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On the longest stage of the tour, Mark Cavendish and Team Columbia work the train to perfection getting the win.  With an exceptional lead out by George Hincapie and excellent support by Kim Kirchen, Cavendish was dropped at the 150m mark in prime position to bring it home.  At the moment Cav took over, Hushovd all ready had him by a half a bike.  Cav punched the crank and within 50m he had distanced all sprint contenders and took the line, Wow.  He has the legs to contest and that means we’ve got a new rider to watch on the flatlands this tour.

 

This was a really dry stage today. Unless you enjoy the banal banter of the race announcers, save you’re viewing time for a stage with more potential.  Three minutes of highlight footage is all you really need.  Not much but a long breakaway to follow and no-namers at that.  The sprint will be the highlight of the day.

 

Team Columbia impresses me more and more.  There GC hopes appear to be on the back of Kirchen.  Kirchen, riding for T-Mobile, was 7th at last year’s tour and clearly capable of besting that effort.  I expect he will be marking Evans, Valverde and Menchov among others when the road turns upward.  Tomorrow’s stage introduces two 2nd category climbs that may hint at Kim’s strength and competitiveness.  It will be interesting to see how the team is used to set Kim up for a run.  I’m sure Hincapie will provide pace for one of the mountains.  Let’s see who is on point for the other probably Lövkvist.

 

2008 TdF Stage 6 Elevation Profile

2008 TdF Stage 6 Elevation Profile

 

Team Columbia is well positioned with three riders in the top 10 with Kirchen 2nd, Hincapie 7th and Lövkvist 8th.  All of them are in the mix to be competitive for GC though Kirchen will be supported in the mountains most likely.

 

Noticeably absent from today’s finish were team Garmin/Chipotle.  Only Julian Dean placed in the sprint finish in 10th.  There are two riders in the top 10 overall including Millar and Vande Velde.  I expect Millar will fade in the mountains like past years but Vande Velde could show us something.  Let’s see tomorrow.

 

Links for Stage 5 Press Releases

Yahoo Sports:  http://tinyurl.com/6blrlc

Cycling News:  http://tinyurl.com/5lps4f

Velonews:       http://tinyurl.com/6ogceq

 

Stage 6 Results
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia 5.27.52 (42.45 km/h)
2 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank  
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram  
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole  
5 Baden Cooke (Aus) Barloworld  
6 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld  
7 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone  
8 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence – Lotto  
9 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas  
10 Julian Dean (NZ) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30  
11 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner  
12 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quick Step  
13 Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel  
14 Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française des Jeux   
15 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Agritubel  
     
Overall Standings
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 19.32.33
2 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia 0.12
3 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.12
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto 0.21
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 0.33
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.37
7 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia 0.41
8 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia 0.47
9 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0.58
10 José Iván Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 1.01
11 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 1.12
12 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 1.13
13 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step 1.18
14 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 1.22
15 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.24
     
Team Standings
1 Barloworld   16.23.36
2 Agritubel    
3 Rabobank    
4 Gerolsteiner    
5 Silence – Lotto    
6 Credit Agricole    
7 Garmin Chipotle    
8 Team Columbia    
9 Bouygues Telecom    
10 Liquigas    
11 Cofidis Credit Par Telephone    
12 Team Milram    
13 Quick Step    
14 Lampre    
15 Euskaltel – Euskadi    
16 AG2R-La Mondiale    
17 Caisse d’Epargne    
18 Francaise des Jeux    
19 Saunier Duval – Scott    
20 Team CSC Saxo Bank    

 

 

 

Allez915

After a half hour hunting a live feed from of the tour, I finally hooked into a choppy feed from Eurosport Live.  Took some effort to ignore the rather adolescent chat room that accompanied the site but who’s complaining.

 

Got to love the underdog.  Stefan Schumacher gets it done on the 4th stage of the TdF.  Maybe somebody else in computerland saw or made a prediction of Schumacher dropping the hammer in this stage but I didn’t.  He stormed to the top of the pile in Lance like proportions bringing a 35:44 for the 29.5km TT for an average of 49.534 km/hr or over 30MPH.  He bested a close group of riders including Cancellara +33, Menchov +34, Voigt +35, Vande Velde +37 and Hincapie +41.  Other riders came in later to challenge but couldn’t quite get it done. 

