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Brice Feillu steps out of his brothers shadow today to bring the honor of a stage win to his family and team.  Feillu was part of a nine-man

Feillu splintered a nine man break to take Stage 7

Feillu splintered a nine man break to take Stage 7

break that whittled down on the mountain top finish in Arcalis.  Initially looking weak, Feillu surprised all by jumping halfway up the above category climb.  He held on to take the stage.  The rest of the break straggled in behind him.  Contador fired the third shot in the battle for Astana preeminence (the first being the time trial – expected & second Lance’s crosswind attack – on the margins).  He took it upon himself to attack rather than cover attackers in the most blatant self-serving move to date.  Outside of the politics, it was a brilliant move.  He clearly has the legs to challenge the best.

As it happened:  At about 45km a stable break formed to include Gutierrez, Martinez, Riblon, Nocentini, Kuschynski, Kern, Pineau, Feillu and Frohlinger.  The highest placing of the group was Nocentini at 3:13.  As such none were considered a threat by the GC contenders and were allowed to go up the road in the name of stabilizing the peloton.  The group extended their lead to more than 12 minutes over the next 140km.

The peloton largely stuck together with Astana taking the helm as if they held Yellow.  Saxo’s absence from the front was telling relative to their expectations of Cancellara.  With 25km to go, Astana started to turn up the dial as Paulinho, Popovych and Zubeldia set a blistering pace.  As they fell off one by one, the pressure ratcheted up but the gap had not fallen enough to clear all of the break riders from the GC standings.  The GC chase group, including all the favorites, continued to grab back time rapidly but was running out of real estate.  Ahead in the break, Feillu jumped at 5.5km fracturing the group in the process.  The GC chase heavy still with Astana riders stuck together until the Cadel took a shot.  He was marked rapidly but seconds later Contador took off.  Contador in his trademark acceleration pealed off the front leaving the chase in the dust.  He grew the lead steadily to the line putting distance all the favorites including his coleader, Lance.

Contador came close but did not gain enough time to garner the yellow.  The GC did shake up a little as the break rider, Nocentini, held enough of a gap to put himself in yellow.  Contador leaps Lance with Leipheimer and Wiggins rounding out the top 5.

When interviewed, Armstrong, Leipheimer and even the director Johan Bruyneel said that Contador was off script.  He was expected to work with the team as a group and prepare to cover the moves of the GC threats.  Contador’s was rather guarded in his after race interview.  He said he was testing his legs and was hopeful to put some distance on his competitors.  As if heeding Hinault’s words in commentary this morning, he effectively threw the gauntlet down.

Other Riders in the GC group look very good.  Though none has truly played their hand. Cadel Evans jump at the 2km mark showed excellent form though a straining chase group including Andy & Frank Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Levi Leipheimer, Tony Martin, Lance Armstrong, Denis Menchov, Carlos Sastre, Vladimir Karpets and Christian Vande Velde were able to marked him. Team Garmin continues to looks strong with a strong performance by Wiggins and Vande Velde.  I think this group was content to shake out their legs in readiness for the next two mountain stages.  There is as they say, a long way to go.

Contador crosses the finish a few seconds shy of yellow

Contador crosses the finish a few seconds shy of yellow

I’d love to be a fly on the wall on the Astana team bus tonight.  Things will probably get heated.  The individual and team expectation seem to be at odds.  Compounding the problem are matters of trust.  I wonder if Contador thinks the director favors Lance and as such is holding him back.  When riders are expected to sacrifice for the team, resentments are bound to follow especially when rolls are not defined. This seems like Lemond/Hinault all over again i.e. the senior statesman vs. the talent.  Were Contador to have earned the Yellow Jersey, Lance and the other riders’ options would be limited.  They would be expected to fall in line and support their rider.  As it is, the riders will feel less encumbered by prescribed strategy especially in the face of Contador’s defection from the team.  It will be interesting to see what face is put on this in the morning.

Now the final matter for today, what the heck is up with Boonen?  He can’t seem to catch a break in the last three days.

  • Stage 5 – two flats
  • Stage 6 – wreck
  • Stage 7 – another wreck
  • Not a single sprint point to date.

I’m throwing all the mojo I can muster at Booney to overcome his poor fortune and get in the mix.

