Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Stage 5 - Wednesday, July 9: Cholet - Châteauroux, 232km

Back when they were T-Mobile, after they refused to renew Christian Werner's contract, I didn't want to like them. Even though they picked up Bas Giling (only to refuse to keep him on) and eventually Edvald Boasson Hagen, I still refused. Then the team kind of spiraled out of control and High Road came along and my feelings changed. And then, again, new (better) sponsor and now they're Team Columbia. And I have to say, I am not at all -- not in the least -- unhappy with this result.

Mark Cavendish was a very deserving winner. I throughly enjoyed watching him win -- and how happy he was. Sure, riders win all the time and sometimes they are thrilled. But it's not every day you see a reaction like Cavendish's. I mean, he looked thrilled and completely shocked, not that I blame him. He's a British rider in his second Tour de France and he just won a stage. I'm so completely proud of him -- even though he's not even close to being a favorite rider of mine.

I think what made this win so special, why I harbor no bad feelings for Cavendish for beating out other sprinters I like, is because he's such a great winner. It's nice to see truly genuine reactions from the boy, not only as he crossed the line, but afterward. His teammates just hugged him and he could not stop grinning. It was fantastic.

As for the rest of the stage, it wasn't anything spectacular, aside from the crashes. We only saw a couple of them -- especially the one when Heinrich Haussler crashed near the end of the race. That one was horrible, as was the one where the Saunier Duval rider hit the elderly woman. I hope she's okay, hell, I hope the cyclists are okay too. Sometimes stages are like this. The riders just go so fast and are so focused that things (like old ladies and wheels in front of them) out of their control (mostly) happen. At least everyone (save poor Soler) finished the stage, if not one piece then mostly so.

Chavanel and Gilbert recap? Well, Sylvain was stirring up some trouble. Amusing to me and to the commentators, but less so for the cyclists themselves. I assume he was told by his manager to get up and try to slow the peloton down so his man in the break would win. It obviously didn't work and was a pretty bad tactic, but you can't blame a boy for trying. As I said over on PC, it's the thought that counts.
29 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 2.10
54 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux 3.44
Not bad, but not great either. In the end, neither of them are TDF winners. I know Cofidis likes to think that Sylvain will contend, but I just can't see it happening. Instead, I expect him to slip a few more minutes back and then start going out on breakaways in the mountains. Hopefully one of them will be fruitful and he'll end in the KOM jersey for a bit and, especially this, win a stage (or two). I look for Gilbert to slip back further, but his goal is stages and I think he could take a hilly stage with a long sprint finish. Hopefully we'll get one of those and both my boys will find the way to win.

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