Jul 10, 2005

tdf - stage 9

Here we go. This could be exciting. First off a bunch of bad news. Zabriskie is out. Not surprising. He pulled off after getting dropped by the peloton. I'm surprised he even started. Four other riders abandoned - Gomez, Gonzalez, Kirsipuu, and Pagliarini. Then Ullrich crashed on one of the early climbs. He looks okay though. In other news Lance apparently said they will not be defending the yellow jersey. He wants someone else to have it. I would suggest that he thinks his team has become burned out by having to lead the peloton all the time. Yesterday he said it was a possibility. Given that statement it's probably true. That would suggest he could be vulnerable again today because they are going to have to lead.

However Hincapie talked with Chris Brewer and seemed to suggest it was just a mental lapse yesterday. They weren't on their toes and after the attacks came furiously they had trouble getting back to the peloton. They weren't expecting the attacks and were lax in their positioning. This would be a much better situation for Lance if true. Another report I read stated Hincapie said the team was mad at all the criticism. This also is a good sign. One because it implies they probably don't believe the criticism is valid and two it will make them hungry to show their stuff.

Rasmussen again took off from the peloton early to strengthen his polka dot lead. Cioni went after him and they both built up a large lead (~7 minutes). Another pack went off between these two and the peloton (most notably Jens Voigt).

And that was about it. It pretty much stayed that way for the whole stage. Rasmussen won the stage and is now in fourth place. That is largely meaningless for him. He has the polka dot which is meaningful for him. This is what makes the Tour so amazing. You can try to figure out what is going to happen but you just never know. I thought for sure this would be an interesting stage but it largely wasn't. Lance lost the yellow jersey to Voigt (CSC) but it's not meaningful. This is also what makes the Tour so hard to follow. If you don't know the ins and outs of the sport you probably are disheartned by the headlines if you are a Lance supporter. Moreau, another rider who broke away is in second and Lance is third back 2'18". This is a great spot for him now that his team doesn't have to lead the peloton. Vino is 1'02" back. The rest of the contenders a little farther back.

Stage 10
Okay this is a little more like it. Just look at that graphic below. Lance WILL attack here IF he can. I have no doubt in my mind. It's one of the few stages that ends in a nasty climb. That last climb has a 6.2% average incline (to you and me that means coughing up a lung to go up it) and it's a nice 22 km long. And when I say nice what I really mean is brutal. Lance will both want to win this stage, make some kind of statement (to demoralize his opponents), and increase his GC lead significantly. I think this may be the defining stage. If Lance looks good his chances of winning improve dramatically. If he and Team Disco stumble I think it could be all over. Lance will most likely hang behind CSC (yellow jersey team) and let them do the work and pick his spot for an attack. He probably won't look for much. Just another 30 to 60 seconds to add to his lead.

I'm wondering if whoever is with him going up that last climb but before Lance has attacked will try a pre-emptive attack. Vino I'm thinking is a definite attacker. Ullrich will have to make a move too if he's not to be forgotten in this tour. They too will want to make a statement. If you don't see that pre-emptive attack then I suspect they don't have it in them. And Lance will smell blood. The only one I think might not be suffering without an attack is Basso since he did a lot of just hanging on Lance's tail last year. But I doubt it. I don't think he'll be content. Set your Tivos now.

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