Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Deutschland Tour Stage 5: True Grit

Strength in numbers doesn't always work for you. In 1969, Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman had each other in the best actor category, but they split the vote and John Wayne won for the aforementioned cowboy movie of a different kind. And today at the Deutschland Tour, we saw true grit beat the numbers again, as Jens Voigt put on a great, gutsy performance to stay in the lead.

Brutal was the word of the day, as the Pro Tour reached its highest point of the year with the final climb on today's stage. Lampre and Discovery worked hard, and together, up to the base of the climb, setting a hard tempo and trying to isolate Jens. They did a fine job, and it was nice to see the Discovery train at work, knowing I had to appreciate these moments before they're gone! Jens just had Chris Sorensen, but as the climb started in earnest the Disco and Lampre boys melted away, leaving Levi Leipheimer and Damiano Cunego to fend for themselves anyway. Sorensen worked for Jens as long as he could, but fell off as the group shrank even further.

Neither Levi nor Cunego could come through on their teams' work. They gave it a valiant try, but Jens was on a mission and dropped them both in the final kilometers, picking up valuable time before Friday's Time Trial. As the commentators said, Jens has a great suffer face, and it was on all the way up. You know how much he wants this - to defend, to win clean for Germany, for his sport. Big Jens has a big heart, and it was great to watch. David Lopez Garcia had pulled away at about 6K to go, and took the stage, looking very happy crossing the line.

Jens, second on the day, was completely spent. He got off his bike and sat on the ground soon after the finish. He was there, leaning against the barriers, for a good while, toweling off, changing shirts, having a drink. But he was happy, and had that great big grin come podium time.

It was great to see Linus Gerdemann again, with his helmet at that rakish angle - German TV cuts to him kind of like French TV cuts to Thomas Voeckler. Here's hoping Linus actually progresses from his first 15 minutes! Thomas, dear, I kid because I love.

Great shots of the day - the riders went through a toll booth halfway up the climb! You don't see that every day. Good thing it was on the climb, as they were a small group already in single file. There were great shots from the helicopter of the steep grade, it was a monster climb. Several times WCSN dropped the commentary and just showed the feed, and it was really nice. One time was during a stretch of road with no fans, so it was almost silent, just the whir of the helicopter and faint noise of the small pack of riders. It was great to have a few moments of what the riders hear (provided they weren't getting screamed at in their ear). Context aside, something we can all relate to - breathing, pedaling, just trying to get to the top. Those passages were worth the five bucks alone!

Obviously, I love me some Tour, but I like these smaller races too. It really is all about the bike, kind of nice without so much pomp and circumstance. The Devil was still there, though!

Update on Uran - our pond crasher of yesterday. VeloNews reports he was being operated on all night, with broken ribs on both sides. CyclingNews reports that he broke both elbows and his right wrist. Sadly, I'm guessing they're both right, and as CN said, he has a long road ahead of him.

Sprinters stages coming up, Zabel is only one point behind, go Erik!


Waddy said...

I read someone else's comment elsewhere that struck a nerve with me today. It's odd that Jens, who couldn't get clear of lesser riders on flat stages at the Tour would be able to ride away from a climber like Levi on a major climb. Almost unnatural. I don't dislike Jens at all and was rooting for him to win in some of those breakaways at the Tour, but this just seems out of character. I've kind of started subscribing to the adage, "If it looks unbelievable, it probably is." What's your take?

Julie said...

LOL, this is what happens when we cross-pollinate. I answered a little at Sara's, but I'll elaborate here. First of all, Jens can get clear of riders on the flat stages, he's won some stages that way in the past. He just got caught with better sprinters this year. As I mentioned at Sara's, Deutschland is one of his big targets for the year. Levi had to be "on" every day in the Tour, Jens could pick his spots. There's one big mountain stage here - so you just have to suffer like that for one day, not day after day like in the Tour. There was one mountain stage on the Tour where Jens hung in for a good while, can't remember which one, but he can do it on a limited basis. Which is why these shorter races are good for him. He won the big mountain stage in last year's DT. There were several guys in the final group that weren't big names, I think it's just who has fresh legs and who prepared for this race specifically. Jens is like George, but with more pure drive. But like George, he's basically a really good bike rider, who can apply that to the situation as called for. George is never going to win the Mountains jersey, but he got Pla d'Adet. No one was sailing up this climb today, his effort looked natural to me.

Waddy said...

I didn't see the race but I respect your judgment. You make very solid points in answering my question. And I think you make your points without bias, just solid reason. And I still like Jens. I never stopped. No really. I mean it...Thanks Julie

Julie said...

Yeah, it's all the big "who knows," but those are the things that run through my head. There are guys like Jan Ullrich, who it seems never particularly loved to ride his bike, but it meant other things to/for him. Jens is one of those guys who really loves to ride his bike - he said about the doping last year, something like come on, it's just a bike race! He's a killer, he wants to win, but it's still just a bike race to him. As in, the purpose and the joy is in itself, not for some other goal. Again, what do I know, but I think the Jan kind of guys are more likely to dope and the Jens guys less likely. Like I always say about Floyd, doping would be beside the point for them.

Waddy said...

I hope you don't think I was being patronizing or sarcastic. I meant what I wrote. I haven't followed the TDD. I don't really know the stages or the profiles. What you say about the riders in relation to this time in the season makes sense. And I find Jens believable. I also think doping in the TDD would be a little like trying to sneak a gun into the White House.

Julie said...

No, not at all! Oh my, now I'm wondering how you thought *I* was being! I sometimes think I should use more emoticons, so people realize that I'm actually just having a calm, friendly conversation, and not taking offense. Well, there, that's how it was for me! :-)

cat2bike said...

I agree, Julie. I love these 1 week long stage races! Jens is a special bike rider, and I've read every interview or article I can find on Jens! I'm planning on wearing my WWJD(What would Jens do?) t-shirt this week at the races. I think it's a safer place and more appreciated there, than here at home!


RipCurl said...

Like I said, Julie, damn fine writin' over here.
I kept on poking my head in throughout the day looking for your writeup. I like your analysis, too. It ranks up there very well.
I've grown to love Jen's tenacity and even more his joy for cycling. I agree with you that these guys dedicate themselves to the races they set their hearts on. Somedays, the competition is fierce and despite your sacrifices, you come up empty handed. Kinda like choosing which fires you're going to put out, you can only go all out physically and mentally on occasion. The rider's mind is a real devil, too. Nothing like giving it your all just to see someone float on by with better legs that day - very frustrating and defeating even. Great for Jen's! His accent when he's giving interviews in English make him all the more endearing. What a great attitude to have around.