Monday, July 17, 2006

le Tour, of course

Discovery Recovers Some Dignity: Having imploded en masse in the first day in the Pyrenees, and completely blasted themselves out of GC contention (part of which as I said I think is at least partly Bruyneel's fault, but even he can't give his boys legs if they flat-out haven't got 'em, and he finally capitulated to the death of the GC dream and told them to focus on stage wins), Discovery finally had a redeeming stage in the person of prior young-rider's-jersey-winner/good hard worker/Discovery man of the future Yaroslav Popovych, who put himself neatly into a break then took off alone and got the stage with time to spare. Whew! I'm hoping Hincapie recovers enough from whatever doldrums he's currently in for the Alps, but considering he only won the stage last year because he'd been sent ahead in the break in case Lance needed him which he didn't when the chase never caught up, and he sat on another wheel not doing any work most of the way before he got the okay to work for himself, I'm dubious despite his formidable talent because I just don't see how a big classics boy (literally and figuratively) is going to take on one of the little mountain goats in peak form, particularly because Hincapie is now a marked man because of last year's mountain win anyway. Nonetheless, allez George, and yay for Popo!

Nice Guys Finish First: Amiable giant/self-sacrificing CSC superdomestique Jens Voigt, who's usually slobbering like a Lab at the end of a leash waiting to be set free to take off after a flying tennis ball, out-legged and out-thought the very fine Oscar Periero to take the stage after Milram's youngster Grivko made an ill-timed unfortunate attack on his group of five (already 27something minutes ahead of the main field), which ultimately left him panting lamely 6 minutes back, and left Voigt Periero Chavanel and Quinziato, then just Voigt and Pereiro, and finally just by the line Voigt to take the stage. Voigt you'll recall rightly gave a stage away in the Giro this year after sitting on another's wheel all day, which apparently made Bjarne Riis apopleptic but was, as is typical of Jens, the gentlemanly thing to do, so between that and just how damn happy he always looks when he's allowed to attack, it's beyond dandy to see him finally get to take another Tour stage (the last some years back). It was a quite the nail-biter as Voigt reasonably appealed to Pereiro for help on the way up to the line, as Pereiro was about to take the yellow jersey and Jens was no threat to that, but despite being the far superior sprinter Pereiro apparently genuinely couldn't give a hand despite having just enough juice to sit on Voigt's wheel, and Voigt was left to attack after an already unsuccessful surge or two at the last minute to take the win across the line. Oh, and I gotta say I'm surprised that, after a late, brief, if apparently sincere attempt to reel back in the breakaway so that Pereiro wouldn't win the yellow jersey off of Landis at the end of the day, that Phonak called it a day soon after and didn't just stick it out for the extra minute and a half the chase needed to keep the maillot jaune on Landis, which I don't think would've killed too much of their energy for the Alps but presumably Phonak's much smarter on this and certainly every other point than I am. Well, pressure's off him anyway for another day or two until the serious Alps kick in and Pereiro loses it, so that's good I suppose. We love Jens!

Pissed Off in the Peloton: You won't get this from the OLN commentary by Phil and Paul, who besides their admirable discretion and encyclopaedic knowledge of every rider in every stage in every tour and every race ever are also busy pointing out as a side note how the loveliness of the 13th century chateau on screen has been spoiled by the introduction of a modern outdoor swimming pool, but apparently Robbie the Ego McEwen caused quite a hoo-ha yesterday when he deliberately disobeyed the maillot jaune's order for a, well, mass roadside, um, rest break and continued on apace because he was quite incensed that Landis had given the call right when Oscar Freire was in a breakaway that threatened Robbie's stranglehold on the green points jersey. Cheerful Tom Boonen, whose stage-winless despondency has been sorely aggravated in the last couple of days as by the Tour's egregiously long stages and accordingly rather conflicting demands that no-one dope, and who has the same interest along with the other sprinters besides Robbie in his green jersey standings, went postal about it afterwards on the very fair grounds that everyone else sucked it up and stopped so who was Robbie to jack everyone over, and that the entire peloton hated him. Robbie responded that he had a perfectly friendly dinner with his teammates after the stage, so that's six out of about 180 for Robbie I suppose. I look forward to seeing the headlines about the feud on the next issue of VeloNews. No I don't.

Allez, and hooray for Jens!

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