Monday, July 30, 2007

Stage 20 - Sunday, July 29: Marcoussis - Paris Champs-Élysées, 146km

I had too much to do after the final stage yesterday (watching Arsenal beat Inter Milan and then visiting my grandmother and grocery shopping and ... laziness, really) and I wanted to think about this tour before I wrote my final '07 TDF blog post. I've thought a little, but mostly I feel I've already formed all of my opinions. So I'll just get this done and then we can go on reporting about doping, because that's what we all want to hear, right? I'm kidding. Mostly.

So, the final stage, right? It was terrible. Not only the lack of racing (I mean, not even a breakaway guys? Really.) but the whole Versus losing their feed thing. That really pissed me off. But that wasn't their fault, at least not the station. Most likely some satellite's problem or something. But because of that, I missed the most exciting part of the race and when Bennati crossed the line, it was a big letdown. It shouldn't have been, as I like Lampre and Bennati, but ...

Aside from that, the tour was quite interesting and I eagerly await all of the post-Tour positives that will certainly start to appear. I don't know who (well, we're not talking about the one that just came out a couple of hours ago). Also, all the hype surrounding Contador just makes me feel like people are setting themselves up for disaster (which is fine, I suppose -- that's the nature of the sport).

AS for Contador's win? It's weird to see him up there. Odd that Leipheimer and Evans are there. But it's kind of interesting how Discovery managed to do a lot that they'd never done while Armstrong was there. The previous teams threw themselves into the race for Armstrong, but while they had a leader this year, they also managed to win the race with someone, have two riders on the podium and win the team competition. It was surprising and nice if you are a Discovery fan (which I am not).

Boonen won the green jersey and Soler took the KOM one. And, of course, Contador had both the yellow and the white. It's kind of a crazy podium to echo a crazy tour. If only the final stage could have lived up to the craziness that made up so many of the stages. Sadly, it was not to be. It was an interesting stage, no one wanted to race and I was sad that, even though I didn't like Evans, he didn't make an attempt to take the jersey from Contador. It would have at least spiced things up a bit.

Overall, I liked the tour. Yes, drama and all. There's nothing quite like the excitement that comes with doping and people being kicked out. If nothing else, this shows the world that cycling at least cares that people dope, while so many other sports just don't give a shit. Maybe this year's TDF won't change anything, but at least it's a start.

Who knows what will happen next year -- but I hope that my boys race and finish and we keep plucking the dopers out. Until next year!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Stage 19 - Saturday, July 28: Cognac - Angoulême, 55.5km

The stage of truth as so many people have called it. Or maybe it's the race of truth, it's hard to tell. But what did we learn? The yellow jersey makes you do amazing things – but sometimes your own body works against you. While Contador did not lose his yellow jersey, he only leads the tour by 23 seconds. Unlike previous years, anything can happen on Sunday. The man who crosses the line in Paris in yellow might not (though he probably will) be the winner of the tour. Of course, this is all speculation about tomorrow. Let's stick with what happened today.

Thomas Dekker had an extremely good ITT for a first time Tour rider – not, as he told Eurosport, as good as he'd have liked, but good nonetheless. Other riders rode well -- it would have been nice to see how Sylvain Chavanel and Bradley Wiggins would have done, but of course it was not to be. Speaking of things that aren't to be, David Millar winning a stage of this year's tour! He had a horrible, '04 Rasmussen-esque disastrous start to the stage. His wheel disintegrated and then the new one did too. It was pretty annoying and during the his interview after he finished, I thought he was going to hit someone. Poor guy.

The real excitement, though, wasn't to happen until later. Everyone remembers the Ullrich vs Armstrong time trial in the rain (during '03) when Ullrich crashed and Armstrong rode carefully enough for the win. We all held our breath, even though it seemed almost destined to happen, and it was exciting. That had nothing on this time trial. Would Contador fail to hold his yellow? Would Evans pass Contador? Would Leipheimer be able to win everything and dethrone his teammate? All of those questions were answered in the most exciting way possible.

Even though not a thing changed in terms of the classification (not counting the times), it was amazing. Predictably, Contador lost time to both Leipheimer and Evans, but he managed to somehow hold onto his jersey. It was impressive in that he managed to save 31 seconds -- yes, 31. I couldn't believe it. For a while we thought Leipheimer was going to take over Evans' second and then we had two races going no at the same time. Would Leipheimer move into second or would Evans hold him off. Obviously, as nothing changed, Evans did hold him off. But while it was happening we had no idea.

It was quite a good time trial and even though I'm not in any way a Leipheimer fan, his win was quite nice and I feel that like Millar, this time trial was perfect for Leipheimer. I really would have rather seen Millar win, but we can't have everything. This sets up one of the closest time between the top three riders, possibly ever, in tour history. To be honest, I hope something exciting happens tomorrow. I'd like to see people attack from the start, but I know that won't happen. But a girl can hope, right?

Most likely, Contador will win the Tour and the white jersey with Evans and Leipheimer in second and third. It'll have been a crazy tour, I just hope that the finish is something that suits the wackiness of the three weeks they've been racing.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Stage 18 - Friday, July 27: Cahors - Angoulême, 211km

Again it was a breakaway day. I spent much of it trying to decide who I wanted to win. I did not really care about the Bouygues Telecom riders, Laurent Lefevere. So that left me with the three remaining breakaway companions, vying for my cheering and the stage win (guess which one was more important).

Did I want Axel Merckx, rumored to be retiring at the end of the year, to win? It would be good for T-Mobile and he'd make a great sentimental win (even if he doesn't retire). Or did I want Sandy Casar, a rider I root for because I like Française des Jeux, to win? In Casar's case, it'd be a first win for him and a win for his team – which would be great because they tend not to win a lot of stages in the Tour. Maybe it was going to be his day – but there was that crash with the dog and he looked to be suffering. If I had to pick from those three (Lefevere, Merckx and Casar), it would be Casar.

But, of course, that wasn't the mix. There were, by the end of the stage, just four riders in the break. The fourth being Rabobank rider Michael Boogerd. Here's a man who gave everything he had, practically running himself down to nothing, for Michael Rasmussen when he was still in the tour. Then, much to his horror (and shock), Rasmussen was kicked off the team and out of the Tour, leaving Boogerd with no one to work for. So, two days after the leader was removed from the Tour, Boogerd was fighting for the stage win. He, too, will retire at the end of the season and a win would be not only sentimental, but good for team morale.

