I admit it straight away. In spite of some quite interesting racing today, (although not terribly decisive), this will be a short blog. (after) It turned out to be long but not terribly analytical) I stacked some wood after I watched the Tour and then off to a party. The party was not big enough to leave early. Sorry for the hasty blog.
Since not a lot changed, I can just mention some “heros of the day”. First, Thomas Voeckler. Some people call him Tommy, but that's not right. In any case Thomas won the stage. He also took hold of the mountains jersey. I don't think anyone picked him for that. The guy has a bad knee, he almost didn't start the Tour. I didn't even check the odds. It is clear there is still room for surprise in the Tour. On any day. He got in the break of 20 odd riders, and he was in the group of four (then five, but Voigt comes later) that was left at the end of the stage. In the end he beat the other four, and they kept away from the peloton. I am quite sure many would have picked LL Sanchez to win in the sprint from that group. However, as they always say, you can't tell who is tired at the end of a longish mountainous stage. Turns out the guy who wanted the victory most, and who was the strongest, was Voeckler. I just can't figure that guy out. He was limping on the stage, maybe from a brace/icepack of some kind on his knee. Maybe he just can't walk right, even though he can cycle pretty darn well. How does he do that? The fact of the matter is he is the most interesting of all the not quite good enough French riders, and has been for some time.
But the fifth guy in the final five we missed entirely on TV, until suddenly he was there. For some reason I can't figure out, Jens Voigt, the oldest rider in the race, on his last of his fifteen Tours, had escaped the leftovers of the escape, and bridged the gap to the four leaders of the stage long escape. All by himself, he rode many k to catch up with four riders who were all seriously trying to stay away and win the stage. Think about it, all by himself he rode faster than four riders where were taking turns and drafting behind the others for three fourths of the time. Jens Voigt is my hero, although I do disagree with him often on cycling politics.
So once again, the escape won the stage!
Two minor heros of the day are Tejay and Thibaut. Thibaut seems to still have some energy left after yesterday. If he keeps this up we won't be the youngest, most inexperienced, “promising” French rider. He will be a “revelation of the Tour”. He will already be a serious contender in more than one kind of race. He is not that bad at riding on his own, nor in climbing, nor in keeping out of trouble in the first week.
Tejay is not giving up on the white jersey either. Although we have to admit that Rein Taaramae, henceforth Rein, the Estonian from Cofidis, has got the jersey back, by staying with the rest of the big hitters.
The big hitters, the guys we hoped would attack made some efforts. Not Evans maybe, he seemed a bit passive today. But Jurgen Van Den Broucke, hereafter JVDB, and Nibali did make a move. Nibali attacked with Sagan on the longest downhill. Sagan is a bit of descender himself. They got a minute I think, maybe 45 seconds when they got to the flat. Nice to watch those two descending. The two of them rode pretty fast until the last Cat 3 hill. Nibali had to go on, Sagan got dropped. Soon enough after, Nibali was caught by the Sky led dregs of the peloton. I guess Nibali needs a longer downhill closer to the end. And maybe a little more help. Still they tried. JVDB tried a little bit half-heartedly, but got closed down by the Sky Boys.
The Sky boys are still dominating this Tour. Although Rogers was not very present today, apparently not so well. None of the Sky team seemed wasted. They pulled back everything that was thrown at them today. Maybe tomorrow it will work. As Hinault would say, Attack Attack.
Poor Tony Gallopin. I knew he would drop lower in the GC (and therefore the young rider competition) when the climbs got tough, but I was ready to be surprised if he could keep up on big climbs, as well as short hills and sprints. We will never know, because it is Survival in the Tour we are talking about for Tony. Today it was Cancellara who helped Tony. Some kind of serious digestive problem. Quite common on the Tour always and ever, with cold water dropping by the litre into the hot stomach and other organs. Cools down the core body temperature, but is very upsetting. Eating gels all day. Not sleeping at night. Anyway, he barely made it in today. He rode with the 'bus”, the “laughing group”, most of the sprinters. Recently he has been in the yellow jersey group. I hope he survives, as I am quite curious what he can do.
The leading lurkers are the Radio Shack Team. While they seem to have no one as a leader, they have five guys who are just lurking in the top 22, four in the top 16, ready to make some kind of move. They are in fact, the “best team”, although they refuse to wear the yellow helmets. No idea why they won't. Probably some kind of contractual arrangement. I am pretty sure they will cause some trouble one of these days. No idea what kind.
Oh yes, I watched the Tour today with one of the young lads who helped me with the wood after. He got interested in the Tour last year, big time, every day in front of the TV, all afternoon, apparently. He is a fanatic BMX, cross, downhill rider. Just getting interested in road bikes. He does not have one yet. Wants to climb the Tourmalet in August. My wife is gone to visit family, so it was just him and me. A different style of watching, me with my mags, and sheets, and laptop, and maps, him watching and commenting and questioning, as well as borrowing one of my mags. He might come over tomorrow too, but no wood and no party, so I should be able to write a decent blog.
One thing I remembered about the TV show, another example of Jalabertism, was an interview with David Millar. David said that yes, if Bradley needed some help in some way, to get him out of a jam, then David thought he would help him. Jalabert pretended that somehow this was odd, that Italians or Spaniards or Frenchmen have never ganged up along national lines. Or that since David was Garmin and Bradley was Sky, that somehow it was inexplicable, or odd, or maybe even “bad”, that a rider from one commercial team would ride for the benefit of a rider from another commercial team. A week after the Tour, Millar is going to be, because Cav wanted him to be, on the Olympic Team, trying to win, along with Bradley, a gold medal for Cav. Jalabert sometimes acts like a provincial Southern Frenchman. Fignon never did that. Ever.
I thought Scarponi would be more impressive today. He was in the final four, but I thought he would get away sooner. I guess he needs a longer hill, nearer to the end. We shall see what he does tomorrow. Maybe he is one of “those Italians who never do that well in the Tour”. Nibali seems to be going very well. He claims Basso is ready to give his all for Nibali's podium or victory. We shall see. I am betting in Sylvester Szmyd to help Nibali out-climb Sky. If that can be done.
A bit without reference to any actual standings, although I will check them out a bit to see if I got something really wrong, that is it for tonight. Tomorrow should be more normal, as I should be able to start writing just after the “apres-Tour” show. Today I even missed some of that to stack wood. Tomorrow I will show a photo of the stacked wood, but is dark out tonight and my flash is not htat powerful. Feels good to have this load of wood in.
Oh yes, I forgot about Pierre Rolland. He did really well again today. Not for a winner, but for a young hopeful, a future French contender. He is such a grumpy lad though. He did well, Thomas won the stage, the guy should be dizzy with joy. Not our Pierre. He probably hurts a lot when he rides, from his big crash. So fair enough. I do hope he heals up and makes some move. And smiles a bit. Its a show, Pierre, play your part.
Tomorrow I will sum up the jerseys again. Only three in the hunt for young rider now. Still no idea who really wants the mountains jersey in Paris. Goss still makes it obvious he wants the green jersey from Sagan, picked away at the gap today.