Saturday, July 08, 2006

Tour de France; Stage 7 report

Who the hell saw that one coming? Whoa... what a day.

Gonchar is a former TT World Champ, so he should always be considered a threat, but after his crash at the Giro this year, I just didn't expect him to uncork such a big ride today. He is a very classy rider and certainly deserves the win. As the first Ukranian in yellow, he's now somebody to watch as we head to the mountains.

Landis rode superbly to move into second, even after a clumsy bike change after getting a flat. To only lose a minute to an on-fire Gonchar shows that Floyd has calm under pressure and nerves of steel... as well as great form (we almost had it right Donna). Now he sits in second and looks to actually be the threat I hoped he would be.

What the hell happened to Leipheimer? 6 minutes and 5 seconds off the pace today? I'm no TT specialist (though I rode one yesterday in honor of the Tour), but I might have been able to lose that much time. It was painful to watch- you could see the "what the hell just happened" look on his face as he crossed the finish line. Unless Levi has the ride of his life in the mountain stages, his shot at the podium this year is shot to pieces.

Hincapie suffered smaller losses, staying somewhat within reach of the podium, so long as he doesn't have any more bad days. George came up much shorter than expected and now Discovery has a real dilemna on their hands. Savoldelli faired slightly better than Hincapie, so he sits further up on the GC than Hincapie now. However, both riders have to be 100% on target now to really have a chance. As Bruyneel said after the stage, "It's lucky Jan Ullrich is not here, otherwise the Tour would be over." OUCH!

T-Mobile is looking like the team to beat, even without Ullrich and Sevilla. With 4 riders in the top 10, they are obviously strong and ready for the fight that is about to begin in the coming days. Gonchar, Rogers, Sinkewitz and Kloden will be a quartet of contenders that other teams will have to watch carefully. Gonchar can climb well enough to minimize losses. Rogers is something of an unknown. Sinkewitz shows great amounts of promise and has been hailed as a rider of the future. Kloden, second in the 2004 Tour, has not shown much form since his great year. It's a bit of a stretch to assume that they can organize themselves to dominate, but they have the best chance of anybody.

Cadel Evans rode very well and could actually be a serious contender this year. If nothing else, he's a real shot for a lower podium spot because he can climb very well. It'll be interesting to watch him assert himself. He rode for a few days in the pink jersey in the Giro a few years back and found that he liked being a race leader. With Horner to help him tactically and as support in the mountains, he should be pretty safe.

Christophe Moreau looks to be riding as he always does- not as an actual contender. Seriously, I like the guy as a rider, but he just isn't a real Tour contender. Every year the French press and fans talk about Moreau and how "this will be his year"... and it just hasn't happened. He's a better rider than me, but I have about as much of a chcnae to win as he does.

Paul McEnany posed the question; " Tim- I'm having some trouble getting into this thing. Is it Lance fallout or the fact that I have no idea what's going on?" Well, Paul, it's a little bit of both. Lance was The Story of thew Tour for 7 long years. It made it easy to follow. Now, especially after the doping scandal, it is a wide open race and has been full of surprises... which is really a cool thing after all. this Tour has been a blast to watch and read about. The action has been great. The drama. The riders. It's great! Robbie McEwen has been a demon in the sprints. Boonen has been a bust. Mattias kessler was brilliant. Hushovd has been a blast to watch too, even with all of his bad luck. The crashes have taken a horrible toll as well- including Bobby Julich today. All in all, this is the most dramatic and exciting Tour in several years. The doping scandal has not destroyed the event so far and the riders are giving their all for the race (and fans). Even the French have had something to cheer about with Jimmy Caspar getting a win early on. So Paul, give it a little time and just pretend you never heard of that Lance guy. There's lots of cool stuff going on.

Tomorrow is another sprinter-friendly day. The GC guys are going to be resting their legs after today's TT, so the big teams will likely let a break of non-contenders spend the day off the front. The sprinter's team might have a different idea about things though... but maybe not. They might be tired already. Since Monday is the first rest day, expect a lot of action from the non-contenders. Expect the guys way down the GC to be jumpy as a Team Director crossing the French border with a cooler full of frozen blood and syringes. Should make for an interesting day...

Until the next stage,

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