Tuesday, July 18, 2006

le Tour--this is it, baby!

Today or tomorrow are going to decide who is on the podium and where in Paris, and if it’s close, the time trial later this week will seal the deal and if it comes down to that Landis can take it all. Today—an epic finish (after the hors-category Col d’Izoard, and a cat 2 schlep up the Col du Lautaret) up the infamous hors-category L’Alpe d’Huez—the proving ground for everyone from Ullrich to Armstrong to Basso. Historically, if you’re in yellow at the top of Huez, you’ve got a colossal chance of being in yellow in Paris. If today doesn’t blast the weaker GC contenders out of the water, tomorrow will.

On the Teams’ to-do list: Phonak has to keep Floyd Landis up front and out of harm’s way, control the pace, and get the yellow jersey back. Davitamon-Lotto’s American bulldog Chris Horner’s got to recover from his throat problem and take Aussie Cadel Evans up the mountains in the top five or so to keep him in podium contention (barring a harmless breakaway by a non-GC threat). Rabobank’s gotta protect Denis Menchov—he’s close enough to Landis not to have to win today but he has to make up time and soon because Landis is gonna smoke him in the final time trial. CSC, de-Basso-fied, needs to take Carlos Sastre up for a stage win in the next couple of days to get him within reach of say 3rd on the podium, though in the end there’s no one else on the team stronger in the mountains than he is so at a certain point, he’ll likely be left alone, not good. And Gerolsteiner’s not only got to hope Levi Leipheimer is up to the challenge, but that someone else important tanks to get him on the podium since he’s 5-odd minutes back.

Stage Fighters: Discovery (Popo, Ace, Hincapie), T-Mobile (ex-Ullrich lieutenant Kloden), Euskaltel-Euskadi (any of em, though they like the sharper Spanish climbs better).

This is it—anything can happen!

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