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On a relatively flat stage in central France, Johan Van Summeren and Marcin Sapa escaped the peloton at 27km. They valiantly fought to stay out front but with only the two of them there was little chance of bringing it home.  Still,

Stage 11 Winner Mark Cavendish just holds off Farrar at the line

Stage 11 Winner Mark Cavendish just holds off Farrar at the line

they pedaled steadily for hours and hours achieving a maximum gap of 4:15 before they were reeled in like a marlin on 80lb test.  The fishermen of the day were the teams of Columbia, Rabobank, AG2R, Milram and Garmin/Slipstream, each trying to give their sprint monsters a chance for Glooorrreeee as it were.  They were finally caught with at 5km remaining and quickly shuffled to the back of the train…so sad, so so sad. Makes you just want to go over there and bring them a batch of warm cookies for there trouble.

Here is what the break riders had to say:

Johan Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto)

“The team was not in a good mood, I had the impression that some were growing nervous. Today’s instructions were short but precise: one of us with each attack.

“After the peloton started again after a big crash, Chavanel attacked. As soon as he was caught, I jumped away on the other side of the road. Only Sapa joined me. With so far [to ride], and just having two [in the break], I knew that dreaming was useless.

I was always at top speed… it was pleasant to spend so much time at the head. I did enjoy it. An as Most Combative Rider of the Day, I had the pleasure of kissing Gert Steegmans’s girl; she is an hostess with the sponsor of that challenge.”

Marcin Sapa (Lampre)

“When I’m in a breakaway I’m happy even if, as today, it’s very tough to get amongst the action. With Van Summeren the agreement was good, but this time it [the break] was neutralized when there were a few kilometers to go”.

So here we are at 5km.  Columbia is formed up five deep with Kirchen winding it up on a downward grade hitting speeds of over 70km/hour.  I think a “holy wiener schnitzel” is in order here.  All the while Milram tried to weasel their feral claws into the leadout for Ciolek, nearly disrupting the glorious Columbia train.  It was not to be as Hincapie shepherded the whole chaotic mess through the chicane to the 500. At that point it was the Renshaw Cavendish show.  Hushovd and Farrar were lined up tight to Cavendish as Renshaw drove the field up the inclined finish pulling off in the last 200.  In the end Farrar came around strong but missed it by a length.   Hushovd didn’t have it, falling of the wheel for a fifth place finish. Cavendish and his team earned the Green Jersey their effort while Thor was singing an familiar old song …

Here is what a couple of players had to say:

Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam)

“I was in good position for the sprint, but it just wasn’t my day. I am very disappointed of course, and will continue to fight for the green jersey.”

“I still want to fight for the green jersey. It’s still a long way to Paris. It was a hard fight for [Cavendish’s] wheel. It was difficult because everyone knows that is where you want to be. I will try to win another stage before this Tour is over. I will take it day-by-day.”

Julian Dean (Garmin-Slipstream)

“Today we took a different approach – I decided to wait back a little longer. Dave took me to 500 meters to go, and took me in with a heap of speed. George [Hincapie] moved off and Renshaw came over, so it took some of my speed away. But I think if that didn’t happen I could have set Tyler up for the win. He has the power and I have the power – it’s just about getting around the Columbia train.”

And a couple of GC contenders:

Alberto Contador (Astana)

“It was a transition day… boring for those who saw it on television, but it was also a day with a lot of tension at the beginning. There were some complicated falls but we avoided them.

“It calmed down up to the last 20 kilometers, where the whole world wants to be ahead to avoid losing any time and the truth is that I was fearful due to the speed we passed close to the fences. The two accidents I saw were ahead of me but I had time to stop the bike.

“I feel good, though it was one more day of punishment in the legs but also one less day of suffering. At the moment I want to think of nothing more than tomorrow, which is another difficult day and which I have to ride without losing time and without any type of falls. Then I will think about the mountains, which I want to arrive already.”

Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam)

“Today’s stage was a very fast, atypical and strange stage. There was a huge number of falls right from the outset and then the race was neutralized when one of the advertising balloons deflated, meaning that the pack split into two parts.

“It was a pretty strange race in which speeds didn’t fall below 45km/h on a really tough route with constant climbs and descents and badly surfaced roads… I think these stages are not really telling us anything about this Tour de France but they are adding to the tiredness of riders in the heart of the pack in the lead up to the last week of the race.

As far as I’m concerned, I didn’t have any problems today and I felt protected by my teammates again. It’s a shame that we lost Thor Hushovd’s green jersey but Cavendish is the world’s fastest rider right now and the most important thing is that we still have the chance to win it back. We will keep fighting it out to win another stage and to get that green jersey, as well as trying for other personal aims.”

Well that’s it for today.  No GC changes today.  Lots of rollers in tomorrows stage. A break should have a better chance of sticking.

