It looks like Thomas Voeckler and Pierrick Fedrigo are continuing their version of “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” from last year’s Tour de France. As they did in 2009, Voeckler and Fedrigo have now both scored stage wins for their BBox Bouygues Telecom squad—a welcome occurrence considering the team’s hoping to seal the deal with a new title sponsor. Fedrigo’s third career Tour de France stage victory is also the third French stage victory in a row and sixth overall; this is without a doubt the nation’s best Tour in quite some time. Now if only they could find a GC contender.
Here’s what else we noticed in today’s 199.5km trek from Bagneres-des-Luchon to Pau:
1. In case you didn’t here, Lance Armstrong went on the attack today—as predicted—hoping to end his final Tour with at least a stage win. While the 38-year-old American came up short in the end, he raced well, covering all the moves and even launching an attack or two on the Col du Soulor/Col d’Aubisque. Unfortuantely, as Frankie Andreau pointed-out in his post-race interview with Lance, it’s been quite some time since Lance participated in a field sprint—and it showed.
2. But believe it or not, Lance Armstrong wasn’t the oldest rider in today’s break—Caisse d’Epargne’s Christophe Moreau was and he had a pretty good day, hauling himself into contention for the KOM competition and single-handedly dragging the breakaway back to Barredo inside the final few kilometers of today’s stage. For Moreau, it’s been a terrific final Tour for one of the decade’s best French stage racers. And, if he can manage to outscore current polka-dot leader Anthony Charteau in Thursday’s stage, he might end the Tour with a nice prize to show for his efforts.
3. As for Damiano Cunego, he made the winning break for the umpteenth time in this year’s race—only to come up short in the end again. It’s clear that Cunego needs a change of scenery. Maybe it’s the lack of a supporting cast for the races that best suit him; maybe it’s his teammates’ shadowy preparation methods. Whatever the cause, Cunego just can’t seem to get over the hump to become the true champion we all know he has the talent to be. It’s time for a change of scenery.
4. Carlos Barredo was today’s most aggressive rider, and one can only wonder what might have happened had he reserved some of his energy for a time when it would have been better put to use. Too many poorly timed attacks seemed to leave the Spaniard out of gas when he need some the most. His last-second capture was all the more tragic by virtue of the fact that it might have been avoided with some measured riding earlier in the day.
5. Back to Radio Shack for a minute: if you were watching Chris Horner today, then you know as well I do that Radio Shack’s nothing more than a bunch of mercenaries at this point in the Tour. Horner and Armstrong showed little cohesion or cooperation, as evidenced by the fact that they managed no better than fifth and sixth on the stage. Caisse d’Epargne had a similar numerical advantage and lost, but at least Moreau made a half-hearted attempt to lead-out Ruben Plaza (and after having spent the last minute or two at the front to bring back Barredo). I wonder if Horner and Armstrong will make an attempt to support Levi on Thursday, now that their best chances for glory have come and gone.
6. As for “chain-gate”, Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador have apparently made nice with one another. It’s funny what a good night of sleep can do to bring a person back to his senses. As for John Gadret and Nicolas Roche though, it appears reconciliation is out of the question—and with good reason. It’s easy for me to say from my perspective, but were I Vince Lavenu, Gadret would be packing his bags for home—and looking for a new team.
7. Did you notice David Zabriskie spending some time on the front toward the end of today’s stage? While obviously working to bring the gap down and protect Ryder Hesjedal’s top-10 placing, I think DZ might also be trying to ride himself into shape for Saturday’s time trial. Look for a top-3 result from the American, and a chorus of “Where has that been for the last 3 weeks?” from everyone else.
After a rest day tomorrow, Thursday’s stage promises to be one of the most incredible (you thought I’d say “epic” didn’t you?) of recent memory. With 8 seconds separating Contador and Schleck, we can expect to see some fantastic racing. Schleck has to attack if he has any hope to win the Tour, and Contador must stay with him at all costs to protect his advantage before Saturday’s time trial.
And oh yeah, it’s supposed to rain—a lot.
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