Sunday, July 20, 2008

Stage 14 - Saturday, July 19: Nîmes - Digne les Bains, 194.5km

Another stage, another abbreviated viewing day. As I am writing this, I am watching the two-hour replay of the stage because this is the only time I'll be able to watch it. Again, I know what's going to happen because April texted me while I was out having brunch with family. But it's kind of fun to watch this shortened version, it's like the mini-highlights, without all the crap you'll get from the prime-time showing.

The best part of the stage hasn't happened yet. They've gone over the first climb and are heading toward the second and then the finish. It should be interesting to see how the capture takes place, then the attacks and eventually the win. The scenery today is fantastic, not quite as great as yesterday and definitely not as good as it will be in the Alps.

Also, is it just me, or is this the Garmin-Chipotle Versus Tour de France. Not that I really mind, because I'm cheering for Vande Velde, but there seem to be a lot of stuff related to the team. Both them and Columbia, but again, I like it. I think it's probably because both teams have the four Americans on them, plus a lot of English speaking riders.

The riders in the break, all four of them, decided to attack each other, one got away, but it's clear that they're doomed. Especially because the gap went down to under a minute. Also, today was not a good day for a lot of the sprinters, mostly because it was so hot and the climbs, while not massive, were pretty hard. Poor Cavendish really gave everything he had on stage thirteen, because he just kind of ended up at the back of the field. But, hey, it means he's human and that's really what we like to see.

With about 25k to go, the peloton started chasing the breakaway, trying to reel them back in. It all really started up at the start of the climb. The capture was totally anticlimactic, probably because it was just Gutierrez on the front. And the other reason was because Versus had video and audio in Columbia car and we discovered just how bad things were going for Mark. The team was telling Thomas Lövkvist that the stage wouldn't be too hard (ha), but that if Mark started to struggle, Lövkvist was to go work for Gerald Ciolek. I love that inside look of team tactics.

Props to Gutierrez for not giving up. He kept on attacking up the climb, but it was inevitable that he was going to get caught. For me watching this for the first time was kind of interesting because I knew what was going to happen, but I was just waiting to see it, and hoping that they wouldn't pull away for a commercial, which sometimes it feels like that's all Versus is good for. The crowds were great, and then the attacks began, even with Gutierrez of the front. First it was good ol' Voeckler and then they caught Guiterrez, because a couple of riders went with Voeckler, including a nameless (lol) Lampre rider.

One attack after another and then we got that great view of the back of the peloton where all the riders (sprinters, etc) just cracked. And then we got the view of poor Mark Cavendish, sad but mildly amusing. Paul and Phil were rooting for him to keep with the peloton. It was nice to see Liquigas on the front, even if I was irritated with them for not picking Kjell for the tour. The attacks were fun to watch, lots of teams mixing it up and still I am waiting for hasn't happened and then ... a commercial break.

And when we get back, it's what I've been waiting for. I know what happens, I know Sylvain doesn't make it, but it doesn't matter because he's trying and this is what I want. I would be so happy with a win, but this. This is good enough for now. One of these days he's going to cross that line first. But hell, he's not going to give up. But, well, it wasn't meant to be. And so Columbia picked up the slack, working for Julian Dean. Of course, I knew who was going to win, but holy cow. That was the most confusing finish I have ever seen. Nice for Oscar and therefore none of the jerseys changed hands and Freire probably solidified his lead in the green jersey.

Tomorrow, though, will probably work to sort out the KOM competition. It'll be Lang vs his teammate Kohl, who are separated by one point. Frank Schleck is in third, but there's no way the peloton would let him get any KOM points because he's also second overall. Hopefully the jerseys will change hands tomorrow, I could do with a knew leader in the young rider and yellow jersey competition.

Oddly, Sylvain moved up a place in the GC. He'll never win the tour, but it amuses me that he went from 80th to 79th in just one stage.
79 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.08.44
123 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux 1.44.24

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