As I said to several people, the stage was exciting but at the same time it was predictable. It was almost as if I was experience deja vu. I wanted to be like 'didn't this already happen?' only have I no idea where or when. There was a breakaway with some promise, but as mountain stages go, you knew it wasn't going to last. There were bright spots, Simon Spilak, Ryder Hesjedal, and Fabian Cancellara in the breakaway. But, no matter how much effort they put in, they were doomed. And that's exactly what happened.
The final climb of the, all 8.8k of the Verbier, was not long, but it was always going to create problems for the riders. Maybe, though not me, expected it to be Armstrong who surged ahead. I was with those who imagined that Contador would be the one to step it up for Astana. I was hoping, especially when wee adorable Simon Spilak attacked (and he was justly rewarded with most aggressive rider), that something magical would happen. Of course I was wrong. And that's about when Contador attacked.
I know that in previous tours with Armstrong, they'd talk about how easy it looked. Well, I've to tell you that they're so fucking wrong. Watching Contador climb makes it look like anyone could do it. He flows up the hill and it's like he's not even breaking a sweat. He almost reminds me of watching Roger Federer play tennis. You know he's putting shit loads of effort into it, but you cannot for the life of you see that on his face. It's simply amazing and while I might not like him, his effort is one of a kind. If he's not doping, he really is fucking amazing.
Once he attacked, no one else was ever going to win the stage. Try as he might, the adorable Andy Schleck went after him, but never managed to catch up with him. In the end, he had to ride by himself, caught in no man's land behind Contador, but in front of his brother and two others. It was a valiant effort that landed him in fifth place, 2:26 behind Contador – the new yellow jersey. But what was even more important to me was the group with Andy's brother, Fränk. That group, who were trying to catch up with Andy, but never managed to, was composed of three riders: Fränk Schleck, Vincenzo Nibali and ... Bradley Wiggins! Of all the cyclists to ever ride the tour, it was Bradley fucking Wiggins who was riding his ass off. God, he was awesome.
Oddly enough, there were several more attacks after Fränk, Nibali and Wiggo went. Sastre had ridden himself out of trouble ended up coming in sixth (Nibali was 3rd, Fränk 4th and Wiggins 5th) after nearly dropping out of contention completely. Behind him was Cadel Evans (surprise!) who I totally thought had been dropped repeatedly, then Andreas 'I'm the only rider on Astana Sarah even pretends to care about' Klöden in eight and then ... Lance Armstrong. Yes, Armstrong was dropped by everyone, even his own teammate(s)! Bloody fucking brilliant, if you ask me. Also, I totally believe that, until he finished today's stage, he completely overestimated his fitness and the other riders in the peloton, including Contador. It was, well, great to see. I'm a bitter, grudge-holding fan, what can I say? A little schadenfreude never hurt anyone.
So, wow does the current GC look? It'll blow your mind, I promise. Here they are:
1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 63:17:56Yeah, I wasn't kidding. I know you see Armstrong there in second and think, OMG HE MIGHT DO IT. But you know what? You're wrong. Absolutely wrong. Plus the best thing about the top 3? BRADLEY FUCKING WIGGINS. I know there were other things to talk about, like Nibali pushing into second in the young riders and Andy Schleck ousting Tony Martin (SADFACE) into third for the lead in the same competition. Or the fact that Astana is back in full force, but in the race lead and the team competition. But, whatever. Bradley Wiggins is in third place and if he stays there and Armstrong doesn't win the tour? I might even be happy about the results.
2 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 0:01:37
3 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream 0:01:46
4 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0:02:17
5 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:02:26
6 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:30
7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0:02:51
8 Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia - HTC 0:03:07
9 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux 0:03:09
10 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:03:25
11 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo TestTeam 0:03:52
12 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream 0:03:59
13 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia - HTC 0:04:05
14 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence - Lotto 0:04:27
15 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team Columbia - HTC 0:04:38