I know- I skipped Stage 6 yesterday (though I did predict the winner with Ricco), but I had a good excuse; my best friend's wedding... so we'll just say that Ricco's ride was great and the little loud mouth fought hard to earn it; something tells me he won't blame his teammates for his win.
Ok, so now on to today's stage 7.
The stage was littered with climbs that split the field apart a number of times and saw a few of the contenders losing time and the others working hard to not go into deficit. About 60km into the race, Damiano Cunego crashed fairly hard. Even though "the little Prince" got help from his teammates and returned to the field after a very hard chase, he ultimately lost time today as he faded at the end of the race.
By all accounts, the stage was hard with the numerous climbs and some nasty winds. CSC tried to take advantage of the winds- as they have in other races in the past- and shattered the field with hard efforts at the front. The pace was driven hard enough that a handful of riders were forced completely out of the race due to the time cuts- including emotional favorite Magnus Backstedt (Garmin-Chipotle). France's Christophe Moreau abandoned the race and put to rest any remaining hope he would somehow ride from the near-dead to win the Tour (when will people learn he's NOT EVER going to win the Tour).
In the end, Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) ended up taking a solo win with a gutsy attack. A few moments later, Stefan Schumacher sprinted to second- just ahead of Pozzato, Kirchen and Valverde. Sanhcez was jubilant in victory and seemed to be truly on cloud nine as he took the stage. Cadel Evans finished in the main group to remain in 2nd behind Kirchen, while Schumacher sits in 3rd and Vande Velde rests in 4th. Due to his crash and time loss today, Cunego now sits in a disappointing 17th- more than 2min down.
Saturday is a transitional stage, though far from easy. The first half is littered with category 3 and 4 climbs that should further damage some legs, but the last half is nearly flat- save two "hills" 20km from the finish. The sprinters, should they make it to the front before the finish, will likely be hoping to get another shot at a stage win. Me... I'd be looking at Thor Hushovd, as he is more than capable of getting over tough climbs
Sorry for missing things yesterday and for the very late posts this week... it's been one helluva week!