Thursday, February 21, 2008

ToC Stage 3 - Through The Wringer

Nah, I'm not talking about the riders, I mean me! Okay, so it was kind of a tough day for them, too, but what an emotional roller coaster to watch.

In the Don't Go Breakin' My Heart category, we have Tyler Farrar having to abandon in yellow with a stomach bug. He was soooo happy yesterday, walking on air, eyes brimming with tears of joy. And today he was sitting so low in the sag wagon, you could barely see him. I hope he takes solace in how well he enjoyed his moment, and the sure knowledge that he'll be back zooming soon. And Mr. George Hincapie. A puzzling move once you saw how it worked out, but I guess you just don't know until you try it. Given how many guys who were just gone on the climbs managed to get back to that close chase at the end, I was surprised he fell so far. Oh well, hope there are brighter days ahead in the spring for George. And what about Tommy Danielson? I really hope he can pull it together this season and continue building on that potential.

But plenty to raise the spirits as well. Paul is coming up with some good lines in this race, today it was Chechu Rubiera as Stud. Chechu seems like such a sweetheart. There was a picture of him a while back, I can't remember where, of him in pajamas with some cute print, and that's how I always picture him. So it's funny to attach the name stud to that, but boy, was it true today! As Levi said afterwards, the Chechu of old with endless cranking ability for his leader.

And I was so proud to see Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie, and Chris Horner in that tiny lead group, all looking so good! DZ showed us last year he's gotten some climbing legs, keep it up! As a side note, are he and Cozza in some kind of mustache contest? Just as Astana intended it seems, there was even a touch of sadness watching their great work today. Because you see how strong Levi is, and hear what a leader he was during the stage, and see how well his support guys are going, and you can just picture them in France. I don't know if the substantial rumblings can change things at this point, but at least there are rumblings. So while it was tough to see all that grueling work come down to not so much time gained, there were larger purposes served.

Cyclingnews has been mentioning for a couple of days now Scott Nydam's blog, and his extra motivation to get in the breakaways and hang on to that KOM jersey. His dad is fighting cancer, and Scott is doing him very proud. The entry where he discloses his dad's illness is quite moving, and something I can really identify with. I wish them both all the best. With all credit to that, there's also a great little passage about Levi, and what he's done for Scott. If anyone's listening, this Levi guy sounds like a worthy champion any race should be happy to have.

Levi and Gesink were a fierce pair screaming home to victory, but also gave me a chuckle at their distinct Mutt and Jeff appearance. Gesink all lanky, like so many of those Rabobank guys are, and Levi a compact firecracker with those thighs of steel.

I tried to watch some video during the day, but with mixed results. So it was still a disappointment to just have the one hour on Versus. This is the kind of day, if it was the Tour, where you wouldn't take your eyes off the screen. You would feel exhausted just from watching it, and feel like you had shared in something with the riders. I had that a little bit, having followed it all day in one form or another, but it wasn't quite the same. Nevertheless, I'm always glad for what Versus gives us, and glad this race has quickly grown into real coverage instead of those glorified commercials of the first year.

Time Trials are always nail-biters, but Friday is going to be a ripper. So many great clock-racers made it to that lead chase group, Zabriskie, Millar, Cancellara, and of course Levi out in front - and all such great guys, I'll be cheering for them all!

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