--Today was the first big mountain stage of the Tour. Reports from J Bone, @jwbender say it was AWESOME. I can only imagine (I caught glimpses on @vscycling between Trek and Specialized commercials). Btw, how about that killer Specialized spot with Contador doing repeats and marking them off with chalk? I loved it.
Back to business, today was a teaser of things to come. Here's my take:
Schleck attacked, like he said he would, but I'll call it an "attack." Novarro, Contador's leadout man and the real hard man of today's stage, kept things so controlled at the front that the attacks didn't come until about 2k to go. By this point there wasn't enough road to really take out much time. Basically, I think his attack was foolish and ill-timed. First mistake, saying he was going to attack. Why? Why say anything? So they expect it? Second, he burned a lot of matches, in the proverbial three week long book of Tour matches, for only 10 seconds (unsure if there were time bonuses today). In doing so, he showed his hand, and that it wasn't unbeatable--Sanchez stayed with him.
Contador, on the other hand, seems to have learned a bit of poker himself. Announcers said that he couldn't stay when Andy attacked. I'm still an optimist on Contador and think that he was just waiting on others to bridge the gap to Schleck. He was in a position to where if he chased every attack they would have singled him out, attacking repeatedly and letting him bridge (a la Menchov fending off Italians at last year's Giro). He also minimized his losses. He was down 30 seconds on Schleck, now he's down 40. I could go on about how much time he got on Arcalis last year, blah blah. Contador is letting Andy be the loud, brash youngster who tells everyone what he's holding. He knows that a handful of seconds won't kill him and he also doesn't want to be in yellow yet because that would be too hard on Astana.
There will be a stage though, where Contador will attack and no one will follow. In the meantime, Astana is doing an amazing job at supporting Pistolero.
--Wiggins, not the horse I thought he was. It's a bad sign if he's already getting dropped from the "Heads of State." I think this year's top GCs are just stronger than last year. I picked him for 5th and am not so confident he'll make it. I think he can minimize losses well but there were a lot of heavy hitters who didn't get dropped in the +10 second group (Contador, Basso, Evans, Menchov, Sastre, Kreuziger, Van Den Broeck, and Leipheimer). I think this is a good indication of how the chips will fall, but we'll see once the mountains really hit.
Ryder Hesjedal had a great ride today. I think next year he could eek his way into the top 5 at the Tour and win Amstel.
--Did you see the Euskatel feed that took out Lance? Whose idea was it to do the feed 10 feet from the KOM line anyways?
In slow motion (can't find video so I'll narrate):
Euskaltel rider sees overflowing bag of food dangling from soigneur's fingertips. Like a carrot for a rabbit. A rabbit for a dog.
Rider hones in on musette. Tractor beam. Salivation begins.
Rider reaches for dangling musette [irrespective of any riders or wheels that may come in between him and the carrot].
Lance slows, stops, and readjusts jersey as he looks down in disgust.
Speaking of, just turned on Versus and they're debating "Does Lance Need to Attack First?" Ha! Really? Guys, this isn't 2009. Things have changed. Lance has gotten weaker--not from age, just lack of solid racing in his legs--and the other horses have gotten stronger. I know he crashed yada yada but come on. He had no chance to begin with. Cyclocosm had a good post about the whole Lance v. Contador spin.
--Umm, oh yeah Cadel in yellow. Enjoy it Cuddles. I think it will last a few days. I'd give an exact number but don't feel like checking out the parcours. He was looking good, in Cadel terms, and I think he will be able to hang for a bit. Once it gets rough though I don't see him outclimbing my boy Basso or Andy or Alberto. I say best case he's at 4th. Frank is out so that moves everyone up a spot. Tony Martin is the climber I had a feeling he was--not one for Tour Cat 1 stages--so he's out of the running.
Gesink looked strong today and looks like Menchov was up there. These two could go for the 4-7 spots. I like Gesink a lot but was afraid he'd crash out. We're still not to Paris...
Sanchez looked very strong today and although I'd like him to do well, I think he'll peter out after a few more days in the mountains.
--Okay, enough Tour talk. Three week stages are hard on fans, too. Tomorrow's the first rest day and I need to utilize it if I'm going to make it to Paris.
Before I go, my boy Ricco crashed out of the Tour of Austria. Here's a pic although it's very sad. It doesn't even look real he's so bloody.
On a happier note, I'll leave you with this funny vid of McEwan at the Giro: