Sunday, July 17, 2005

Tour de France Stages 14 and 15

I'm late with these updates because they happened over the weekend and I was out of town most of the weekend. Thanks to TIVO I got to watch them when I get home.

Stage 14, a long stage with a Hor de Catagory climb followed by a catagory 1 climb to the finish.

Once again Lance was seperated from the Discovery teammates and attacked on the first big climb. He answered the climbs as needed, but mostly he stayed with Ullrich, Basso and Vinokourov. If one attacked he waited until the others realized that they also couldn't let him go if they wanted any hopes of winning the tour themselves. It was fun to watch Ullrich and Basso lead Armstrong back to Vinokourivs wheel.

It was even more fun to watch Basso and Armstrong pull away from the rest of the pack, and then watch Lance outsprint Basso to the finsh line for second in the stage. They tour leaders seperated Armstrong from his teammates in the hopes of breaking him and instead he increased his lead over every single challenger to his position as the race leader.

On Sunday was the last big day in the mountains and what a day it was. The route started with 2 sprints a catagory 2 climb then 4 catagory 1 climbs. The final climb of the day was the hor de catagorye climb up Pla-d’Adet, one of the hardest climbs in tour history.

Early in the stage a 14 man break away started. In a change of team strategy, Discovery Channel sent one of their riders - George Hincapie with the break away. His ordered were to stay with he group, do not help, be rested and ready to help Lance if he catches up, be ready to stop and wait for him if he needs it, if not, win the stage.

Since none of the riders in the breakaway were not real threats to Armstrongs yellow jersey they were let go. Once the pelton seriously started racing, it was T-mobile who did most of the chasing. Eventually Armstrong was isolated from his teammates again and found himself being attacked on the second to the last climb. But once again Lance answered all challenges.

Eventually the breakaway was whittled down to just George Hincapie and the Spanaird, Oscar Pereiro. They had a 5 minute lead on Armstrong's yellow jersey when George outsprinted Oscar for the stage win. Then a few minutes later Ivan Basso and Lance Armstrong who were all that was left of the race contenders crossed the line. Lance widened his lead on every rider in the top twenty except for Basso.

Basso moved up to second place overall. He is still 2 minutes and 46 seconds behind Armstrong.

Rasmussen who started the day in second and was dropped by Armstrong, Basso and Ullrich made a great late rush to get back to Ullrich and prevent him from taking over third place in the GC.

But best of all was George Hincapie. George did something that no other teammate of Armstrong has done in the last 6 years. He won a stage in the Tour de France. And oh what a stage. George who spent most of this career a road racing specialist and sprinter wannabe, wins the longest, hardest mountain stage of this years tour.

Also this is George's first ever stage win on the tour after 10 years of trying.


Tomorrow is a rest day then another mountain stage with sprints, small climbs, an Hor de Catagorye climb in the middle and a long downhill sprint to the end.

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