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Tour de France 2007: Jambon Report, Stage 14
By Locutus
Date: 7/22/2007
Tour de France 2007: Jambon Report, Stage 14
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Alberto "The Cobra" Contador (Discovery Channel). What a brilliant day of racing! It was attack, counter, drop, regroup, attack all the way up that final climb. The Cobra began to spread his hood and bob around near the bottom of that final climb up the Plateau-de-Beille. As the group of men around the Yellow Jersey was slowly whittled down, Contador looked effortless and energetic. When it was down to six men, Contador began to strike over and over until only Rasmussen could follow. He worked with the Yellow Jersey for a while, and then bided his time and smoked Rasmussen at the finish. This gave the 24 year-old Spaniard his first Tour de France victory and moved him up into 2nd on GC at 2' 23" behind the leader. Suddenly, Contador is looking like the biggest threat Rasmussen faces for the top step of the podium in Paris. The fact that Contador is so young—he is in the White Jersey of best young rider still—means that we are watching the emergence of a Tour rider who could potentially dominate this race for years to come.
  • Michael "El Pollo Magnífico" Rasmussen and Michael "Ultra-Brite" Boogerd (Rabobank). I have to confess that I've never been much of a Boogerd booster, but I have to take my hat off to how well the big-toothed Dutchman is riding in this, his final Tour de France. He put in an outstanding time trial yesterday, but his true achievement has come in his support of Rasmussen over the past couple of weeks. Today it was Boogerd at it again, coming to the front on the final climb and working with Discovery's Popovych to bury several GC favorites and launch Rasmussen up the road. For his part, the man the other riders call The Chicken was brilliant as he tried to distance his rivals on his preferred terrain. El Pollo Magnifico wasn't able to win this stage in the Pyranees, but his 2nd place finish right on Contador's wheel gave him 1' 52" on both Klöden and Evans. This is exactly what he needs to keep doing if he wants to win this race: neutralize the other climbers like Contador and Sastre while putting big time into time trial monsters like Klöden and Evans. God help us all, a pure climber might win the Tour this year, and then we will all have to sing "El Pollo Magnífico es Campeón" on the Champ Elysees.
  • Levi "Button Fly" Leipheimer and Yaroslav "Jiffy Pop" Popovych (Discovery Channel). The Discovery boys were all over the front of this race today. At one point, they had three men out of eight in the Yellow Jersey group. Popovych got dropped on the penultimate climb, but then he fought back on the descent and then ripped it up the final climb. Popo worked with Boogerd to shell a lot of GC big shots, and then when he fell off the pace he still managed to come across the line in 10th at 3' 06" back. This moved Popo up into 10th on GC at 10' 55", and gave Discovery the lead in the Team Competition at 1' 58" ahead of Astana. For his part, Levi was solid again today as he hammered a steady pace to come across the line in 4th at 40" back. This means that he took time from almost all of his big GC rivals and moved himself into 4th on GC at 4' 29". Leipheimer will have to continue to take time over the next two days in the Pyranees from men like Evans and Klöden; if he can manage it, then he might just climb up onto the final podium with his teammate Contador.
  • Carlos "Sassy" Sastre (CSC) and Igor "Frankenfriend" Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi). Sastre didn't get the big result he wanted, but he rode well to finish in 5th on the stage at 53". This moved him up into 6th on GC at 5' 50", and if he can keep up the pressure here on his home turf, he could climb even higher. Astarloza has been quietly picking his way through the favorites with his steady riding. Today he climbed to a 12th place finish, crossing the line with Popovych and Boogerd at 3' 06" back. This actually kept him in his 8th spot on GC at 8' 25". At this point, many riders in this race will start scrambling for those lower spots of the top ten and Astarloza is currently riding above expectations to mix it up with the big boys. While other Basque riders have bonked, Astarloza is now the great Basque hope for the Pyranees.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, and Andrey Kashechkin (Astana). Well I guess that can of Khazakhstan whupass must be empty. After dominating yesterday's time trial, the Astana boys got shelled on today's climbs. Vinokourov was the first to go, dropping away halfway up the penultimate climb. He finished the stage 81st at 28' 50" behind, officially putting him out of reach of the overall victory once and for all. Then on the final climb Klöden and Kashechkin fell away from the Yellow Jersey group. Klöden struggled but rode sensibly to come across in 6th at 1' 52", preserving 5th on GC at 4' 38" behind Rasmussen. Kash finished the stage in 9th at 2' 23", which put him in 7th on GC at 5' 58". Both men are still well positioned, and Klöden could even still make the podium in that final time trial. However, these men are going to have to go better in the two big mountain stages to come. If they keep riding like they did today, they'll be lucky to be in the top ten when they ride out of the Pyranees.
  • Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval). How embarrassing. On a day when the race was heading into his home turf, Mayo put his boys on the front to chase the break and thin the peloton. On the penultimate climb, Millar did some great work to thin the field even further in order to set up Mayo for a stage win. Then… Mayo got dropped by the leaders near the top of that climb. He rejoined the Yellow Jersey group on the descent, but then he dropped anchor early on the Plateau-de-Beille and only managed to finish in 35th at 9' 31" back. You can bet that his exhausted teammates won't appreciate the fact that they busted their butts all day so that Mayo could finish 35th. Look for Saunier Duval to take a back seat in the peloton and allow their other riders to have some shots at stage glory again.
  • Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto). It wasn't a complete disaster for Evans today, but it wasn't what he was hoping for. Evans managed to stay with Contador and Rasmussen for a long time, but then he blew to the sky. He fell back and finished 7th with Klöden at 1' 52". The tough Aussie is still in 3rd on GC at 3' 04", and he can still win the race. However, he cannot afford to lose any more time in the mountains to Rasmussen and Contador.
  • Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). Okay, this is the last ham-gazer award I'm going to give this guy. He was off the back today, again, and showed that his legs aren't yet up to the challenge of three weeks of Tour de France speeds with racing. Valverde finished the stage in 14th at 3' 45" while being nursed along by his teammate Pereiro. This means he is now in 9th on GC at 9' 45", and that he will be hard-pressed to hold onto a top ten finish by Paris.
  • Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile). The T-Mobile leader was only 29th today at 7' 35", which means that his hopes of the top five are over. He is now in 14th on GC at 13' 16", and Kirchen now faces a hard slog to try to get back into the top ten. This has been a disastrous Tour for T-Mobile since Gerdemann lost his Yellow Jersey, but Kirchen could still salvage something if he recovers and gets into a good move tomorrow.

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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