"I've been riding on my bike for seven hours, I've climbed five cols... tomorrow, there's a stage of 212 kilometres, and after that, a stage of 230 kilometres... I think that's just great," Boonen said sarcastically. "This is scandalous, it's over the top. I'm also supporting the battle against doping, but with these sorts of stages, the battle will never be won," he said.
Hmm... I wonder what Turbo Tom is talking about? Hi-freakin'-larious!
So yeah, today was kind of exciting. Floyd moves in to yellow, even with a bum hip (sorry Phil, I just had to...). Leipheimer gets the "come back from the grave" award for the day. Yesterday he sucked the tailpipe, almost as bad as his disastrous time trial, and then today he is sprinting for the win. Menchov rode strong and smart enough to get the stage win after some incredibly kick-ass support from teammates Boogerd and Crash Chicken Rasmussen. Rasmussen very bravely and selflessly sacrificed his own personal ambitions in an effort to play the role of Super Domestique for Menchov. It was really impressive. On top of that, Dessel and the AG2R team rode a far better defense of the yellow jersey than anybody was willing to believe. Dessel lost exactly the amount of time he had on Floyd, so that Floyd moved into the yellow solely by virtue of his 8 second time bonus for 3rd place.
One of the greatest images of the stage was watching Floyd driving the pace for the last 5 kilometers, knowing he was tossing out his chance to win the stage in exchange for time on his rivals and the chance to grab the yellow. When Floyd knew his companions were not going to work with him, he simply plowed ahead and gained all the time on his rivals on his on. Dogged determination is a powerful thing. I've ridden with the guy and can honestly say he's a humble funny guy in real life, but he obviously understands his job and has learned how to fight for the win this year.
Then there were the losers... oh man. The Alps are where things are supposed to get really ugly and we've already seen the wheels come off the Discovery train. Dang! That was pretty painful to watch. VeloNews said it best in their commentary today;
The implosion of the Discovery Channel team that has finally been exposed as a far less force in the Tour without their retired seven-time champion Lance Armstrong. The team that began the Tour with the balance of power in its favor, today saw its overall hopes founder. Dual Giro d'Italia champion Paolo Savoldelli of Italy finished in 50th place at 23:04, and last year's best young rider, Ukraine's Yaroslav Popovych placed 26th on the stage 6:25 back..
Iban Mayo had another total meltdown, similar to his last Tour, and abandoned the race. After his stage win earlier in the year at the Dauphine-Libere, many people thought Mayo might be back to his old winning ways. Sadly, he's headed home for some paella. Fortunately the drive will be a little shorter since the stage finished in Spain. Mayo's meltdown was all the more dramatic thanks to a TV moto being in his face to capture the whole thing. I like the guy and think he's a classy rider, but he's a tad fragile. Not quite Pantani-esque, maybe a bit more Simoni-like.
Today's results of note; Winners and losers...
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 6.06.25 (33.813 km/h)
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
3 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC
6 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank
7 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 8 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC
9 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile
10 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance
12 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile
15 José Azevedo (Por) Discovery Channel
16 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval
18 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance (Nice try to defend the jersey though.)
21 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) T-Mobile
22 Axel Merckx (Bel) Phonak
24 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears
26 Yaroslav Popovyvch (Ukr) Discovery Channel
33 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
35 Christian Vandevelde (USA) Team CSC 11.08
36 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank
46 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel (His podium hopes are blown now, for sure...)
50 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel
59 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas
64 Egoi Martinez (Spa) Discovery Channel
65 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
71 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC
72 Kjell Carlström (Fin) Liquigas (Go Finland! I'm more Finn than anything else...)
76 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis
78 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
86 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile
91 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval (Needs a little more saddle time after two year doping ban.)
101 Pavel Padrnos (Cze) Discovery Channel
102 Viatscheslav Ekimov (Rus) Discovery Channel
104 Benjamin Noval (Spa) Discovery Channel
111 José Rujano (Ven) Quick-Step-Innergetic (Not his kind of climb yet... waiting for Alps?)
117 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC
120 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic
128 Victor Hugo Pena (Col) Phonak
130 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC
137 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
140 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Liquigas
148 José Luis Rubiera (Spa) Discovery Channel
152 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
154 Christopher Horner (USA) Davitamon-Lotto
163 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
DNF Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi (It is now safe to say that he is not going to win this Tour.)
Pretty amazing. Some of those time gaps are shocking... and it isn't even at the hardest part of the race yet. Tomorrow is a constant roller. No major climbs to speak of, but the day is really never flat. Might be good for a breakaway of non GC guys. Maybe some of the guys who got slapped around today will try to make something happen tomorrow. The finish is on a series of constant rollers. The biggest climb of the day is early in the stage. Good ingredients for a fast finish. Some guys who suffered today will suffer tomorrow too because their legs are going to feel like lead. Don't be surprised if some big gaps form. My pick? Somebody fast enough to win from a small break... maybe Horner? He had a bad day today and he's one of those guys who is a tactical genius with great recovery. He is way down on GC, so he might get the ok to leave the pack.
No matter what, it'll be an intersting day... regardless of how much Boonen doesn't like it.