Friday, July 15, 2005

Stage 13 - Friday, July 15: Miramas - Montpellier, 173.5 km

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I don't think I have a lot to say about today's stage. I mentioned in a post at Wannabe that I am really biased about today's stage. As I told a number of people, if it had anyone (with a few exceptions) instead of Sylvain, I probably wouldn't have gotten so, well, worked up. But it was Sylvain and I think he should have, and could have won.

That being said, no one did anything wrong. As much as I'd like to (and do) blame Chris Horner, he didn't do anything wrong (except in my eyes). He just hung onto the back of Sylvain's wheel, slowing him down (and thus preventing Sylvain from winning). He tried to wait for the right tactical moment, but as OLN said, he waited too long. And, in the end, the peloton caught both the original break (which included Thomas Voeckler, in case you were curios) and Horner (who was in that break) and Sylvain. As a side note, it was quite fun to watch Sylvain ride across the break so close to the finish. I can't fault him, he did everything he could.

But, in the end, it was Robbie McEwen who won. And we all know how I feel about that.

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I had hoped that Stuey or Thor would be able to power to the win. But, of course I was wrong. What it proved was that Robbie is probably the strongest sprinter in the field, now that Boonen is gone. I think Petacchi is probably stronger, but obviously he isn't racing. What also impressed me (once I was able to step back) was that Lotto was able to race at such a high pace even after working yesterday. I do wonder, though, if they'd have caught the break a lot sooner if Robbie hadn't made them work so hard yesterday.

But, of course, we'll never know. Up until the last 30 or so kms, it looked like the break would make it. Especially when Discovery moved to the front and weren't working hard. But then the chase started, and for a bit, especially after Sylvain bridged the gap, it seemed that the break might really have a chance. But as usually happens, they were caught. The stage wasn't really that exciting until the end. But I think a lot of my feelings about the stage were muted because of the result. Such is the life of a cycling fan, I guess.

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Even though Robbie won the stage, Thor is still in green. Stuey was second and Thor fifth. I hope that Thor can hang onto the jersey. The current standings are as follows:

Points classification
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 164 pts
2 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 150
3 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 142
4 Robert Forster (Ger) Gerolsteiner 84
5 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 81
6 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner 79
7 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 75
8 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros-Wurth 73
9 Baden Cooke (Aus) Francaise Des Jeux 73
10 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Francaise Des Jeux 71

It's suddenly an even closer race. I'm rooting for Thor! The yellow and KOM jerseys stayed the same, but the young rider did not. And that's because poor Valverde had to retire due to a knee problem.

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I hope that he's all right. It seems it's been hurting for a while and with how hard he's ridden, it's not surprising that he retired. Just really sad. Hopefully everyone else will be able to make it to Paris. On Sunday, we'll have one week left. Amazing. Even though I didn't really like today's stage, I do love the tour.

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