Even with all of that, though, as the riders came to the last 250 meters I still didn't know who I wanted to win. In fact, even as Casar crossed the line, I wasn't sure! But, of course, that meant that it wasn't a disappointment. And it was quite amusing to see how the break had played just into Casar's hands. He was, as Phil and Paul said, the carrot. They all underestimated him and overestimated how bad his injuries were. Casar would probably hurt that night and during the ITT on Saturday, but he managed to play us all – and it was brilliant. He used excellent tactics to go one way around some road furniture and totally out play the other riders. It was a pleasure to watch.

The chasing peloton, who were once 17 minutes behind the breakaway, managed to bring the gap down to eight minutes. Green jersey leader Tom Boonen needed to beat the rest of the sprinters to the line in order to secure his jersey – and that's exactly what he did. Robbie Hunter came in second, followed by Zabel, and Sébastien Chavanel. It was a decent enough finish, though we all know I'm not Boonen's biggest fan. But I must say, Sébastien Chavanel has really come into his own at Française des Jeux – which is really nice. Not since Baden Cooke rode for the team has the team had a good, solid sprinter (I know people will argue that Bernhard Eisel is good – but I disagree completely). Hopefully next year he'll do even better.

So how did the standings hold up to this stage eighteen? Nothing changed. Boonen, as stated above, sealed his green jersey win and everything stayed the same – just as predicted. The only thing that changed was that Contador lost a few seconds to Evans when a little gap formed in the peloton. The importance of these seconds will be revealed in the time trial.

I am not a fan of anyone in the top four and I suppose I'd want some sort of disaster in the ITT, but of course that won't happen. And therefore, the chances of, oh, Zubeldia or Valverde winning are absolutely zero. Soon enough we'll find out who will most likely ride into Paris as the winner of the Tour de France. Of course, as we all know, anything can happen.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Stage 17 - Thursday, July 26: Pau - Castelsarrasin, 188.5km

There are so many things I could say about this stage. It started, for me, at seven am. I watched an hour of the Eurosport coverage and listened to interview after interview. The Rabobank riders were stunned while the French riders were outspoken. It was also interesting to listen to the people in charge (of the UCI and ASO) and who blames who and so on. But there was a race going on. And by about nine am (eastern time in the US), racing was finally on Versus.

What happened in the stage? A breakaway that was chased hard by Caisse d'Epargne, but that was eventually shut down. And what we had was a breakaway that could last -- and surprisingly (at least during this tour) they did just that. It looked, the commentators said and I agreed, that the cyclists were just worn out. In the past few days, things have been extremely stressful (which was too much for Denis Menchov, who abandoned for no obvious physical reason -- perhaps the cycling equivalent of a broken heart).

The breakaway worked well together, but the pace began to build, little by little, until riders, such as David Millar, were shed from the group. There were four remaining riders, and perhaps it would be Jens Voigt's day at last. He won the same stage a year ago. Or maybe it would be the German kid, Markus Fothen. Or, perhaps, Martin Elmiger of AG2r. Of course, we were all wrong. Lampre's Daniele Bennati read everything perfectly.

He managed to get the break to play right into his hands -- and it helped that he's a great sprinter. He read the moves extremely well and attacked at just the right moment. He left the rest of the break and took the win, impressively as well. The second win for an Italian this year and first for Lampre.

It was a good stage. It was a hard stage for everyone, but the finish and the second sprint for the remaining points, were safe and done quite well. It was actually a really nice to move forward from the previous days stages. Maybe it's something about the mountains that drains people and makes all of this crap about doping easier to spot. Or maybe we're just all relieved to have gotten out of the mountains, to leave all of this behind (at least for now).

The only jersey to change was the yellow jersey. It's on the shoulders of the young Discovery riders, Alberto Contador. He did not wear it during the stage, even though he had the lead (a brave move, I think). He graciously put on the jersey and while I don't know if I want him to win (nor do I want the rest of the top three to win either), I think this is good for the sport. Especially if this kid is clean (and it seems he might be, but only time and tests will tell).

Tomorrow's stage is a little rougher than today, but the tour is almost over. The top riders will be saving themselves for the time trial on Saturday. It should be a breakaway stage -- and I hope it is. Perhaps a French rider will surprise us and take a win. Sadly, it won't be my Frenchman. But I'll be there, watching. And I hope you will be too.

Stage 16 - Wednesday, July 25: Orthez - Gourette - Col d’Aubisque, 218.5km

Again, I am talking about this stage without everything that happened when it ended. I will state that throughout the stage, I reloaded the L'Equipe site for two hours until they finally told us who the alleged doper was (as soon as the race ended). But onto the stage.

It was one of those once in a lifetime stages. It was similar to one of those Landis stages at last year's tour (little did we know, though). But what I wanted to talk about was how Discovery's tactics were a failure. What they did was wait for Rabobank to drop their protection of Rasmussen so that they could isolate him. But by the time that happened, there wasn't quite enough time for attacking. But Contador and Leipheimer waited and waiting some more, and when they attack it was too late.

Perhaps what they should have done was attack earlier. There were enough Discovery riders to ride hard, but no one did. Contador should have attacked earlier and harder and more often. Same with Leipheimer. But for whatever reason, that's not what happened and Discovery got screwed over by Rasmussen who, once again, proved to be stronger than everyone else.

In the end, he made Discovery work for him. With two Discovery riders, it was still more than enough to take Rasmussen, but it was like they had nothing else left to give. Which, I guess, made them a bit more human than Rasmussen. We knew he was a good climber, but to hang onto every move when he'd been so close to cracking two days before? He took all that adversity and tossed it back in the faces of his detractors to prove he could win the stage and stretch his lead.

Evans, Leipheimer, and Contador all battled against falling further back on GC, but it was a losing effort. They all lost time. In spite of all of that, prior to the 'top contenders' attacking, there were a couple of breakaways that ended up being caught. There was a brief moment when I thought maybe Mayo would be able to take the win, but sadly that was not to be.

The best part of the day, of course, was the young rider, Soler of Barloworld, taking back his KOM jersey. Hopefully he can keep it for the rest of the tour.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rest Day 2 - Tuesday, July 24: Pau

It's getting harder to find good things about this tour, but I'll give it my best shot.

1. Sylvain Chavanel. Of course he'd end up on my list. There's no question. His attacking, of course. But mostly his amazing and wonderful performance on the ITT. HE just really made my day and blew my mind. I know he was just 8th, but it was pretty damn impressive.

2. Alberto Contador. There's something special about this kid and I hope that he manages to be clean and if he wins this tour, like so many think he might, I hope it counts. I want to see him do well and I'd hate if he didn't.

3. Mountains. They've been brilliant so far. Painted and beautiful and the crowds have just come out to cheer the boys on. Sometimes it's a bit of an irony (people holding giant syringes) but at the same time it's so nice to see them there and supporting these boys.