Stage Profile

Stage 7 Profile

Stage 7 Profile

Stage 7 Map

Stage 7 Map

Stage 7 Recap

Bicycle Magazine
Cycling News
Cycling Weekly
ESPN
Velonews
Yahoo Sports

Stage 7 Video

Velonews

Stage 7 Results

1           Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel           6:11:31
2          Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          0:00:05
3          Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram          0:00:25
4          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale          0:00:26
5          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          0:00:45
6          Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale          0:01:05
7          Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step          0:02:32
8          José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          0:03:14
9          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          0:03:26
10          Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto          0:03:47
11          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
12          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream
13          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
14          Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
15          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana
16          Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC
17          Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
18          Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team
19          Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha
20          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream

Polka Dot Jersey Overall

1           Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel           49            pts
2          Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale          46
3          Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          46
4          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          43
5          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale          34
6          Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram          32
7          Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step          23
8          José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          20
9          Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas          17
10          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          15

Overall Standings

1           Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale           25:44:32
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
11          Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step          0:02:10
12          Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team Columbia – HTC          0:02:21
13          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:02:25
14          Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas          0:02:40
15          Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team          0:02:52
16          Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram          0:02:54
17          Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas          0:03:03
18          Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto          0:03:07
19          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          0:03:10
20          Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia – HTC          0:03:16

Allez915

Dave Wiens on Leadville 100 MTB Race: Link
This is a nice article in Velonews about Dave Wiens’s perspective on the Leadville 100 Mtb Race being held

Dave Wiens 2008 Leadville 100 Bike

Dave Wiens 2008 Leadville 100 Bike

this weekend. Ya just got to like this guy. He seems really down to earth and unconcerned about the attention the race is getting due to Lance Armstrong’s participation. The whole 40+ thing has me rooting for him for sure. According to the article he will be riding a Rotwild carbon fiber full suspension bike.

Olympic Road Race – More on the Spanish Team Perspective: Link

Reading this article I’m still wondering what the math is that picks one of the Spanish team as leader over the others? I realize Valverde is fresh off a superb win at the San Sebastián Classic. Yet each of the riders has over the top credentials. Sastre has won the 2008 Tour de France, Freire won a stage and placed top five in several others, Sanchez finished seventh at the Tour de France and Contador won the 2007 Tour de France and won the 2008 Tour of Italy. It will be interesting to see how they work together. I suppose it could come down to how folks are doing in the moment as Contador said yesterday.  More than likely the leader will be  selected via some behind the scenes politics in that a team typically needs to commit to a leader early enough to make a difference.

Valverde identifies several riders who may contend for a medal including the Luxembourg contingent of Schleck brothers, who I think might be very eager to make a statement, Kim Kirchen who is well suited to this type of race. He also mentions that the German and Italian squads are strong. Noticeably absent from his list was Leipheimer, Vande Velde and Cadel Evens who haven’t done too badly this year either.

Google Earth Plot of the 2008 Beijing Road Race Course: Link

Allez915

As was said all day long today by comment makers, wearing the yellow brings out the best in riders.

Stage 20 Winner - Schumacher

Stage 20 Winner - Schumacher

Sastre was a case in point. While not able to best Evans, he put in the ride of a lifetime to hold the line and retain first on GC. In the end he gave up a mere 31 seconds to a desperate Cadel Evans. Cadel, showing the wear of three weeks of nearly isolated riding, was never able to put his best into it.

It boils down like this:

  • Sastre and Kohl deliver exceptional performances to earn 1st and third on the podium in Paris tomorrow.
  • Cadel Evans, while not able to put up his best, was able to surpass Kohl to get the second step.
  • Menchov gets fourth as he was just not able to get it rolling to the level required to chase down the surging Kohl.
  • Vande Velde did a great time trial but was not able to overcome the large deficit he had racked up on the last two mountain stages. He ends up 5th on GC.
  • Frank Schleck faded badly losing four places, proving the decision by CSC to bank on Sastre. He ends up 6th
  • Kirchen placed third on the day by putting up a blistering time surpassing Vande Velde but not Cancellara. He moved to 8th on GC, moving up three places from 11th.
Stage 20 - Carlos Sastre

Stage 20 - Carlos Sastre

There were several standout performances on the Stage 20 time trial today. Danny Pate set the early mark of 1:06:44 which held for almost 45 riders. Eventually his Canadian team mate, Ryder Hesjedal, beat his time by 18 seconds. Lang, then Miller topped the boards momentarily. The world TT champ Fabian Cancellara put up a 1:04:11 to take over the top spot. The big guns struggled to beat that mark for the remainder of the day. In the end, only Schumacher could surpass his time. Schumacher performance today and on several other stages, speaks well for his GC chances in years to come.

