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).

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