Jul 23, 2005

tdf - stage 20

Well that was exciting. One of the more exciting time trials I've watched. I won't go into a play by play because it's kind of difficult on such a stage. Instead I'll talk about a few of the more interesting points on this stage.
  • Mickael Rasmussen. I've never seen anything like this before. It was an absolute comedy of errors. My heart went out to the man even though I've never really liked him. At last tally he suffered this through the stage: 2 crashes, 2 flat tires, and 4 bicycle changes. He's lapped by both Armstrong and Basso. The shot of him going over the top of his handlebars into a ditch is a vision that will imprinted on everyone's memory whenever they see this rider. Eventually the nightmare ends as he makes his way in 7'47" behind Armstrong's time. He goes from 3rd on the GC all the way down to 7th. While he will win the polka dot jersey I think this stage was so embarassing that it has removed any joy from that win. Utterly devastating.
  • Ivan Basso. Basso comes through the first checkpoint with the fastest time. A completely shocking fact in and of itself. Basso is not a great time trialer. He's good in comparison to the entire field but he isn't good when compared against the type of results expected from a Tour winner. It turns out he burned a little too much energy up front and looked in pain towards the end. Some may view this as a failure but his final time is much better than I expected. I was looking for something greater than 3 minutes back. He has reportedly worked hard on his time trials skills and I think this locks him in as the favorite to replace Armstrong's reign next year. A spectacular effort. He also puts a stamp on his 2nd place GC finish.
  • Jan Ullrich. Jan came in 23 seconds behind Lance. I also consider this a win for Jan. While he is an excellent time trialer he is not up to Lance's pace. 23" back again is better than I expected. I mean he came in 1'06" behind Armstrong in the first stage time trial and that was much shorter. People forget about what Ullrich has done. In 1996 at the tender age of 22 he comes in second in the Tour de France. The next year his wins it. If it wasn't for the existence of Lance Armstrong he would have many many Tour wins under his belt. As a result he doesn't. He has a Tour win when he was young and is viewed as someone who never lived up to his potential after that. I think he is underrated and not given enough respect for what he's done. He's an incredible tough rider and always gets better and better as the Tour goes on. Not many have that quality. He will be a contender if he decides to race next year. He secures his 3rd place spot on the GC.
  • Lance Armstrong. I'll be honest. I expected Lance to do even better than he did. I don't think he had a great day. His comments after the stage suggest this is the case. His expectation is that Ullrich would win. But a bad day for Lance is still better than everyone else's best day. And winning this stage is important regardless of the time difference. Lance himself has said that the maillot jaune must win the final time trial if he is to prove his worthiness as heir to the golden throne. At almost 34 years of age it's amazing that he is still so good that people just expect him to win. I'm sure he's thrilled to go out this way. Winning the Tour without a stage win is the sort of thing people would have picked nits with. There are no nits now.

Stage 20
Well tomorrow really isn't a true stage. The riders will 'parade' through the Champs Elysee, drinking champage, waving to the crowds, and taking solace in the fact that they actually finished this infernal race. It really is more of a celebration than a stage.

However, there will be some entertainment tomorrow. There are multiple sprint areas in the final stage where sprint points can be won. All the maillots have owners except for vert. The green jersey is still up for contention. Once again Hushovd, O'Grady, and McEwen have their hopes up. I really don't know who will win this one. I think McEwen is the best sprinter but he's in 3rd currently. It will be close.

No comments: