Another beautiful sight is when the Rainbow jersey, worn by the current World Champion, takes a stage win. A confirmation with hands raised, resplendent in white, that they can best the world's elite in the world's hardest race. The Rainbow Jersey rarely wins a stage. They are just too easily identifiable, too easy to keep an eye on and just are not given any leeway or freedom to seek victory. Oscar Freire - "The Cat" (Spain) did it in a stage sprint in 2002 and before that Five-Time Tour winner Bernard Hinault - "The Badger" won a stage in 1981. Three time Tour winner, Frenchman Louison Bobet, won a stage while wearing the Rainbow jersey and went on to win the Tour in 1955. It just doesn't happen very often.
So today when sprinter, one day classics rider, and World Champion Thor Hushovd (The Norwegian 'God of Thunder) passed Frenchman Jeremy Roy (my hero of this tour) to win today's stage, I immediately flashed back to 1988's Major League World series. If you remember game 1, Kirk Gibson (my boyhood hero and former Detroit Tiger) hobbled up to the plate, in his only plate appearance of the series, pinch hit a ninth inning, 2-run walk off home run. Nobody could believe what just happened. Even announcer Jack Buck could only haphazardly, albeit beautifully, expressing what what remains a lifelong memory for me "I don't believe what I just saw."
Finding himself two minutes off the pace of two French riders Jeremey Roy and David Moncoutie after cresting the Col d'Aubisque, Thor (isn't that a great name?) spent 30 km chasing down Roy, finally passing him with just 2km to go. It was a heartbreaking moment for Roy, who had tears in his eyes as he punched his heart, indicating that he gave it all he could, as he crossed the finish line. His consolation prize for just missing glory was that he earned the Polka Dot jersey as the new leader of the King of the Mountain competition. Neither Roy, Moncoutie, or the cycling world would have put money on a Rainbow jerseyed sprinter to take a high mountain stage. Another reason why I love this race.
Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com
- It was communicated post-race by Gamin-Cervelo managment that Thor hit a top speed of 112km/hr during his descent of the Aubisque. (that's 69 mph for those on imperial measurements)
- Roy will also wear red jersey numbers on tomorrow's stage, as he obviously was the most combatif today
- Further endearing himself to the cycling world, especially to those who know the heartbreak of losing, despite their best efforts Roy said, “I had great legs on the climb, unfortunately I got caught on the descent. I’m not a big champion, so I do what I can with what I’ve got.”
- Andreas Kloden (Radioshack) abandoned today in a devastatingly sad scene on the roadside, when he had to be helped off his bike, manually clipped out of his pedals, and had to be helped to the team car, as he could barely walk.. At least he didn't have the indignity of having his raced numbers ripped off his back, as team support gently took his jersey off his pained body that had clearly given all that it could to the German rider.
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