4. David Millar. Kicking ass while in a lot of discomfort. Not Vino or Hamilton-like discomfort, but the worst kind. Where you can't do anything about it and you just want to scratch. And also, kudos for him for speaking his mind.

5. Vinokourov. I was of two minds on this one and so he'll be in both places. Prior to today, this man was pretty much a wonderful thing. He was fighting against all odds and battling to win stages and make his name known. And for that, he belongs here.


6. Vinokourov. But then there's the doping scandal. There's Astana leaving the tour. There's so much here that's so wrong. He belongs on this side of the my list as well. It's hard to know what to think about it, so I'll just leave it as this: he gave everything and clearly (if these reports are to be believed) that wasn't enough.

7. Rasmussen. I liked him when he only cared about the KOM. But I recall, back during his run at the Vuelta, that something about him bugged me. I still don't know what, but I didn't like him. And now I don't again. Whatever he's done, he doesn't really deserve to be in yellow based on his behavior. Someone with so little respect for th rules shouldn't get the play the game.

8. Doping. Once again it's the story. Partly I'm glad because maybe something will change. Realistically I am not hopeful, because I don't think anything will. Perhaps I should feel good that people are getting caught, but so much for the clean tour thing.

9. Patrik Sinkewitz. What an idiot. I don't know what else to say about him. If it's true, he's so incredibly dumb that I can't even begin to understand. For his sake, I hope he's innocent, but it's so hard to believe that any more.

10. UCI/ASO/ETC. Their failings are becoming so obvious. Nothing has changed and the Tour has just showing that to be the case. The drug tests are catching riders, sure, but it's not enough and it's so blatantly clear that there are problems. There is something wrong with the system and it needs to be fixed.

The tour is not over and it won't be over until Sunday. But it will be one of the oddest Tours I have ever watched. With Astana gone, everything's a little different. And you can bet your ass I'll be getting up at 6:30 am to see what happens.

Stage 15 - Monday, July 23: Foix - Loudenvielle - Le Louron, 196km

As with the previous stage, I am writing this as if I wrote it right after the stage and without the news that happened during the rest day. Now, on with the report.

I woke up at seven thirty in the morning to watch this stage. It was worth it. The mountains were rough, difficult as expected, though nothing (it appears) as bad as Wednesday will be.

The real story today was, well, there were actually two of them. The first, of course, was that of Vinokorouv. He showed us that he is not done, that he still has whatever it is that keeps him going. He's known for being feisty and never giving up and I must admit that I was thrilled to see him back in that role once again. He threw caution to the wind and basically gave us a taste of what winning can be like. It was pretty amazing to watch him pedal his way to the finish and eventually take the win.

The second story, of course, was that of the battle between the best young rider and the yellow jersey. Contador, in second still, attacked and attacked Rasmussen. For whatever reason, he felt compelled to try and shake him, but he couldn't. He put forth so much effort that I'm sure he's pleased there is a rest day tomorrow. If there wasn't, I'd say they were both screwed.

But try as he might, Contador couldn't shake the Chicken. I think this was for two reasons, the first being as the Versus commentators stated -- he waited a little bit too long to attack. The second reason is that I believe the cameras/cars/motorbikes got in his way. He was attacking his way up the climb and had to sit down a bit when the motorcade was in front of him. Had that not happened, I think the results would be different.

So what will happen on Wednesday? Only time will tell. I hope that Rasmussen loses is yellow jersey, but I don't know that he will. So many people expected him to be out of it on the rest day that it's hard to say what'll happen now.

One thing is for sure, this tour still isn't as open as I had hoped. We've had two dominate rides (one not surprising, the other mostly a shock). Hopefully the jersey will change hands, because it's about time. Of course, we have to make it through the rest day first.

Stage 14 - Sunday, July 22: Mazamet - Plateau-de-Beille, 197km

I watched this stage after having watched Stage 15, as I was out of town on the 22nd. This was a remarkable stage. A day after Vino surprised us all with the time trial victory (though it wasn't that much of a surprise if you look at his past ITT results), he was dropped in the mountains. He basically gave up on this year's tour, and probably his chance of ever winning a tour. I can't say that I blame him, he's had nothing but bad luck at TDFs, for whatever reason, ever since that third place in '03.

What else happened? Contador and Rasmussen. Yes, Alberto Contador from the Discovery Channel. I knew this kid was special, even I sort of let him go after he joined Discovery. He showed today that he knows how to ride in the mountains. He found himself in the amazing position of riding along with Michael Rasmussen. The white jersey and the yellow jersey, working together.

Until, we found out later, Contador and Discovery realized that he was actually working for, rather than with, Rasmussen. And, smartly so, he stopped. He sat on Rasmussen's wheel and basically stopped working. It was a really clever move on Contador's part and it caused all sorts of problems the next day, which I'll talk about later.

What eventually happened is that the two of them left everyone back in the dust and it was Contador who took the win. He sprinted forward and Rasmussen, try as he might, just couldn't beat him to the line.

What was even more interesting was that the so called contenders really couldn't hack it. I don't know why (and I refuse to speculate), but Evans and co just couldn't keep up. Even worse, Vinokourov lost so much time that he definitely, as I stated above, lost any chance he had at the tour.

Contador moved up into second place, which totally surprised me. I didn't think he had it in him -- but apparently he did. Tomorrow will be a killer stage and then Wednesday will sort things out again. We'll see what will happen with the "big boys" in the mountains.

As for everyone else? They're just trying to get through the stages and back to the (relatively) flat stages so they can finish their tour.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Stage 13 - Saturday, July 21: Albi - Albi, 54km

I just want to make this clear, today's stage was pretty damn amazing. I am impressed with both Rasmussen and Vinokourov. Cadel Evans was quite good and Contador proved all of us wrong. Of course, the biggest winners on the day are the Chicken and Vino. Though the leader of the tour did not (much to my chagrin) change, and though the other jerseys didn't change because there were no points to be gained (and Contador rode amazingly well), it did change the order behind Rasmussen.

I think that the real battles will start tomorrow (though I won't be watching that until Monday afternoon). But today was a good preview. It was extremely nice to see Vino back on form (sort of) and kicking some ass. It's been awhile. What surprised me was how well Rasmussed rode. But like I was telling my mother, it's clear that he trained hard for ITTs. But at the same time, it's hard to see that the '04 disaster wasn't just a fluke. That he's much more together than we give him credit for being. And that, like Vino, everything that's gone wrong made him angry instead. And I think that pushed him (and Vino) to do their very best.

There were spills and Wiggins blew us all away with his hardcore time trialling. But for me, this time trial was about something else. It was about Sylvain Chavanel.

