Saturday, July 16, 2011

July 16, Stage 14: Saint-Gaudens - Plateau de Beille 168 km

Arnold Jeannesson and Jeremy Roy
Today's stage was supposed to change things up. I mean, I totally expected that the yellow jersey would finally change hands. I expected one of the contenders, as they're often called, to finally do something and put their stamp on this race. It seems, from what I can tell, this is what everyone else expected, too. This was a mountain stage, a true one, quite nearly badass (but not fully) and hard enough to make something happen. Um, apparently no one but the fans seemed to get that message.

The day started promisingly enough with a large breakaway (I can't remember the last time I saw a 20-man breakaway, so that was nice). They had a good six or seven minutes on the peloton when I turned stuff on around 6:30 am ET. In that group were a few boys I like, including Sylvain and Jerome, but also Linus Gerdemann. Also in the break were David Millar and everyone's favorite German, Jens Voigt. I secretly hoped that maybe, just maybe, the breakaway would last. I was totally mistaken, but not surprisingly so. It's hard to get a good breakaway to both work together and stay away on mountain stages, especially when you have so many riders who may or may not want to pull for whatever reason. And so, of course the breakaway was doomed to failure.

It was nice, though, to see Sylvain attacking. It was also pretty great to see so many FDJ riders giving it their all. Now if only one of them (Jeremy Roy) could win a stage, I'd like that. I'd also like Sylvain to win a stage, but let's be realistic. The conditions, including his shoulder, would have to be perfect and the chances of that happening are pretty remote -- even though we have a week of racing left to go (god, where has the month gone?). But enough of that.

Can we talk about the main GC guys for a second? There's something weird going on with them. I don't mean the Voeckler crap, I'll touch on that later. What I mean is that apparently everyone's completely forgotten how to race. This isn't new, it went on last year and in previous tours, thought not so maddeningly as this (and, of course, it happened in the 80s, I believe, before I started watching). There's been some discussion that this is what happens with a clean tour, but that's bullshit. There's no clean tour -- there won't be and hasn't been, but again, I'll talk about that in the next paragraph or so. Andy Schleck. Frank Schleck. Cadel Evans. Ivan Basso. Alberto Contador. These are your GC contenders, with maybe a few others, but these are your dudes. And, um. Maybe I should be impressed, but for god's sake, ATTACK. I mean, come on. Don't sit on your asses. Don't spend all your time looking at your brother, Andy and Frank. I don't understand what goes on in their minds. I mean, just go for it. You have nothing to lose, but if you don't go, you run the risk of losing everything.

And then we have Voeckler. We've already established why I don't like him and that's fine. This isn't about my liking him or not. What it is about is the fact that people think he's clean. I'm sorry, but what? Are you all blind? You didn't see Voeckler doing this last year. Or the year before. Or even in '04 when he had the jersey the first time. Why? Because he didn't have the power/stamina/etc. Yes, talent and skill, along with experience, has helped him. But seriously, how do you think his team is able to cope? If you think it's something other than doping, you're very, very wrong. But please, seriously, stop acting like you can't believe a clean rider could do what Voeckler's doing, because they can't. I suppose this means that maybe the peloton is evening out and maybe that's a good thing, in spite of doping. But pull your heads out of the sand. You can enjoy his ride, but stop pretending he's clean -- it's okay to be suspicious and still like him, I promise.

Before I talk about tomorrow's stage, a brief shout out for our stage winner, Jelle Vanendert. He made my mom happy by being Belgian and winning. I don't mind, it was cute to see Omega Pharma Lotto's adorable tweet this morning. Also, I hope that Laurens Ten Dam will be able to start tomorrow, because damn, that's badass to keep riding after his accident (luckily he doesn't seem to have done any real major damage -- otherwise I'd be pissed if he'd been allowed to keep riding, but he didn't seem to have a concussion).

Tomorrow's stage will be mostly flat-like, giving the riders a chance to chill out before the rest day on Monday and then the start of the harder mountains on Tuesday. CN says that it won't be a sprinter's day, because everyone's tired from today's stage, but considering the state of the green jersey competition, I wouldn't put anything past them.

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