The Chicken, Michael Rasmussen, took out an impressive solo win today that netted him the maillot a pois and the maillot jaune. Not bad for a day's work in the hills.
Rasmussen got away fairly early in the day and was joined, and then left alone, by other riders along the way. Another small group had gotten away earlier and built a sizable lead, but Rasmussen slowly and methodically picked them off as he cruised to the summit finish with a big enough lead to take control of the race. Given his terrible time trialing performance in the 2005 Tour, when he was assured of a podium spot but crashed so many times he lost the podium and nearly had training wheels mounted to all of his TT bikes... his yellow jersey days could be very numbered. Still, you have to give him this day, as he was simply the world's best climber today.
The other GC riders managed to not lose so much time that their chances are ruined. Even though Kloden lost time today when he dropped back to nurse Vinokourov to the finish line, the two still remain within reach of the podium. Other contenders, such as Evans, Valverde, Moreau, Sastre and Leiphemer all managed to finish strong enough to stay in the hunt. One contender who didn't fair too well was T-Mobile's Michael Rogers. Rogers crashed hard on a descent and tried in vain to get back on the bike. It didn't take too long to realize that he'd separated his shoulder and racing any further would not be possible.
Now that we're just one full week of racing into the Tour, the picture is getting clearer, but it still remains a pretty wide open race. Nobody has stamped their authority on the race yet... and the pundits (including me) are all scratching their heads. Is this what a "clean" Tour looks like? Tomorrow is the first rest day of this year's race, so I predict that there will be no winner. That said, guys like Vino and Kloden will be happy to get a day to rest a bit and heal a little further. Tuesday brings a day of leg breaking climbs- two Haute Categorie climbs- the Col L'Iseran and the fabled Col du Galibier. Even with the Galibier summit being 37km from the finish... it's gonna be a hard slog to the line.
Rest up boys! You're gonna need it...