Well this year’s race has certainly shaped up as one of the classics, with surprises, standout performances, new names announcing themselves and still no clear authority stamped by any of the “Heads of State.
Stage 13 was expected to be a hiatus in the GC action, since the route over the Col D’Aubisque, with a long downhill run to the finish making it hard for a contender to translate a beak on the climb into a time gap at the finish. So the win from a breakaway group was expected, but where it came from certainly wasn’t. Hushovd’s attack on the Col shattered the lead group and although he was caught by a couple of better climbers, his apparent calculation that anyone who could put time into him on the climb wouldn’t be able to hold him off on the run-in proved correct. The boys at Cervelo (the bike makers, not the team) will be over the moon,I think this season’s must-have weapon for the lycra-lout will be their new S5 (image shamelessly stolen from Cervelo, serves them right for spamming my facebook page) …but I’ll have one of those Looks that the Cofidis boys are on thanks.
Stage 14 with it’s mountain top finish at the famed Plateau de Beille (one of the toughest climbs the race visits) was trailed as another show down for the overall lead, and so it proved. The surprise was that none of the big names seemed to be able to make an attack stick, both the Schlecks tried but were always marked by Evans, Basso and man-possessed Thomas Voeckler. In the end Vanendert (one of the new names annoucing) took advantage of the main men marking each other to ride away for the stage win.
Contador still seems content to follow wheels, with no sign of being shaken off as he was two stages previously. Is he banking of riding back into form in time for a showdown in the Alps? Is everyone nervous of the single stage respite into Montpellier (rather than the usual three or so) before the Alps and trying to conserve a little more? Is it an indication that this year is drug-free and so a more level playing field than previously? I’m betting a “yes” to all of those questions.
Stage 15? Well what can I say, I’m happy that with his 19th career stage victory, that barring accidents, Mark Cavendish has secured a return on the lazy $20 I placed with the TAB on him for the Green Jersey.
I’m off to spend the first week of the school holidays in a MySky and broadband-free zone with dodgy cellphone coverage, so service will continue to be as patchy as Vodafone’s. I’ll try and blog some thoughts as and when I am able though…thanks again to everyone who bothers to read, I know I’m no Phil Liggett, but surely I’m an improvement on Martin Tasker (who really should stick to boats).