Jul 9, 2005

tdf - stage 8

I'm not expecting much to change in the GC on this stage. The thing to watch for is who gets dropped back off the end of the peloton on that last climb and who looks like they could get dropped off the end.

Well Rasmussen went off the front early on and a couple of interesting riders went with him. Voigt and Hincapie among others (5 in total). Rasmussen is a polka dot guy. He wants mountain points. Voigt obviously wants to make a splash in Germany. And Hincapie? Why'd he go? It could be that he's trying to win the polka dot jersey. He's going to be leading Lance in many of the mountain stages so it's not a bad ploy. Also, there is no way in hell the other contender teams are just going to let him go because he's second. So they are going to do all the work in the peloton. And that's exactly what is happening.

Zabriskie is dropped from the peloton immediately. He's not himself. I hope he stays in there for the last time trial. I'm sure Lance told him no matter what you finish the Tour. To race with his injuries is a great learning experience for him. Then Boonen and Wegmann get dropped by the peloton! Holy shit. Boonen must have really hurt himself yesterday. He's the current green jersey and this is not a good sign for him. Wegmann ran the race yesterday so he is naturally very tired. In total 30 riders got dropped at the midway point.

With 164km to go the peloton catches the lead group of 5. The initial mountains are over. Soon after 4 riders attack. One being Hushovd (the green jersey contender). So what does that mean? It means the other sprinter teams are going to come up and lead the peloton. Sure enough Davitamon come up. 40 riders back in the 'second' lagging peloton now.

Hushovd wins the first intermediate checkpoint for green jersey points. He'll be happy. The lead group then splinters with all but Sorensen being caught by the peloton. I'm guessing the pace is furious. Lots of attacks but they rarely last long.

A bunch of riders attack again and catch up with Sorensen. This group has 7 riders. This one may stick. They have enough to work together if they're smart. With 75km to go they are 4 minutes up on the peloton. Meanwhile the green jersey peloton with Boonen seems to be clawing their way back. They are 1 minute behind the main peloton. And in fact they do catch up. The pace must have slowed considerably.

The attack group increases their lead until Liquigas takes the helm of the peloton and starts to increase the pace. It's going to get interesting when we hit the last hill. Zabriskie by the way is 28 minutes back. I don't think he's going to make it. That's a major bummer. I really wanted to see him go head to head with Lance in the final time trial.

49 km to go and it looks like the peloton will catch up with that lead group. They are 4 minutes behind. Again it will be interesting to see who gets dropped on this last climb up. Boonen has dropped off the peloto again, but so has McEwen this time. Put a fork in them on this stage. They're done.

30 km to go and the fast pace of Illes Balears is shattering the peloton on this last climb. The peloton is being led by various groups other than Team Discovery. But Lance and Azevedo and Popo are right up there. Again the lack of drafting means lower quality climbing riders just drop off the end. There are only 40 riders left in the peloton. Devastating climbing.

23 km to go and in the lead group Weening attacks and manages to eek out a small lead over the others as the peloton slowly catches the remaining riders. He's a young rider from the Netherlands. A guy to keep an eye on in later tours. It's a ballsy move but he's holding his lead.

Back in the peloton Vino attacks!! Lance and the Disco boys are right on his tail. Ullrich too. Awesome. Moreau attacks. Valverde attacks. Then Kloden attacks. Lance is marking Ullrich the whole time and not following Kloden. Lance is without teammates though. There's a few T-Mobile folks around. Ullrich attacks. Holy shit this is only a cat 2 climb for crying out loud. Everyone is going apeshit. Meanwhile they are all closing in on Weening who is laboring.

Kloden currently has a small gap on the GC contender group. He is definitely a concern for Lance but Lance is letting him go a little. Ullrich and Vino are hanging with Armstrong. Armstrong has to feel a little naked here without his team.

They're over the top of the climb. 15 km to go.

