Happy Bastille Day! And I'm finally back on track.
Today's stage? It was fabulous. I didn't sleep through the pre-race (although I managed to get mad at Al again, but I can't remember why. I think it had to do with him implying, yet again, that the first few stages of cycling weren't very interesting. Phil called him on it. Thanks, Phil -- saves me from having to send my letter.). It was fun to see Richard Virenque, who has become a favorite of mine, taking those first few climbs (and, eventually, all of them). And then he, and the great Eddy Merckx's son Axel, were pushing up the mountains. I guess they'd talked about what they were going to do (cyclingnews) but Richard just went for the win and tired poor Axel out.
As bad as I feel that Axel didn't get up to fight for the stage, I'm really happy Richard won. I want him to win the KOM jersey and break the record. Hell, I wouldn't mind Erik winning the green for the seventh time, as long as Lance can win the yellow for the sixth (unless Baden can some how come out of nowhere ...). But now I'm totally off topic. Anyway. It was great that a Frenchman won the stage today.
Not everything was great today. T-Mobile's Matthias Kessler had a horrible crash, but somehow managed to complete the race. He was 168th. Liberty Seguros' Angel Vicioso Arcos retired, it was sad to watch. He was barely even riding and I turned to my mother and said "he should just abandon" in a joking voice and then he did. I felt somewhat bad. But he'd fallen a few too many times. I hope he makes the team next year. Poor Roberto, though, losing a rider just when he'll need it the most. I don't know what happened to Saeco's Mirko Celestino, nor did I see Credit Agricole's Sebastien Hinault crash. But I did see the aftermath of Hinault (Kessler and Hinault were involved in a descent crash, but I don't think it was with each other).
For about five minutes no one, not even the race radio, knew who had fallen. I was worried it was a BLB rider or Mattias again. Obviously it wasn't, but that didn't stop the worry. Poor Sebastien was lying in a ditch (similar to a Fassa Bortolo rider -- Marco Velo I believe it was -- who crashed early on). His bike was not in good shape and neither was he. Eventually the race doctors got him onto a stretcher. Cyclingnews reports that "Kessler had cracked a rib while Hinault had a fractured vertebrae."
Sad day all around.
For me, the most impressive (ignoring Richard's 200+ km break and win) part of the day was watching Thomas Voeckler. I know, I probably praise him too often, but I can't help it. He's only about a year younger than I am and he's just doing some great stuff. He made the break with the likes of Lance, Jan and Tyler. And a lot of his team did too (like Sylvain, who spent a bit of time at the back of that leading peloton helping Thomas out), which was great. But the highlight was watching him attack for time bonuses at the end of the stage. He didn't get them, but he came in fifth, right in front of Lance.
After the stage, Frankie interviewed him for OLN. And, in his lovely English, he was quite humble. He thanked his team for doing so well, but he had this slight bittersweet tone in his voice. Either Phil or Paul remarked that he was probably saying good-bye to the jersey in that interview. It was sad, because I was hoping he'd have it for at least one more day. I'm not holding my breath, but I'm not giving up hope, either.
He's done incredibly well so far, it'd be a shame if he lost it before the Pyrenees.