Now, the stage. Well, it was, as a couple of stages this tour have already been, what we were waiting for. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. It had everything, crashes (Cadel Evans), the threat of bad weather that never happened, and drama. There was so much drama on the stage. Schumacher imploded a bit, as did a few of the others, and then there was the whole drama relating to who was going to win the stage. Would Kim Kirchen keep his jersey? And, of course who would take the KOM jersey? The only thing missing was a huge blow up of attacks on the tour leader -- that, it seems, will be saved for stage ten. After all, who can resist attacking on the Col du Tourmalet? Certainly not the boys in this tour.
But back to stage nine.
It started innocently enough with attacks, but as the riders approached 34k to go, it was Sebastian Lang who was the only rider up front. He was battling hard, trying to get KOM points as well as win the stage. Except he was suffering and it was so clear on his face that he was suffering. And, as it turned out, he was doomed. Ricco attacked and he attacked hard. He watched as he crossed the distance between himself and Lang and we had to wonder, was he going to do it? For a bit it looked like wouldn't and then suddenly there the motorbike camera was, watching from behind Ricco and up ahead? Lang's back. And then it was all over. He gave everything, road right up to Lang, and then passed him. It was brilliant.
I am not a Ricco fan, but I have to say that his move up the mountain was just amazing. He gave almost everything he had and then somehow found more to keep riding. He took the stage by storm and he made it look easy. It's been a long time since a rider in the mountains made a stage win look that easily. The people over at Podium Cafe said he reminded them of Pantani, my mom said he reminded her of Armstrong. I think he looked like a little bit of both of them.
It was a great stage, not for Sylvain and Philippe, but in the end, that wasn't important. Instead, it was Ricco's stage win, it was the attacks and the sheer beauty of the stage and the way it was won. It's not often that stages can bring out the best in the riders, but today proved (as have a surprising amount of stages in this tour) that it's still possible. So far, even with the doping issue, this tour has turned into something spectacular. And to think, we have two more weeks to go. How seriously awesome.
One last thing, here were Sylvain and Phil's stage results and then overall rankings.
90 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des JeuxNot great, but not bad. They both finished nearly 19 minutes back, but that's okay. As long as they make it to the end, and at least try a couple of times to win a stage. I'm easy that way.
106 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone
96 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 46.07
136 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux 1.04.06