Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Tour de France - Stage 17

Longest stage in the tour at 239 km (149 miles).

Pretty much flat stage. A couple catagory 4 climbs and a cat 3 near the end. This stage stacked up to be one for a breakaway to get away and stay there.

Early in the stage there was a 17 man breakaway that contained two discovery channel riders - Paolo Savoldelli from Italy and José Luis Rubiera from Spain. This group rode hard and long. Couple that with the fact that the peloton wasn't interested in chasing them allowed them to drive their breakaway up to over 25 minutes at one point.

Late in the stage the T-mobile team realized that with a time gap of over 20 minutes and with two riders in the breakaway, Discovery Channel was set to take over the lead of the team competition. So T-mobile started chasing. Either they didn't chase well or the breakaway was riding better beacause the gap moved up to 25 minutes.

In the last 10 km the breakaway shattered apart as the 17 riders started attacking each other. With a 25 minute lead they knew they would finish ahead of the peloton so they attacked each other.

Eventually the race came down to Giro d'Italia champion Paolo Savoldelli and CSC's Kurt-Asle Arvesen. Arvesen made his move at about 1.5k. Savoldelli didn't look like he had what it was going to take to stay with Arvesen but he managed to get onto his wheel, then powered his way past him in the last 50 meters. One of the announcers described the final race to the line as a slow sprint. Two tired men giving it all they had left with Savoldelli being able to go that extra couple meters.

This was Discovery Channel's second stage win in the last 4 days. After racing for Armstrong for 6 years with no opportunities for personal victory the Discovery Boys have finally been allowed to join, and beat out some of the breakaways for stage wins.

Meanwhile almost 22 and a half minutes behind the leaders T-mobile was still chasing the team lead. But true to form Alexandre Vinokourov decided to do things his own way. He blew the peloton apart on the last climb. Only 10 riders were able to stay with Vinokourov. In a moment of inattention, Floyd Landis, Cadel Evans, and Christophe Moreau were left behind.

This resulted in Vinokourov moving up in the general classification to seventh place. Still more than nine minutes behind Armstrong.

So far in this tour, Discovery Channel has two stage wins, the yellow jersey, the lead in the team competition, the white jersey and Lance Armstrong is now second place all time in days in the yellow jersey. So far the only thing they don't have is a stage win for Lance Armstrong. But that is not necessary. He can win the yellow without a stage win. Greg Lemond in 1990 was the last person to do that.

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