Monday, July 21, 2008

Stage 15 - Sunday, July 20: Embrun - Prato Nevoso, 183km

I might be a slacker, but to my credit I'd been up since 5:45 am Sunday morning and driven 4+ hours in 85 degree weather in a car with no AC. I'm allowed to be a slacker. Moving on.

I didn't get to see the middle of the stage. I saw the beginning and the end live (it was weird, we went out to breakfast and came back and it was still on). And, damn, that race was fantastic. I want to say some of those cliches, like, this is what we've all been waiting for. But I can't, because I keep saying it! And then things get better, so I'm just going to acknowledge that we all believe these clichés and now the stage.

It was fun to see how the stage began, I always like those things. The pouring rain was wild and kind of scary. I did like how Sylvain managed to attack with a couple of other French riders, but obviously it didn't go anywhere (sigh). There were more attacks that didn't last and then we left as they were working their way toward the first climb. Eventually, though, there was a break, several crashes, and by the time we got home, I was rooting hard for Danny Pate.

For a brief moment, it looked like something special was going to happen. Well, okay, Gerrans winning was pretty special (and how adorable was that braces grin?), but Danny winning would have been, well, pretty damn awesome. Of course, it was not to be and that interview after the stage was just heart breaking.

But, see, the exciting part was that the stage win wasn't the end of the race. Instead, the rest of the peloton was just getting started. The question of the day was could Cadel Evans hold onto the jersey. No one knew the answer, not even after the favorites had crossed the line. But it was what happened on that final climb that really blew our minds (you think I'm kidding, but I'm not). The attacks were relentless and no one was immune from them, least of all Evans.

My favorite attack was by Bernhard Kohl, he was not my favorite rider and he would take the KOM jersey from Lang, but he's not Evans. My mom and I were cheering him on, but mostly we were cheering on a lot of people. We both gasped with shock when Menchov went down, I have to say, that man is badass. To come back from that fall (basic bad luck on his part) and power all the way back to the group and then get in that mini break was pretty amazing. Luckily he had a rest day today, so he probably had time to recover. Otherwise, I think he'd probably have lost his chance at the tour.

But it was the Schleck brothers who were the highlight of the stage. Two boys, two similar styles (though markedly different at the same time) and they never gave up. Just when you thought Andy had blown up, he hadn't. He was basically a roller coaster on wheels, lots of ups and downs. And then there was Frank. I had a feeling that Frank would end up in yellow, I wasn't sure how I knew, but I did. Even so, I was rooting hard for Christian Vande Velde. I don't know how it happened, but somehow I'm cheering for Garmin Chipotle (and thanks to Phil, I keep wanting to say Chipotle wrong).

I'm not too upset with Frank Schleck in yellow. It's nice to see CSC doing well and it's better than Evans. Stage 16 should be awesome, at least I hope it is. And, my final disjointed thought. Sylvain and Philippe's results. Before I post them, I would like to say that I saw Phil doing some hard work in one of the chase groups. Good for him and I hope he keeps it up.
73 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.14.56
122 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux 2.05.15

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