Sunday, July 24, 2005

Tour de France - Stage 21 - Paris

Today started out as a traveling backyard bbq, without the burgers and beer. Everyone just cruised along, chatting and smiling. It looked like everyone in the peloton wanted a chance to congratulate Lance Armstrong.

Unfortunately the day didn't stay that way. There was still the green jersey to sort out and a few final spots in the top 10 of the GC were too close to call.

Going into today's stage Levi Leipheimer was in 5th place only 2 seconds ahead of Alexander Vinokourov. Well Vinokourov has showen that he is willing to attack anyone, anywhere, at any time. So if anyone out there thought he was going to sit back in the peloton and cruise into Paris just 2 seconds out of the top 5, you haven't been paying attention.

At the first intermediate sprint, Vino attacked and that attack was answered by Levi and 3 of his teammates. Vino went across one position ahead of Levi, essentially tieing up the 5th place spot.

The day was rainy and the road quickly became wet and slick. There were several small accidents on the road, but no one was hurt bad enough that they were unable to continue. Then after three Discovery riders went down on a turn and almost took Armstrong out at the same time the race officials announced that the general classification timing would end the first time the riders passed under the finish line on the Champs-Elysees. They decided that the only prizes at the end would be the sprint points and the glory of winning a stage in Paris.

I suppose this was a smart thing to do. If the road is slick this would eliminate most of the chaos during the circuit ride of the Champs-Elysees. There would be just the last big sprint to worry about and that takes case on a straight away.

So without the intermediate sprints to worry about the race settled down for an 8 lap cruise of the Champs-Elysees. Sure there were several breakaways but those were quickly squashed. Then in the last 1500 meters the sprint teams in the peloton found themselves chasing a breakaway of Fabian Cancellara, Bradley McGee and Alexander Vinokourov. This breakaway was run down at the line by the big sprinters of the day, but not before all three of them got across the line ahead of the sprinters.

It was a great attack and ride by Vinokourov. I haven't been that impressed with Vinokourov these last three weeks. He seems to just attack at random, and most of the time his attacks don't last, don't work and don't gain him anything except the annimosity of the riders he is attacking. But today it worked.

Phil Ligget kept saying what a great tactition that Vinokourov is but I disagree. He's not a great tactition. He's a loose cannon who every now and then actually manages to follow through with his wild attacks. Today was one of those days.

Regardless of his tactical ability he made a great ride today to win his second stage of this years tour. If nothing else he as put out a great resume for his job hunt, since he is looking for a new team to ride for.

Unfortunately there was a lot of controversy about the final GC standings. The officials after canceling the intermediate time bonuses and freezing the GC standings at the first crossing of the finish line. Then after the race they went ahead and gave vinokourov the 20 second time bonus for winning the stage. This moved him above Levi Leipheimer into 5th place overall.

We as spectators don't know what was decided and when. We don't know what the racers were told and when. We may never know. But we weren't alone. The broadcasters on the OLN network didn't know either.

You would think that the race officials would at least take the effort to let the "Official Broadcasters of the Tour de France" know what was going on. Leaving your official voices to guess what's going on just makes the whole show look amaturish and illprepared.

Final thoughts on the 2005 Tour:

Lance Armstrong wins his 7th consecutive yellow jersey. He was also 8th in points competition and third in the climbing.
America finished with 5 racers in the top 17 positions.
Michael Rasmussen won the polka dot jersey
Thor Hushovd won the green points jersey.
T-mobile won the team competition, Discovery Channel was second.
Yaroslav Popovych of Discovery Channel won the best young rider in the tour.

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