Race Splits:

Place Rider Finish 18km Position 36km Position 47.5km Position
1 Stefan Schumacher 1.03.50 0.21.30 1 0.42.50 2 0.58.12 1
2 Fabian Cancellara 0.22 0.00 1 -0.12 1 0.14 2
3 Kim Kirchen 1.01 0.24 4 0.45 3 0.56 3
4 Christian Vande Velde 1.05 0.28 5 0.46 4 1.06 4
5 David Millar 1.37 0.43 9 0.51 5 1.24 5
6 Denis Menchov 1.55 0.22 3 0.56 6 1.38 6
7 Cadel Evans 2.06 0.38 7 1.18 7 1.52 7
8 Sebastian Lang 2.19 0.56 18 1.22 9 2.00 8
9 Bernhard Kohl 2.21 0.34 6 1.21 8 2.07 9
10 George Hincapie 2.29 0.51 14 1.29 11 2.08 10
11 Thomas Lövkvist 2.29 0.46 10 1.26 10 2.17 12
12 Carlos Sastre Candil 2.35 0.46 10 1.41 14 2.12 11
13 Ryder Hesjedal 2.37 1.12 28 1.46 15 2.28 13
14 Danny Pate 2.55 0.47 12 1.37 12 2.35 14
15 Jens Voigt 2.59 1.15 32 1.58 18 2.35 14
16 Christopher Froome 3.01 0.54 17 1.57 17 2.40 16
17 Amaël Moinard 3.05 0.53 16 2.06 22 2.44 17
18 Kanstantsin Siutsou 3.08 0.58 19 1.54 16 2.46 18
19 Sylvain Chavanel 3.11 0.41 8 1.40 13 2.47 19
20 Joost Posthuma 3.13 1.29 41 2.21 27 2.53 20

Stage 20 Video Recap: http://tinyurl.com/cjp6a

Stage 20 Race Reports:

Cycling News: http://tinyurl.com/59mmlr

Velonews: http://tinyurl.com/6nv428

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

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

Stage 20 Results:

1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner, 1.03.50 (49.817 km/h)
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 0.21
3 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia, 1.01
4 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 1.05
5 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 1.37
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 1.55
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 2.05
8 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner, 2.19
9 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 2.21
10 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia, 2.28

Overall Standings:

1 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 84.01.00
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 1.05
3 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 1.20
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 2.00
5 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 3.12
6 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 4.28
7 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 6.32
8 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia, 7.02
9 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 7.26
10 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale, 9.12

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

Today’s stage promised to be both explosive and decisive. The reason of course was the infamous pair of above category mountains on the schedule, the Col du Tourmalet followed by the Hautacam.Tourmalet is an 18km uphill at almost 8 percent which reaches to 7,000 feet while Hautacam is a 17km climb at a 7 percent grade with some fierce double-digit grades along the way. There were two Cat three climbs along the way but as you can see from the elevation profile, they look like rollers by comparison.

Stage 10 Elevation Profile

Stage 10 Elevation Profile - I mean, are you kidding me...get the oxygen!

The yellow jersey changed hands from Kim Kirchen to Cadel Evans as a result of a brilliantly

Evans, Vande Velde & Menchov

Stage 10 Contenders: Evans, Vande Velde & Menchov

executed plan by team CSC. CSC’s Jens Voigt and the Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank, pushed the pace to limit, unexpectedly popping Valverde, Cunego and Schumacher up the first climb. The other contenders including Evans, Ricco, Kirchen, Vande Velde, Menchov and Sastre were able to match the pace. There was the crazy Tourmalet decent which denied the dropped riders the opportunity to catch back on and even distanced them by an additional minute. Then there was the initial part of the climb up Hautacam which recaptured all the remaining break riders while dropping the yellow jersey, Kirchen. This two phased attack was led primarily by Cancellara the Swiss time trial champion. Jens Voigt continued the attack at an equally difficult pace putting the rest of the GC guys on the red line.  It was the “see you guys later” move by Frank Schleck who finally did the rest of the field in. Only a few could follow including

Stage 10 Winner, Peipoli

Stage 10 Winner, Leonardo Peipoli

the eventual stage winner Piepoli, with team mate Cobo of Saunier Duval-Scott, Kohl of Gerolsteiner and Efimkin of Ag2r. Frank almost rode himself into yellow in the process but missed it by one second to a rebounding Cadel. Vande Velde was a great story today. He was right in there to the line demonstrating he has the stuff to find his way to the podium.

