Monday, July 17, 2006

Massive Disaster at the Tour!

Key Americans Choke, Injured in Time Trial; GC Up for Grabs: In a disastrous time trial for almost all of the Americans, the GC hopes of American Levi Leipheimer and his team Gerolsteiner were utterly destroyed as he came in a shocking and catastrophic 96th place at 6 minutes back; CSC's time trial god Dave Zabriskie, tipped to win, faded after a hopeful start and came in a demoralizing 13th; big George Hincapie, who has been smoking most of the field in other time trials the second part of this season, could only cough up a lame 24th, putting his chances of actually being named to lead Discovery in the mountains in doubt; and worst of all, Bobby Julich,stalwart CSC class act who once podiumed at the Tour at the start of his career, labored in misery for years afterward, and is enjoying an inspiring end-game renaissance at 34, horribly misjudged an S-curve, skidded his bike out from under him, opened his wrist right down to the bone, and is out of the Tour entirely, just when CSC needs him to join tiny Spanish climbing genius Carlos Sastre in the mountains with team leader Basso ignominiously relegated to Italy due to the doping scandal. No one's got much of any explanation as to why the collective choke beyond vague mechanical, health and course gripes except "this was the worst time trial of my life" and "I don't know what happened." Aaaaaiiiiggghhhh!

Only US positive note: Former Tyler Hamilton lieutenant Floyd Landis, who was idiotically denied the use of his unusual aero time-trial handlebars (which he's been using all season without sanction, and which the judges knew about perfectly well all along) at the last minute by the Tour, was forced to replace em (particularly bad news to change your position unexpectedly on unmaneuverable twitchy tt bikes), the new bars failed then snapped off, then he had to switch bikes entirely, then get back on and go having utterly lost his momentum and a normal rider wouldv'e completely lost his concentration as well, and comes in second handily on the stage only a minute back despite it. Floyd is one cool customer, and the only American left besides maybe Hincapie who has any hope whatsoever for GC--and probably the most likely overall at this point. But given that my every other prediction has ended up cursed, I wouldn't quote me on that, either. A tip of the hat to 36-year-old T-Mobile's Sergei Gonchar, who blew away the field and took the yellow jersey neatly to boot.

Today's stage: a rare successful breakaway on a sprint stage--Zabriskie in the break (but got stung by a bee), Landis had Phonak start to reel it in because of fairly-high-placed-vague-GC-threat-prior-stage-winner Matthias Kessler, then laid off to let the sprinters' teams take control, but with the yellow jersey gone Tom Boonen gave the Quick Step boys the day off and no one else wanted to work, so with Zabriskie and Kessler bonking, Frenchman Sylvain Calzati took off at the start of a hill and left the remainder of the reaction-impaired break and the peloton behind--and since he was rooting for Italy in the World Cup, a doubly fine day for Calzati on his first Tour win ever!

Tomorrow's a rest day. Thank God, because Leipheimer especially and pretty much all of Discovery need it!

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