You knew it was coming, of course. But he finished 8th and that it was just amazing. I stood in front of my TV and I could not believe it. There was something about this course that really just suited Sylvain. He's a decent time trialist (he's won it for his country at least once), but his love is the mountains. I remember in '03 when Armstrong reeled in one of Sylvain's attacks in the mountains to take the stage (I'm still bitter). But this stage was a good set up for him and he definitely proved himself -- to me, if not the world.

I know that 8th isn't special, but this is the Tour de France. This is a time trial in the TDF and to finish eighth is just amazing. It's hard to explain why this is important to me. I think, in way, it sort of validates my being a fan. Because I know he's good and to see him cross that line, and just for a few minutes, be in second place on one of the hardest individual stages of a tour, is just amazing.

I know this stage wasn't about him and most people barely even acknowledge his existence after it was over. But to me, his 8th place was the only thing that matters. Sure, I want him to win a stage, I want him to wear the yellow jersey (even for just a day). But this, this is good for now. He still has a few years left in him and hopefully he will improve.

Tomorrow? Who knows what will happen. I expected attacks galore. And that's what I hope for when I finally watch my recording of the stage (if all goes well).

Friday, July 20, 2007

Stage 12 - Friday, July 20: Montpellier - Castres, 178.5km

It's hard to know what to write about today's stage. Not just because of what happened with the man wearing the yellow jersey outside of the race, but because everything seems to relate to doping. But at the same time, it doesn't make me stop watching. Hell, Al Trautwig doesn't make me stop watching so why would doping? But that's beside the point.

Today's stage was another transition, but unlike the previous one, there was no Astana to push things. The consensus is that this is because the time trial is tomorrow. I think, in this case at least, that I agree. It's a huge stage and it could potentially determine the final tour winner, or at least the top riders (top five or ten). And whoever wins the ITT probably won't win the tour, but it'll be the guys coming in second and third and so on.

But, back to the stage. It was a breakaway stage, of course. How could it be anything else? There were plenty of attacks, but only two boys managed to get away. And for awhile, though not long, it seemed like they had a chance. But FDJ and Liquigas, among others, put the pressure on. And, of cousre, the peloton caught the two breakaway riders. The next question, who would win the stage?

Well, without McEwen there to compete, and with the unexpected results yesterday, anything could happen. What did happen? Tom Boonen won. Of course he won, it's not big surprise (and much to my chagrin, I might add -- at least he hasn't dominated) and it was a very good win. But not what I wanted. Seb Chavanel was up there, but not good enough. Zabel and Hunter were close, but again, there was no one who was going to beat Tom today.

Nothing else changed, but by tomorrow two of the four jerseys could have changed. Rasmussen's record in ITTs is terrible and there's no real guide to go by for Contador. So tomorrow, we could be looking at a new Tour leader and a new boy in the young rider jersey.

But today is just another stage, fun and interesting, but not impacting (much) the overall race. Hopefully tomorrow will live up to all the hype.

Stage 11 - Thursday, July 19: Marseille - Montpellier, 182.5km

Everyone's been talking about this stage. They've been going on and on about how Astana attacked to show that Vino's still in it and, well, I have to disagree. I'll hopefully write more about it later, suffice to say that I think that they attacked for completely different reasons and they failed in their mission. I could, of course, be wrong, and we'll find out soon enough, but that's not the point of the stage (though everyone seems to think so).

No, the point of this stage was Robbie Hunter winning. It's not just that he's a sprinter who beat out the best. It's that he beat out the best, without a good lead out train and on a team that's a wild card in the tour. Barloworld has now won two stages in this year's tour. And to me, that's the most important thing that happened yesterday. As someone, probably on Podium Cafe said, this is how Slipstream needs to do it next year. They can do this same thing. And Barloworld just showed them how.

Of course, Hunter wouldn't have been able to win without what Astana did. And what they did was attack on a rest day. It's "unheard of" or so people keep saying. It's not, of course. Back before the Armstrong era, people used to attack all the time (at least that's my impression), it didn't matter what stage it was. If you could attack, you did. It was really nice to see Astana putting on the pressure, even if it was in vain (I say that, but watch Vino end up in yellow). They busted the peloton, though not the tour, wide open (that'll happen on Saturday, I hope it will at least). It was quite a move, but nothing resulted except that the breakaway was captured.

I was unhappy about the breakaway being caught, to be honest. I was hoping for a Millar, Wegmann or Gilbert win. And Partly I'm annoyed at Astana for ruining the day for some riders who might otherwise not get a chance for a stage. But at the same time, I can't fault them because Hunter did win and it was extraordinary and, to be honest, quite wonderful. There is an off chance that if he won again, he could work his way up into the green jersey, which would be amazing, though I doubt it will happen.

So while I wanted someone else to win, I wasn't disappointed. I think, though, had the crash during the sprint not happened, Robbie probably wouldn't have won. I hate to say it, but Boonen is too strong most of the time. So now I'm hoping for another Hunter win or a Seb Chavanel win. Tomorrow, though, we'll see what happens. It's not flat, but they aren't big mountains either. It'll be an interesting stage, at least that's what I'm hoping.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stage 10 - Wednesday, July 18: Tallard - Marseille, 229.5km

There's something about flat stages that I just can't quite explain. Of course it wasn't a completely flat stage and that meant that the sprinters might not have their way at the end of the stage. I'd have liked to see Chavanel (of course) in a breakaway, but his attempt (I believe that's what it was -- there wasn't a lot of coverage, he could have just been working on the front of the peloton) didn't succeed.

There was a breakaway though, and unlike most breakaways, this one worked together (excluding the Rabobank rider) for the most part. The peloton was in no mood to chase and so it was up to the breakaway to take care of business, as it were. And they did. It was a good day for the French, coming in first and second on the stage. And, as I said to a friend of mine, with Jens Voigt, Sandy Casar, and eventual stage winner Cédric Vasseur in the breakaway, it was like an old school (old school for us at least) breakaway. Vasseur just barely beat Casar to the line -- and I was yelling hard for Casar.

The best part of the day, at least for me, was that Sylvain Chavanel's brother, Sébastien Chavanel, beat out every other sprinter to take 12th place and the 14 points that come with it. That puts him in fifth place in the points classification with 108 points. Boonen, of course, leads it with 160. While I don't know if Seb could take the green jersey, I'd love to see him win a stage. Same with Sylvain of course.

Nothing much changed over the stage, the four jerseys remain the the same. Which was to be expected, of course. Sadly, the main story of the day was about German cyclist Patrik Sinkewitz, formerly of T-Mobile who tested positive for testosterone. He'd had to quit the Tour the previous day due to a crash and here he was, in the hospital and now suspended by his team. We'll wait to see what happens, but this is the last thing that the team and the sport needed.

