Today's stage was crazy-awesome. I really don't know how else to put it. It was also a little heart breaking. But first, let's start with the totally awesome stuff. There was a breakaway that lasted, which is pretty awesome. It didn't last in the traditional sense, because in the end it was a few riders who were caught by Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador (more about that later). The best part was that Sandy Casar won the stage. I know, he's French and he won it a day early (whatever, maybe the French will surprise us and win it on the 14th). But I don't care, because I've always been a fan of Sandy's riding style. He's not on the best team, probably not even the best French team, but he always does his best. Plus, he's fun to root for in a breakaway. It's also really good because it means that FDJ has won a stage of the Tour, and that makes me happy (sometimes I really am that easy).
It was pretty cool that the breakaway lasted, because the mountains, especially the last one, were pretty vicious. And that's where the real action took place. It was kind of weird to remember that it was only stage 9. I say only because these stages keep making me think we're almost done with the TDF. I'm not even sure if this is the first time the lead has been up and down so early in the race, but it certainly feels like it to me. Usually somewhere around the middle/end of the second week things heat up. Though occasionally it's not until the last week (and when effing Armstrong used to race, he just carried the lead for the whole damn Tour, thank god that's not happening). Anyway, so while the break was off doing it's thing, the front of the peloton was really stepping things up.
Though Sandy Casar won the stage (woo!), Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador stole the day. Starting the stage, Cadel Evans was in yellow. At the end of the stage, it was Andy Schleck. I'm not a fan of either of those riders, or of Contador, but you'd have to be made of stone not to feel just absolutely gutted for Cadel Evans. He hit the metaphorical wall and just couldn't do anything. It was painful -- far more painful then watching Sylvain lose the jersey (if only because he has no real aspirations of being a TDF winner) . At times it even looked like Evans wasn't moving, though obviously he was. To see the yellow jersey suffering so much was heartbreaking. And then when he crossed the line, it was so sad. I feel so much for him, he lost so much time. It really put a slight damper on the exciting end of the stage, watching him being held by a teammate while being overcome with emotion. Hopefully he'll live to fight another day, though.
What caused Evans to crack was the battle between Contador and Schleck. They flew off the front, most of the effort by Andy Schleck himself. They battled each other, briefly Jens Voigt, who was in the break, did a bit to help Andy, but even he couldn't keep up. It was exciting to watch, totally the cat and mouse game that the commentators like to talk about it. Contador wouldn't go and made Schleck do all the work, before they eventually started working together. Out of nowhere, they caught up with the break away as they were approaching the line. It was totally crazy, in a good way, because everyone seemed certain that Andy Schleck was going to zoom right past them for the win. But it wasn't to be, probably because they caught the break just a little bit too far back. What was amusing is that clearly the break didn't realize Schleck and Contador were so close, and so when they showed up, the break was like, wtf. I think they probably shouldn't have been surprised because, um, they were doing the whole 'you work, no you work' thing that never ends well. Except, of course, this time it did. Sandy Casar out-thought everyone and took the stage win, much to my delight.
Andy Schleck took the yellow, most because Evans imploded. I'm not sure he wants it, though probably Contador doesn't want it either. But they've really limited their competition to basically just the two of them (though, seeing as how this tour's gone so far, nothing's for certain). It was fun to watch, even though I don't like any of them. Also, there were a lot of big names who just couldn't keep up. But if they can recover, we have plenty of mountains ahead, so it almost anything might happen.
Other things about the stage. Somehow everyone, even poor David Millar, finished within the time cut. Which made me really happy because it meant that Robbie McEwen (among a few others I like, such as Gerald Ciolek and Marcus Burghardt) finished and will hopefully start tomorrow. One other sad note, Jerome Pineau lost his KOM jersey, much to my dismay.
Tomorrow's stage is considered medium mountains and though it's Bastille Day, I do not expect Sylvain to attack. Maybe another day, but that's probably too much pressure right now. Hopefully there will be a French winner, though!