Monday, July 19, 2010

Tour de France - Stage 16, July 20th

 Photo credit © Roberto Bettini
There are unwritten rules in cycling that you don't attack the leader of a stage race when he's taking a 'nature break', crashed, or having a mechanical (trouble with your equipment). Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) clearly had a mechanical in front of charging Alberto Contador who was trying to join his Astana teammate Vinolourov who was trying to counter Schleck's attack. El Pistolero threw away the code and gave it all he had as he passed Schleck, who was coming to a stop, eventually waiting for a new bike and being push started by fans to try and retain his overall lead. Third and fourth (Sanchez/Mechov) overall took off after Contador and by virtue of their superior descending skills helped Contador to an eight-second net result advantage over Schleck.

Andy coming to a stop when his chain came off, and Alberto about to take advantage of the mechanical, the second rider back from the yellow jersey. Photo credit © AFP

The fans knew what had happened, other cyclists knew what had happened, Andy Schleck knew what had happened, saying "I'm really disappointed. My stomach is full of anger, and I want to take my revenge ... I will take my revenge in the coming days."  Someone Cervélo team owner Gerard Vroomen tweeted shortly after the stage was over that "Contador just gained a great chance to win, but he lost the chance to win greatly."  Well said.

Lost in all this 'chaingate' was a gritty, splendiferous, characteristically Voecklerized ride by French Champion Thomas Voeckler. Mike Ward, the guitarist for Ben Harper, and author of 'Mike and the Bike' said that "Thomas Voeckler will never pay for another drink in France as long as he lives" True statement. Making the day even more special was the presence of the last two French Tour Champions, Laurent Fignon & Benard Hinault (Probably the only man who can make a short sleeved dress shirt look good) at the conclusion of the stage. Fignon, who is battling life threatening cancer, was presented a special combativity award on this French Holiday, Celebration Day. It was a touching moment.
Photo credit © Sirotti

Some other good news today was Team Radio Shack furthering their recently re-acquired first place standing in the Team Classification competition, leading by 4:27 minutes. The team contest is scored like the individual classification with the accumulation of each day’s result. For the yellow jersey, it’s just the one rider’s time every stage. For the team race, it’s decided by adding the times of a team’s top three riders on each stage — which can be a different trio each day. Also, Ryder Hesjedal (Canadian riding for Garmin/Transistions) proved once again that he is having the ride of his life and moved into the top ten overall. Wow!

Tomorrow's Stage 16 contains some legendary, mythical, threatening, mountain passes, including the  Peyresourde (from the start very beginning), Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque and the Western approach of the Fabled Tourmalet. Bob roll has pointed to this stage as one that is perfect for Armstrong to go out in a blaze of stage winning glory, but with anger in the stomach of the guy who feels wronged, he might not get the chance. Wednesday is a rest day, so whatever happens, they might as well let it all hang out tomorrow.


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