There was a ton of action during the stage and it is hard to describe all the moves in this short brief. I’ve included the links to several race reports from the various news outlets as usual to give the detail.

Race Video: http://tinyurl.com/59r9kc

Race Reports:

Velonews: http://tinyurl.com/5pbykk

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

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

Versus: http://tinyurl.com/6kcpg3

Stage Results:

1 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval – Scott, 4.19.27 (36.08 km/h)
2 Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Saunier Duval – Scott, st.
3 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 0.28
4 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 1.06
5 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale, 2.05
6 Riccardo Riccò (Ita) Saunier Duval – Scott, 2.17
7 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, st.
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, st.
9 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, st.
10 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, st.
11 Moises Dueñas Nevado (Spa) Barloworld, 2.27
12 Stéphane Goubert (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, 2.49
13 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas, 3.40
14 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 3.58
15 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia, 4.19

Overall Results:

1 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 42.29.09
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 Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Saunier Duval – Scott, 2.10
9 Riccardo Riccò (Ita) Saunier Duval – Scott, 2.29
10 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale, 2.32

American Placing Overall:

3 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 0.38
57 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia, 39.51
119 Danny Pate (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 1.25.36
149 William Frischkorn (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 1.40.53

Ricco was in great form today stepping away from a tentative peloton in search of a stage win.

Riccardo Ricco Wins Stage 8

Riccardo Ricco Wins Stage 8

Earlier in the stage, there was a break of three included Lang, Jalabert and Kuschynski who escaped the peloton at 25km.  It ran smoothly for miles in that none were a threat to the GC.

It fell apart at around 165km when Lang rode the others off his wheel on the first cat 1 mountain of the tour, the Col de Peyresourde.  The peloton stayed pretty much together on the col behind them.  Lang maintained his lead down the Peyresourde and halfway up the Col d’Aspin.  Ricco bridged to Lang before the final summit and didn’t look back.  At the same time, the peloton narrowed the lead to less than two minutes before the summit as well.

By 15km to go all the chasers were reeled in it leaving Ricco as only rider ahead with over a minute lead.  He held the lead for the remainder of the stage.  Valverde for all the Caisse d’Epargne team maneuvering was unable to manifest a challenge to the GC contenders.  Caisse d’Epargne clearly has the strongest GC team though today they were no match for the Ricco attack and decent.  Still they are able to support in ways no other team could match.

Kirchen was able to stay with the main contenders over the d’Aspin retaining the yellow jersey.  He rocketed down the mountain with the rest to the finish.  He looked on the defensive for the final col and it’s decent.  His team seems to be unable to support him when the going gets up.  Interestingly, he regained the green jersey from Oscar Freire.  Garmin’s Christian Vande Velde has moved up to third on GC as Schumacher fell off the lead group on the run in to the finish.

Hincapie seems to be reserved for support on another day maybe tomorrow.  He helped Lovkvist to the finish over six minutes back.  Cadel wrecked at 135 though it didn’t look to affect his performance.

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

Race Reports

Cycling News:  http://tinyurl.com/66x4jf

Velonews:  http://tinyurl.com/5dhtlt

Official Tour Website:  http://tinyurl.com/6salpo

Yahoo Sports:  http://tinyurl.com/57ol9g

Stage 9 Results

1 Riccardo Riccò (Ita), Saunier Duval-Scott, 5.39.28 (39.59 km/h)

2 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus), AG2R La Mondiale, 1.03

3 Cyril Dessel (Fra), AG2R La Mondiale, 1.17

4 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz), Crédit Agricole

5 Christian Knees (Ger), Team Milram

6 Maxime Monfort (Bel), Cofidis

7 Alejandro Valverde (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne

8 Roman Kreuziger (Cze), Liquigas

9 Damiano Cunego (Ita), Lampre

10 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Silence-Lotto

Overall Results

1 Kim Kirchen (Lux), Columbia

2 Cadel Evans (Aus), Silence-Lotto, 0.06

3 Christian Vande Velde (USA), Garmin Chipotle – H30, 0.44

4 Stefan Schumacher (Ger), Gerolsteiner, 0.56

5 Denis Menchov (Rus), Rabobank, 1.03

6 Alejandro Valverde (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne, 1.12

7 Stijn Devolder (Bel), Quick Step, 1.21

8 Oscar Pereiro (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne, 1.21

9 Samuel Sánchez (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 1.27

10 Carlos Sastre (Spa), CSC-Saxo Bank, 1.34

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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