Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tour de France 2008 Stage 16: Yes, Bobby, It Is

Bobby Julich has been dropping in on Cyclingnews' live race reports for the Tour, and today he asked if it was always this stressful to watch the race on TV. Yes, Bobby, now you know what you guys put us through! Today didn't bring all the results I hoped for, but it was undeniably a brilliant Tour stage. Fantastic weather, making for gorgeous vistas and dry roads, and very enjoyable viewing. Epic, moonscape mountainsides with summits that seem to float in the sky. Tomorrow is the queen stage, but today was certainly an excellent warm-up.

Johan wasn't impressed by what CSC-Saxo Bank got for their efforts, but whatever the case, those efforts were fun to watch again today. One can't help but marvel at the dedication, the strategic placing, and the cool professionalism. Whether they led early or came back from the breaks ahead, each guy gave their supreme effort. Amidst all that, it was a delight to see Tough Man Stuart O'Grady smiling and blowing kisses in the feed zone. And of course Jens Voigt, dropping back to water the GC group, then hopping on front to drive the pace some more. He hasn't been allowed to go on his escapades this Tour, but my guess is that he's enjoying this stuff just as much, if not more. He still gets to be the mad warrior, and it's all for the good of the team. Andy Schleck gave tireless support to brother Frank again, and happily took the white jersey as an added bonus. What fun it will be tomorrow, to see them scaling L'Alpe in yellow and white, I hope they make it up together just as they did today.

As for what they got, it wasn't nothin'. They gained time on Denis Menchov, who also reportedly had cramps at the finish, so maybe they took something out of him for tomorrow as well. And they took significant time on Christian Vande Velde. Going on TT skills, a likely podium has been Cadel Evans, Menchov, and Vande Velde. So, hurting two of those guys, Carlos Sastre may get his real-time podium yet.

Ah, yes, the stressful part of the day. That agonizing game of Where's Christian? With only so many cameras on the road, once Vande Velde was dropped from the GC group, we didn't see him again until the finish. So we didn't know - was he hovering just off the back, or had he dropped like a stone and lost huge chunks? I was betting on just off the back, but it was the day after the rest day, and he is in uncharted territory, and you just never know! He was indeed hanging tough, and if not for the crash on the descent, it wouldn't have even been considered a bad day. Great job by teammate Ryder Hesjedal, dropping back from the break to pace Vande Velde up the rest of the climb and be with him on the descent. Tomorrow will tell the story, but Vande Velde still has a shot at the podium, and anything top ten will still be a great achievement for him and Garmin-Chipotle.

Stress redux - that crazy-ass descent. John Lee Augustyn and his baby face went flying over the edge, thank goodness he was alright. Kudos to him for great reflexes, managing to stop himself from sliding all the way down. And good luck with clipping right out of the bike, so it didn't drag him down. It was rather a risky move for Versus to show all that video from crashes past on such a stage, it's a good thing for them too that Augustyn provided drama but not injury. I'm really glad Evans didn't deck it when he came around the bend and almost ran into the doctor's moto. After (according to P&P) going to the trouble to ride the descent in training so he'd be sure to have a feel for it, that would've been a real shame.

Not so much stress, but sympathy after the stage for George Hincapie. It was a rare and very real opportunity for him to take the stage, but with that wild descent he just couldn't catch back on. He was heartbroken afterwards, he could hardly talk. Hincapie has done so much for Team Columbia this year, I want him to have a few spoils for himself! I'm glad for Cyril Dessel, though. He did a major amount of work on the climb, dragging those guys up. And since teammate Tadej Valjavec fell off towards the end, it's great that Dessel could more than salvage the effort with the stage win.

No Frankie Andreu commentary again tonight on Versus. Grrrrr. Johan's not there the whole time, what's the problem??

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