Crazy awesome 18 man breakaway. I love it, I'm just sad I couldn't watch a lot of the middle of the race (errands and an inability to watch the stage tonight, due to the awesomeness of having a social life). But, hey, the end is the most important part, right? Okay, it's not. Especially when we get to the bigger mountains again. So, anyway, 18-man break, not really anyone in it I care a great deal for, save Carlos Barredo (because no matter what I say about not cheering for teams, i apparently have a soft spot for QS, I blame Traice). So I was cheering for Carlos and maybe Ryder Hesjedal. But, as I'm watching this (yes, I'm writing this while I'm watching the end of the stage, 4k to go seems like a good time to start writing) the break is all but gone -- save for a couple of riders: Vino (ugh ugh) and Kiryienka (Caisse d'Epargne). I'm really hoping that the peloton steps it up on this super steep climb. They're making me tired just watching it.
Anyway, the other parts of the stage. Big breakaway groups are fun, especially when they work like a well-oiled machine. It's fun to see them working together, even if (when) they're doomed. It would have been nice if they'd survived, but I didn't really expect it to happen, especially considering the way today's stage finished. Though I'll be honest, I didn't realize until I was listening to the Eurosport commentary just how steep the final climb was. And now as I'm watching the stage, I'm totally blown away by the steepness, it's ridiculous and I have no idea how the cyclists who are already struggling are going to make it up (though most of them will, they somehow always do). I'm also waiting for the fireworks, as it were, and just as I typed that, they just happened. Unfortunately, Vino and Kiryienka (I think?) are still in the front (though as I'm editing this, they didn't last that long, thankfully!). At this point, I'd take a Contador win over Vino, to be honest (anybody but Vino! Can y'all believe I ever liked that dude?).
So the break was sort of caught, but it was more like they were broken apart, which is a little bit better than being taken nearly at the line. It is painful to watch, because these guys busted their asses as they worked together and then to watch it fall apart, through their own infighting as well as the pressure of the peloton, is kind of disappointing, but not unexpected. But what the destruction of the break meant is that the the big names, aka Contador and Schleck, could use the final climb attack each other. Their goal , as it of is, was to see if they can take out more time out of each other. Well, one of them will try, there's always a loser and as this Tour has shown, the loser can be anyone and usually they're in yellow. And that's almost exactly what happened. Contador attacked, he was joined by Rodriguez from Katusha. They caught and passed the rest of the break (Vino and Kiryienka), but what was really really interesting was the fact that Schleck couldn't follow as in the yellow jersey. The time gaps were unclear and as I was watching the finish, I wasn't sure if Andy Schleck. But by far the best part of the stage was Vino not winning, thank god.
Randomly, Sylvain totally cam in 1:19 minutes after Rodriguez won the stage . But anyway, Schleck didn't lose the jersey, but I'm sure he won't be too happy with this result. Basically, Contador out road Andy up to the finish, though was outmaneuvered by Rodriguez, who took the win. And looking at a replay of Schleck crossing the line, it's clear that he suffered. He still has yellow, but Contador is 31 seconds back, gaining 10 seconds on Schleck. He's followed by Sanchez and Menchov, both over two minutes back and Jurgen Van Den Broeck, who is 3 minutes back in 5th. What a crazy looking top five, two of those names are not surprises, the other three definitely are. I don't know what that says about the Tour, except that the so-called contenders haven't lived up to their expectations. And, to be honest, neither have Schleck and Contador, they've both had days where they don't look at their best. It's weird. I guess we're used to one rider just blowing us away constantly, so this is very different. But it's also a pretty nice change.
Things that didn't change: yellow jersey and young rider. Things that did change: green jersey and kind of the mountains. I'm displeased with both of these. Thor took back the green jersey (meh) and Jérôme lost his KOM to Anthony Charteau. Granted, it's nice that it's a battle between two French cyclists, but Jérôme Pineau > Anthony Charteau. Other than that, the jerseys stay the same. I will confess to being annoyed when the winner of the young rider competition is also the yellow jersey winner. That just seems rude, but I need to remember that cycling isn't fair (damn it).
That steep mountain at the end was also something I liked and these attacks really make the Tour fun, if hard on the cyclists. They make me tired just watching -- even when I'm not doing a thing. Tomorrow is a hilly stage and cyclingnews says it's a good day for breaks. Hopefully it'll be fun and exciting, though I'll again be watching it at work and then watching a tape delay version in the evening. Maybe a rider I like will do something exciting tomorrow.