Jul 12, 2005

tdf - stage 10

The start today was held up due to some protest. I'm not sure what the protest was. I think it's unrelated to the Tour [Update: It's farmers protesting wolves that attack their herds. I'm sure the wolves are watching the protests on TV and are very scared]. When they finally did get going the peloton was immediately attacked. 6 riders got out front. This eventually became 7 riders before they shot off far ahead of the peloton. None of the riders were particularly worrisome for the GC contenders. The closest rider was Brouchard who began the stage 5'50" behind Voigt. And he became the virtual leader after the lead group gained 10'40" on the peloton.

At this point Credit Agricole took over the peloton from Voigt's CSC group and tried to whittle down this time. The lead dropped to around 9'20" just as they hit the first mountain. Discovery was simply staying back, not asserting themselves. One of the commentators I read stated that there are no really great attacking spots late in this stage. They all come very early. Too early for Lance to consider useful. It's possible, he theorized, that no attack will come today. That whoever is in the lead will simply power up as fast as possible and this alone will slowly rip the peloton apart.

T-Mobile takes over some the the lead duties up the first climb. Reports say that Ullrich looks very good. Smiling now and again. Brochard eventually peels himself off from everyone else and is able to maintain a decent lead over the peloton. A few other riders sprinkled in between him and the peloton.

Fast descent - 90 to 100 km/hr. Don't fall! Popovych (Team Disco) crashes. I've seen two conflicting reports. One has him getting a flat resulting in a crash. Another suggests he smashed into the back of the CSC support car. He seems to be okay and he catches back up. It'll be interesting to find out what happened there.

And then the attacks came. With some lead riders still out in front of the peloton, quite a few other riders made attacks (we're still on the first climb). No one terribly important. But the peloton responded each time. Upping the pace so their attack leads were not that sustainable. Lots of riders jostling to get themselves to the front of the peloton - Kloden, Rubiera, etc. Conventional wisdom says you have to attack Lance before the end of the final climb. Typically no one ever does. Perhaps they will act on that idea today.

7 riders are able to get off the front from the main peloton and catch the 2 lead riders. 9 riders total. No one particularly important. They should be able to make a go of it.

28 km to go. Team Disco has all 9 riders and they are tearing up the stage. CSC are with them as are T-Mobile. Voigt (the yellow jersey) is going to crack. Brochard cracks. Mayo cracks. Voeckler cracks. All the A-listers are still there though.

19 km to go. The peloton is just falling to pieces. No one is attacking because they can't. It's too fast. Classic Team Disco strategy. Only two Disco riders gone at this point. Jaksche makes an attack off the front but it is not sustainable. Heras gone. Beloki gone. We're getting close to the real contenders now. Who's the first to go?

15 km to go. Sastre attacks also but can't make it stick. Too fast. Salvoldelli (Disco) finally drops off the pace setting and Hincapie takes over. Moreau gone. Karpets gone (and the white jersey presumably). Popo is still there as are his white jersey dreams.

Botero and Julich gone! We're in A-lister territory now. We still have a LONG WAY TO GO too! Azevedo gone (Disco). That seems too soon for him. He usually is one of the last to go. The pace is furious. Perhaps they are pulling riders off to save them for later stages. Giving Popo a chance.

14 km to go. Just Hinky and Popo with Armstrong for Team Disco. Along with them? Klodi, Jans, and Vino from Team T-Mobile. 3 on 3! Should be interesting.

12 km to go. Hincapie comes off. VINO is history!! I honestly can't believe it. I view him as the number one contender to Armstrong. Better than both Jan and Kloden because he's so hungry and so aggressive. Forget it. He's history.

10 km to go. ULLRICH gone! KLODEN gone! LANDIS gone! Wow. 10 fricking km to go still! Popo wants to take off but Armstrong slows him down.

9 km to go. So who is still around? Basso, Rasmussen, Valverde, and Mancebo. Illes Balears (Valverde and Mancebo) are really putting on a show here.

8 km to go. Did I say Basso was still there? GONE. None of the primary contenders from last year are in the picture now. But Armstrong still has guys with him. Mancebo gone. Nope he's back.

4 km to go. Each of the 4 lead riders are taking turns except for Rasmussen. Is he setting up for a stage win? It'll be a sprint at the end. I'm not sure if Lance will even bother with a stage win attempt here. He's accomplished his tasks for the day.

1 km to go. Rasmussen goes for it. Lance follows. Lance then attacks. Valverde follows. Valverde edges Lance out. Wow that guy is good. I can't believe Rasmussen made it up here with those guys. That's incredible. Huge time losses for the main GC contenders. Check this out (not the entire set of riders, just the contenders):

Armstrongsame time
Rasmussen9" back
Mancebo9" back
Basso1'02" back
Leipheimer1'15" back
Kloden2'14" back
Ullrich2'14" back
Vino5'18" back!!

Huge losses for those guys. Team Disco and Lance looked very intimidating today. Only Basso I think has any hope to catch Armstrong although we now need to keep an eye on Rasmussen and Valverde. Rasmussen is 38" back from Armstrong in the overall. Valverde 3'16" back in the overall.

However there's a big problem with that. If Armstrong can both hang with and beat these guys in the mountains then there is only the time trial left to make up time. But we know Lance can beat those guys because only Zabriskie beat Armstrong in the first stage. But if we look back at Stage 1m, how did these guys do?

Well Basso was 1' 26" back. Valverde was 2' 24". Rasmussen was 3' 14". Forget it. For Armstrong not to do well would mean a crash, an illness, or a complete disintegration of Team Disco. All are possible. On pure ability though, all other things equal, Lance wins this tour.

Here's the most amazing thing about the stage though: Valverde wins. He's the new white jersey leader. He's basically a rookie. If he can keep with Lance in the mountains at this age, that guy has a big big future. Wow.

Here's the second most amazing thing: Lance (and the other 3 riders who came in together) won the stage without attacking. They just rode hard the whole way up and just tired people out. This goes back to what I wrote at the beginning about the writer who said there were no good spots to attack. Doesn't seem like there were any or was there any need for there to be any. Just ride hard enough and you can drop anyone.
Stage 11
No rest for the weary. Not one, but two HC climbs. While not as tactically important because of the descending finish. This type of stage can still shrug good riders off the end; chew them up and spit them out for breakfast. Lance won't make a statement here I don't think. Just maintain status quo.

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