We were treated to another aggressive day of racing today , thanks to an undulating 196km route from Rodez to Revel. In the end, you might have been a bit confused though, as the finale seemed to be a repeat of yesterday’s action, albeit with a different result.
Here’s what we noticed:
1. At what point will Alexandre Vinokourov’s aggressive and exciting style of racing overshadow his suspension? While I hesitate to call myself a Vino fan—and likely never will—I must admit that I’m less and less upset to see him spring from the peloton. After wins in Trentino, Liege, and now the Tour, it appears as if the Kazakh rider’s redemption is now complete—or is it?
Perhaps more importantly, order seems to have been restored chez Astana, as indicated by the warm embrace shared post-stage by Vino and Alberto Contador. Vino has his win, and now it’s back to the task at hand: the Tour for Contador.
2. As for the title of the Tour’s most aggressive rider, Vino rates a close second to Quick Step’s Sylvain Chavanel, who spent the majority of the day in a breakaway with Pierrick Fedrigo and Juan Antonio Flecha. Despite two stages and two separate days in yellow, “Chava” is not content to remain in the bunch for too long. Look for him to put himself in a break once again at some point in the Pyrenees, possibly on a day when the favorites might be more content to let a group get a big lead.
3. Another man looking for a Pyrenean opportunity, Lance Armstrong lost even more time today, obviously hoping to extend any potential breakaway leash he might receive in a few days time. I think Lance’s best shot at a stage win could come on Tuesday, when two prior hard days in the mountains should have the GC contenders thinking more about recovery than time gaps. Tuesday’s stage features some pretty nasty ascents—two Cat. 1’s and two HC’s—but the last summit comes over 60km from the finish in Pau. It’s the kind of day that could see a large break of men out of contention escape to take the glory, several minutes ahead of a disinterested group.
4. Alessandro Ballan tried to escape just before Vino’s move—a good attempt for a BMC team still hoping to add a stage to Cadel Evans’ day in yellow. As for Thomas Voeckler’s chase, he waited just a bit too long to catch Vino. And let’s give Nicolas Roche credit for a bold move for a man high on GC—I hope he saved something for tomorrow and Monday. He’s certainly proving my earlier criticism to be unfounded.
5. In the field sprint, Thor Hushovd again looked to be missing a gear. Mark Cavendish took the sprint for second, while Alessandro Petacchi’s third place was enough for him to reclaim the green jersey (by two points). But look-out for Cav—he’s crept up into third place in the points competition, and with another win or two could take the green jersey by Paris.
6. As for tomorrow, the Pyrenees begin with the first of four days of murderous climbing (13 ascents over the next 4 stages). Stage 14 takes the riders from Revel to the summit finish of Ax 3 Domaines, a Cat. 1 climb immediately preceded by the HC Port de Pailheres. It looks to be a day perfectly suited to Alberto Contador. If he rides the way his form has indicated he will, look for the Spaniard to be in yellow by the end of the day. At least that’s what I’m expecting.
What about you? Share your predictions and comments below.