Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stage 9 - Tuesday, July 17: Val-d’Isère - Briançon, 159.5km

Everyone was looking forward to stage nine, except for maybe the cyclists. The fans, at least (and the Versus commentators) were ready for some action and we got some from the start. It ended unexpectedly, but the build up was fascinating. There was another episode of T-Mobile's comedy of errors when Marcus Burghardt hit a dog (yes, a dog). Luckily he continued and both boy and dog were fine. But all was not well with the stage.

The peloton broke into the usual splits, with a breakaway up front. The breakaway was doomed, but in the end, it was partly planned. There were two Discovery riders in the break to set up for some sort of tactics to put pressure on the leaders (or supposed leaders). It sort of worked. Contador was in the 'elite' group and he jumped off the front of the bunch, but couldn't win the stage. So while they tested the peloton (and their team leader who lost time), they didn't win any stages. It almost feels like CSC's tactics of previous years without the stage win.

But before all of that, the break was still up there (smaller than before) and something pretty exciting happened. Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) came out of nowhere, flew past the breakaway and basically raced his way to the win. It was pretty damn amazing. He blew apart the peloton and no one could catch him. By the end of the stage I was screaming for him to win. I was quite pleased he wasn't caught on the line -- though it was close.

Behind him, though, the chase was on. Not just to catch him (though they tried), but instead it was to see if anyone could break the yellow jersey. But Rasmussen was too tough for them. The same couldn't be said for Moreau and Leipheimer and, sadly, Vinokourov. Astana gave everything for Vino and it's just not going to work. It's heart breaking and unless he somehow recovers, I think he's not even going to make the top ten at this year's tour. So, perhaps Astana will work for Klodi instead.

Rasmussen did keep his yellow jersey, but Linus Gerdemann did lose his precious white jersey. It was Contador, who has the best mountain legs I've seen in a lot time, who took over that jersey. It's good for Discovery, and bad for T-Mobile (who just can't do anything right, aside from Linus that one day).

Stage 10 will be a comparatively easy day and probably without many challenges on the race lead. Instead, there'll be a breakaway and maybe a winner from it, but I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see. But for now, it's nice to see someone from one of the wildcard teams taking a win. It's really too bad that Unibet isn't racing, though.

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