The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Sunday, July 22, 2007

More Shakeup

First day in the Pyrenees - which are generally harder climbs than the Alps, although today wasn't too challenging - and while most of the race leaders (with one big exception) were in the chase to the end, it was a tense and exciting finish. Early in the race, Saunier Duval wasted a lot of effort trying to position team leader Iban Mayo for a stage victory - his GC chances vanished in yesterday's poor Time Trial - and then he blew up before the summit of the first of two big climbs. Rabobank, middling quality team of yellow jersey Rasmussen, did the remainder of the early work, but then Discovery picked up the pace on the second big climb, somewhat reminiscent of the Lance Years. For the last 15 km or so the lead group (aside from the remnant of an early breakaway) included contenders Rasmussen, Evans, Sastre, Klöden, Leipheimer, and Contador - the last two being Discovery, along with strong rider but non-contender Popovych. No one else had any teammates, meaning that the situation was perfect for Discovery.

And, indeed, Popo lead the group up the beyond-category climb with its summit finish, dropping off pretenders like Valverde. But Leipheimer, with the kind of tactical position that Lance probably still dreams of, couldn't pull off the stage. He had one attack that looked like it would take, but then faded. You can't win the Tour if you can't make a mountain attack stick. So, at the end, it was Rasmussen and Contador, with Contador having the legs to win easily at the line. He's now in second overall, 2:23 back, :41 ahead of Evans, and 2:06 ahead of nominal team leader Leipheimer. As I said, Levi had a fine ride, coming in fourth on the day, but he utterly failed to do what a yellow jersey wearer must do. Cadel Evans did somewhat worse, up front for awhile, but then blowing up in the last 5 km and finishing almost 2:00 behind. Klöden - riding on a fractured coccyx, mind you - struggled most of the day to stay within sight of the leaders' group, yet managed to finish with Evans, which to my mind makes his day the better one.

But the worst day belonged to my beloved Vino, who was simply tapped out by his magnificent TT performance on Saturday. Vino slipped back and back all day, visibly struggling, even with three teammates up the road. He came in 28:50 behind Contador (81st on the day!), and slipped to 30th place, over 34 minutes back. Alas, poor Vino, we knew you well.

[Much later update: Well, aside from the fact that we now know that Vino was doping, we also know that he was 28 minutes back because some jagoff fan waved his flag at the Astana rider in front of Vino, got the flag caught in the spokes, and sent down both Vino and his teammate. In retrospect, I'm kind of glad that Vino landed on his sutured knees. Fucking cheater.]



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