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.

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