Yes, I know... I've been terrible with my coverage of the Tour this year (again). Just trust me when I tell you the new catalog is the best we've done yet.
So here's a bit of race recapping for those who are playing the home game...
Stage 4; TTT- Astana wins... duh. Who didn't see that coming? Lotto implodes and Cadel can be heard grinding his teeth from Germany. Garmin securing second with only 5 riders was cool. Denis Menchov seems to have taken a page from the TT book that Rabobank must've given to Michael Rasmussen to read between blood transfusions... not pretty. Saxo did just enough to keep Cancellara in Yellow- tied with Mr. 7- and all the other contenders lost time. 12 of the 9 Astana riders were now in the top 5.
Stage 5; Thomas Voeckler finally actually WINS a Tour stage and lights all of France alive. Tghe much liked rider stayed away for much of the stage in a breakaway and then launched his solo bid for victory just around 4km from the finish after covering other attempts by his partners to get away. The "Little Engine that could", finally did- 5 years to the day since he'd taken the Yellow jersey at the Tour by being in a long breakaway. Score one for France!
Stage 6; Thor Hushovd finally scores a win for Cervelo and proves he's still one of those guys you can't rule out... especially in crappy weather. Thor earned a tough win in less than perfect conditions and largely under his own power and wits- another reason to like the guy.
Stage 7; Now we climb into Spain and hit some mountains and a French guy wins, an Italian takes over the Yellow- riding for a French team- and Contador shows everybody that he's not just at the race to carry Lance's paella! I love Lance's comments about "that wasn't part of the plan"... but his break away in the crosswinds along the French coast was TOTALLY part of the plan on stage 3! I'm sure the ride in the team bus was a lot of fun. I can see Lance and Alberto talking things over while playing a little Wii boxing or something. Nocentini takes over the Yellow jersey and a young neo-pro and Tour rookie takes his first win as a pro... AT THE TOUR! Way to go Feillu #2.
Stage 8; Luis Leon Sanchez takes the win in front of Sandy Casar after a very long breakaway. Sanches is a class act as a rider and has shown great promise for years. He continues to impress with very skillful riding. Evyerbody and their brother takes a swing at Astana, but with all of their 9 riders in the top 3, it's tough to dislodge their stranglehold on things. But it's still funny to watch the icy stares between LA and AC... is it me, or is it getting chillier in France?
Stage 9; Disaster comes in 3's as Pierrick Fedrigo wins the stage in a well fought battle with Franco Pellizotti... ginving the French riders 3 stage wins in the SAME TOUR (somewhere, a cat and dog are curled up together, making pupittens/ kittuppys...) The two breakaways battled against the odds to stay away until the finish and Fedrigo managed to outsprint Pellizotti- who sprints like a wounded jack rabbit.
Today was the rest day and tomorrow looks to be a fairly painless stage to allow the sprinters another chance to get a win- expect Hushovd to be protecting his Green jersey from Cavendish. With the long downhill run to the finish and all the climbs at the beginning of the stage, Farrar might even be in with a chance to prove himself finally.
Stage 13 is where things start to get all kinds of ugly again, so expect the contenders to be watching each other and just trying to stay out of trouble until then... then all bets are off. Can Bruyneel keep Astana from imploding? Maybe... maybe not. Should be an interesting show at least.