Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stage 20 - Saturday, July 26: Cérilly - Saint Amand Montrond (ITT), 53km

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I didn't see the end of this stage. Why? I had to go to work. Carlos and Frank did not race fast enough, so I had to leave with either 2k or 1k to go, I can't remember which. But, that's okay, because by that time I knew a) who was going to win the stage and b) who was going to ride to Paris wearing yellow.

So, on the second to last day of the 2008 Tour de France, we know several things (in no particular order):
  • Oscar Freire is going to win the green jersey competition
  • Bernhard Kohl is going to win the KOM jersey competition
  • Andy Schleck, riding the ITT of his life, is going to win the young rider competition
  • Sylvain Chavanel (!!!) will win most aggressive rider
  • Team CSC Saxo Bank will win the the team competition
  • Spain is the dominate nation in the world
Oh, wait. That last one should read Carlos Sastre will win the 95th Tour de France. I might have gotten a little ahead of myself, but I'm right (just remember: Nadal and Spain being Euro 2008 champions). My mother made this comment on the first day of the tour, except she was referring to Alejandro Valverde and not Sastre. Who knew that three weeks later, she'd be mostly right? I don't think anyone believed that. Hell, no one thought Sastre would hang onto the jersey today.

Everywhere you looked, people were saying Evans was going to win. And, if we're all honest, no one really thought that Evans wouldn't win. Well, okay, some people did, but it seemed almost a given. We all knew that Sastre wasn't that good with time trials and Evans was. Plus, the course suited Evans, but it wasn't to be. And I, for one, am pretty damn grateful. Evans was never the winner that I wanted. I am disappointed that he's even on the podium, but athletes shouldn't be barred from competing just because I think they're jerks. That being said, there are some wonderful things to take away from this ITT, just like there are shitty things.

Bernhard Kohl recovered from what could have been a disastrous start to his ITT. He fell (we think) off of the starting ramp, recovered and for a time, looked like he might just right himself into the yellow jersey. Of course that didn't happen, but he (like Andy Schleck) rode the ITT of his life. It was brilliant and I am so proud of him. Third place and the KOM jersey, what a good job for team Gerolsteiner. And then there's CVV, better known as Christian Vande Velde. He also rode one of the best ITTs of his life, but not only that, he was fourth best on the day. Better than any of those contenders. It's too bad it wasn't enough to put him in the podium. The day belonged to Stefan Schumacher, and let's take nothing away from his brilliant ride. He deserved that stage win just as much as any of the riders in the top ten.
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 1.03.50 (49.817 km/h)
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC - Saxo Bank 0.21
3 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia 1.01
4 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 1.05
5 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 1.37
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 1.55
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence - Lotto 2.05
8 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner 2.19
9 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner 2.21
10 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia 2.28
Just take a minute to look at that top ten. Numbers two and five were expected to place high. After all, Cancellara is the reigning World Champion. CVV was brilliant and Menchov almost did the impossible. And look at that, four riders from American teams in the top ten, two Americans in the top ten. It's great, and good for all the teams, especially Gerolsteiner, with three riders and in search of a sponsor. Let's hope those Red Bull rumors are true, these boys need wings. ;) Sorry, couldn't resist.

There were two bad things that happened on the stage, well, three if you count Kohl. First, Evans lost the Tour de France today. He rode himself out of it, but into second place. Which leads directly into the second part, which is that he rode Kohl out of second place and down to third place. Kohl, in my opinion, deserved second place, but it was not meant to be. And then you have Frank Schleck. His ITT was terrible, probably the worst one of his life. Maybe Frank's not destined to be a TDF winner, maybe it's Andy we should be looking out for. Because he's definitely a lot more consistent than Frank. But either way, it was heartbreaking to watch Sastre riding his ITT and looking up to see Frank in front of him. And the catch and pass was just so sad. It was bad when Armstrong used to do it and it was even worse now, if only because Sastre was passing his own teammate and former yellow jersey wearer.

So, tomorrow is the last day. The boys will ride into Paris and the sprinters will (in theory!) have their day at the line. I refuse to predict a winner and hope from some fireworks, but we all know how the final stage really ends. Let's hope that the disaster that was the 2007 final when they lost video of the finish doesn't repeat itself. I can't wait for tomorrow and at the same time, I don't want it to happen again. I've loved this tour and I do believe it's been one of the best I've seen (which isn't saying a lot, but there you go).

No comments: