Saturday, July 17, 2004

Stage Thirteen - Day Fifteen

No more pretense, I was all out cheering for Thomas. I know he can't hear me, in fact my TV can't even hear me, but that didn't stop me. I am totally biased, I wanted Thomas to keep that jersey. I probably would have been upset if he hadn't. My story of the day is Thomas and, of course, Sylvain. There are others and I'll talk about them, but first, Thomas and BLB.


He deserved it. 22 seconds isn't a lot and he probably won't keep it in the Alps, but you never know. I'm not about to stop cheering and, flat/windy stage or not, I can't wait for tomorrow. Thomas worked so hard and part of me I kept thinking "this is it" while waiting for him to crack completely, but he never did. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew he could do it, I had faith. And, well, he did.

I woke up at ten to seven am this morning to watch this stage on OLN. And for someone who (for a variety of reasons) doesn't usually get up until nine or ten, that should tell you how much I love this sport. I didn't turn on my computer until about one pm, so I had no idea Sylvain was in the break. It was a really great surprise. I was really sad when he started to crack in the break -- for two reasons.

One: I wanted him to win the stage and take more mountains points.
Two: If he's out of energy, how is he supposed to help Thomas?

Well, I was wrong on both counts. He didn't win the stage, but he did everything he could to help Thomas. And it worked. He spent a lot of time after the break taking care of Thomas, mostly letting him draft. But still, it was amazing. I'm so proud of both of them -- and so glad I got to watch it. And those last four minutes and 42 seconds were agonizing. But when he (and we) finally figured out that he was going to keep that jersey (if only by 22 seconds) it was all worth it. I just don't really have the words. I'm so completely involved in the tour this year. Even more than last year, when I got all worked up about Lance and Tyler.

Speaking of Lance and Tyler.

For me, this day was fabulous. The only way it could have been better is if Sylvain (or Thomas) had won the stage. But hey, sometimes I can be realistic. And we all know that I would be happy with either Thomas or Lance winning. So watching Lance take Basso almost to the line was exciting and fun. The crowds though, man. They are always something else, makes the stage even more stressful to watch. But, yes, such a great day for me.

Not so much for my friends, April and Katie, though. April's boy, Fabian Wegmann, abandoned and then Tyler Hamilton -- Katie's favorite -- did as well. My favorites? All still there. It's not fair, but then again neither is life.

I don't know exactly what happened to Fabian. April mentioned that he was having breathing problems. I imagine he's not the only one, poor boy. I hope he gets better soon. As for Tyler? I feel horrible for him. I was shocked, but someone mentioned that earlier in the stage Tyler was riding and holding his lower back. And then when someone working for OLN (I think) interviewed him, he said that he couldn't ride well because he couldn't really use his lower back. He also said that he had never once thought of abandoning, but once someone mentioned it, he realized (and I'm paraphrasing big time) there wasn't really any way he could go on. I mean, how do you ride without your lower back? Honestly.


Cyclingnews pointed out that "Somewhat ironically, Hamilton's abandonment coincided with the day that the Tyler Hamilton Foundation arranged for movie theaters across the USA to screen today's stage live." If it wasn't so sad, it'd be funny. Ahh, Tyler. You should have crashed harder before the tour. Toughened yourself up.

Other things? Matt came in (with the autobus) 42 minutes later. He's now 2.02.03 behind Thomas. At least FDJ's not the worst team and Sandy Casar is doing okay. He was 21st in the stage -- the kid is good. Iban Mayo. After Tyler's abandon, that was probably the most heartbreaking thing to watch. He was off his bike, ready to quit, and they talked him back onto it. They being teammates, DS, and fans. Then, as riders streamed past him, they'd put hands on his back to push him along. I agree with Phil when he says that it's more mental with Mayo than physical. He wanted to do so well and everything has just gone wrong. Speaking of things going wrong, poor Roberto Heras. Crashed and lost even more time. What a way to be a team leader, sometimes the pressure is just too tough.

Good things? That Ivan Basso is damn impressive, as is T-Mobile's potential new leader, Andreas Klöden. As long as Klöden keeps staying up front, the more I believe he earned that National Champion jersey. Other impressives? Gerolsteiner's Georg Totschnig, who is now in 6th, 6 minutes and .02 seconds behind Thomas. And, after Thomas, one of the most impressive rides of the day was done by Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole). He had that flat on the mountain (I think it was the Plateau de Beille, actually) and had to change tires with a man on his team. The tire didn't seem to fit right so they spent about 30 seconds (probably -- it did seem like longer, though) adjusting his bike. And what'd he do? Road himself into eighth, 2.51 behind Lance.

Of course, Thomas will remain the most impressive to me. He just doesn't quit. But a lot of credit has to go to BLB for taking really good care of him. Walter and Sylvain have spent themselves on him and I'm sure they'll keep doing it.

Teams. Whoever said (either Paul or Phil) that Lance had the best team in the tour was right. They've got it figured out and you can't even tell that they lost Roberto. Jose is amazing. He just cranks the pace -- turns the screws -- and the rest of the peloton -- what's left of it -- just collapses. Except for Ivan Basso. But today? Lance was having none of that. He said he couldn't shake Basso, and it certainly looked like it, even though Basso seemed to be suffering a lot. But then again, it was the Plateau de Beille.

I was happy when Lance finally blew away (not that it was that far away) from Basso for the win. I was thinking "it's about time!" And then I started watching the seconds tick by. Fingers crossed. Waiting for Thomas. And he came through, much to my delight.

So, Thomas is still in yellow -- for at least one more stage. And Lance won the day. I wonder what's in store for next week. I'm excited.


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