Jul 18, 2005

tdf - stage 16

A couple of notes first:
  • A relevant article in light of some of the comments on the last stage are here and here. The first one has some quotes from Basso regarding how he went from a hopeful winner to a hopeful 2nd placer. And the second talks about how Ullrich now has the goal of making the podium. In both cases Lance could easily 'employ' them to help him. I don't think he'll need that but their motivations have changed and so it's possible to use their motivations towards his own needs. And a Playboy interview with Lance here. No... really... I read it for the articles.
  • 6 riders from the women's Australian national team were hit by a car during a training run yesterday. 1 lady lost her life. All 5 of the others were seriously injured. Dangerous sport this.
  • The official Tour site has started separating the American and Dutch riders when showing country statistics. I'm sure the Dutch are quite relieved.
Before you can blink, there are riders off the front. Most interesting is Popo from Team Disco. 13 riders in total. They get hauled back in but I wonder if Popo has some aspirations on today's stage. He's been one of the stronger Disco riders even though he's the youngest.

Then a couple of weird things occur. First there's a crash that involved Karpets. He gets back up and rejoins. And then there's a crash where Kloden is involved. And he gets back up. The riders are jittery today for some reason. Then Hushovd and Vino are dropped at the back of the peloton. Hushovd is the green jersey wearer. Is something wrong? And why is Vino being dropped this early? And then Leipheimer goes off the back. It's always tough to gauge whether the peloton is just ripping or if these guys are having some kind of problem.

And then a little while later, all those guys are back. Weird. Team Disco leads the peloton. Some more riders have gone off the front. No one of any huge importance in the jersey races except Cadel Evans (Go Wales! Actually he's Australian but the name is Welsh). He's 12 minutes behind Lance. He heard of the death of his friend on the Australian women's team and said he wanted to win the stage as a statement. It would be nice to see him win. Disco may let them go but keep very close tabs. There could be some etiquette today. The peloton might just let Evans win. It's not the sort of thing you see in other sports but it happens in cycling.

Geez. There goes Karpets again off the back. And Botero with him. And then Moncoutie. These hard chargers at the early part of the Tour are tapped out. And another crash - Becke. And then Alexandre "Bulldog" Vino attacks. That guy has never met an attack he didn't like. And Leipheimer goes too. Were those two in the back of the peloton discussing tactics? Also with them is Sastre and Kashechkin. Nope. Sastre can't do it. Pereiro decides he can though.

This stage gets weirder and weirder. Kashechkin is hit by a spectator. He actually rides backwards to go and consult with a doctor. He's got a nose bleed. Must have been a Chechan. Technically riding backwards is illegal. They'll probably let it slip in this instance.

Basso naturally starts pushing the peloton. He doesn't want any of those T-Mobile guys getting any time here. He has to defend his 2nd place jersey. He will lose time to Klodi, Ullie, and Vino on the time trial. He's going to cover these moves.

Totschnig, Brochard, Goubert, Merckx, Landaluze, Sastre, Piepoli, Savoldelli, Mayo, Rubiera are all off the back of the peloton. I think all of them made hard charging attempts earlier in the Tour. Put a fork in them. We haven't hit the HC climb yet either.

The peloton doesn't even really exist anymore. You've got 5 or 6 little grupettos here and there. Cadel still out in front with another 9 riders. A couple guys straggling behind. The yellow jersey's group. And then detritus behind. More riders dropping off. It's clearly not a leisurely pace today. Armstrong with all the favorites of course. He also has Hincapie but I'm thinking after Sunday's win he might not have his legs back fully. All of this should tighten up on the descent.

Sure enough the peloton regroups on the descent. Team Disco leading.

Now up the HC climb. Some attacks but either it doesn't stick or it's no one interesting. I spoke too soon. Vino does attack and goes off a bit. The group seems to be giving him some slack.

Cadel attacks the lead group near the top of the HC climb. He's determined. Then Ullrich and Basso attack the yellow jersey group. Armstrong of course goes and so does Rasmussen. Landis and Leipheimer behind trying to stay with them. No one is able to break away. The group consists of Armstrong, Ullrich, Basso, Sastre, Mancebo, Rasmussen, Landis, Kashechkin, and Leipheimer. Actually one more - Hincapie catches up.

Ullrich then attacks. It seems he's trying to catch up to Vino. Again I have no idea what this T-Mobile team is trying to do... Ever. You know it's funny. For 6 years now, no one has really attacked Lance, and now all of a sudden everyone is attacking all the time. It's a downhill finish for crying out loud. What do you exactly hope to accomplish? They catch Vino and then who starts leading? Lance. Huh? I think he's trying to tell these guys, "You call that attacking? You call that leading? Pathetic." Or perhaps "would you guys stop this attacking crap. I'm fine. I can stay with you. I can go faster with you. Now quit it. I want to enjoy the scenery."

Evans crests with a 4 minute lead over the peloton and various smaller times over those in the leader group at the beginning of the stage. He's going to have to go down fast. How's this for irony - Evans has crashed training on this very stage; breaking his collar bone. Again everything will tighten up on the descent. Lots of riders coming in.

Pereiro is making his way back to Evans. Only 15 seconds down. After Hincapie stole his stage win on Sunday he's hungry. But he's also probably tired. Actually he's gone by. And another goes by. Evans is naturally a little fearful of this mountain. And then Pereiro punctures. Oh bad luck. He catches back up. He does seem strong. There are now 4 total in this lead group with Evans. They are 6' or 7' ahead of the yellow jersey group. They won't let them get ahead much more than that.

Mean while Kloden is being aggressive. He wants to keep his top 10 spot I suspect. Hincapie catches up and has a word with him. Not sure what that was about. In fact T-Mobile is leading the peloton. I think Evans is getting too far ahead for their taste. Sure enough the time differential starts dropping. They won't erase it though before the end of the stage.

The question now is who will win. I'm guessing Pereiro. He looks strong. Plus Evans has been doing all the work. Pereiro bitched about Hincapie not doing any work on stage 15 and then stealing the win and now he's doing the same thing here - hypocrite. Sure enough he wins. Blah. Evans is too tired to make a charge. He will move up into the top 10 in rankings though.

Stage 17
Sprinters, sprinters, sprinters.


Chupathingy said...

Nice recap.

One of the things I really enjoy about the Tour (and maybe it's cycling in general) is the honor. If the yellow jersey crashes or has to take a nature break, everyone stops, even though theoretically it would be a time when others could try to make up some ground.

But then you have Pereiro bitching about Hincapie not working and then taking the stage. That's just infuriating because it goes against the concept of honor in the sport.

The commentators speculated that moving Hincapie up forced other teams to force the pace of the peloton. Or, the reason could have been what you said, that Lance wanted someone ahead just in case.

Either way, Hincapie is just following orders, which is about as honorable as you can get (Vino would do well to follow suit, I think). That being the case, Hincapie

Clearly, it wasn't until it was obvious that Lance and the followers weren't going to catch up (which was pretty close to the end of the race, if I recall correctly), that Hincapie recognized that he could take the stage and adjust his strategy accordingly. By that point, Pereiro must have been spent and Hincapie would have beaten him anyway.

I guess it's irrelevant, since you already know all this. I just needed to get it out there to make sure I was right in being annoyed.

C. Fuzzbang said...

The honor thing is funny. It's not embedded in most riders' psyches. When Lance crashed out a couple of years back I think it was Hamilton who made Ullrich stop and wait for him. How tempting is that to just bolt. Ullrich did stop though.

I'm okay with Pereiro stealing the stage. Just don't bitch about Hincapie doing it the stage before.