Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Stage 4 - Tuesday, July 8: Cholet - Cholet (ITT), 29.5km

Today was a stage just like any other ... Okay, of course it wasn't. No one could have predicted what would happen and not everyone liked it, including me -- and not just for the obvious reasons. We'll get this out of the way, I don't like Stefan Schumacher at all, which is fine, because there are lots of riders I don't like especially (or even hate, but we won't get into that). And it's not just because of his past. But, he does have a history of winning ITTs, so far be it for me to judge him more than I would anyone else.

The stage, though, it was wild and crazy -- and of the best kind. Ignoring the winner and ignoring the Sylvain's result, it was a fantastic and exciting stage. The race lead seemed to change with ever rider that crossed the line, basically blowing our minds. This stage was so riveting that I actually didn't make it to the shower until about an hour and half to go before I had to be at work. I'm not entirely sure why it was so good, it's not like Sylvain was going to win it (no matter how hard I wished).

But that being said, it was fantastic. Sure, Romain Feillu lost the jersey and a French rider didn't win the stage, but none of that matters. What mattered is how hard the race was fought, how fast these boys were going. They were, for all practical purposes, flying down the road. It was better than fantastic. It was the way a time trial was meant to be raced. It was everything we, as fans, could have hoped for, and then it just got better.

Like stage five, a Garmin-Chipotle rider was mixing things up. David Millar (yes, that David Millar) came in third place on the stage. Don't ever let them tell you that riders can't impress without doping. Even though he didn't win, I though his race was fantastic, the second best of the day (yes, the best was Sylvain, I'm sorry, I'm biased). Let's take a moment to look at the GC after today's stage:
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 14.04.41
2 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia 0.12
3 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence - Lotto 0.21
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC - Saxo Bank 0.33
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.37
7 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia 0.41
8 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia 0.47
9 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0.58
Kind of shocking, isn't it? First off, five riders from American-based teams, two Americans and a Brit. When was the last time this happened? Not only that, Kim Kirchen? Thomas Lövkvist? Not names normally associated with the top of the GC. Granted, it's only the fourth stage but isn't this great? Three different tour leaders in four stages. I really, really hope this keeps up. As for my boys?

Sylvain did exceptionally well on the stage, finishing a more than respectable thirteenth. Philippe was 91st which was mostly fine, because time trials are not his strength. Their GC results switched, with Sylvain gaining time as Phil lost more.
29 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone
54 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux
Tomorrow is another stage, and like today, we never know what's going to happen. And, I'll be perfectly honest, even though I won't be able to watch it until after work, I'm excited. Hopefully this tour will keep getting better and better.

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