Sunday, July 15, 2007

TdF Stage 8: Wicked Game

I was going to use Risky Game, but that would entail recreating a scene from Friends featuring Jennifer Aniston. Great scene, and the best line delivery she's ever given, but rather beside the point on a whirlwind day like today. As it is, I'm tempted to quote the entire Chris Isaak song, so fitting is it, but be a good reader and just follow the link, won't you? Sing along as we go, from the point of view of the riders or the fans, works either way.

Today was painful to watch at times, but not always for the reasons I thought it would be. For much of the morning, it was like a 3-hour slow-motion end of a breakaway. The favorites were playing cat and mouse, or just plain poker I suppose, to a baffling degree. All but Michael Rogers, that is, who inexplicably managed to get in the breakaway. I understand not panicking in the peloton, you can't chase everyone, but giving him five minutes?? In the mountains? It's not like he's going to lose it in a time trial, being a three-time TT world champion and all. And it's not like he was going hard, so he wouldn't be expected to crack on the last climb. He was going fine, and not having to do a lot of work. So even if he just stayed at the same pace as the contenders up to Tignes, he would have a healthy lead.

Some teams had good guys in the break, like Discovery with George Hincapie, and CSC with Jens Voigt, so I also understand that makes it tricky. Maybe the break will make it, or maybe you'll need those guys to be up the road. But still, if you balance those maybes against a legitimate GC contender getting five minutes, you at least have to bring it a little closer, don't you? Or the other teams without so many conflicts do. For the longest time, they mostly let T-Mobile set the pace - and they were setting a slow pace, to keep Rogers gaining time!

For once, I thought, T-Mobile has got it brilliantly right. At first glance, it may have looked to some like old times, chasing their own guy. But then when you saw they were actually blocking for Rogers, that guys were catching back up on the rear, you saw that they were in fact executing a great plan. I can't believe no other team took charge for so long. Rabobank finally did, and Michael Rasmussen came through on his slingshot. Maybe not the same risk as Rogers, but I don't know that you want to give him so much time either. He may fall off once he's secured the mountains jersey, but he's declared he's going for GC, so maybe not. I guess if there were only one TT left it would be riskier; with two, maybe several minutes is safe. The Chicken is in Yellow, but neither remotely indicates a coward in this case, so the peloton better keep an eye out.

Well, I've avoided it as long as possible, I suppose we have to talk about Rogers' crash. So the risk paid off for the other teams after all, but still, you can't count on that! It's not like he was taking crazy risks up to that point. But in any case, here's the first place we cue up the Chris Isaak. When would Rogers ever have this kind of chance again, to be up several minutes on the other contenders without turning himself inside out to do it. He wasn't the only one crying when he pulled over, what a horrible, sad sight. With two abandons on the day, T-Mobile's great day was quickly going south. So hat's off again to our young Linus, who limited his losses well and is still in contention. He was ahead of several contenders in the Prologue, I wonder how he is at the longer distances? Not to put any pressure on you, dear!

The other sad sight of the day being Stuart O'Grady taken out on a stretcher, bad luck for a good guy.

Yes, so while all that was playing out, poker night continued among the contenders. Heaven knows I wouldn't know what to do in a Director's car, so with that large grain of salt, I'll continue being curious about the tactics of the day. We don't have a Lance here, fine, no one could just rip off a huge extended attack. But if you're going good, there's a rest day tomorrow, get this party started! Christophe Moreau finally obliged, doing France very proud today. And a good number of contenders had the good sense to follow him, including Alejandro Valverde, Cadel Evans, and Alberto Contador. But Levi Leipheimer, Denis Menchov, Carlos Sastre, Andreas Kloden, and Alexandre Vinokourov could not. Poker time is over boys, time to put down the hammer and cut your rivals in half! Moreau knew that, and did his best, but he needed help, and the others were still looking at their cards. I have my favorites, and I'd hate to see them go down, but I'm also all for the best man winning, so I don't want to see wasted opportunities either! The latter group was able to put on an acceleration at the end, but I think the first group wasted a lot of energy with their games, and could've still put in a good gap. Moreau must be fuming, and with good reason.

Levi, Levi, Levi. What will we do with you? He seemed to be a different rider this year, but I'm less sure now. He limited his losses, but the contenders are all so equal now, especially with Vino hurt, is he really going to be able to do the reverse on all these guys on some future day? It's a long way to go, I guess, but it's several guys, not just one. It is starting to look like Contador wears the pants in this family, we'll see. He would've been right there with Valverde I think, if he hadn't had a mechanical. He should be good and fired up for Tuesday.

