Friday, July 20, 2007

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.

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