Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tour de France Stage 10

Today looks to be a tough stage. Pretty flat with two catagory 1 climbs - the Cormet de Roselend about two thirds of the way through the 181 km stage and summit of Courchevel where the stage ends.

Two days ago Lance Armstrong gave away the yellow jersey without a fight so that some other team could do the work on today's stage. Good plan except for a couple flaws. First as I noted before, teams don't attack Armstrong because he is wearing yellow, they attack him because he is Lance Armstrong. The other problem with this plan was that Lance and his Discovery Channel team apparently didn't read page two of the plan. You know, the part where some other team tries to defend the yellow jersey now. Apparently CSC, the team of todays yellow jersey didn't read that page either. In a pre-race interview with Frankie Andreau a CSC spokesman admitted that Basso would be attacking today. Not the kind of behavior you would expect from a team defending the yellow. I'll say it one last time (I promise) CSC will not defend the yellow jersey unless it is on the back of Ivan Basso. Basso will attack today, he will attack Lance Armstrong, and in the process attack his teammate Jens Voigt, the man wearing the yellow jersey.

So the race is off, and in the early flat stages Discovery Channel's plan is working perfectly. There is a breakaway of riders that no one will worry about and the team doing the work is Credit Agricole, the team of Christphe Moreau, the man currently sitting is second place in the GC (General Catagory).

Then we reached the slopes of the Cormet de Roselend and who is at the front of the peloton doing all the work - Discovery Channel. So much for the best laid plans of mice and Lance Armstrong.

On the descent of the Cormet de Roselend Yaroslav Popovych, the heir-apparent of Discovery Channel once Armstrong retires crashed into a CSC team car. He got back up and continued to race. What is it about team cars this year that makes people want to run into them, Popovych today, Ullrich the day before the race started, are they blending into their surrounding too well?

So after the descent there was a sprint and the the climb up Courchevel. For the peloton this was time to make up ground on the nine riders who were away on attacks. So guess who leads the peloton in getting back the time on the leaders. Discovery Channel! There's that great plan at work again. Glad to see that the Discovery boys are taking it easy and letting all those other teams do all the work.

As the peloton approached the start of the climb up Courchevel, about 25 km from the finish, there were still 9 riders about 3 minutes ahead of the peloton that was being led in their chase by nine guys wearing blue and while. You guess it - Discovery Channel.

At this point I'm going to stop taking pot shots at Discovery Channels plan of giving up the yellow jersey. Because for the last 20 km of today's race the Discovery Channel team ran a great race. It was a thing of beauty to watch. The boys in blue on the front of the peloton set a pace that left riders scattered in disarray all over the road. For 10 km the Discovery boys shattered the hearts, lungs, minds, and in many cases the Tour de France hopes of some of the biggest names in the tour.

By the time Lance Armstrong decided to move to the front and taking over the pace setting himself the only riders who were able to match him were Francisco Mancebo (Spain) IBA, Alejandro Valverde (Spain) IBA and Mickael Rasmussen (Denmark) Rabobank.

That's right! No Vinokourov, No Basso, No Ullrich. Just four men, Lance Armstrong, the polka dot jersey of the king of the mountains, and two IBA riders.

These four men owned the road, the race and the mountain for the last 7 km. No one else was able to match their pace. They worked together for 6 of the final 7 km. In the end Lance attacked them and only Vlaverde was able to go with him.

At the line, Valverde outsprinted Armstrong for the stage win, his first ever.

When the dust settled, Armstrong is back in yellow. He holds a narrow 38 second lead over Mickael Rasmussen, the Polka Dot Jersey leader. Lance had better watch this kid. There are more mountains to come and this kid might start thinking that he likes yellow more than he does polka dots.

Behind Lance and Rasmussen is Ivan Basso, who is 2:40 back. Ivan spent the whole day attacking the Yellow Jersey that was on the back on his teammate Jens Voigt. Ullrich is more that 4 minutes back and Vinokourov is 6 and a half back.

Today was a great mountain stage and Discovery Channel rode it to perfection. You have to really respect Yaroslav Popovych. He crashed on the descent the Cormet de Roselend and yet he was there with the team and setting the pace on the climb up Courchevel that dropped both Vinokourov and Ullrich. Maybe he really does have what it takes to be Discovery's team leader next year. We'll just have to wait and see.

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