I'll start with the accidents. Phil Liggett declared during the Versus broadcast today that "Lady luck slapped Lance Armstrong in the face today." Three times in fact. Having to ride off the road to avoid one wreck, clipping a traffic island and rolling and scraping to a stop on another. Then a bizarre crash when Armstrong was caught up when Egoi Martinez (Euskatel) and Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) fell in front of him at the TOP of the climb when Egoi couldn't handle his musette. For those counting at home this was the second time Lance has been taken down due to a mishandled food bag. The first time ended much differently in 2003 on the climb to Luz Ardiden when Armstrong hooked a souvenir musette, crashed, got up, and went on to win the stage. When he went down today, Lance stood up, put his hands on his hips as if to say I can't believe this, then untangled his bike. His challenge for the Tour overall was over. He would lose almost 12 minutes on the day and now stands over 13 minutes behind new yellow jersey wearer Cadel Evans. I never thought Lance would win his last Tour, but it was heartbreaking to see it end this way. He'll fight on, but it's his love of the Tour, not the desire to win it that will keep him going.
Lances back after today's stage (Photo credit © Roberto Bettini)
Onto the hard work. Walter Payton would not have been as great as he was if it weren't for Matt Suey's blocking. Indurain had his faithful Lieutenant, Gerard Rue. Today Alberto Contador had Daniel Navarro. His performance was unbelievable. He lead his team captain and the rest of the world's best climbers up the Morzine at a pace so high that they couldn't go on the attack. Maybe Contador couldn't go faster today, we'll see in the next two weeks. Two time Tour winner Laurent Fignon, who is battling cancer, mustered a "Come on, attack for crying out loud! He's only a domestique!"even up until two kilometres from the end of today's stage. The GC riders seemed to content to watch and follow. Andy Schleck finally attacked to win out in an exciting sprint finish to the mountain stage.
Tomorrow is this Tour's first of two rest days. If the blood control lets them, the riders will sleep in, go for an easy 2-3 hour ride and just try and recover as much as possible. The next day promises to hold more mountain fireworks. At least I hope...somebody go out and win the thing.
The Tour's Lantern' Rouge designation is currently being held by Dmitriy Muravyev for Team Radioshack. The 'award' goes to the rider who is last in the overall standings. An unenviable position to be sure, but that never seemed to bother former pro rider Jimmy Casper who 'won' the award on two occasions.
Check back tomorrow for my stage 9 preview. Adieu.
graphic by Velonews