Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July 19, Stage 16: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux - Gap 163 km

I was hoping this would be a good stage and in a lot of ways it was. The result wasn't quite what I wanted, but it's nice to see a breakaway managing to stick it out. I'd hoped, futility it seems, that one of the guys I was rooting for would win, alas, it was not to be. As soon as people saw that Thor was in the break, it seemed like there wasn't a chance that anyone else could win. And, well, apparently it's inevitable because Thor did, in fact, win.

Briefly, I thought made it was Norway against Canada, until the very end when I realized that it was Garmin-Cervelo and not Norway that was binding people together. It meant that Ryder Hesjedal and Thor were working together to, well, totally screw over Edvald Boasson Hagen. To be honest, it was kind of fun to see, even if it wasn't the result that I wanted.

The break had a couple of people I liked, including the Quick Step rider, Dries Devenyns as well as the rider I really wanted to win, Tony Martin. According to someone I follow on twitter (he's German), Tony's been nursing a cold, which meant he's not at his best. It also means that his fourth place was well earned, especially in the shitty weather. I was happy to see him finish so close to the winners because we hadn't heard anything once the break split apart.

One thing that made me sad about this stage was that ideally, with the mountains and weather, it could've been a stage that Sylvain might've won. But this isn't his year. I really hope that next year'll be better for him. Hell, the rest of the season, too. He's due to get back into form around the time of the world championships. Though of Thor's still in form, we might see him in the rainbow jersey yet again. But enough digression.

Thor's win wasn't the only thing going on. Unlike Sunday, we actually had some real action. It seems everyone was expecting a move by Contador and he didn't disappoint, which was actually quite nice. What I didn't expect was that a small group couldn't keep up with him. Voeckler wasn't going to, but Frank Schleck? Basso? Totally couldn't keep up. And Andy Schleck? Well, he's really missed his chance to win the TDF. And his excuses for getting dropped were ridiculous. But such is the way with the Schlecks. Who did stay with Contador? Sanchez (of the carrots) and Cadel Evans.

And, in the end, it was Evans who really made the effort. Which is kind of a shocker because attacks aren't his thing, he's known, at least to cycling fans, as a wheel sucker. A lot of people are saying, in various places, that Evans can't win it or he doesn't have the strength to win. But I don't know. He's only hampered by the strength of his opponents. Of course, much will depend on what happens on tomorrow's stage, along with that ITT. We know the Schlecks are bad at time trials, or at least not that great. But the same can't be said for Contador, he's not the best in the world, but if things work out right, it could be Contador versus Evans.

The next two stages are the real deal, followed by Alpe-d’Huez on Friday. I think that a lot can happen in these stages. Depending on how the GC folks are feeling, Voeckler could be spit out the back and finally lose the yellow jersey -- or nothing will happen and he rides into Saturday's ITT with the yellow on his back, only to lose it. I think the latter is unlikely, but as all things have gone this tour -- we never know. While I believe that Andy Schleck has ridden himself out of the yellow jersey competition, you never know. If he has a good day and those in front of him have bad ones, you never know. We almost have a real race on our hands. Let's hope this keeps up.

1 comment:

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