Bravo George! What can you say about a classics Rouleur who morphs into a Pyrenean climbing stage winner? Laurent Jalabert made a similar change during his career and is considered one of the finest riders of his generation due to that transformation and success. Could George be heading for the same greatness?
Hincapie got himself into the break early in the day and was there to help Lance control things, but once the break had a large enough gap that they were clearly not going to get caught, Discovery gave George the greenlight to go for his first ever individual stage win (he's obviously been part of the team time trial victories). After shepherding Tex to each of his Tour victories, it is quite nice to see George get to claim his own stage victory. To have done it on possibly the hardest stage of the Tour and alone on the line, makes it that much more beautiful. It ain't like I "know" the guy, but I've had the chance to talk to him for a few moments at various bike industry affairs and he's always come off as a decent guy, so it's nice to see him get the glory today. Congrats George- you've really earned it.
Der Kaiser lost more time today to Lance and Basso (who were seen chatting and spending time together in the peloton again today... hmmm...). Not that I believe in saying the race is over before the riders cross the line in Paris, since anything can happen, but it is hard to imagine that Ullrich can find the kind of form to reel in over 5 minutes of deficit. The Fat Lady isn't singing yet, but she's warming up her vocal chords and the orchestra is tuning up.
Basso is now in 2nd and Rasmussen has dropped to 3rd. Ullrich may be able to dislodge Rasmussen, since the Chicken is a poor time trialist. Rasmussen has effectively wrapped up the Climber's jersey and will most likely arrive in Paris with the Polka Dot jersey all his own. A fine Tour for Michael and hopefully just the first time he'll pull the jersey on. It's nice to see a skinny guy finally get some attention in cycling...
Monday is a rest day, the last chance for a little wound-licking before the final assault on the podium places. Lance does look to have a very firm control of the event, even without any big solo wins this year. Finishing his career on top, with another win in the biggest event in the sport, serves as a perfect ending for Hollywood. With Lance being the mega-star that he is now, in more than just the cycling world, his story will likely receive great attention for a few more years at least. Don't expect to hear less about him for awhile still.
Tuesday is the next chance for some fireworks to happen. The Aubisque and Marie-Blanque are both impressive climbs and will leave the door open to some attacks. However, the Aubisque is the final climb and is almost 100K from the finish. Breakaways will have to have a huge cushion coming off the mountain if they are to have a chance to survive. I'm casting my hope that Horner will get his chance to go out again and get the win. Chris, if you're reading this (or one of your "people" is reading this), your friends in San Diego are rooting for you.