Saturday, July 16, 2005

Stage 14 - Saturday, July 16: Agde - Ax-3 Domaines, 220.5 km

Image hosted by

Today was, well, quite an interesting day, to put it mildly at least. It started out like any other stage, with a break. But, thanks to T-Mobile, the break didn't last. For a detailed play by play of the stage -- well, not a very professional one -- check out this, which I wrote during the stage this morning.

What did I think of Vino's attack? I assumed he was working for Ullrich, and I still believe that. And while I liked that he attacked on the last climb, I can totally understand those people who think that Vino was not being loyal to his team. I also believe that, even if he wasn't loyal, Klodi and Ullrich should not have chased him down. Perhaps they ought to have left it to the rest of the leaders instead of spending themselves up before the finish.

It hurt Klodi and probably Ullrich. It was hard to watch Michael Rasmussen struggle. I really wanted him to keep up with the leaders. And, though he ended up losing time, he managed to keep second, which was what I wanted.

As for the leaders? In the end it was only Basso, Armstrong and Ullrich.

Image hosted by

Yes, that's right. Ullrich. Somehow (I don't know how) he has managed to recover and overcome the crashes and the bad days. Out of everyone on the stage, save Georg Totschnig, it was Ullrich who tried the hardest and, while he didn't gain the most, he did prove that, as either Paul or Phil put it, 'Jan Ullrich is back.' Even though he couldn't stick with Armstrong and Basso (and Basso didn't quite make it, either), he did his best and came in a respectable fourth.

The GC, though, was shaken up a bit.

General classification after stage 14
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 55.58.17 (43.32 km/h)
2 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 1.41
3 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 2.46
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 4.34
5 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 4.45
6 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 5.03
7 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne
8 Andreas Kloden (Ger) T-Mobile Team 5.38
9 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 7.09
10 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 8.37

Vino lost more time, but moved up. Ullrich is in fourth. There are three Americans in the top ten and none of them are Bobby Julich. It's nice that two of Lance's former teammates have proven their worth, to both their teams and the peloton at large. I am very pleased that Rasmussen is second and that Basso is third. I don't think that Lance will lose his lead, in fact I'm almost certain he'll win the tour, but it's fun to watch the others try. I just wait for next year, when everything will be completely different.

Image hosted by

But, of course, the real hero of the day was 34 year old Georg Totschnig.

"Today, I said to my director I wanted to attack and get in a break that would make it the finish. I had a little bit of luck, but also a lot of strength. Today's victory is better than finishing 10th in the [final] classification," he said.

He did exactly what he wanted to do, but I doubt he had any idea that it would be so amazing. The look on his face when he crossed the finish line was worth waiting for. Of all the wins, even better than Rasmussen's -- and that's saying something, Totschnig's was the most emotional. At 34, who could have imagined winning a stage of a grand tour, and the Tour de France, no less? Probably not Totschnig. But now there he is, a winner of the 14th stage.

I was rooting for him to cross that line first. Rooting hard, I might add. He deserved that win more than anyone else. I hoped and was glad I was right, that Armstrong's group wouldn't be able to catch him. And, hard as they rode, they didn't (couldn't?). And, well, that was how it should be.

As a side note, I'm happy to say that today totally made up for the crappy stage that was stage 13. As I am getting up at seven am tomorrow, I expect good things from stage 15, but I'm not keeping my hopes up. This is the tour, after all. One never knows what can happen.

No comments: