Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 14, Stage 12: Cugnaux - Luz-Ardiden 209 km

I love a good mountain stage and I love a good mountain stage on Bastille Day. I woke up super early to watch this stage, and that was pretty cool. I wish we could've seen it from the very start, but such is the way of sports. We saw it close enough to the beginning to satisfy all but the greedy in us (me).

It was, not surprisingly, a day of attacks. There was a bigger group, at the start, which lasted for a long while. Included in that group was Geraint Thomas. He was, amusingly, the virtual yellow jersey on the road. I know, some people don't understand the point of that (what are you, new?), but it's fun. Even though we know it won't last (or maybe because it won't), we love talking about it. And hey, if it's someone you like, all the better. It has, of course, on occasion, lasted. Thomas Voeckler's gotten the yellow twice this way, Sylvain as well. And it's happened to others, I'm sure. So, then Harmon got excited about Thomas being virtual yellow, how could you not be a little excited, too?

It was never going to last, of course. But the ride was fun (for the fans, no so much for the boys themselves). After the bigger group, Johnny Hoogerland attacked in predictable fashion. He wanted to keep that KOM jersey, but it wasn't to be. But attacking with him, and sharing in his pain, was my boy Sylvain. I didn't expect him to attack, and every time he got up out of the saddle, all I could think about was how much pain he said he was in when he rode like that. Which, of course, is why he didn't do that so often. They attacked and they attacked hard, but then an Astana rider (Roman Kreuziger) joined them and eventually poor Hoogerland just couldn't hold on. Kreuziger and Sylvain tried hard to catch up to the front group and came very close, but then Kreuziger gave it more gas and Sylvain just couldn't keep up.

I was sad to see him slow and then go backward, but it wasn't a surprise. His attack was, of course, because of his injuries. But I suppose there was never a chance he wouldn't attack, after all there's nothing France likes more than a French winner on Bastille Day. Unfortunately, it wasn't going to be Sylvain's day. He did say, in a post race interview, that he would survive to try another day, but I don't know. I hope he's feeling better, but I don't expect that he really is. My worry is he's making himself worse, but it's up to him, of course (like he'd listen to me, anyway).

France's hope wasn't lost, because Jeremy Roy was also in that breakaway with Geraint Thomas. The two of them road away from the rest of the break, producing the fantastic picture you saw at the start of this post. Alas, it wasn't their day, either. The peloton slowly but surely dragged them back and spit them out the back end. And then the collective world of cycling held their breath -- would anyone attack? Oddly enough the answer was yes. Unlike last year (or was it the year before, these non-attack stages really run together after awhile), both Andy and Frank Schleck attacked! Who knew they had it in them? They weren't particularly effective, in that they didn't drop many people. But at the same time, they did drop their "main" rival, Contador. It looks like he wasn't kidding when he said he wasn't feeling that well.

We should get more attacks tomorrow, but probably the breakaway kind as the Col d'Aubisque isn't supposed to be that bad (ha ha). Would I like Sylvain to try again tomorrow? Of course. Do I expect him to? No. Of course I didn't think he'd attack today, either, but I'm more pessimistic due to his health. I do think that unless Voeckler pulls out another ride (and can his team even do it again, two days in a row?) like he did today, he won't be in yellow. The question is, of course, who will it be. A Schleck? Maybe someone from a break that survives? It all depends on Voeckler and his team.

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