Jul 22 2007
Well, now – Stage 14 (thanks for the typo catch, Chris) was the mountain shakeout I think everyone had wanted to see back in the Alps. Unfortunately, Rasmussen and Contador (chillin’ with Manolo a mere 6 months before that whole Puerto thing…) aren’t exactly poster children for clean cycling, you know? Certainly the French DS’s aren’t psyched that Rabobank hasn’t booted The Chicken from the race, and even his temporary allies on the road seem a bit fed up with him. And is it just me, or is that artificial blood story not getting much press outside of VeloNews?
However, many of those who feel The Chicken is clean see today’s stage as the beginning of a new era, in which climbers dominate all. I am not so sure. Honestly, I thought the best riding in today’s stage was done not by climbers, but by their teammates – first David Millar and Saunier Duval (albeit for nothing), then Thomas Dekker and Michael Boogerd from Rabo, and finally Yaroslav Popovich and Leipheimer, trading attacks for Disco. Once the group was hewn down to 6, it was pretty uninspiring and very spazy. Between the gangly Soler and the elbows out, MTB-esq climbing of Evans, it look at times like the fastest Cat 4 race in the history of the world.
As definitive as today’s stage appeared to be, tomorrow’s is even harder and has far more potential to alter the outcome of the race. As Vino’s example shows, you can be left for dead, back in action, and left for dead, all over the course of three days in this year’s Tour. It makes for exciting viewing, even when spectators muss things up. I’ve been pushing Contador as Disco’s man to ride for from day one, and it will be interesting to see just how closely he can come to taking up Big Mig’s mantle. The hopes of Spain have proven quite heavy for their other race favorite, as Alejandro Valverde’s 10 minute loss over the past two days shows.