2006 Tour de France – Stages 11 and 12; Underachieving Teams and Overstepping Chairmen

Jul 14 2006

All right, kiddies, buckle your safety belts. I’ve got 21 tabs open, plus the live report window, so the links will be coming fast and furious. First off: Stage 11. Races like that are why people follow this silly sport. Rabobank looked stellar, stronger than any other team in this race has so far, and were rewarded with a stage win and a true GC contender (too bad his name doesn’t contain an “L” (see the post at 17:38)). Best of all, the whole strategy was ad libbed, and I personally think it’s nice to see a team with an assortment of top level talents (rather than a squad custom designed to win the Tour) function in this way. My only questions for the Rabo Boys (I really shouldn’t call them that) are 1) Is Rasmussen really still a KOM contender, and 2) what’s a “toppie”? Urban Dictionary is no help on this one.

Despite losing the Yellow Jersey by a scant 8 seconds (stupid hilltop time bonuses – though despite what Stuey O’Grady says, this wasn’t a real hilltop finish (see the post at 16:34)…), Ag2r rode a tough defense. Teams that didn’t look so hot today? Well, T-Mobile, despite the “exoneration” of Gonchar. They can blame heat and cramps all they want, but they just got straight up wrecked when the attacks came. Phonak’s pretty much a one-man show, but fortunately, Floyd is tough enough to ride alone. CSC might still have a shot at the Team GC title with tough guy performances from Franck Schleck and Carlos Sastre, but with Savoldelli out and everyone else miles down, Discovery Channel can’t really hope to improve on today’s 12th stage, when they spoiled the Bastille Day party (they do have some sweet posters, though).

And the most disappointing teams? Oh, without question Quick.Step and Euskaltel. Sure, there are worse-performing squads in the race, but these teams are supposed to be doing well. Q.S gets the nod for skimping on Boonen’s train (no Green Jersey, no stage wins) to include Manuel Garate and Jose Rujano (24 and 40 minutes back yesterday – team selection perhaps not one of Patrick Lefevre’s strong points). And Euskaltel – when are you going to fire Iban Mayo? Floyd Landis is in Yellow right now with a ruined hip, Tyler Hamilton finished in the Top 5 in 2003 with a broken collarbone, and Mayo can’t climb, can’t even make it through the race because why? A sore throat? A cold? I’m certainly glad my tax dollars aren’t paying his salary.

Finally, I’m going to take shots at two of my least favorite human beings. First, ASO President Jean-Marie LeBlanc, who likes “sticking to the known facts”, but has no problem suspending riders without hearings or positive dope tests; who casts things in absolutes one second before splitting hairs the next; and who finds a rider with one “clean” victory and one doping allegation more disappointing than a rider that he’s convinced doped to win the Tour at least once. 10 more days until he’s gone from the TdF for good, and not a second too soon. And then there’s Dick Pound, who wants Lance Armstrong to take a DNA test to prove his innocence. Dick, you may be a lawyer but you certainly are not a scientist; hell, anyone who’s seen Boondock Saints can tell you what ammonia and other compounds found in urine do to DNA. Why not quit WADA and focus on your two other jobs; you know, the ones you’re actually qualified for?

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