Saturday, March 15, 2008

Paris-Nice Stage 6: Fade to White

The title could well refer to the weather outside my window. Another Saturday, another snowstorm. Silly me thought I'd be riding my bike this weekend. So it's back to watching the pros, in balmy France and Italy. No, the title refers to young Robert Gesink, who lost yellow today but retains the white jersey as best young rider.

It was a long, arduous stage with many mountains to cross. was its usual special self, so I only saw towards the end, and a horrible picture at that. Looking forward to perhaps a better stream later today in video on demand. I will say, though, that even pixelated racing can keep you on the edge of your seat!

Bobby Julich was in the break with teammate Chris Sorensen, CSC determined to fly the colors as much as possible while looking for a new sponsor. Julich and Sorensen tag-teamed the attacks, Bobby getting away on the one that stuck, with Mathieu Sprick. It was a crazy descent, with many close calls and a couple of gasp-worthy crashes. One of those involved Sprick - he and Julich were careening down together, and then suddenly Sprick was not there. It went by fast, but he appeared to be in the bushes on some kind of turn-off. Frank Schleck was the other gasp, taking a turn too wide and just slamming sideways into a rock face, beyond ouch.

I was cheering Bobby on, hoping against hope that he would pull it out. But his small group of immediate pursuers had bigger fish to fry, they were going for yellow and Gesink was in big trouble, so they chased Bobby down. At least Bobby stayed with them to the end, not having to do any more work after his long haul. And I thought yellow with one last escort was sad - how about yellow with no one - not even anyone catching up on the descent and flat into the finish. Poor Gesink, fading fast, had a horrible descent and was left to lead a whole line of riders towards the finish, as none of them were obligated to help. None save polka-dot wearer Clement Lhotellerie, who was trying to salvage his top 10 spot, but it seemed like mostly yellow on front.

In the end it was plucky Sylvain Chavanel, soothing his Ventoux disappointment with a solo attack and win in the closing kilometer. He was fist-pumping and shouting all the way across the line, one very happy French dude. Julich slipped in for third on the day, and Davide Rebellin came in fifth to take yellow. Thor Hushovd powered his way over the mountains and came in the second finishing group, along with Yaroslav Popovych, who moves up to third on GC. Gesink was in the third group, just 1:29 back, but all the difference in the world. Sprick and Schleck finished in the next small group at 2:01 back, bless their souls, I hope that means they weren't too badly hurt. Should be another thriller tomorrow, and we actually get to see it on real TV!

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