But tomorrow is another day and there will always be dopers. This is just part of the sport. At least for now.

Stage 9 - Tuesday, July 17: Val-d’Isère - Briançon, 159.5km

Everyone was looking forward to stage nine, except for maybe the cyclists. The fans, at least (and the Versus commentators) were ready for some action and we got some from the start. It ended unexpectedly, but the build up was fascinating. There was another episode of T-Mobile's comedy of errors when Marcus Burghardt hit a dog (yes, a dog). Luckily he continued and both boy and dog were fine. But all was not well with the stage.

The peloton broke into the usual splits, with a breakaway up front. The breakaway was doomed, but in the end, it was partly planned. There were two Discovery riders in the break to set up for some sort of tactics to put pressure on the leaders (or supposed leaders). It sort of worked. Contador was in the 'elite' group and he jumped off the front of the bunch, but couldn't win the stage. So while they tested the peloton (and their team leader who lost time), they didn't win any stages. It almost feels like CSC's tactics of previous years without the stage win.

But before all of that, the break was still up there (smaller than before) and something pretty exciting happened. Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) came out of nowhere, flew past the breakaway and basically raced his way to the win. It was pretty damn amazing. He blew apart the peloton and no one could catch him. By the end of the stage I was screaming for him to win. I was quite pleased he wasn't caught on the line -- though it was close.

Behind him, though, the chase was on. Not just to catch him (though they tried), but instead it was to see if anyone could break the yellow jersey. But Rasmussen was too tough for them. The same couldn't be said for Moreau and Leipheimer and, sadly, Vinokourov. Astana gave everything for Vino and it's just not going to work. It's heart breaking and unless he somehow recovers, I think he's not even going to make the top ten at this year's tour. So, perhaps Astana will work for Klodi instead.

Rasmussen did keep his yellow jersey, but Linus Gerdemann did lose his precious white jersey. It was Contador, who has the best mountain legs I've seen in a lot time, who took over that jersey. It's good for Discovery, and bad for T-Mobile (who just can't do anything right, aside from Linus that one day).

Stage 10 will be a comparatively easy day and probably without many challenges on the race lead. Instead, there'll be a breakaway and maybe a winner from it, but I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see. But for now, it's nice to see someone from one of the wildcard teams taking a win. It's really too bad that Unibet isn't racing, though.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Rest Day 1 - Monday, July 16: Tignes

As has become tradition with this blog, here are my top ten, the six good and bad things of tour so far. These aren't in any order, except the way they came to me as I was making the list.

1. Linus Gerdemann. This kid is the future of cycling. Hopefully (and I hate how I'm saying this, but there you go) he won't have any positive doping tests and we can admire the effort and skill that it took for him to ride himself into the yellow jersey for one day. His effort was amazing and he paid dearly for it the next day (compounded with losing two teammates on the road). I am extremely impressed with Gerdemann and I hope to see him do well next year -- and hopefully keep that young rider's jersey for at least another few days.

2. Sylvain Chavanel. It's not every tour that I get to put Sylvain in this half of the list. Or maybe it is, because I just looked at one of last year's and there he is. This year, unlike previous years, he actually did something quite amazing. He wore the KOM jersey for several days. I'm extremely proud of him -- and the fact that he was in two breakaways in a row really, really impressed me. Now, if only he could win a stage or wear the yellow jersey (even for a day).

3. The Mountains. This is one of those that I debated about which category to stick it in. It's here because it really blew open the race, not just in bad ways. I enjoyed the way the peloton split, the effort that they put in. And I really enjoyed that on just two stages, the performances have been amazing and the race broke apart. I only hope this continues (without the crashes, of course) throughout the rest of the tour.

4. London. There were numerous worries about the race starting here: not fans, terrorist attacks and so on. They were not unfounded worries, but none of them came to fruition. Instead it was one of the most amazing prologues and the beginning of the first stage was truly wonderful. With everything that was going on that weekend (Wimbledon and Silverstone, among other things) the crowds were magnificent and I think the Tour pulled off an amazing event. This also gives me hope for the 2012 Olympics being amazing as well.

5. Fans. There's not much to say here, there have been a few run-ins with the cyclists, but the point is that there are fans. I know that before the start, the question was whether people would turn out and I'm just so pleased that they have.


6. Crashes. By far the most deciding factor of this year's tour have been the crashes. While I don't know if there have been more than usual, it certainly seems like it. What they have been, though, is horrific. From Mick Rogers to Stuart O'Grady, the crashes have claimed more cyclists than I can even believe. I hope that the next two weeks are different. I don't want to read about more broken ribs or fractured collarbones. I know there will be more crashes, there always are, I just hope they are minor. We don't need a repeat of the first week.

7. Descents. This is connected directly to the point above. But at the same time, we've seen some pretty bad ass descents, but mostly I think that the cyclists are taking too many risks (for whatever reason). Not everyone can desced like Paolo Savoldelli and they they are all trying. As we have loads of mountains coming up, I hope that the boys are more careful, though I don't think that'll happen.

8. Sprints. In previous years there have been crashes during the sprint finishes. In previous years, there haven't been crashes as well. This year it's like every sprint finish has a crash of some sort -- I know it's not true, but it certainly seems like it. For some reason, the teams of the sprinters can't control the bunch and the sprinters through themselves toward the line and end up hitting the deck more often than not. Dangerous and exciting, which is exactly what cycling is.

9. Team tactics. Or maybe it's a lack of them. Stage 8 was ripe for the taking and yet the only team who put on any sort of tactical display was Rabobank (of all teams!). I have no idea what was going, but I hope that tomorrow we'll see a better display.

10. T-Mobile. Just a note to say that this tour has been hell on this team. They keep losing riders and it's just tragic. I hope they make it through the rest of the tour with all of their remaining riders in one piece, but who knows.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Stage 8 - Sunday, July 15: Le Grand-Bornand - Tignes, 165km

It was supposed to be the stage that would decide separate the real "contenders" from everyone else. And, in some ways, that's exactly what happened. But at the same time, it was a disaster of a day for T-Mobile (and CSC, though not to the same extent). I want to write a bit about crashes in general and I will later, but now the stage.

I woke up bright and early and was interested to see how things had shaken out. I was hoping for another stage seven like stage, but it was not to be. I also had hoped, as slim as my hope was, that Sylvain would hold onto his KOM jersey. Of course, that was not to be either. What did happen, of course, was much more interesting.

