Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tour de France 2008 Stage 4: I Love A Parade

This is what we missed with the absence of the Prologue. After a few days of bunching up against the weather, we got to see each of our guys one by one. No surprise after their strong showings in the Giro TTs, Danny Pate and Jens Voigt set best times early. Understated as ever, Pate did his job for Garmin-Chipotle, scouting the course and keeping the team on top. Voigt provided his typical high level of viewer entertainment, battling all the way with his raw animal instincts on display.

Carlos Sastre was consistent as ever with his second-tier performance, and there is something decidedly comforting in that. I don't know why Phil and Paul were so hard on Alejandro Valverde, he was amongst many of the other contenders who aren't great at TTs. I guess it was his strong Dauphine TT in June, but a little up and down suits me fine. I have to say I was actually relieved - sad, but true.

Christian Vande Velde put in an awesome ride, keeping the Garmin-Chipotle momentum going. There was a freaky camera shot of him from behind, his head didn't look particularly attached to his body. But dude, where's your yellow number? Ah well, you'll get to wear them again tomorrow thanks to your hard work. Vande Velde finished ahead of a number of GC contenders, that will serve him well as he tries to stay in the Top Ten in the mountains.

Also besting most of his rivals was Cadel Evans, sitting pretty with fourth best time. He gave a great smile as he was warming up. That goes a long way to getting some new fans, Cadel, keep it up!

Team Columbia rolls on, with Kim Kirchen, George Hincapie, and Thomas Lovkvist in the Top Eleven. All eyes will be on Kirchen as we go to the mountains, to see if he can keep this up. Hincapie's fluid style is always a pleasure to watch, I was glad to see him with a top finish. And Lovkvist matches Kirchen's green jersey with white, taking over the young rider classification.

Didn't Jonathan Vaughters ask someone to shoot him if he was ever driving the car behind? I guess TTs are a special exception. Robbie Ventura behaved himself quite well, zipping it every time JV went to talk to Millar. Still, heck of a nervy move to have him in the front seat on a day like that! Watching JV realize the win was going to be a long shot was moving. He wanted it so bad for the team, but you could see he also wanted it for David Millar. Garmin-Chipotle has come so far so fast, it seems odd to be even a little disappointed with a showing as impressive as today. But they're setting the bar high, challenging themselves to go for the big wins out of the box. And rightly so, you'll never get there if you don't. But I hope they can also revel in such a spectacular day for Garmin-Chipotle, with Millar back on his game, and Vande Velde and Pate living up to their potential. I can't wait to watch them battle it out with Kirchen in the days to come!

And then there were those surprises. Fabian Cancellara is indeed not a robot, as he pointed out, and aren't we all glad of that. When he's on, he shows so much heart, he's thrilling to watch. But, you can't win them all. Too bad it was today of all days that he was a touch off, but he'll be back. Eyebrows were animated everywhere at Stefan Schumacher's crushing performance. It doesn't come entirely out of left field, though. Cancellara himself pegged Schumacher for a chance at challenging him on this day. And there were several independent accounts of the dead calm Stefan lucked into during his ride.

Fingers crossed for those poor sprinters tomorrow, they ought to get at least one good one in before the climbing starts!

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