Gonchar released the yellow jersey, as he wasn't able to defend it himself and T-Mobile wasn't going to bury itself to defend it for him. Sure makes it look like they are putting their eggs in the Kloden basket.
I said Horner would be active and he was- though his break was chased down since it had Chavanel, Vande Velde and Patrik Sinkewitz. Those guys all represented too much of a threat to let get any time on the field, so they were brought back fairly quickly.
Over the HC (above categorization) Soudet, things started getting a little ugly. The winning break was already up the rode, waiting to shed a little dead wood, and the field was getting eaten up. Although it appeared that T-Mobile was working to keep the yellow jersey, it was really working to minimize time losses for their real GC guy Kloden and his support riders. It didn't seem like they were even riding that hard (relative term there), and yet major players were getting hammered- Mayo looked like he was in real trouble and evidently was, since he lost more than 24 minutes by the finish. Stick a fork in him because he's done.
As the leaders were solidifying their gap and getting the yellow jersey squarely on Cyril Dessel's back, guys like Leipheimer were suffering up the final Marie Blanque and had to rely on the long descent and run in to the finish to catch the group again. Poor Levi, he really seemed like a contender for this race and he has just been going in the wrong direction since the time trial.
Dessel and breakaway companion Mercado fought valiantly to secure their gap and then began the usual games to see who would win. Mercado felt he was "owed" the win since Dessel would be winning the yellow and polka dot jerseys at the end of the day. Dessel felt differently and fought hard to try and win the stage though mercado got the win at the line- some saw it as bad taste after e allowed Dessel to do almost all the work in the closing kilometers. But hey... that's racing (more on that in a moment).
In the end T-Mobile rode smart enough, though not brilliantly. Phonak kept Floyd well placed and major upsets were kept to a minimum. Tom Boonen didn't have to worry about losing the sprint today, as there wasn't one. He's probably sleeping just fine too.
Tomorrow will be the next big test with 5 major climbs on tap- 1 Haute Categorie, the dreaded Tourmalet, and 4 Category 1 climbs- d'Aspin, Peyresourde, Portillon and Puerto de Beret. The finish is actually on the final climb of the day and it will be here that GC hopes are ultimately sealed or squashed completely. Since it finishes in the heart of Basque Spain, expect all the Spanish riders to be jumpy. Also look for Rasmussen to try and get the polka dot jersey- while hopefully not falling off his bike. It should, by all means, be a very animated day.
And now, to make you all happy since she is your new favorite, a few words from the Cub Reporter; (just keep in mind that she's doping)
PS- This is a site that I've done some work for. Really good guys. If you search hard enough you can find me interviewing Bobke. Anyways, they have some really funny soundbites on there from the ZMan that you guys may want to check out.
This One is for Collins
I would like to start my post with an apology. A big freaking apology. I just want to say I'm sorry for spazing on you guys about the lack of posting. As TJMG noted yesterday, I got my stuff in really early and didn't even THINK that the off day jibber jabber would have gotten that many responses. Fritz – I thought we were pals. Anyways, Tim wins on deadlines today.
I want to talk about shellfish. Today I got the Bob sign in the sky and answered the Treo. Turns out during Bob's trip to Montelimar this evening, he was barfing out the car window for the last few miles. Yesterday he was telling me how he had this lovely shellfish salad for dinner and I was freaking because how many shitty shellfish cycling stories (say that 10 times fast) have you heard about? Our prodigal son, Mr. Levi must have had the same thing for dinner. You silly people. Do you ever learn? Do NOT go to a marathon bike race, let alone the biggest race of the year and start chowing down on the freaking shellfish. Are you guys new? PSquared was saying that Levi wasn't feeling well today. I'm very sorry to hear that as I too am a bit under the weather but the cold meds and beer are suiting me fine. I'm not sure Levi would savvy my regiment this week.
Today's race really pissed me off. Bob said he knew that I was going to be all a flurry when he saw it all go down at the finish. I understand that this is sometimes how it goes down, blah blah blah. The fact that at one point Cyril was doing SEVENTY FIVE PERCENT of the work and Mercado comes out and takes it all. I can see this totally go down Family Guy style.
Stewie (Mercado): Did you just see that, Brian? I just took the stage! I rode on your wheel and sucked your energy dry and took the stage. Did you see that?
Brian: (Cyril): Great. I have the yellow GC and king of the mountains jersey you idiot.
It may be how it works sometimes, but I don't have to like it and I don't. I guess that's why it took me so long to write today. I had to put a spin on this. And get the shellfish scoop. Note to self: NO SHELLFISH. Good thing I despise the shellfish.
Health update. I haven't gotten much of a break but I'm a big fan of the Wal-Dryl for stuffy nose and body aches. That and Leinenkugels Light. I want to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and well wishes this week. Good thing I didn't eat the shellfish. I'm skipping town in 2 days. Holy guacamole. I have to pack this family up and get the hell outta here. Fritz, can we be friends again before I leave?
Sweet dreams of long climbs...