Thanks to Cycling News for the Quote Clips.

Stage 11 Map

Stage 11 Map

Stage 11 Profile

Stage 11 Profile

Stage 11 Recap

Bicycling Magazine
Cycling News
Cycling Weekly
ESPN
Velonews
Yahoo Sports

Stage 11 Video

Versus

Stage 11 Results

1           Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC           4:17:55
2          Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Slipstream
3          Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Française des Jeux
4          Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank
5          Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
6          Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne
7          Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram
8          Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
9          William Bonnet (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
10          Nikolai Troussov (Rus) Team Katusha
11          Marco Bandiera (Ita) Lampre – NGC
12          Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha
13          Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
14          Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas
15          Kenny Robert van Hummel (Ned) Skil-Shimano
16          Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
17          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana
18          Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Skil-Shimano
19          Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Team Katusha
20          Angelo Furlan (Ita) Lampre – NGC

Green Jersey Standings

1           Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC           176           pts
2          Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team                   169
3          Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          110
4          Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Slipstream                   110
5          Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram                            100
6          Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank                   97
7          Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale                   74
8          Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          64
9          Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank                   55
10          William Bonnet (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom          54

Overall Standings

1           Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale                    43:28:59
2          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana                   0:00:06
3          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana                            0:00:08
4          Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana                            0:00:39
5          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream          0:00:46
6          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana                            0:00:54
7          Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC                   0:01:00
8          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream          0:01:24
9          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank                   0:01:49
10          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas                            0:01:54

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There is nothing more beautiful in cycling than a well executed team sprint. All the energy, chaos, danger and shear force of will to simply cross the line first is fascinating. Team Columbia’s and its sprinter extraordinaire Mark Cavendish has perfected the art. Today’s stage was a brilliant example of art in motion.

Here is a time saving recap from Versus Link

Stage 2 Race Reports
Cycling News
Velonews
Cycling Weekly
Bicycling Magazine
Yahoo Sports
Cycling Weekly (Team Columbia Must Step Up)

Stage 2 Photos

Stage 2 Results
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC 4:30:02
2 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Slipstream
3 Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
5 Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
6 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram
7 William Bonnet (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
8 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
9 Koen de Kort (Ned) Skil-Shimano
10 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale

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It was all champagne and silliness on the final stage of the 2008 Tour de France. Team CSC did a

2008 TdF Champion - Carlos Sastre

2008 TdF Champion - Carlos Sastre

brilliant tour capturing the Overall Championship in Carlos Sastre, the Young Rider Classification in Andy Schleck and the best team. Executing a masterful plan, Carlos was reserved for a definitive stage win, to get the required margin. Sacrificing team mates were the difference, driving the pace, protecting their leaders and getting into key breaks to offer assistance when required. The ultimate sacrifice was Frank Schleck giving up his chance for the podium to a better time trialist in Sastre. That the team could ask it of him is one thing, that he did it, demands respect. Sastre’s excellent time trial demonstrated that the right choice was made.  Hats off to Sastre and CSC.

As for the green jersey, it is won by Oscar Freire. Oscar was consistent and persistent. He was regularly in the top ten and willing to dash for intermediate sprints along the way. In my mind it was more of a team win then an individual win. The team put him in position and went to measures to either set him up for intermediates or stole the points from others. Oscar was not the best sprinter, having only won a single stage (no small thing still). He was how ever strong enough for top 5 consistently. Secondly, he finished the tour with the ability to contest time after time. Congrats to him and the rest of Rabobank.

There are many that are at his footsteps and I’d be surprised to see him win it again. I would have liked to see McEwen freer to contest. He was unfortunately saddled with supporting Cadel rather then making his mark. Unfortunately, Tom Boonen wasn’t permitted to race because he would have challenged Oscar as well. From a sprinting perspective, Cavendish made the tour for me. Shades of McEwen, a young Zabel and even Abdoujaparov come to mind as you watch Mark peel away the competition. They simply can’t hang on to his wheel. I will be watching him at Beijing.

Stage 21 Winner - Steegmans

Stage 21 Winner - Steegmans

The stage today didn’t really get going until the peloton arrived in Paris. I don’t know about you, but the Champs Élysées circuit fascinates me. The 6.5km loop permits the riders to see each other coming or going. There is no getting lost in the trees or around turns. As such, breaks are harder than usually to get away. Today was a case in point. There were stacks of attempts to escape none of them sticking for any length of time. It was the rare successful Quick Step train by led by Matteo Tosatto and Steven De Jongh that put Steegmans in exactly the right spot to hold of an impressively charging Ciolek. Oscar pulled out a third followed by McEwen and Hushovd. It was a fabulous finish in Paris.

Well that does it for the 2008 Tour de France. Thanks for checking in on my little log from time to time for news about the race. I will be continuing writing about significant competitions including the 2008 Summer Olympics, Triathlons and the World Championships. Please come back for more of the Velo Noise perspective.