Downhill things are starting to tighten up a bit; everyone's getting closer together as riders are able to make up time. Weening has tucked in behind Kloden and they are still ahead of the other riders. They are working together. It's not good though. The peloton behind has almost caught up. It's regrouping and trying to close the last few seconds to Weening and Kloden and set up a sprint finish. This is going to be exciting.

But the peloton is disorganized. Apparently everyone is looking at everyone else to take the lead as if to say "I've already worked hard, you do it." This is good for Kloden.

And look at this. Weening edges Kloden out at the finish line. Oh man. That is close. That is just a great win for Weening. Note that name. I think he's going to be around for a few more years. The rest of the peloton make it in safely. Kloden will gain some time in the overall GC. He's definitely a contender for the overall so Armstrong will have to watch him from now on out. I'm sure a lot of riders will lose big time today. The GC contenders were all there though.

The big question of the day is what happened to Team Discovery. This could be very bad for Lance. Very bad. Lance needs a team to help him. OR! Is this some kind of head fake by Lance? I find it very hard to believe that Azevedo and Popo and Hincapie couldn't deal with this cat 2 climb. It was a long stage but still. Something is either very wrong or they are being very shrewd. This again could be Lance trying to get other teams to pull more weight. But I really don't think it is. I think the team is just not as strong as in other years.

T-Mobile on the other hand looks good. Vino, Ullrich, and Kloden. All contenders. All on the same team. It's possibly this may work against them if they can't figure out who is the lead.

Other notes:
  • Voigt moves into the #2 spot in the GC behind Vino. Hincapie is down to #8. It's basically Lance and then a ton of riders down 1-2 minutes.
  • Mengin dropped out of the tour along with 4 others.
  • Whenever the official tour site classifies the nationalities of the riders (e.g., Spain, France, etc.) they always lump the U.S. and the Netherlands together. Weird.
  • Zabriskie finished 51 minutes back - Lanterne Rouge right now. Dead last. He made the cutoff by 1 minute! I wonder if he'll start tomorrow.
  • It was a blistering pace today. This seems unsustainable. Their avereage pace is much higher than previous Tours.
Read this article - "Where are Armstrong's memorable moments?". I won't make fun of him for the same reason I don't like to get into fistfights with 3 years olds - no challenge. Regardless, he does illuminate some truth; albeit unconsciously. He doesn't like it because he has no clue what is going on. As a result there is no suspense. If he didn't think that he wouldn't pen such a stupid title to his article. He captures the average American and what they think of the Tour de France well. To test this I asked my colleagues if they followed the Tour. Three said no. Two said yes. Of those two I asked, 'what do you think so far?'. Both answered, "I don't know. I just want to know if he wins." I asked why they were interested then if they didn't watch it. "Because he's American."

Which is why this wonderful, wonderful article - "We Love LA - The Legacy of Lance Armstrong"- is unfortunately totally wrong. America is largely made up of people that believe it's not a sport if it doesn't have a ball/puck, want their sports as complex as a Hollywood movie, and need it all to happen in America by Americans. Unless Hincapie, Zabriskie, or Landis make some moves next year 90% of the 'watchers' this year won't care. And even if they do I'm thinking Hincapie's and Zabriskie's names are far too foreign sounding for people to believe they're American. Come on. I mean can you think of a better American sports name than Lance Armstrong. It's like it's out of a comic book. It may be up to the Mennonite.

Stage 9
Some more tough climbs but nothing outrageous. And again we have a downhill finish. A long one. I don't expect to see much change in the GC rankings again. The only complaint I have with this tour is that the organizers have tried so hard to give other riders an advantage in relation to Lance that I wonder if these mountain stages will turn out fairly dull. We should see a lot of people getting dropped off the back of the peloton though on these big climbs. [Addendum] I'm clearly wrong about these being boring stages. Everyone's eyes will be on Team Discovery. And there will be attacks. Lots of them. The other teams smell blood.

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