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!

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