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Stage 21 Video Recap: http://tinyurl.com/6yc5pp

Stage 21 Race Reports:

Cycling News: http://tinyurl.com/657rch

Versus: http://tinyurl.com/65vhno

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

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

Stage 21 Results:

1 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quick Step, 3.51.38 (37.04 km/h)
2 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Columbia, st.
3 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank, st.
4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence – Lotto, st.
5 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole, st.
6 Julian Dean (NZl) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, st.
7 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner, st.
8 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner, st.
9 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone, st.
10 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld, st.
11 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram, st.
12 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre, st.
13 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, st.
14 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas, st.
15 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, st.

Overall Standings, Yellow Jersey:

1 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 87.52.52
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 0.58
3 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 1.13
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 2.10
5 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 3.05
6 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 4.28
7 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 6.25
8 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia, 6.55
9 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 7.12
10 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale, 9.05

Team Competition:

1 Team CSC Saxo Bank, 263.29.57
2 AG2R-La Mondiale, 15.35
3 Rabobank, 1.05.26
4 Euskaltel – Euskadi, 1.16.26
5 Silence – Lotto, 1.17.15
6 Caisse d’Epargne, 1.20.28
7 Team Columbia, 1.23.00
8 Lampre, 1.26.24
9 Gerolsteiner, 1.27.40
10 Credit Agricole, 1.37.16

Green Jersey (Best Sprinter):

1 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank, 270 pts
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole, 220
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram, 217
4 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone, 181
5 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia, 155
6 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 136
7 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld, 131
8 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 129
9 Julian Dean (NZl) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 119
10 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Columbia, 116

White Jersey (Best Young Rider):

1 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 88.04.24
2 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas, 1.27
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas, 17.01
4 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone, 24.09
5 Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez (Spa) Agritubel, 1.08.34
6 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia, 1.13.55
7 John-Lee Augustyn (RSA) Barloworld, 1.24.49
8 Peter Velits (Svk) Team Milram, 1.38.17
9 Rémy Di Grégorio (Fra) Française des Jeux, 1.38.22
10 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 1.44.07

Pokadot Jersey (Mountain Climbing):

1 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 128 pts
2 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 80
3 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 80
4 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom, 65
5 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner, 62
6 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner, 61
7 John-Lee Augustyn (RSA) Barloworld, 61
8 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 58
9 Rémy Di Grégorio (Fra) Française des Jeux, 52
10 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 51

The main move of the day came when Chavanel attacked at around 80km steadily putting time on the

Stage 19 Finish, Roy & Chavanel

Stage 19 Finish, Roy & Chavanel

peloton. He was nearly reeled him back in when Jeremy Roy jumped from the field adding juice to the break at just the right time. The duo was able to put five minutes on the peloton with steady pace lining. The majority probably didn’t want to over do it coming into the time trial tomorrow.

The field did get busy chasing eventually trying to keep it contained to some degree. They were able to drop the gap to near four minutes. At that point Chavanel and Roy put on the burner on bringing the gap back over 5 minutes with about 28km to go. From then on the advantage decayed steadily to the line but was enough to permit a little goofing around in the final kilometer.

Coming into the sprint Roy was following Chavanel and wouldn’t come through. Chavanel slowed, put it in a big gear and eyeballed Roy in anticipation of the move. He smartly hugged the left barrier allowing only one direction of attack. Roy jumped at 200m but didn’t have the juice to get by Chavanel.

Stage 19 Bunch Sprint

Stage 19 Bunch Sprint

The field eventually resigned themselves to crumb scrapping starting from third place. The sprint wound up nicely with teams for Zabel, Hushovd, Ciolek, Duque and Freire jockeying for position. In the end Ciolek had the better line and hit the gas in another fine finish for Team Columbia.  Zabel was there but unable to get by. Freire got boxed out. The others finished top ten.

There was no change to the GC resulting from today’s stage. The final GC test is set for tomorrow in the form of a 53km time trial.  Speculation was thick today from the commentators during the race. They think that while Cadel has the edge, Sastre’s performance is less predictable.  The Yellow jersey can do strange things.  Most are betting on Cadel.  He is my bet as well.  Menchov has a good chance for a podium spot while Vande Velde has his work cut out to oust Cadel, Schleck or Menchov from the three top spots.  Good bet he finishes the day in 4th or 5th on GC.

Stage 19 Video Recap: http://tinyurl.com/cjp6a

Stage 19 Race Reports
Cycling News: http://tinyurl.com/5tjd35
Velonews: http://tinyurl.com/5aj26x
Versus: http://tinyurl.com/6gd5ke
Yahoo Sports: http://tinyurl.com/6blrlc

Stage 19 Results:
1 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis, 3.37.09 (45.73 km/h)
2 Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française des Jeux, st.
3 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Columbia, 1.13
4 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram, st.
5 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner, st.
6 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, st.
7 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas, st.
8 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole, st.
9 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner, st.
10 Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin Chipotle – H30, st.

