Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stage 16: Martigny - Bourg-Saint-Maurice 159km

This was one of those mountain stages that ended up being a breakaway stage instead of a moment of truth stage. I kind of like those, because unexpected things tend to happen. But, to be honest, this stage was mostly unremarkable. I think this was partly because of all the pre-rest day drama. We’ve been so burnt out on yellow jerseys and George Hincapie and Cavendish vs. Hushovd that anything else would just be a disappointment. That’s not to say that this stage was disappointing, far from it. But there was no high drama, as it were.

We did find out a couple of things: Astana, in spite of so-called in fighting, is pretty fucking strong (sigh). They did well to keep Contador safe and show the rest of the competitors which team was in charge. Also, we learned that neither of the Schleck brothers is scared to attack. The other thing we learned is that Contador is going to win the Tour, barring a bad day on any of the next couple of stages.

The important bit, at least to me, was that breakaway. It was really in two parts, the KOM boy, Pellizotti with his two-man breakaway partner, Karpets and then the 16 man breakaway full of chasers. Gomez Marchante (Cervelo Test Team), Van Den Broeck (Silence-Lotto), Voigt (Saxo Bank), Ten Dam (Rabobank), Verdugo, Astarloza, Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Casar (Fran├žaise des Jeux), Fedrigo, Laurent Lefeve (Bouygues Telecom), Velits (Milram), Moinard (Cofidis), Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel), Yury Trofimov (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), and Roche and Stephane Goubert (AG2R). These guys were gunning for the win, or in the case of Saxo Bank and Cervelo, they were up there in case their team leaders needed help. What happened was something out of the ordinary.

The break was descending hard and by the time the drama (yes, drama, but not that kind of drama) started, we know they’d probably stick it out. But then came the crash. It was one hell of a crash and poor Jens Voigt had the road (yes, the road) take him out of the Tour. It was possibly one of the worst crashes I have ever seen. See, the thing about Jens is that no matter what, everyone seems to like him. He’s funny, entertaining and he’s so passionate that he’ll just do whatever it takes. But sometimes you just can’t go on and he couldn’t. It was horrible, it was heartbreaking and for several hours, none of us really knew what was going on with him.

Luckily, he’ll be okay eventually. But at the time it was horrible. The stage win felt unimportant, not unlike the stage when the woman was killed. Sometimes there are things that are just more important than a stage win. But there was a stage to be won, and much to my chagrin, none of the riders I picked won. What happened was that Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Astarloza finally got his coveted stage win. It was good tactics and he took the stage in a fantastic victory.

Though the GC didn’t change, I was disappointed because the lovely Tony Martin had a crap day and lost out on the white jersey for good. Tomorrow should be interested because it’s time for some really big mountains. Maybe the GC’ll mix it up a bit. One thing I would like to add is that I’m so proud of Bradley Wiggins and hope he ends up on the podium in Paris.

No comments: