Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Tour de France; Stage 4 report

Somehow, Tom Boonen is still in yellow, even though Robbie McEwen continues to be the fastest sprinter at the Tour this year. Once again the pocket rocket managed to win another fast and furious sprint. The final sprint consisted of a minor turn in the last kilometer and a slight uphill finish- perfect conditions for the powerful pint-sized sprinter. Robbie is either the fastest sprinter at this race, or Boonen is the most unlucky. Even with his team trying to set up their usually successful sprint train, Terrible Tom has so far been just... terrible.

As has been the case every day so far since the prologue, an early attack got out on the road after less than 20km of racing and managed to bravely hold the field off until just 1.5km when the remaining breakways were swallowed up by the sprint hungry field. Egoi Martinez of Discovery managed to stay on the attack until the very end of the break and showed a more aggressive side of the Discovery team- one that isn't just protecting Lance what's-his-name this year. Johan Bruyneel is a darned smart fella, so you have to have faith that he does in fact have something planned in all of this.

Speaking of Bruyneel, he has been the shephard of the Postal and now Discovery teams through each of the seven Tour wins. This proves the guy is at least smarter than most other team directors. Johan is famous for building what became historically known as the famous "Blue Train". The Blue Train, in years past simply destroyed the other teams by covering everything, dominating the race and beating the other teams into a woeful submission. Even in the past few years, when the other teams in the race openly made it known they would work together in some way to break the Train... the domination continued mercilessly. Some would say that it made the Tour boring- which is impossible- and others would say that it was merely a testament to the ability the team had to recruit the best possible riders to defend and protect Lance so that he could do what he did best; win the Tour. I bring all of this up because I had a conversation today about the apparent lack of a dominant team in this year's Tour. The question was posed, "is it just me or am I not hearing as much about teamwork?" The answer is, it isn't you, it's the race. With Lance gone and Discovery without a true Godfather, the need for such a team is gone. On top of that, T-Mobile is without Jan, CSC is without Basso and Astana-Wurth is just plain gone. There really isn't any one team capable of dominating the race this year. That's part of what is making it so exciting and so dangerous for the riders. Sure, the Tour is always dangerous in the first week or two, but without a super strong team to keep everybody in check, it looks even more nervous and chaotic. Look at the finishes too; even the sprinter's teams seem less dominant, which is leading to more non-sprinters still being at the front of the race when push comes to shove... which so far has resulted in fall comes to crash. So, without a Blue Train to keep things neatly orchestrated, the entire race is left to sort things out on its own... which should really make for an entertaining next two weeks.

Back to the race stuff...

Thor Hushovd was relegated to last in the main group for "irregular sprinting" and is now pretty much out of the hunt for the green jersey. With the way Boonen has been sprinting, it is hard to see him really challenging McEwen for the green, though he is a good enough climber, as a sprinter, that he can likely be counted on to still be in the race as it nears Paris. It could actually turn into a nail biter again, should Tom find those massive legs of his working for him and his timing improves. Could it be that the boy wonder is just a little too excited this year and so he is just mis-timing his sprints? We'll just have to see. As for Robbie, who is known for letting his mouth get him into trouble, he dedicated his win today to his teammate Fred Rodirguez who crashed out of the race yesterday with a broken collarbone. Quite the nice gesture from a sprinter known more for making brash statements than offering up pleasant quotables.

And now, the latest installment from the Cub Reporter, Jessi Pacetti;

Earpieces are changing the great sport of cycling. Is it better? Is it worse? The race directors have their own real life PlayStation broadcasted worldwide – we call it the Tour de France. Breakaways don't make it like they used to because the little voices are telling the riders what to do to win throughout the whole race. It's interesting to see technology's role in the sport. It goes beyond carbon fiber and lightweight seats now. I'm honestly surprised that the Tour Commission has given into the use of these, but that's how these riders are trained. Technologically. Does it make for a fair race? Does it make it more exciting? I would say no to both. I think a lot about cycling is the cyclist itself. Does the bike make the rider? I ride a pretty upscale road bike and would say that I enjoy my ride MUCH better than before I owned. I guess we have to ask ourselves, where do you draw the line?

Today Bob was talking about how a boring TdF stage is still a great race. Today's stage – aside from crash central – was pretty unexciting and still amazingly cool, regardless. That's the beauty of this great race. That is the pinnacle of what we're watching on tv. That's what we have to remember when the Puertos are coming down, the injuries are stacking up and the earpieces are ringing loud and clear.

Last night I tried to watch all of that movie, Breaking Away. Golly gee . .. a real page turner. Some of the highlights I noticed was that Dave Stoller (Dennis Christopher) was riding a Masi (Ed; Hell yeah!). . . when he was riding behind the big truck at 60 mph he was in the small chain ring? Huh? Anyways. I couldn't stay awake because my kids ran me ragged all day, but that movie was FREAKING hilarious. I love when the Italians come and they look like the hulking mob members - nothing like cyclists. They made Jan in his big days look like a cyclist. Here's a bigger fun fact. Dennis Christopher has actually been in other things since that movie in 1979. Everything from Matlock to Murder She Wrote, Six Feet Under. . . a whole mess of stuff. Who would have thought. Go Cutters!

Nine days until my departure. . . .

Until tomorrow...


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