Speaking of wearing the pants in the family, we always knew Vino did, and he proved that today with Kloden dropping back to help him. Now, maybe Kloden isn't going to last as long as Vino, and they would know that best, so it probably makes sense. I agree with P&P, Kloden was a hero on the day, driving the stragglers back to the others. I think more than Vino's knees will be hurting tonight. For surely, without those bandages, he would've taken charge and taken no prisoners on that final climb. But I imagine Vino won't dwell on that, the race is what it is, he'll concentrate on what his body can recoup on the rest day.

I thought I was more than ready for the rest day, but I don't know, now things are getting interesting, I can't wait for Tuesday! Wicked games or not, I'll be there with bells on.


Julie said...

Camille - safer to put this comment here, I trust you'll see it. :-)

I'm learning to go with the flow on this Tour I think, enjoying the uncertainty as you said. My heart still breaks for Vino, and goes to pieces for poor Mick Rogers, but today I kept saying, okay, so that's how it's going, who's going to do something next? I was never sure about Cadel, I had an early impression that was unfavorable, but I do hear good things about him, so I'm guessing I just didn't have a chance to know him well enough. Maybe that will change in the days to come, he's looking good!

Camille said...

You trusted wisely. I wish there weren't a rest day tomorrow either because I barely got my fill today so far, and watching it later when I already know the outcome is always anti-climactic although I'll take what I can get, especially before a rest day.

Cadel vaguely resembles my late brother Clint, and then when I saw him cry after a stage win once (can't remember which year -- 2 years ago?) he just won me over. And Phil Liggett loves him and that speaks well of him. I'd just be happy to see Cadel at least make the podium.

I don't know how to put this just the right way --- of course it is awful for Vino and Kloden both to have gotten hurt. But just think, this year might have been like one of the Lance years if Vino were full-strength, (he'd just show up and win possibly -- we've been there and done that 7 times) but as it is we get to watch him bravely battle back after being almost counted out instantly. The courage of both Kloden and him is so exciting to watch, not to mention the effect on the rest of not only the contenders but the outsiders -- it's all just such a beautiful illustration of bravery and guts. I feel like the rule-book I knew got totally thrown out (that's the beauty of only having watched this a couple of years before!) and these riders are just completely re-writing the script day by day, like watching David Milch write a Deadwood script for the day. The actors never know what will happen next or what to expect of anyone. It's so great! Yeah, that's if I don't think about the agony of anyone who is dropping out or getting hurt day by day. But from a less personal-involvement standpoint (I don't have a "Lance" or a "Floyd" yet this year)... it sure gets me jumping out of bed in the morning to go see the next installment.

Okay, sorry, I forget this is just the comments section and not a blog entry unto itself!

Loving your write-ups. Thank you!

cat2bike said...

Julie, (and Camille), beautifully said. I couldn't believe the guys wouldn't work together either! Man, think of the time they could have gotten!
And I'm feeling like you about Levi. And what Marty said about, no matter what, Discovery is George's team, really hit me. That's the way I feel too.
And it's just breaks my heart to see these guys crash, and Mick Rogers was crying and I was crying and wishing the cameraman would pull back from his face to a wider shot to give him some kind of privacy.
I like Cadel Evans, if for no other reason than Chris Horner loves and respects him. Chris has a good head on his shoulders; and if he says someone is good, that's good enough for me!


Anonymous said...

Brilliant post Julie! You put into words exactly what I'd been thinking about the race to date - Bravo!

I watched the 'recap' show tonight and it was painful the second time around, too, to watch poor Mick Rogers have to pull over. The opportunity of a lifetime gone for him....

I've also been thinking the same thing about Levi as both you and T. Come ON already!!! Although, I must say, that I was underwhelmed with Johann's support of him during the background piece they did on Versus the other day! He said something to the effect that he knows Levi believes that he can win the Tour because he is a confident guy, but he (Johann) thinks that hoping for a podium place is appropriate. Boy Johann......thanks for the support :( IMO, you NEED to believe you can absolutely WIN in order to get out there and REALLY be a contender!

Anyhow -- keep up the great posts and I can't wait until the mountain stage tomorrow!!!