Monday, July 17, 2006

A Disastrous Day

Shades of Beloki: in a crash gasp-inducingly reminiscent of the 03 Tour where surprise GC contender/beloved quiet Spaniard Joseba Beloki wiped out on some softening tar and forced bike-handling god Lance to dodge across the field by the switchback then leap over a ditch with his bike on his shoulder to avoid the crash and rejoin the race--a leg-shattering crash after which poor Beloki never recovered his form, so he ought not to be blamed *at all* for his alleged implication in the current Spanish doping scandal particularly if control-freak Saiz was riding him--a promising six-man break (Mario Aerts, Salvatore Commesso, Rik Verbrugge, Pierrick Fedrigo,Matthias Kessler, David Canada) in a rolling stage 5-odd minutes out with the peloton still organizing the chase broke apart when normally-steady-Eddie Rik Verbrugge apparently hit some hot tar on a descent, wobbled a bit as his wheel caught, lost his line, then went straight over the guardrail into a ditch. Hard to tell through the blood all over his arm, which looked like the most prominent problem initially, but it turned out poor Rik's real problem was that he'd broken his leg quite badly and was taken to hospital, out of the Tour. Meanwhile, it looked like Canada, actually a fair bit back in the group of six, overreacted a bit to avoid the problem and skidded out hard into (though not over) the guardrail, busting his collarbone and taken to hospital along with Verbrugge. Reacting to Canada and right on his wheel, Kessler almost managed to avoid the fray but flat-out ran out of roadway on the turn, smacked head-on into the barrier, and went head-over the bars over the guardrail and into the ditch as well. Despite having the wind absolutely knocked out of him, tough-guy Kessler was astonishingly otherwise largely undamaged, and got back on his bike to finish a wholly impressive 12 minutes back. He's the man of the day!

Meanwhile, the peloton frankly choked. With only 3 guys left in the break--who were flipped out mentally no less by the carnage in their midst--then promptly two as Aerts bonked, and even with Commesso and Fedrigo slowing down playing tactical games, the group still couldn't quite pull it together in time for a bunch sprint despite some aggressive work by Liquigas and one hardy boy (no pun intended) from Milram. Anyway, Commesso, typically a stronger sprinter than Bouyges' Fedrigo, was nonetheless caught out leading it too much too soon so Fedrigo zipped around and took the stage, with CSC great-final-pick Christian Vande Velde jumping off the pack for third, nice news for the French who are smokin' this year but a bummer for Italy and Commesso who really had worked harder to keep off the peloton.

Americans: the GC didn't change so Landis and Leipheimer are fine ("fine" in the sense of "I don't know how the hell he's going to take 7 minutes off Landis unless he completely cracks in the Alps, but it's lovely to see Levi back on form"), and Hincapie seems to have his legs back which is great, but if usually rock-solid Chris Horner doesn't get his by the day after tomorrow I feel sorry for Cadel Evans having to haul himself up the Alps without him.

The road ahead: a rest day tomorrow thank goodness, so you're all free not only of the Tour but of my nattering on, then three straight days in the Alps--Alpe d'Huez as the piece-de-resistance on Tuesday after a bucket of earlier hors-category and cat 1 climbs. If the first day doesn't destroy someone in contention for GC, there's two more days which will likely slaughter one or more of em, and the time trial will resolve any remaining uncertainty before a couple of flat and rolling stages (go Freire and Hushovd! and at this point I wouldn't mind seeing Boonen win a stage, since apparently 4 days in the maillot jaune isn't enough for the snarky Belgian press, and he's such a brilliant sprinter ordinarily) and on to Paris. And while we're at it, vai Gibo! I'd love to see him take a stage despite his unkindly saying Basso offered to pay him for a stage in the Giro (and exactly how the hell does one say something like that "mistakenly" anyway?), since he did rather redeem himself calling him an extraterrestri, which will be proved or disproved in due course I suppose but anyway the line between whiner and uber-skilled trash-talker is enjoyable to watch and Simoni is such a great champion it would be nice to see. I don't imagine I'll get my wish though particularly after his rough day today--but then, anything can happen and in this Tour it pretty much has.

Anyhoo, on to the Alps, and let's hope poor Verbrugge doesn't meet Beloki's fate and wishing Canada a speedy recovery as well.

No comments: