Before I go on to the Tour commentary, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to the Australian cycling community who lost a young rider and 5 more were seriously injured. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the woman who was killed and the five others who were injured.
On a less somber note, today's racing was a little like I expected with breakaways trying to capitalize on the two main climbs of the day and trying to fight off the field in the closing kilometers. The break did manage to hold though and Oscar Pereiro got his revenge after losing on Sunday to George Hincapie. I just have to point out the irony of this situation though; Hincapie was criticized by both Pereiro and Phonak team director Lelangue for not doing more work in the break and then sprinting to the win... exactly what Pereiro did, on orders from his director today. I just love professional sports! Good job by Cadel Evans who really lit up things at the front today and showed that his legs are indeed coming good again.
Things further behind were a bit animated from time to time, with T-Mobile and CSC (somewhat meekly) attacking Lance and Rasmussen on the climbs trying to get Tex to crack and the Chicken to slip from the podium. All the effort ended up being too little too late and neither rider lost ground on their respective podium positions. One has to wonder what would have happened if T-Mobile came ready to attack from the beginning.
Personally, for all the stink that has surrounded Lance and his possibly seven straight wins (doping, unfair advantages caused by his cancer treatments, etc), he is going to leave behind the biggest vacuum at the Tour in its history. Even Merckx was beaten during his reign at the Tour and Indurain "only" won five in a row. I think of Merckx as the greatest cyclist ever, but I have to say that Lance has proven to be the best Tour rider ever (so far) and the event has changed with him. When he is gone, many of the same buffoons who talked poorly of his accomplishments will turn around and say the following winners were only able to do so because of his absence. Hey, if you ask me, if only 3 guys show up for the Tour and you win, you are a legitimate champion because of the scale of the event. However, I'm not the "professional cycling press", so my opinions just don't matter. Anyway, I almost hate to admit that I find Lance's accomplishments to be immeasurable. He will now be the yardstick all other Tour riders are measured against. I can just hear the complaining now, "he only won three Tours and Lance won seven". Sadly, much of the American public, mostly those who came into contact with cycling after Lance started winning, will Americanize the whole race and just spout off that nobody but an American could have accomplished the feat in the first place. The American ego can be a nasty thing... but then there is the French ego... Remember when LeMond won his first Tour? The French immediately adopted him as an honorary Frenchman because of the French sounding/ looking last name. If it would have been Smith... he would have been just another ugly American. I'm not French-bashing. I have French friends and coworkers and none of them smell of cheese and red wine. They are perfectly decent people.
So tomorrow brings another day of racing and another step closer to Paris for Lance and the Disco juggernaut. The race itself will likely be fairly anticlimactic. Mostly flat, though rolling through a few good hills and lower mountains, it should yield up a sprint finish since the chase for the Green jersey is very tight and Robbie is hungry for another stage win. I'd expect a suicide break to go up the road and then see Lotto bring it back for a sprint with Robbie. Look out for Stuey though... and then that big, bad Norwegian Thor Hushovd. It should be quite a party at the finish line tomorrow.