rider of the day, after Lance of course, was Jan. He never looked like he was riding well, he looked, as Basso did, like he was laboring up that hill. But those time checks obviously told a different story. He, too, was flying up those mountains. And it landed him in a quite respectable second for the stage.
But, the real surprise of this tour (besides the French darling, Voeckler) was Andreas Klöden. For those of you not watching OLN, every time Andreas shows up on the TV, Phil or Paul mention how he did so well when he was younger (he's not that old, born in '75) and how he's just never done well. They always seem shocked to see him.
Me? I think the jersey he's wearing must mean something.
Overall, the stage was exciting. I managed to tape all four hours of it for April and then had it shipped next day (via USPS). It was that good. And exciting. Although I was kind of annoying by the sporadic coverage of the riders. It seemed as if we were only watching five or six riders for long periods of time. And the only time we got to see a lot of the others was when they were crossing the line. Now, I know it's hard to show everyone, but this seemed to be a little strained to me. Oh well, maybe it'll improve next year.
I do agree with Lance, though. The stage seemed dangerous. I know he (Lance) suggested that some German fans were making the trip up hard for him, but I didn't really see that. Granted, we didn't see all Lance the whole way up. But it wouldn't surprise me. Lots of drunk and loud fans. I was worried someone would get hurt, but thankfully that didn't happen. Even the sprinters (including both Thor and Robbie) made it across the line. Robbie even had the energy to do his trademark wheelie. It was amusing. But I'm still rooting for Erik.
My favorites? Mostly didn't fair so well. Matt came in dead last -- well, not completely. Only after Davide Bramati and Aart Vierhouten didn't make the time cut. Sylvain was 25th - which was good, but as CN said, he looks exhausted. Richard came in 38, which was good, but not great. He didn't even look winded when he crossed the line. Probably saving himself for tomorrow. And as for that boy in white? He came in 88th. Struggling and pushing and getting one of the loudest cheers.
Here's hoping he can keep the white jersey. He's 3.33 ahead of Vladimir Karpets and 4.24 ahead of Sandy Casar. I hope he can find the last bit a strength to fight his way through the mountains tomorrow. I want him on that podium in Paris.
Can Lance do it? Or, has he done it already? I know lots of people (Phil included) have suggested (or outright stated) that it's over. That Lance has taken the sixth and the next few stages are but a mere formality until Sunday. I don't know. I think he's probably won his sixth, but I'm not being preemptive. There's still a long way left to go and another time trial. I think that Lance got the boost he needed and the USPS camp can sleep easier tonight, but I don't think the race is over yet.
I'll give you my final predictions, and I have two.
It all depends on the time trial.
This one is less likely, as Basso doesn't appear to have the strongest time trialling skills, especially compared to Lance. Either way, I'm happy with Lance on top and Jan second. But we'll just have to wait and see.
Posted by jag at 4:32 PM