Thursday, July 06, 2006

Stage 5 - Thursday, July 6: Beauvais - Caen, 225 km

I have yet to decide who I'll root for on Sunday, but it'll probably be France. If only because I am a huge fan of Thierry Henry and I've got a bit of a crush on Zidane. And, as the Devil says, Allez Les Bleus! But, now, back to the stage.

The fifth stage of the tour was treated to a bit of rain, but mostly (what OLN showed us, at least) it was sunny. There was a break, but unlike yesterday's, the one today was composed of only two riders. One from Ag2r and one from Milram. The lack of Zabel wins had me hoping that the Milram rider, Björn Schröder, would somehow manage to stick it out for the win. That, of course, was not to be.

Although the chase often seemed feeble at best, the break was eventually caught and the the bunch reformed. Unlike yesterday, when there was only one major accident, (resulting in a minor form of chaos) there were a few today. Everyone did finish the and there was a scary moment when Discovery looked like they were going to lose Egoi Martinez. But luckily for both Martinez and Discovery, he was able to finish the race.

Once the peloton caught the riders, there was a mess of trains and sprinters all trying to work out a way to beat Robbie McEwen. Yesterday I mentioned that the best way for Tom Boonen to win or get more points was to make sure that McEwen was boxed out. And what happened today? Exactly that. I had to have a laugh when I watched because really, who expects that? Anyway.

So Boonen did as I suggested and, well, he certainly didn't win.

The magnificent Oscar Freire both outwitted and outsprinted the best this year's Tour has to offer. Not only did he beat Boonen to the line, but his tactics surprised everyone. While the majority of the sprinters were driving toward the left (the "inside"), Freire -- in a moment of pure genius, really -- saw an opening on the right (the "outside") took a chance and blew them all away. It was fantastic. And OLN/French TV showed us an aerial view of Freire's win and man, it was pretty damn awesome.

It was clear how frustrated everyone else was, but I don't care. It was worth it. When cyclists win, their faces are usually filled with happiness and excitement. To me, though, Freire's was just that of pure joy. It was really nice to see such an unexpected win. Not wholly unexpected, as Freire had been sprinting with the lot for the past couple of stages, but he wasn't a favorite. At least not an outright one. And, as anyone who knows me can tell you, I find those wins to be the best and most exciting.

Nothing much else changed, Boonen still has the yellow jersey and he put a few more seconds between himself and Michael Rogers. I don't expect Boonen to keep the jersey much longer (but then again, I didn't think A-Rod would ever move to the Yankees), but we'll just have to wait and see.

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