The stage reminded of similar stages during the Armstrong era, but without a strong leader. Of course there's Rasmussen, but it's not the same. He doesn't have a team to control the peloton (and oh, they tried). In fact, no team is strong enough for whatever reason (and there are many). Instead we had the break, which fluctuated and then the smaller peloton and then everyone else at different points on the stage.

Eventually the "contenders" were separated, but never was it a clear separation. There were always riders going off the front (Moreau) or off the back (Vino) and while some were eventually dropped (Vino), others pushed on (Contador). It was also a little shocking to see Leipheimer fairing so poorly (though not as badly as I originally expected), but then again I don't actually care how well he does.

I would, though, have liked to see Gerdemann keep his jersey. And the kid, who was probably devastated to have lost his team leader, Mick Rogers, tried his best. But with no teammates to help him and a morale crushing day (losing Rogers and Cavendish and Burghardt crashing), he did what he could and it wasn't enough. He worked hard and it was almost Voeckler-like in the effort he gave (for those of you who remember the day Voeckler almost lost that yellow jersey but made it just under the time limit).

But it was Rabobank in yellow at the end of the day. Gerdemann did keep the young riders jersey, but Contador is nipping as ih heels, 2.27 back. Hopefully Gerdemann can keep that jersey, but unless he pulls out another ride like he did on Saturday, it's highly unlikely. Contador, on the other hand, has once again started to prove himself. He is in great form and will undoubtedly do well for Discovery. I just hope that he isn't forced to expend everything he has for riders who aren't in as good shape on his team.

Tomorrow is a rest day, and I'll do my usual recap. The day after is another mountain day and we'll see of Rasmussen can descend properly and keep that yellow jersey. Hopefully, though, it won't be a disastrous day for the riders, at least in the crashing sense.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Stage 7 - Saturday, July 14: Bourg-en-Bresse - Le Grand-Bornand, 197.5km

Today's stage was interesting, and not just because I had to go to work before it was over -- and before they even went over the final climb. But it also took me several hours after work to watch the stage. This was mostly due to the fact that I was watching a lot of football (soccer). But I eventually did see and watch what I already knew was going to be a crazy stage. I did know that Gerdemann had won the stage (I've given up on not getting spoiled, it's impossible and I lack the desire, I think). I also knew about some weird incidents that happened on the road, so I was able to rewind my tape to watch them.

What I found the most interesting on this stage was that the so-called contenders remained in a group -- and that one of them was Vino. But enough about that, the stage wasn't about them, that's for tomorrow. Today's stage was about a breakaway, but mostly it was about an unknown (though not to me) German cyclist. Linus Gerdemann used to ride fro one of the smaller teams and was a favorite of my friend April's. He signed with T-Mobile, so we knew he had to be something special and today we knew exactly what it was.

The kid was amazing. I have never (which isn't saying much, I know) seen someone ride off the front on a mountain like that. It came close to an Armstrong like ride and I was quite pleased that he was rewarded with both the yellow jersey and the young riders. But, even more exciting (though not for him) he was also given the most aggressive rider prize. Two days ago that was given to Chavanel, so it's always fun to see who it goes to. And there was never any doubt who should receive it today.

Watching Gerdemann win was pretty special, even if I didn't get to see it live. Mostly it was just amazing to watch him give everything he had. And then watching him on the podium was just so nice. It's not rare that you see a rider so emotional, but he was just completely overcome and to be honest, it's really nice to see it. I'm quite proud of him, even though I'm not really a fan one way or the other.

I'm also pleased that Sylvain was able to keep his KOM jersey. I didn't really think he'd lose it -- mostly because there were too many riders in the break who didn't have enough to mount much of a fight. Tomorrow is a different story and I expect that at the end of the stage, the polka dots will be on someone else's back, probably Rasmussen's. Which is almost fine, except that I like Chavanel better. But such is the life of a fan of French cyclists.

It was a good, fun and exciting stage. The only downfalls were the stupid Basque fans pushing the rider who was trying to catch up with Gerdemann and the motorbike that stopped in front of Gerdeman. Luckily neither of those resulted in crashes. I hope tomorrow will be safe as well.

Stage 6 - Friday, July 13: Semur-en-Auxois - Bourg-en-Bresse, 199.5km

Today was the third day a Cofidis rider was in a breakaway. But unlike stages four and five, there was only one rider in the break, Bradley Wiggins. He worked extremely hard and I would definitely have liked to see him win the stage. Sadly, that was not to be for a number of reasons. The main one, of course, is that a solo breakaway for almost the whole stage doesn't lend itself to winning a stage. It would have been wonderful had he managed to hold off the peloton, but the day before the mountains? It was next to impossible and in the end, that's just what it was.

But, hats off to Wiggins. He was fun to watch and gave Cofidis a lot of TV time, which was lovely of course. Not much else happened in the stage, there was a bit about Tom Simpson, who died forty years ago. I don't recall if they talked about him during the live stage coverage, but on the extended coverage (which I am watching as I write this), they discussed it a bit.

The peloton chased hard, harder than maybe people expected, but it made sense. This was the last flat stage for a while and the sprinters wanted their day. The question wasn't whether they'd catch Wiggins, but when. And when they did, the next question was which team would lead the sprint. I have to say, I'm pretty disappointed in the lead outs the teams have produced this year. Perhaps I'm spoiled, having watched Cipo and Ale-Jet, but there's nothing quite like their trains.

I know QS has tried, as do the other teams and there are few riders (ex: Julian Dean) who have excelled at leading out their sprinters. But on the whole, the lead outs have sucked. I think that it makes sprint to the finish a lot more dangerous, but at the same time it makes it a lot more exciting. It's how McEwen won and, really, how Cancellara won his second stage. Chaotic sprints really make flat stages something to look forward too -- even while it scares the hell out of me.

There were no crashes in the final sprint, it was a straight out sprint. And, much to a lot of people's surprise, it was Boonen who won. I wasn't rooting for him, but then again, I was kind of glad to see that he hadn't lost his legs (though I believe he stated otherwise at one point). I know that he had a decent lead out, but nothing really special. And there were a lot of sprinters who were fighting their way to the line. But it was Boonen who finally came out on top and, deservedly so, pulled on the green jersey (I was sad to see it come off of Zabel's shoulders, though).

Cancellara kept his yellow jersey and Chavanel kept his KOM jersey (much to my glee). Tomorrow will be interesting and I look forward to watching it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Stage 5 - Thursday, July 12: Chablis - Autun, 182.5km

Before I turned on the TV this morning for live coverage, I thought to myself "Sylvain really should be in the break today." I have no idea what possessed me to think that, because immediately after I was like "..." and then turned on the TV to watch the pre-race show. By the time they summarized the actual stage so far, my mouth was open and my remote was ready to record. I couldn't believe that Chavanel was really in the break. And he was there with my second favorite rider, Philippe Gilbert. And as I told my parents (who were visiting) and several friends of mine, including Pete of cycling fans, it was like cycling heaven for me.

