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Tour de France 2007: Jambon Report, Stage 9
By Locutus
Date: 7/17/2007
Tour de France 2007: Jambon Report, Stage 9
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Mauricio "Solo" Soler (Barloworld). Well, well, another climbing-crazy Colombian. When Soler attacked on the climb of the Telegraphe, it looked like a brave but futile effort was underway. I mean, when he jumped from the peloton, there were some quality men up the road working hard to take the stage. Then he surprised everyone when he caught the leaders and put the hurt on them. On the early slopes of the Galibier, Soler began to shred them one-by-one, with Popovych of Discovery Channel the last man to lose Soler's wheel. With a long descent in the 37.5 km left to the finish, it looked like Soler might still get swept up by the rapidly charging GC leaders. However, Soler had laid down such a butt-whipping on the final categorized climb of the day that he was able to hold onto a 38" gap at the finish line. With the stage victory, Soler immediately raised the status of wild-card invitee Barloworld. He also moved up to 17th on GC at 6' 49" and 2nd in the Polka-Dot Jersey race at 79 points. With Rasmussen focusing now on the GC battle, Soler could very well sneak in and take that Polka-Dot Jersey in the Pyranees. He is only 19 points behind Rasmussen, and he will be given a lot more leeway to attack by the GC leaders than the Dane will be over the next ten days.
  • Cadel "Hellraiser" Evans (Predictor-Lotto) and Alberto "Con Artist" Contador (Discovery Channel). Evans dished out a big helping of "shut-the-hell-up" to his critics today by launching some impressive attacks on the Galibier. He dropped every big GC leader like a bad habit, with only Contador able to keep up with the Aussie's assault. Then Contador delivered one of his trademark uphill accelerations to distance Evans as he bridged up to his teammate Popovych. Though both riders were eventually caught by the Yellow Jersey group, their accelerations helped blow the peloton to bits and bury a couple of GC favorites for good. Evans finished 3rd on the stage at 38" behind Soler, and Contador was 4th at 40". This moved them both up in the GC race: Evans is now 4th at 2' 41" and Contador is 5th at 3' 08". Look for Evans to threaten the Yellow Jersey in next Saturday's time trial, and look for Contador to go crazy in the Pyranees as he charges for the podium. And look for Contador, who took the lead in the best young rider competition, to keep a death grip on that White Jersey for the rest of the race.
  • Michael "Bone Machine" Rasmussen (Rabobank). It wasn't an easy day for the Danish mountain master: he is a guy who likes to climb steadily, and the punchier climbers like Contador and Valverde dropped him on the Galibier. However, Rasmussen stayed cool, kept pounding out his cadence, and eventually brought all the dangerous men to heel. After the final climb, he even took turns chasing the men off the front almost the entire way to the finish line. Rasmussen took 6th on the stage at 42", and holds his Yellow Jersey with a lead of 2' 35". He also still holds the Polka-Dot Jersey. He is looking more and more like a guy who will make the final podium. If only there weren't so many time trials this year.
  • Kim "Churchy" Kirchen (T-Mobile). With Rogers out of the race and the young Gerdemann under pressure, Kirchen stayed cool and worked hard in the group of leaders today. He took a number of turns on the front, raised the pace a few times, and generally showed that he belonged rubbing elbows with the Tour's big boys. He finished the stage in 8th at 46", which also moved him up into 10th on GC at 5' 06". With the non-start of Sinkewitz, T-Mobile is now down to six men, but Kirchen should be able to play off of the other teams and carry the big pink flag into the final top ten in Paris. Not bad for a team so plagued by disaster.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Alexandre Vinokourov and Andre Kashechkin (Astana). Both of these guys had a bad day today. Vinokourov has got to get props for the amazing amount of intestinal fortitude he is showing: his elbow, hip, and knees are shredded and he is still fighting through to stay in a decent position in this race. Today he finished in 20th at 3' 24", and it's looking like the podium is now beyond his reach. Still, if Vino can just continue to hold on and heal up, he can rebound and fight for stages in the final week. Kashechkin finished in the group with Vino, and slid down the GC as he couldn't stick with the leaders. Kash is now in 12th on GC at 5' 34", and Vino is 21st at 8' 05". Both are on the ropes, but don't count them out just yet.
  • Frank Schleck (CSC). Not a good day for the young Luxembourger. He was dropped by the first flurry of attacks on the Galibier, and he never recovered. While his teammate Sastre finished with the Yellow Jersey group, Schleck finished with Vinokourov's group in 24th at 3' 24". This dropped him to 13th on GC at 5' 56". Schleck will now have to focus on supporting Sastre and possibly going for stage wins.
  • Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile). This was a stage way to far for the young German. He lost the White Jersey and dropped from 2nd on GC by finishing 40th at 6' 44". He's out of the GC race, but he had a great run. Now he can ride in support of Kirchen and gain some experience. After all, that kind of why he came here in the first place.
  • Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel). Levi did well today, finishing with the Yellow Jersey group and moving up to 9th on GC at 3' 53". He did it by sitting on wheels and following attacks, not by initiating anything of his own. With his teammates Popovych, Gusev, and Contador up the road, Levi followed the plan and just marked the other GC rivals. This is great strategy from Discovery: while the other GC riders like Valverde and Rasmussen tire themselves out chasing Popo and Contador, Levi just keeps lurking along using a lot less energy. In the final ten days, this conservation of energy could prove the difference as a fresh Leipheimer might well be the undoing of everybody else.
  • Dave Zabriskie and Fabian Cancellara (CSC).. These two finished in the grupetto today at 28' 51" behind the winner. Cancellara was 151st, and Zabriskie was 171st (a.k.a. dead last). Both men are doing what they should be doing: they are using the minimal amount of energy to survive the mountains while waiting for the time trial next Saturday. CSC used a lot of energy defending Cancellara's Yellow Jersey in the first week, but with Sastre following attacks and staying out of trouble, these power men are not needed to ride all out. Expect both of these men to fight it out for the stage victories in the final two time trials, and also look for them to take the peloton by the scruff of its neck if Sastre should happen to wind up in the Yellow Jersey after the Pyranees.

Locutus, a.k.a. Patrick Sharp, is the author of the new book Savage Perils: Racial Frontiers and Nuclear Apocalypse in American Culture from the University of Oklahoma Press.
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