 

The elevation profile shows that this course as a rather flat unassuming loop. In truth the winds were strong and the course more rolling than expected.  The result was that while the contenders still gravitated upward there were some surprises including in the top spot.

 

2008 TdF Stage 4 Elevation Profile

2008 TdF Stage 4 Elevation Profile

As hoped for, team members from both Team Columbia and Garmin – Chipotle put in some excellent performances.  Danny Pate threw the gauntlet down early demonstrating strength for Garmin/Chipotle.  It wasn’t till the big guns came out much later that he was bested and only by a small margin at first.  Danny hung in for 14th, a very respectable placing for the TdF.  Well done. 

 

Other American team members also got in on the action including Pate’s Garmin compatriots Vande Velde 8th, and Millar, with stellar 3rd a mere 18 seconds off the leader.  Columbia’s best placers include Lövkvist 11th, Hincapie 9th and Kirchen with 2nd only 18 seconds off the leader and slightly ahead of Millar.  American teams are clearly strong and deep as today’s results show.  They are 1st and 2nd on the team overall.  We shall see if that holds up on the more difficult stages to follow.

 

At first it seems Schumacher has no GC illusions from his first interview on Eurosport.   Later on it is published that he will give up the yellow kicking and screaming. I suppose his director had a chat with him in between.  Here nor there, he got it done and deserves his time in the limelight. 

 

Stage Results
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 35.44 (49.5 km/h)
2 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia 0.18
3 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.18
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto 0.27
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 0.33
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0.34
7 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 0.35
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.37
9 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia 0.41
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0.47
11 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia 0.47
12 José Iván Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 0.50
13 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.08
14 Danny Pate (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 1.10
15 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step 1.18
Overall Results
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 14.04.41
2 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia 0.12
3 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.12
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto 0.21
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 0.33
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.37
7 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia 0.41
8 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia 0.47
9 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0.58
10 José Iván Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 1.01
11 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 1.12
12 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 1.13
13 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step 1.18
14 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 1.22
15 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.24
Team Results
1 Team Columbia 1.48.58
2 Garmin Chipotle 0.19
3 Team CSC Saxo Bank 0.51
4 Gerolsteiner 1.30
5 Caisse d’Epargne 2.06  

 

I went in to the 2008 Tour de France wondering if I would be as invested in the race as in past years.  I find that I’ve been hedging commitment to the race for several weeks leading up to the start.  After some thought, several reasons jump to mind. 

·         There is the closure of the Discovery team and the subsequent scattering of the team members to the three winds. 

·         There is the hardheaded ASO decision to deny Astana the opportunity to race and along with it two of my favorites, Contador and Leipheimer as well as the ever fascinating director Johan Bruyneel. 

·         There is the decision of Versus to deny the cable impaired a live online video feed relegating us to the semi-live twitter like updates from the major news and team outlets.  

·         Let’s not forget the yearly sponsor and rider changes to navigate. 

 

So with all this nonsense to contend with, who could figure where I’d be three stages in?  Yes, you guessed it, as buried in it as a solo break 5K out with a 2 minute gap. 

 

The two American teams Team Columbia (High Road) and Team Garmin – Chipotle are square in the middle of it.  They have several riders including today’s 2nd place finisher Will Frischkorn and yesterday’s 2nd and 3rd place finishers Kim Kirchen and Gerald Ciolek who are bringing me along for the ride. 

 

I’m not sure how these teams will play out in the GC but they have clearly come to challenge individual stages.  There is a rather rebellious side to each of these teams that hint at more fun to come.  

 

The interview at the end of the stage with Frischkorn was fascinating.  Clearly still wound up from the stage finish, he recounted the story of the finishing kilometers as a series of missteps.  He just knew that he could get it right if they just rewind to 5K out and restart. He wore the disappointment of opportunity lost on his sleeve.  He is a novice to grand tour riding which was a refreshing contrast more controlled interviews of the favorites.  It was very entertaining. 

 

Tomorrow’s time trial will finally stack the players in this year’s race.  I’m hopeful George Hincapie, Mark Cavendish, Christian Vande Velde, and David Millar will shake it up a bit finding their way into the top 10 or 15.  Either way this year is wide open, enjoyably so.

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