And it lasted for a long time. Not as long as I'd have liked (of course), but this is the curse of a fan like me. I don't always go for the big names, at least not consistently. But instead I pick the boys I like regardless of how good they are in grand tours. And neither Sylvain nor Philippe have been very successful, at least stage-winning wise at the tour. But today it didn't matter that much. What mattered is that they gave everything they have for an extraordinary ride. I am extremely proud of both of them and especially of Sylvain. Not only because he rode quite well today, but because of his actions yesterday and, well, he's the new King of the Mountains and watching him up there was amazing. His grin just made me grin and I cannot wait for the rest of this tour.

Of course the break didn't last, it's the first week and they seldom do. They were eventually caught, but not after Philippe and Sylvain gave everything they had and dropped their two other breakaway companions. They were caught, as predicted, though again I am pleased they didn't go without a fight. At one point Fabian Wegmann made a good effort to catch them, but was thwarted by the course itself (he thought the climb was 1km away but it was in fact 3km -- to his credit, I had the same mistake and I could have looked it up). Eventually the group was back together.

But while there was a flurry of attacking at the front, those in the back weren't so lucky. While it was a good day for several teams, including CSC, Astana was having one hell of a bad day. Andreas Klöden fell first, which was bad enough. Astana only sent one rider back to help him. But later race favorite Alexandre Vinokourov fell. It looked worse than it was (unlike with Klöden, who might not start tomorrow), but ignoring the extent of Vino's injuries, he ended up losing over a minute on the leader, Cancellara. It was sad and painful to watch.

But that's all part of the tour. These things happen and that's how, as the cliche goes, winners and losers are picked. I have a feeling that Vino's not destined to win the Tour de France, and it's sad, but it's not something that's going to change -- especially with his age. But that's not the point of the stage, of course. There were winners, not just losers. And the biggest winners today were Erik Zabel and Filippo Pozzato.

It was Pippo who took the stage in brilliant sprinting fashion. After finishing so close in previous stages, he threw himself out there and took the win. And while Zabel didn't finish in the top three today, he was 5th and took the green jersey. I have to tell you that I will always love Zabel and I am thrilled to death that he's in green. I don't think he'll remain in green, but I do hope he'll at least win one stage before the Tour is over.

Tomorrow, more small mountains and it should be exciting, to say the least!

Stage 4 - Wednesday, July 11: Villers-Cotterêts - Joigny, 193km

As everyone who knows me/follows my blogs knows, I am a huge Sylvain Chavanel fan. So today was a treat for me, although of course I didn't get my hopes up. He spent most of the day in the break, so it was pretty enjoyable for me. Again, a flat stage, so relatively speaking not much happened. It seemed pretty certain that Cancellara was going to keep the yellow jersey for another day, barring any sort of catastrophe.

Eventually the break, which had been going on for what seemed like forever, was caught. It wasn't without a fight and the remains of the break held on for as long as they could, but the teams of the sprinters powered their way and soon nothing was left but empty roads, fresh for sprinters. The question was, of course, who was going to take the stage win.

Earlier in the stage, Versus had a SMS poll to pick the winner of the stage. I didn't text in, mostly because I was using my phone to text my friends and call my mother to give her race updates. But had I (and I seriously contemplated it), I'd have picked Hushovd. At the time, it would just have been a guess, but little did I know. Instead, though, I hoped that Chavanel would be KOM or at least try to win the stage. Neither of those happened, obviously (and it came out later that he'd refused to take the KOM because his teammate was in the jersey).

What did happen, though, was pretty damn exciting. After the break was caught, there was just enough time for the sprinters. But it wasn't Boonen or Zabel or McEwen. Instead it was my pick, Thor Hushovd. With the powerful Julian Dean as his leadout man, the man from Norway powered his way to the line. It was an extremely powerful and exciting win and I'm quite pleased with it. What was interesting, though, was the fact that Robbie Hunter was right up there in second place. And had he attacked a little sooner, I think, he'd have beaten Thor to the line. What happened, though, was that the line got there before he did, allowing Hushovd to take the win.

Overall it was a fun stage with a few tiny climbs, but it was really a day for the sprinters (and a surprise for them as well -- many of them ended up quite low as they crossed the line). Tomorrow should be more exciting, with a few more mountains.

Stage 3 - Tuesday, July 10: Waregem - Compiègne, 236.5km

I mostly have a bunch of notes I took on Tuesday during the stage. I think the thing I remember most is my reaction of "oh my god Cancellara." Which pretty much sums up the stage. The weather wasn't a factor and from what I recall, the crashes (and I'm looking at you, Steegmans) were mostly due to a lack of attention. The peloton chased at a leisurely pace for most of the day and by the time they turned it up, it was practically too late.

They were going so slow that Phil and Paul were all 'could they go any closer? no' or something like that. It was amusing, but good for the riders. Later, Cancellara was interviewed and stated that the reason they were going to slowly was because of the massive winds, which makes sense. But because the peloton was going to slow and the break was doing what breaks do, there wasn't much for Paul and Phil to report on. Instead, they gave us a really nice history on the area that the cyclists were going through. It was a lot of World War II stuff and pretty interesting.

The break almost made it, but as usual, the peloton caught up with them, but didn't catch them. Instead, amazingly, Fabian Cancellara attacked. And by god did he attack. He timed it perfectly and road around the four boys in the break, then road past them and sprinted for the win. It was amazing and I've never seen anything like it. Sure, we all remember the days of Lance Armstrong and how he'd overtake people (like Chavanel) for wins on the mountain stages. But never on a flat stage.

So, hats off to Cancellara. Good job. And I think I've underestimated him.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Stage 2 - Monday, July 9: Dunkirk - Gent, 168.5km

Another flat stage. I know there are people out there (purists, even?) who roll their eyes at flat stages, but I like them. I like almost all stages, of course, but there's something about flat stages that are particularly interesting. Today, of course, was no exception. It's all about breakaways and build up. There's something fascinating about team tactics. Will QS and CA sent riders to the front of the peloton? Will Milram try to slow the chase because they have a rider in the break. Is McEwen, wearing that coveted Green jersey, healthy? Will his team contest the sprint or will one of the smaller teams steal the win.

