Here’s the question of the day: was it worth it Alberto?
In my humble opinion, yes and no. Yes, because Contador’s attack in the middle of the Cote de la Croix-Neuve, gapped Andy Schleck, earning Contador ten seconds, but more importantly sending a message to the Luxembourger wearing yellow: “I’m faster than you are.”
On the other hand, Contador’s attack also closed the gap to his (fading) teammate, Alexandre Vinokourov. For many, it was an interesting reversal of fortune as Vino has been accused on more than one occasion in this year’s Tour of not being a team player. For others, it was more of the same from a rider (Contador) who showed us last year that he attacks with little thought of his team. Vinokourov banged his handlebars as he crossed the line in third today; perhaps mad at himself for fading near the top of the climb, or perhaps angered that his teammate couldn’t have left the day’s spoils to him.
It will be interesting to see how today’s events manifest themselves in the Pyrenees. A yellow jersey for Contador in Paris is certainly more important than a stage win in Mende for Vino—but one wonders if the former could have been accomplished with the latter.
What else did we notice?
1. Jose Joaquin Rodriguez won the stage, the first for Katusha in this year’s Tour and confirmation that Rodriguez is one of the fastest riders in the peloton on hillier days. He now sits 8th overall and has to be watched as the Tour hits the Pyrenees.
2. As for Andy Schleck, he seemed caught off-guard by Contador’s attack. He was almost certainly told by his director not to go too deep in chasing Alberto—the climb was too short to generate and serious gaps. But the seeds of doubt have been planted—Andy will spend the night and next day wondering just how strong Contador really is. On Sunday, he’ll likely get his answer.
3. Belgium’s Jurgen Van den Broeck, rode a fantastic finale, dragging the peloton up the first half of the Col, and then initially following Rodriguez’s acceleration before ultimately succumbing to Contador’s counter. At this point in the race, VDB2 might need to be told to ride a bit more conservatively, lest his ambition get the best of him over the next several days. I would have him following wheels in the first few days in the Pyrenees, riding himself as high as possible before Thursday’s finish atop the Tourmalet. Then it’s all systems go!
4. Samuel Sanchez looks to be the best of the contenders for third place behind Schleck and Contador. He’s ridden aggressively and attentively, covering moves with little apparent difficulty. Does he have a Pyrenean stage win in his legs?
5. And how about Denis Menchov? He lurks silently in fourth, only a handful of seconds behind Sanchez. With a solid week in the Pyrenees, Menchov could use the final TT to put himself on the podium. And with Robert Gesink positioned slightly below and riding well, Rabobank has a tactical advantage few teams can match.
6. And speaking of tactical advantages, Roman Kreuziger hopped over his teammate, Ivan Basso, to put himself back inside the top-10. Here’s hoping the duo has the power to animate in the Pyrenees. A stage win for either would be a welcome sight.
Two final notes:
7. Garmin’s Tyler Farrar abandoned the Tour today, adding insult to injury for a team that already lost Christian Vandevelde and Robbie Hunter. Too bad for men in argyle, as Farrar came to the Tour with high hopes of scoring the team its first stage win. The pressure is now left to Ryder Hesjedal, Martijn Maaskant, and Johan Vansummeren in breakaways, and David Zabriskie in the final TT. My money’s on Vansummeren—possibly as soon as tomorrow.
8. Radio Shack’s Lance Armstrong quietly lost more time today, then declared how hard the day was on Twitter. Look for Lance to go on the attack for a stage soon. Tomorrow might be an option for him as well, but I think Tuesday’s a better bet.
And you? What are your bets for the weekend ahead? Share them with your thoughts, comments, and questions below.