Saturday, July 23, 2005

Stage 19 - Friday, July 22: Issoire - Le Puy-en-Velay, 153.5 km

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In case you were wondering what an almost perfect win from a break looks like, now you can say you've seen one.

I did not pay much attention to this stage. After all, I just finished watching it and it's one am. But there were a few things that caught my attention. Sylvain Chavanel, for one. Like with Paolo Savoldelli, I enjoy watching Sylvain ride. I especially like the way he descends. I am sad, though, that there are so few pictures of him doing the weird mostly off the bike descent thing. If anyone knows where I can get some, hook a girl up, please.

But, moving on. Once again FDJ failed to get a stage win. No matter how hard they try, just like last year, they can't do it. This year I blame the lack of Matt Wilson. Last year I blamed Brad riding too hard in the Giro. And I am sad that Cookie just isn't fast enough, and not doing so well health-wise. I hope that next year they can get it back together again. Or maybe FDJ's time has come and gone, though I certainly hope not.

The stage itself wasn't that interesting to me, I think that's because I had so much going on today that I kept getting caught up in trying to catch up with everything. I did find it interesting how Paul and Phil made sure to mention how Discovery and Lance had no need to catch the break and reel them back in. Not just because I think they're right, but because it showed the lack of Petacchi in the tour. Not just his team around him, because a lot of them are there, but Petacchi himself. Even though he didn't usually make it this far into the tour, his team usually set an example of how to catch a break and sprint to win. So, even at the end of the tour, teams were able to pull it off. This year, though, it's failed at least half of the time, if not more.

So now we're left with an extremely close green jersey race.

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Current standings - Points classification"

1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 175 pts
2 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 160
3 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 154

Any of them have a chance. Today just opened the field a bit more with Robbie taking the points ahead of Thor and Stuey. Who do I want to win? Thor, of course. Who do I think will win? Robbie. I can't imagine it any other way. He did it last year -- against Thor as well -- and he's just as fast. As long as he doesn't do anything wrong, he'll ride away with the stage win and the green jersey.

The rest of the jerseys seem to be knit up quite well. No one can challenge Rasmussen any more.

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He'll be in the KOM jersey on the podium in Paris. Now he just has to worry about keeping third. Tomorrow will definitely determine that place. I don't think that Basso will be able to gain any more time. And, barring some sort of accident, Lance will be in yellow come Paris. Tomorrow will be all about time, of course. I really, really hope that Rasmussen will be able to keep his third, but I honestly don't know if he can. He's good in the mountains but has said that he's not that great on the time trials. We'll find out tomorrow, I guess.

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The younger rider's jersey is another no-challenge contest. Discovery's Popovych has run away with it. He had a few really brilliant days up at the front and has pretty much taken over completely. The top two:

1 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel 81.38.12
2 Andrei Kashechkin (Kaz) Credit Agricole 7.47

At one point Kashechkin trailed by only a handful of seconds, but has since lost a lot of time. And the next closest? He's 41 minutes behind. Discovery will have at least one of the jerseys in Paris. And, well, I guess that's a good a way as any to transition.

While they won't win the team competition, they are 15 minutes behind T-Mobile (oddly enough), they will have put two men on the podium in Paris. Lance will, unless something horrific happens (which is highly unlikely) ride into Paris in the yellow jersey. I have accepted this and moved on, my concern, as stated above, is with third place. And, of course, what will happen next year. I think Basso will probably win, or maybe Ullrich. But not Vino, unless he finds a team who can keep up with him.

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But back to today's stage. Giuseppe Guerini was amazing. He surprised the rest of the men in the break and took off. It was perfectly planned and a lot of fun to watch, even though I'd already read who won today's stage. It was also really good for T-Mobile, who hadn't won a stage since '03 and now they've won two. And the team competition, and maybe if they're lucky, Ullrich will race himself onto the podium and they will have proven that they are, as always, a team to reckon with.

I hope that next year will be exciting, now that Lance will be gone. The field will be open to everyone, though I hope that people will avoid 'the next Lance Armstrong' comparisons. But, that's not for another year. So, here's to tomorrow. I hope that it's as exciting as the first tour that I watched (though that was only '03 and I was actually rooting for Lance). While I am not happy he won, I am not sad, either. If anyone proved that one cause build themselves up to win just one stage race, it's Lance. He'll never be Eddy Merckx, but then again, that was never his goal.

I look forward to the last two days, to updating my blog two more times. And, of course, I look forward to the rest of the season. My boys will still be racing and I'll still be following them.

But, now for tomorrow. I do love time trials.

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