Tuesday, July 24, 2007

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.

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