The stage today, as predicted, was fairly uneventful. The usual and predictable doomed breakaway took off about 10km into the race and managed to grow to about 6 riders and a maximum time gap of around 5 minutes before getting caught with less than 20km. Thanks to the sprinter's teams, it was going to be a sprinter's day... just which one?
George Hincapie managed to quite some critics who have said he is not aggressive or smart enough to win big races, by winning a small time bonus of 2 seconds during the day's final intermediate sprint, which put him ahead of Hushovd on time. Hushovd would have to be within the top three to retain the yellow jersey now... but could he?
In the closing meters of the final sprint for the line, after all the sprinter's teams had beaten the snot out of all the pretenders, the race was finally on. It looked like Hushovd would indeed keep his golden tunic until a PMU cardboard promotional hand nailed him in the arm and sliced him pretty deeply, causing him to pracitcally explode in a bleeding mess and lose his concentration in the sprint's closing moments. Hushovd went from what looked like an easy third to ninth and Hincapie became the new leader of the race. Jimmy Casper, the thick little French sprinter more famous for his horrible crash a few years ago that casued him to race with a neck brace and got him a "starring" role in the movie Wired to Win, held off the group containing McEwen (2nd) and Zabel (3rd). Boonen, the current World Champ and Belgian superstar, started his sprint a bit too soon when the other teams proved they had no other plan than to watch him, and faded before the line to finish a surprising 13th.
A couple of things of note about this sprint;
1) How the hell does Boom-Boom Boonen finish 13th?
2) How the hell does Hushovd stay upright while spurting blood out of his arm like some sort of sick lawn sprinkler?
3) How the hell does a French sprinter win a sprint at the Tour?
Has the world just gone totally upside down?
Well, Hincapie is in yellow. Hushovd looks to be able to race again tomorrow, although with some new embroidery in his arm. Boonen isn't likely to make the same mistake in the sprint... unless he doesn't have the same legs that have already netted him 17 wins so far this year. It was really cool to see Zabel in the mix at the end, filling in quite well for Petacchi. McEwen looked very good and would've had the stage today, were it not for the unlikely Casper spooking people by actually making it to the front in the final meters.
All in all folks, I'd say we've got ourselves a bike race here.
So now, without further delay, a few words from our Cub Reporter Jessi Pacetti of Bobke Ink;
Ok. I've said from the beginning, Georgie was my man. It's lovely to see him in yellow today, especially after yesterday's close call. As I've said, you won't see me knocking any American for donning yellow, but GH is my boy.
As for the inside scoop . .. the most often asked question is "What's up with the dark sportcoats?" Maybe that many people don't ask me. Maybe it's just my pal Righteous Rod who asks me everyday. Regardless, I did ask Bob and apparently he says it's a "new regime". He's not sure if they will be in them the whole time or not. However, I do know that Bob had to buy a honkin suitcase bigger than my ass because of all the ll bean garb OLN sent for him to wear there. That's got to be a lot of stuff because I've never seen Bob travel with anything bigger than a carry on backpack.
As for Thor - he got cut by one of those obnoxious green finger things before the finish line. Rod - remind me not to get one of those. Thor lost a buttload of blood and got stiched up, ready to start again tomorrow.
Bob also said that TJMG (Ed- That's Tim Jackson Masi Guy) is a "brave soul" to take me on as a cub reporter. I did mention that TJMG is able to sensor me at will. I guess that's because of my gumshoe
Well, happy touring.
Sorry for the late post (I told you it would be like this), but hopefully tomorrow will be a little better.