I skipped stage 12 yesterday- won by Boonen- but we're gonna just pretend that didn't happen and move along...
Today was the Chicken's big day- would he cross the road to the other side, or would he end up in the frying pan, battered and served up for lunch?
Well, as much as I hate to admit it, Road-rash Rasmussen actually rode a very respectable TT today- likely the best of his life. It's amazing what the yellow jersey can do for you- it'll either weigh you down or give you wings. Raz-ma-taz finished an impressive 11th, only 2'55"behind a very resurgent Vinokourov. The Krazy Kazakh stormed across the finish line with the fastest time of the day to get his first stage win of this Tour and a taste of redemption. If nothing else, he's proven his worth and grit- you just gotta love it.
In a day highlighted by Michael (alleged doper) Rasmussen staying in yellow after a time trial, that he didn't crash even once in (who'da thunk it possible?), the lesser big news was who imploded; Valverde started the day in 2nd, but lost 6'08" and is now in 11th, Iban Mayo looked awesome sitting in 3rd but lost 6'04" and is now 12th. So much for the resurgence of the Spanish Armada... that ship has sunk. And what about Moreau? He slipped the other day in the Astana crosswind crusifiction and fell out of the main contender list, but today lost another 9'26" to finish the stage in 126th! Now he's no longer under pressure as the best placed French rider- sitting a dismal 23rd on GC. However, Cadel Evans, who was 4th, finished the stage in 2nd and now owns the same spot on GC behind Rasmuffin, at exactly 1 minute down. Discovery Channel youngster Contador rode a great TT to finish 7th and now sits in 3rd on GC... two spots ahead of Leipheimer (5th). Will Disco be dancing for Contador, or will he be shuffling his feet to the Leipheimer beat as an uber domestique?
Maybe it will all play out on the final slopes of the uphill finish tomorrow. Plateau de Beille has only seen a stage finish 3 times and each time the winner won the Tour overall (Armstrong twice, Pantani once). Will history four-peat itself? I dunno... I don't think so anyway. I'm thinking that legs will be tired and GC guys will spend too much time watching each other. Maybe Mayo or Valverde will try to regain some lost time by attacking, but I doubt it will work. I really think it'll come down to a less prominent rider. Discovery needs to do something... anything... so maybe they'll throw some muscle at the stage. But I doubt it. They are a conservative bunch. My guess is that we'll see the Euskaltel guys try to torch things because they haven't done a dang thing all Tour. They need to show that they deserve their Pro Tour position. It's kind of a rag-tag band of no-names this year, but I'm gonna take a big blindfold stab at this and call out Haimar Zubeldia, since Mikel Astarloza is in 8th and too dangerous. Outside of Zubeldia, I'm gonna take another dumb guess with Manuel Beltran with Liquigas. He's got the climbing credentials, so maybe he can go fast enough to win... we'll just have to see. I'm sure I'll be totally wrong, as this Tour has been nothing if not unpredictable.