Thursday, July 14, 2005

Tour de France Stage 12

Stage 12 was a 187 km ride from Briancon to Digne-les-Bains.

Before the tour started Lance Armstrong pointed out this stage as a potential trouble spot. This stage has two catagory 2 climbs, a catagory 3 and two catagory 4 climbs. Just the type of stage that encourages guys to get out on a fast breakaway and try to stay there.

Today is also Bastille Day - the French version of our 4th of July, but without the hamburgers, hotdogs and watermelon. Sorry I just can't see watching fireworks with Brie and a Cabernet.

Being Bastille Day you can bet your best bottle of french toilet water that there will be several Frenchmen killing themselves trying to win this stage.

There were several early attacks but none of them survived past the first climb of the day. Unfortunately for the Discovery team another casualty of the first climb was Manuel Beltran, one of Lance's main climbers. I never got to see the accident but Phil Liggit described it as slow and silly. Paul Sherwin quickly added that the slow crashes were the worst because you landed harder - no slide.

Beltran eventually got back on his bike but before they could reach the second climb of the day he abandoned the race. The last report I saw said he was having knee problems. Beltran is the first teammate of Lance Armstrong to not finish the tour in Paris since 2001. That is impressive. When Lance's detractors say that he has won so many tours because of his strong team. They are right. He has a stong team, and its a team that also sticks together and finishes together. I hope the the Discovery Channel team doesn't miss Beltran too much in the upcoming Pyrénées.

Before the peloton reached the second climb of the day an 11 man breakaway occured. Eventually those 11 were joined by Stuart O'Grady (COF) and Thor Hushovd (C.A).

This 13 man breakaway contained no one who was a threat to either the yellow jersey of LAnce Armstrong or the polka dot jersey of Mickael Rasmussen. So the peloton let them go.

There was eventually some chasing done by the peloton when Robbie McEwen finally figured out that Hushovd and O'Grady were currently sitting 1st and 2nd in the points catagory (green jersey). Tom Boonen the green jersey leader did not start today. Tom has raced well that first week, but has spent a lot of time the second week on the ground. For many guys one crash is too many, Tom has had a couple. However McEwen's attempts to get the peloton racing didn't get very far. Without a lot of help from Discovery his team attempts to drag the peloton back into the race never materialized.

The Discovery boys spent a lot of time at the front of the peloton today but they weren't trying to run anyone down. The were protecting Lance, watching for breakaways from serious contenders, and just being in position to make sure that the 13 man breakaway did not get more than 17 minutes ahead - the time the best rider in the breakaway was back from Armstrong.

On the fourth climb of the day - the catagory two climb up the Col du Corobin French Cofidis rider - David Moncoutie attacked the 13 man breakaway. He stayed out until the end. So the French had a French Champion of Bastille Day. I love when good things like that happen. Even when they happen to the French.

Flat day tomorrow the Mountains on Saturday and Sunday.

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