Overall Results:
1 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 82.54.36
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 1.24
3 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 1.33
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 1.34
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 2.39
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 4.41
7 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 5.35
8 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 5.52
9 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale, 8.10
10 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale, 8.24

Oscar Freire takes the sprint to the line by a full bike length off the wheel of Eric Zabel. Showing

Stage 14 Photo Finish

Stage 14 Photo Finish

excellent form, Freire made a picture perfect dash winning Stage 14 for Rabobank. Zabel, the picture of concentration gets nipped at the line by Leonardo Duque who finished 2nd leaving Zabel in 3rd. Both Cavendish and McEwen were off the back on the final Cat 4 climb leaving them out of contention. With Cavendish out, Team Columbia still drove the train to give Gerald Ciolek a shot coming into the finish to no avail. Ciolek ended up out of the top 10. In the process they swallowed up a game Chavanel who took a flyer from 9km out on the down hill run to the line. He held them off for almost 7km. Well done.

Stage 14 offered up a steady climb of just under 600m from Narbonne to Nîmes over its length of 195km. There were two Cat 4 climbs the last of which broke the field apart to a degree. It was quite hot at 30c or 42c on the road.

Tomorrows 183km stage from Embrun to Prato Nevoso has some serious vertical to deal with. The 20km climb up the HC col Agnel at 6.5% and up to 12% towards the top is first at the 34km mark. The second climb is into the ski resort of Prato Nevoso which averages 8% to the finish. Expect Cadel to be under attack. There will no doubt be a shake up in the GC tomorrow.

Stage 15 Elevation Profile

Stage 15 Elevation Profile

Stage 14 Video Recap: http://tinyurl.com/5zyk9t

Stage Race Reports

Cycling News: http://tinyurl.com/5d5tuw

Velonews: http://tinyurl.com/68he8t

Versus: http://tinyurl.com/6dv4tv

Yahoo Sports: http://tinyurl.com/58ftl4

Stage 14 Results

1 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
2 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
4 Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin Chipotle – H30
5 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Quick Step
6 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre
7 Rubén Pérez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
8 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
9 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step
10 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole

Green Jersey Standings

1 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank, 219 pts
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole, 172
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram, 167
4 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia, 156
5 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia, 144
6 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone, 137
7 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld, 110
8 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 105
9 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 98
10 Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel, 94

Overall Results

1 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 59.01.55
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 0.01
3 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 0.38
4 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 0.46
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 0.57
6 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 1.28
7 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia, 1.56
8 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale, 2.32
9 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 3.51
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas, 4.18

It was a chilly and rainy day on the stage 8 route from Figeac to Toulouse at 172.5 km.  The pace

2008 Tour de France Stage 8 Finish

Mark Cavendish winning Stage 8

was very fast even so.  The finish proved to be very slippery and tricky but without incident.  Mark Cavendish gets the win with Gerald Ciolek pulling out second leveraging a strong Columbia and Quickstep train.  Team Columbia can do no wrong…at least for now.  It is time to enjoy the moment as the pain comes tomorrow and Monday in the form of the Pyrenees.

 

 

The major move of the day was by Lefevere, who got away at 39k, later bridged too by Txurruk, Pineau, and Riblon.  This group maintained the break for most of the stage but was finally caught at 10km from the finish where attacks blew the group apart on the final climb into town. 

 

Team Liquigas took lead to drive the ship into the finish in an effort to get their man in place for the sprint and maybe to take a bit of the sting out of the Manuel Beltran incident.  Later Team Columbia, Quickstep and Credit Agricole got up front to set up their sprinters as well.  Position was the key for the sprint as there were several turns leading into the straight up final kilometer.  The speed with these conditions was over the top.

 

There were fewer wrecks than expected though Riccardo Ricco, Voigt, and Columbia’s Ciolek, hit the deck with 50km to go down.  No real damage though as demonstrated by Ciolek’s stellar finish.  The question of the day is where is Robbie McEwen?  He finished 19th today but has been out of the top five.  Is it form, team or position that has him absent in the finishes this year?  I can’t figure it. 

 

Stage 8 map and elevation profile:  http://tinyurl.com/5a7zy9

 

Race Reports

Cycling News:  http://tinyurl.com/57y3t5

 

 

Stage 8 Results
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Columbia
2 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Columbia
3 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Agritubel
4 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
5 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
6 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
7 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quick Step
8 Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française des Jeux
9 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
10 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld

 

Overall Results
1 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 0.06
3 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner, 0.16
4 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 0.44
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 1.03
6 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 1.12

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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