Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Stage 10 - Tuesday, July 12: Brignoud - Courchevel, 181 km

I don't know what to think. I was more excited earlier, but then I had to go to work and so I missed the end of the stage. I stopped watching right when Jorg Jaksche was caught. I did tape it though and I just finished watching it. Well. Lance Armstrong is really amazing. I don't know what else to say (Oh, yay! OLN is interviewing Michael Rasmussen -- what a lovely accent. But, uh, stupid questions much? Oh well. I am just glad they are interviewing him.) about Armstrong. He did as, well, expected. The rest of the group is the real story. Up until he was caught, I was rooting for Jaksche. But by the end of the stage, I was rooting for Alejandro Valverde or Rasmussen.

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(picture from espn)

I have to say that I am no longer impressed with T-Mobile. I don't know if they screwed up the plan or they are just too tired. All I can say is that I hope Vino can get his act back together and win a stage and get back some time. But, of course, he's now 6.32 back.

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(picture from yahoo)

What happened? Lance Armstrong proved that he really is the best Tour de France cyclist (Eddy Merckx will always be the best cyclist ever). He said jump and to be cliche, everyone else said how high and then all but three of them failed. He pushed everyone to their limits and then broke everyone but Alejandro Valverde. It was crazy and I honestly didn't expect it at all. But, of course, tomorrow probably won't be nearly as exciting. Unless, of course, someone does something extraordinary or Armstrong suffers, etc.

I still can't believe what happened. Not just who stuck around with Lance (in addition to Rasmussen and Valverde was Francisco Mancebo), who broke so completely. Ullrich and Klodi somehow managed hang on to eighth (4.02) and ninth (4.6) respectively. But, I don't know. The top ten is so different than anyone expected. It's amazing to see just what the damage was today.

General classification after stage 10
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 37.11.04 (44.934 km/h)
2 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 0.38
3 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 2.40
4 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 2.42
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 3.16
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 3.58
7 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 4.00
8 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 4.02
9 Andreas Kloden (Ger) T-Mobile Team 4.16
10 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems

Who would have expect Rasmussen in second place? Or Basso in third. 2.40 back. Or how about Ullrich and Kloden? And is Landis now the new leader of Phonak? What happened to Mayo and Vino and Bobby Julich? How about all those other cyclists we expected to be putting up a fight? They're all gone (for the most part) from the top of the GC. Granted, a few of them are in the top 20 -- but that puts them between five and eight minutes back. Five and eight minutes! It's only the first day of the Alps, what do we expect tomorrow? Will Armstrong mix it up again? Or will tomorrow be the chill-out (so to speak) day that today was expected to be? Somehow, though, I doubt that last one.

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I don't know how Armstrong could mix it up again, though. It seems that with the exception of Mancebo, Valverde, and Rasmussen (if any of them are strong enough and, well, not burnt out), could stay with him. If they couldn't do it today, what makes tomorrow different? Although, I'm sort of inclined to think that maybe the rest day had something to do with this. They (Phil and Paul) mentioned that sometimes on the rest day, the body thinks that the race is over, even though the cyclist knows it isn't true. After working so hard, the cyclists have a day of not working hard, well, that is never good. Sometimes it helps, as clearly shown this year by Armstrong, et al. and sometimes all it does is hurt -- as illustrated by T-Mobile.

Tomorrow looks to be even tougher, so no relaxing day (not that there's such a thing in the tour). But will it be as relentless? We can only guess. No one could have predicted how the 'big names' would react. As I was writing my rest day post, I debated putting up final podium predictions, but then decided against it. Why? Because I wanted to wait for the results for today's stage. And now that I have them? I honestly don't have a clue. I assume Armstrong will win, barring any accident. But even so, he isn't a god or superman (no matter what that fan running alongside the four riders near the end of the stage might have though). He's human and they crack, even Lance. But the chances of that are pretty slim, so it's really the two remaining spots that I wonder about. Before, I was thinking maybe Vino and Basso. But now that Vino's slide back, I'm not so sure. It's not impossible for him to come back, but it's going to be hard. Ullrich and Kloden have a better chance at a podium finish.

Speaking of Ullrich, he was certainly impressive. After reading about how he probably bruised his ribs -- which feels like breathing with broken ribs -- to watch him push so hard and managed to stay in the top ten is nothing short of amazing. I know, Armstrong did a lot on the stage, but he's healthy. Ullrich is not, and, well, maybe this will be his year after all. At least, maybe he'll get back on that podium. Or maybe Rasmussen will manage to keep his second place. And don't count Basso out yet, either. He's only 2.40 out.

We're only through stage ten, anything can happen. And, well, it probably will.

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(picture from espn)
Jean-Michel Le Metayer, right, President of the French Farmers Unions, holding a lamb, makes a speech as Tour de France General Director Jean-Marie Leblanc, center, cuddles the lamb's head, and five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault of France, left, looks on, as farmers holding banners, unseen, demonstrate on the Tour de France route in Brignoud, outside Grenoble, French Alps, to protest wolf attacks on their sheep and cows in the Alps.

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