The day was dominated by yet another long break away and numerous crashes. As noted in the previous little post, Alejandro Valverde was the most notable of the victims today. Valverde looked to have clipped the wheel of a teammate and then went down very hard, breaking his collarbone and smashing any hopes he had of winning the Tour this year. Valverde exits the race as another missing favorite now, further opening the race up to other contenders. It is a very sad occurrence, but it is also "just racing". Several other riders tasted tarmac today as well, including Fred Rodriguez of Lotto-Domo and Eric Dekker of Rabobank, with both riders having to abandon the race. Fast Freddy is one of McEwen's key leadout men, so this will be a major concern to Robbie- although he has one the best heads for finding other riders to exploit for a free ride to the finish. He's one of the best opportunists in the business.
Overall, the day's course was much more challenging than many expected. With the rolling terrain and the heat, many riders found themselves struggling to stay in the field. Jose Luis Arrieta missed the win by just under 2km... the Tour giveth and the Tour taketh away. Hushovd, along with many others, had a bit of a struggle with the closing kilometers and lost just enoough time to drop from 1st to 4th, giving Boonen the yellow jersey based on time and time bonuses. It's a fairly ironic twist that Tom is now the leader of the race while riding less spectacularly than expected. He has yet to show the great form of earlier in the year or last year's Tour. However, if not riding like Super Tom, he is at least riding with consistency and the Tour rewards consistency.
So now we have Tom in yellow and green, Michael Rogers of T-Mobile in second on the stage and now GC, followed by Hincapie in third. Landis is sitting safely in 7th at 16 seconds and Leipheimer is 24th at 28 seconds. It's tight at the top...
Tomorrow starts with a few hills, so expect suicide attacks at the very beginning and fireworks as folks go after KOM points. After that though, the course is largely flat with big ring rollers and an almost downhill approach to the finish. Many are calling it a Boonen finish, but I'd be willing to bet that Robbie is going to have this stage earmarked, even without Fast Freddy to give him that final leadout. If the right groups gets together, maybe a long break can succeed this time. The sprinters will be hungry for this stage, as the first big TT is just days away on Saturday. After Saturday, the race really heats up as the real GC riders will be looking to consolidate leads, minimize losses or gain ground.
Now, a late entry from Cub Report Jessi Pacetti (this was actually for yesterday, but certainly applies today as well);
Phil Liggett: The Commentator of Life and Other Nuisances
I love it when it sounds like my friend Phil Liggett is going to have a coronary. Today's finish was awesome and to me it was so cool because Phil was so damn excited. I think Phil is one of the funniest Brits I've met. Last Easter I learned how to play backgammon with him, which was a bit surreal. When you ride in a car with Phil, he "announces" everything you pass, like 'Hampton Inn - We have FREE hbo. No, WE have free hbo, uh uh. .. we have free HBO. Hmmmm. Maybe WE have free hbo.' Ok. Honestly that gets a little agitating if you're in the car for more than a few minutes. .. but just give him a few bottles of wine and it's all good. Anyways, this TdF has already clinched the fact that Phil Liggett is my Official Commentator of Life. Don't tell my boss.
Bob told me tonight on the phone that he's been traveling with Robbie Ventura at the end of each stage. This means Bob sits in and hears (one sided, granted) the ins and outs of Floyd's business for hours. That's pretty sweet ass if you ask me. The pisser is he won't tell me anything. So much for my promotion from Cub Reporter this week.
Some people have been asking why Bob wears TWO yellow Livestrong bracelets. Well, Bob seems to be a marketing genius. Last year EVERYONE had one of those suckers on. Even the freaking peleton was outfitted in them. This year you don't even see one. The thing is, the fight is still going strong - if not STRONGER than last year. Bob lost his father to cancer this past March and believes that Lance's cause is still a valid one, and he's right. He figured if he wore two, people would notice and they have. I'm sure his buddy Lance appreciates the on air backing. . .
Until tomorrow folks and a happy 4th of July to all the US readers.