Saturday, July 08, 2006

Stage 6 - Friday, July 7: Lisieux - Vitré, 189 km

The sprinters, as they say, will have their day. Though I'm not sure who exactly "they" are, Stage 6 was certainly their day. It didn't of course, start out that way. Instead, there were a flurry of break attempts, including one with some 17 cyclists (including the yellow jersey -- I don't know whose bright idea that was). It of course didn't last, but such is the nature of the break. In fact, it's the theme of the breaks in the tour this year. Not a single one has lasted.

I listened to the stage at work on Eurosport (which was so totally awesome. I might ditch OLN audio in favor of Eurosport -- I just haven't decided on that yet) and one of the commentators was really excited about breaks. He called himself a bit sentimental because not only did he want Erik Zabel to win (birthday boy and all), but if he couldn't have that, he wanted the break to stay away. And I'm there with him. I love breaks that last. Hopefully we'll have a few in the early mountains.

The Stage 6 break consisted of three riders, the French Champion Florent Brard, Maggie Bäckstedt, and Anthony Geslin. Two French and one Swede. They works had, though Bäckstedt worked the hardest. They were doomed from the start, since Geslin was the highest ranked rider and QuickStep was definitely not going to lose the jersey before the so called 'defining' time trial on Saturday. So the riders kept at it, even though it was a mostly futile effort. It'd have been nice for one of them to win, but of course it wasn't to be.

Nor was it to be Erik Zabel's birthday. He'd won his first Tour de France race 11 years ago to the day. And, on the day he turned 36, many of us (myself included) wanted him to in. But unfortunately it was not a stage that suited Zabel. Instead, there was, of course, a bit of a battle. And the winner? Simple the best at sprinting out of nowhere, Robbbie McEwen. Again.

Yes, you read that right. McEwen managed to win another stage -- his third of the tour this year. THIRD. I cannot believe it. I mean, well, yeah he's good (and even though I cannot stand him, I at least admit that) but really. I'd like to see other people win stages. Which, I suppose, is why a lot of people don't like sprinter's stages. I'll confess that a stage can be pretty awesome and then McEwen will win and I'll just think the stage sucked. But a stage shouldn't be judged by it's winner. And today's was a good stage, in spite of the fact that McEwen won.

Boonen kept the yellow jersey for one more day (unless he blows us all away with his time trialling skills -- but I don't think he has a chance). The King of the Mountain jersey didn't change hands (even though there was a brief fight the other day. And, most impressively, the young Benoît Vaugrenard took back the young rider's jersey with some awesome tactics. He took a six second time bonus that put him back in white and gave him three seconds on Marcus Fothen. The white jersey competition is turning out to be a lot of fun. I'm actually writing about it over at cycling fans.

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