Thursday, July 24, 2008

Stage 17 - Wednesday, July 23: Embrun - L'Alpe d'Huez, 210.5km

So, let's start by looking at the top 15 riders on GC:
1 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC - Saxo Bank 74.39.03
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC - Saxo Bank 1.24
3 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner 1.33
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence - Lotto 1.34
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 2.39
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 4.41
7 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 5.35
8 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 5.52
9 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale 8.10
10 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale 8.24
11 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia 8.35
12 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC - Saxo Bank 10.15
13 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas 12.13
14 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre 12.26
15 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux 17.08
What about them, you ask? Well, a lot of people think that it'll be Sastre, Evans and Kohl as the top three. I am not down with that. It's okay as it is now, but personally, I'd like to have Schleck, Vande Velde and Kohl as my top. But that is definitely not going to happen. That ship, as they say, has sailed. Now, ignoring that, look at how awesome the top 15 is, ignoring Evans. You've got a Euskaltel rider in the top ten. Three riders from Luxembourg, three from CSC, a French rider and two (yes two) riders from American teams! And one of them is an American, one that no one would have expected to do well. There are other interesting things, like who would have expected Cunego to only be 14th and twelve minutes back.

But that's enough about the results of this stage. Let's talk about the whole thing.

A lot of people believe that this was the defining stage of the Tour and they might well be right, But it certain wasn't to me (though apparently to everyone else) the best stage. I think stage sixteen was the best stage. But back to the point. Today was a reaffirmation of what I talked about on the previous -- team CSC is strong. Really, really strong. In fact, I would not be surprised if they win the yellow and the team competition. The real question is can they keep the yellow jersey, will the smaller mountains on stage eighteen be the bane of the team's existence? Will the riders blow up on the ITT? Obviously we'll find out soon enough. But come Saturday, team won't be enough.

I keep getting off on tangents, I'm trying to stay on point. While I didn't think this was the best stage ever omg!!11!!, I did think it was good. And it did what I asked -- gave the yellow jersey away again. I wasn't pleased, because I kind of like Fränk Schleck and to see him after the stage looking so sad was heartbreaking. I mean, it's hard enough to lose the jersey to a rival, but to lose it to your teammate? That's just depressing. I know people would say it's better, but I disagree.

It was a wild stage and Carlos Sastre, no matter what I think about him, deserved the win and the jersey. It was just too bad that more people couldn't stay with him. I was also annoyed that Fränk Schleck couldn't shake Evans and that Vande Velde couldn't manage to put some time between him and the other riders. Maybe tomorrow, with the smaller climbs. It won't be easy, but maybe if we're lucky (which I know we're not going to be).

As for Sylvain and Philippe? They survive to fight another day, emphasis on survive. They just lose more time, but that's okay. I still have high hopes for them to sneak in a break or a least, make it through to Paris.

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