And, of course, there's the weather. It was a losing battle against the rain, which eventually had upsetting consequences. For part of the stage, it looked like the Tour had averted, at least for one day, the bad weather that had been predicted. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Instead, the riders road straight into a storm. It wasn't bad for long periods, but it did enough that the roads became slippery.

In spite of that, the peloton managed the perfect capture of the breakaway. They waited until the very last possible moment (or close to it), caught the break as it was already falling apart and then bam, the peloton was back together. The speed of the group increased until they were roaring toward the finish. The commentators, and myself, were prepared for one of those gripping sprint finishes the tour is famous for. We did get one, but it wasn't the way anyway wanted (well, mostly).

Instead of having all the sprinters up there fighting it out for the win, the sprint was left to about 30 riders, some lead out men and some sprinters. Why? There was a massive pile up of about 30 plus riders. Zabel ended up touching wheels with someone, possibly one of his leadout men, and running into a Liquigas rider who then went down. And that led to a domino effect and a large group just fell. It was bad enough that I actually screamed. Not that I don't yell at my TV all the time, but this was one of those "oh my god" noises that scare me.

Luckily, no one was seriously injured, aside from a Discovery rider who fractured his thumb in five places (I didn't even know you could do that) and had surgery last night and is out of the race. As for the 30 remaining riders? They charged up the road toward the line, still a little rattled by the crash behind them. Who would win was anybody's guess, but in the end it was a win for Quick Step, but it wasn't Tom Boonen. Instead, it was his lead out man, Gert Steegmans. Steegmans couldn't get out of Boonen's way and Boonen couldn't get around Steegmans and it was the hard working domestique who gathered the win.

Boonen, to his credit, didn't look at all upset and donned the green jersey after crossing the line in second. The rest of the peloton picked themselves up and watched the final sprint on the big screen before stumbling their way to the finish. It was understandably hard to watch as rider after rider crossed the line, holding various body parts. The worst was watching Fabian Cancellara (who turned out to have just bruised, I believe, his wrist) in obvious pain as he road toward the finish. But since the crash happened with in 3k of the finish line, no one lost any time. Cancellara kept his yellow for another day.

Tomorrow will be yet another sprinters day. Hopefully the results will be determined by sprinting and not crashes, but only time (and road conditions) will tell.

(pictures to come later)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Stage 1 - Sunday, July 8: London - Canterbury, 203km

At the start of the day (and I did wake up for Versus 5:30 am coverage) the talk was focused on which of the Brits would win the day. Of course, that's not what happened -- this is the Tour de France after all. The day started early with attack after attack, but it was David Millar who made the biggest impact. He road off the front and never looked back. Eventually he was caught by four chasers and the five of them made a good fight to stay away from the peloton.

The rest of the day, until the end, was almost uneventful. There were several crashes, one particularly bad, involving a favorite, Xabier Zandio. He did finish the stage, but I don't know if he'll start tomorrow (I hope so, though). Robbie McEwen also crashed early on. The rest of the day was spent watching the peloton drive on and admiring the scenery.

And, truth be told, England is beautiful. The part of England the Tour rode through looked more like France than the traditional idea of England. I must say that this is one of the best things about flat stages -- the scenes from the helicopters and the motor bikes. Another wonderful thing about this stage was that the crowds were amazing. Even with the Wimbledon Final and the F1 British GP race (both of which I watched while watching cycling -- thank god for the internet), the crowds were just wonderful. They were like the crowds in France or other continental countries the riders go through.

There was excitement, though. It came near the end of the stage. The breakaway was caught after a flurry of attacks and riders dropping off the break. Millar was the first to go, after all he'd been out since early on. The rest soon followed and the peloton charged on to the sprint finish. No British riders won the day, in fact one of the local favorites, Mark Cavendish, crashed and never got a chance to sprint for the win.

It was, instead, one of the most amazing sprint finishes ever. While I was watching, I though maybe Zabel or Boonen were going to get a great leadout and Milram were racing their hearts out. But it wasn't to be. Instead, out of nowhere (and with a hurt wrist from his earlier crash) it was Robbie McEwen who blew the rest of us away. Somehow, without anyone noticing, McEwen recovered enough to beat the best sprinters in the Tour. And, much to my surprise, he did it without doing any of the tactics that have, in years past, pissed me off.

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 4.47.51
2 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0.13
3 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval - Prodir 0.21
4 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.23
5 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone
6 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.25
7 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 0.26
8 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 0.29
9 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 0.30

The top ten change a bit, with Millar pushing his way up into third place -- great result after two days in England. And with Wiggins in fifth, I think the British are pleased. I, for one, and pleased to see Vino up there. Something about the stage that pleased me was the fourth place riders, Seb Chavanel, coming in fourth. The FDJ rider, in what I believe is his first tour, did a great job. His brother, and my favorite, Sylvain, is down one place in 20th. I have high hopes for him, as I always do, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Prologue - Saturday, July 7: London - London, 7.9km

All prologues are different and this one was no exception. The biggest difference, of course, was that the city was London. Well, maybe that's the most obvious difference. The real difference is that there was no previous winner. And so there was Oscar Pereiro at number 11. In a way it was as if he didn't exist. Sure, Fabian Cancellara blew our minds, but still. This boy could (and I don't know if he will) be the winner of last year's tour, depending on what happens and yet we barely linger on him as he crosses the line. I suppose that's what happen when you're blown off the course by an amazing ride.

Anyway, enough of my ranting.

The stage. I don't really have much to say. I think it's because it was so short. I was rooting for David Millar, though I did enjoy watching Zabriskie race. And something that really shocked me was how will my Sylvain Chavanel did. He finished 19th and that's just amazing. I'm really proud of him.

The top ten went like this:
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 8.50 (53.7 km/h)
2 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0.13
3 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.23
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone
5 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.25
6 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 0.26
7 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 0.30
8 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 0.31
9 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas 0.32

I was equally impressed with Cancellara, Dekker and Vino. I was hopping Wiggins and Millar would do better -- but I have to say, good on Wiggins. Fourth is nothing to be upset about, sure, maybe had the top three not had the rides of their lives (and I think they all did), he'd be first. But it was not his day. Maybe one of the Brits can take the sprint tomorrow. And yes, I'm waking up at 5:30 for the race.

But back to the standings. I'm also quite proud of Gusev, which is odd (especially for people who know my feelings on Discovery). I think that this stage proved that sometimes things go the way we expect rather than hope. I think that, being the World TT champion, Cancellara was expected to do well, if not win. But tomorrow we'll find out if Zabel has something left in his legs. Or if McEwen and Boonen can battle it out. Personally, I'm voting for Hushovd.

For now, though. Good job Fabian Cancellara. Enjoy that yellow jersey, you're probably not going to have it for that long.