Monday, July 17, 2006

Hushovd Got Sc$#@%^d!

Gripe of the Day: Looking at the replay of Wednesday’s sprint, I think Hushovd, who had his green jersey hopes completely decimated by the Tour’s decision to relegate him to last place in the stage for improper sprinting (cutting off F.D’Jeux’s Bernhard Eisel), got absolutely completely jacked and the judges owe him a damn apology. Hushovd is hammering away towards the finish, moving around a bit but not unfairly, when Eisel comes up from behind him, interferes with Hushovd’s line, whacks into him and goes down like a drunken domino as a result. Like Hushovd is supposed to have eyes on the back of his %$^? This is utterly different from last year when Robbie “the Ego” McEwen deliberately head-butted fellow Aussie (and more gentlemanly rider) Stuart O’Grady out of his way right at the line and had his place justifiably stripped.

Yesterday’s Stage: Another sprint, another pack of crashes at the back of the peloton, another near-miss woof by a fast-improving but still slightly off-his-sprint Belgian babe magnet/maillot jaune Tom Boonen. (To be fair, even off his game Boonen is still a formidable opponent, easily the best sprinter in the world right now along with Alessandro Petacchi, and he’s one of the few sprinters I can recall who has earned and held the yellow jersey for so long) Oscar Freire, who I always forget is a brilliant three-time world champion as he’s usually injured or recovering during every other race during the year, launches himself out of nowhere on the opposite side of the road of the rest of the pack a few hundred feet from the line, no one notices until way too late, Boonen jumps but he’s missed the window, and Freire perfectly takes the stage by a bike length—a nice bonus not only for Freire but for his Rabobank squad which just the other day lost veteran Eric Dekker in a tooth-pulverizing crash into a pothole. Yay Oscar!

The Big Boys Come Out to Play: this weekend, after another sprint stage today, the Tour really gets going with the first long individual time trial. This is where the GC contenders are going to show that they’re either out, or they’re in. If they choke here, they’ve got to smoke the rest of the GC contenders in the mountains at some point or they’re in trouble for Paris. For GC, watch for American Floyd Landis, a stellar time trialist who is also very fine in the mountains, for a top 3 finish; big George Hincapie I assume will go for it as well and Discovery’s got some other contenders; Levi Leipheimer hopefully has his legs by now as he didn’t at all in the tt prologue. Among the time trial specialists, I’m sticking with Dave Zabriskie for the win because he has the smoothest position and finest tt bike handling skills of anybody. Other guys to watch: world tt champ Michael Rogers currently second on GC (probably won’t hold it) has his eyes on the maillot jaune for a day or two; and GC contenders Cadel Evans and Iban Mayo need to do well also. Go Dave!

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