Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stage 10 - Monday, July 14: Pau - Hautacam, 156km

It sucks having to watch the stage after it's happened, but that's the way it goes. It was quite a stage, though. Like I said yesterday, it was another one of those 'we've been waiting for something like this' stages. I know a few people even though this was the best stage they've seen in a while. I beg to differ, but not due to lack of talent on the mountains.

What was it about this stage? Well, first off, Ricco was right. During his post-race interview on Sunday, he said he wanted Leonardo Piepoli to win. He said he would give everything to get Piepoli the win, and that's exactly what he did. He also road himself into the young rider's jersey and the king of the mountains, taking it away from his teammate, David de la Fuente. Not really very sporting of him, but de la Fuente was not having the best of days.

The thing about this stage wasn't who won, and there are people who don't even care about Saunier Duval. Personally, aside from Jose Angel Marchante (and he's not even racing), I don't care about them either. But, like I said, the winner wasn't really Piepoli (technically he was, but that's not the point), the real winner was the stage. It proved to be massive in all the best ways. People road harder than you'd ever expected and riders who had previous good days, had a really bad day, which actually made me happy. Not because I like riders suffering so badly, but because it leaves the field open. Luis Leo Sanchez, for example, had a really rough day after winning stage seven. Sure, it's just three stages later, but he gave a huge effort. Of course he should be suffering.

Another thing I liked was the huge break. It gave riders time to gather themselves together before the the mountains and allowed the boys in the break to get some TV time. Though the break eventually, well, broke down, it was nice to see so many people attacking. Sebastian Lang, who gave everything Sunday, was back, proving that sometimes you can keep going. Of course, by the end of the stage, he was 33 minutes back. At least he gave it a good try, though. The important people in the break were Oscar Freire and Rémy Di Gregorio. Freire, because he was looking for green jersey points -- and that's exactly what he wanted. Di Gregorio because he was French.

And, of course, since it was Bastille Day, there's nothing better than watching a Frenchman give his heart and sole for a stage win. But, do to the nature of the stage, there was no way he was going to win. What he did do was go over the Col du Tourmalet first and, well, that was pretty damn awesome. It looked great with all the fans and this Frenchman riding his heart out. And, of course, he won the most aggressive rider award on the day. There was no one who deserved it more.

Eventually Di Gregorio was caught and the race exploded. There was so much attacking that none of us really knew what to expect. I thought that they would attack on the slopes of the Col du Tourmalet, but I was so very wrong. I should have realized that everyone would wait until the start of the Hautacam, but I didn't. Anyway, that's when the attacks began in earnest. Partly this happened because Kim Kirchen just couldn't handle it. Instead of improving from yesterday, he dragged himself along and just barely managed to finish in a respectable 15th place. He didn't write himself out of the tour, but he didn't do himself any favors. Damiano Cunego and Alejandro Valverde, on the other hand, both lost the better part of five minutes and now both of them are 4+ minutes back. Maybe not out, but close enough.

So what did happen with that yellow jersey? Nothing of note. Oh, wait. See, here's the thing, I don't like Cadel Evans. I don't care if he never wins another race the rest of his life. I can't tell you why and I certainly hope he doesn't go to Garmin-Chipotle. I get that he's extremely happy to be in yellow, even if it's just by one second (Go Frank!). But, honestly, I just don't care about him. His emotionally response was just annoying. Plus, as I said to my mom, he used to be on that T-Mobile team with Ullrich and Vino and Kloden. I know I'm probably grasping at straws, but Evans has never impressed me, except when he broke his collarbone three times in one season. I hope he doesn't win and I really just don't care what happens to him. Maybe I'm a bad fan, but so be it.

And, last, Sylvain and Philippe:
89 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.08.12
137 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux 1.34.57
As long as they're still hanging on, I'm happy. Not great, but, you know, they're racing and that's all I ask. they both came over 20 minutes back. Gilbert with the autobus and Chavanel about 10 minutes ahead of him. Sylvain's brother, Sébastien, was in the break at the start of the race. Good for him.

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