Sunday, July 16, 2006

Stage 13 - Saturday, July 15: Béziers - Montélimar, 231 km

It was almost the best stage of the tour. Why? Sylvain Chavanel was in the break. The only way it would have been better is if Sylvain could have won it. But he didin't listen to me (and I was shouting pretty loudly at my TV) as I explained how he should attack. It was Jens Voigt who did exactly as I suggested Chavanel should do. So I just spent a lot of the final kilometers being mad at Sylvain. He has since admitted that he totally screwed up his chances to win, so that's something.

I probably cared more about stage 13 than any of th previous stages. It's hard to care that much because it hurt when Sylvain just couldn't finish for the win. But, that being said, I am fans of both Jens Voigt and Oscar Pereiro, so the results weren't say, as bad as if it had been McEwen or something. I was disappointed, of course, but that's cycling, right?

The stage started with attacks, but it was the five man group that managed to stay away. They were Jens Voigt, Oscar Pereiro, Sylvain Chavanel, Manuel Quinziato and Andriy Grivko. They did a fantastic job of working and took around 30 minutes out of the peloton at one point. It was around then that the time dropped to 27 minutes and with 14/15km to go, Grivko attacked. Sadly for the young Ukrainian (the young rider of the group), he attacked to early and with too much effort. He was easily caught and then he was dropped, never to see the remaining for again.

Then it was Chavanel who attacked. Alas, this didn't stick either. But with that attack, Sylvain had screwed up the cooperation the group had previously thrived on. Soon there were a few other attacks, but it wasn't until Voigt went that anything lasted. He went, followed by Pereiro and neither Sylvain nor Quinziato could catch him. Sylvain later said that he'd picked the wrong man to be the strongest. As much as I adore Sylvain, if Jens Voigt is in a break, that's the man you stick to.

It was left for Sylvain and Quinziato to fight out third and fourth because the battle was going on without them. Voigt and Pereiro weren't giving anything away. They battled it out, talking to each other the whole way. For a moment, it looked like Pereiro wasn't going to contest the win, but he did. He fought hard, but it was Voigt who, to the surprise of no one, was stronger. It was a great stage win for Voigt (his second tour stage) and for CSC.

But it was Pereiro who lucked out. Not only did he come in second in an all day breakaway, he managed to acquire the yellow jersey. How did this happen? The peloton needed to be at least 28 minutes behind the stage. So, not only was this breakaway successful, it was totally awesome. The peloton finished 29 minutes behind the break, giving Pereiro the jersey. Much, I must add, to the relief of Phonak. No one wants to work their riders so hard before the stages that might actually determine the winner.

The stage was brilliant and I hope that tomorrow's is just as good.

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