Sunday, July 20, 2008

Stage 13 - Friday, July 18: Narbonne - Nîmes, 182km

My viewing of the next two days of racing is totally abbreviated because I'm at a family reunion with spotty time spent in front of the TV and online. I watched the first part of today's stage before I left and then I got to my destination in time to see Sylvain attack the peloton. I knew, thanks to April texting me while I was driving, that the attack hadn't been successfully, but my parents didn't know (they'd gone to visit my grandmother before the stage was over). So that was amusing when I told them – I also knew who was going to win, but I didn't tell them.

So we got to watch the end of the stage, the best parts of it so it seemed. After Sylvain attacked, and it was a damn fine effort. But, not surprisingly, he attacked just a little bit too early. He did make the peloton give chase, which actually was pretty amazing. And, I think he inadvertently helped the sprinters' teams because they started to organize, just like the previous day. Except the teams were much more organized and the lead out teams. It was great to see Quick Step, Liquigas, Columbia, Milram and a few other teams mixing it up.

And then Sven Krauss had a massive crash. He and a road sign met head on and, well, none of the bike, the boy or the sign came out unharmed. The sign was bent over, Krauss' bike was literally split in two and he somehow managed to get back up again. Not only that, but he finished the race, albeit 15 minutes behind everyone else. At least he crashed close to the finish line, so he didn't have to worry about being eliminated.

But back to the race. In the end, it was always going to be a sprint day. The break of two (then three) riders didn't last and really wasn't going to, even though they were apparently ahead by 10 minutes at one time. Then Sylvain's attack was doomed, which just gave more proof to the idea that the sprinters' teams were going to take over the race and, as I said above, that's exactly what they did. But unlike the 'old days' of Petacchi and Cippolini's trains, these mixed it up and different riders ended up working for both their sprinter's and others as well.

And it worked out great for everyone's favorite sprinter, Mark Cavendish. He was, yet again, completely and utterly fantastic. He did a spectacular job and his team pulled him through the stage. During his interview, he said he was exhausted and looked it, along with being totally thrilled about winning. I wouldn't be surprised if he retired on one of the next two stages.

As for my boys? Except for Sylvain's attack near the end, they just road out the stage. Philippe Gilbert was spotted on the front doing some hard work, probably for Sebastian Chavanel. Here are their final standings on the GC.
80 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.08.27
131 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux 1.44.24

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