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Tour de France 2007: Jambon Report, Stage 15 and Rest Day II
By Locutus
Date: 7/24/2007
Tour de France 2007: Jambon Report, Stage 15 and Rest Day II

Golden Hams of the Day
Alberto "Cobra" Contador (Discovery Channel) and Michael "El Pollo Rapido" Rasmussen (Rabobank)
Well it turns out that it's not the mongoose that is the natural enemy of the cobra. No, the natural enemy of the cobra is the chicken. "Cobra" Contador attacked hard several times up the final climb of Stage 15, forcing "Chicken" Rasmussen to dig deep each time to respond. But respond Rasmussen did, neutralizing each attack and crossing the line with Contador at 4' 40" behind Kirchen and Zubeldia.

The Cobra hangs on the wheel of before his final attack for victory on stage 14.

While they dueled on the climbs, both Rasmussen and Contador distanced themselves from their other GC rivals by 57". Rasmussen held his lead of 2' 23" over Contador and stretched his lead to 4' 00" over Evans.

Rasmussen hugs Contador's wheel to the finish of stage 15. Photo

Both Rasmussen and Contador would like to take a bit more time on the better time trialists before going into the final time trial. And Contador desperately wants to crack Rasmussen and climb up to that top step of the podium. If these two keep it up, they will leave everyone else in the dust and we might well see another Lemond-Fignon scenario where the race will be decided in the final time trial. It should be fun to watch.

Kim "Churchy" Kirchen (T-Mobile)
With the controversy surrounding Vinokourov, Kirchen's 2nd place on Stage 15 might well turn into a stage victory. Kirchen also did what he had to do to climb up the GC: he went on the early attack, stayed off the front all day, and hung on to take several minutes from most of his GC rivals. This will have him up into 7th on GC at 8' 24" behind Rasmussen. Look for Kirchen to now dig in and try to hold onto this position, which is an outstanding result for someone who was supposed to just be a support rider.

Kim Kirchen and Haimar Zubeldia finish stage 15.

Haimar "Zorro" Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
 The Basque favorite crossed the line with Kirchen, and accomplished the same goal: moving up the GC. Yeah, the Euskaltel squad really wants to win a stage on their home turf of the Pyranees, but Zubeldia did them proud on Monday. He was on the attack all day, and gave the many Orange-clad fans along the climbs something to cheer about. He will start Stage 16 in 6th on GC at 7' 27". If he can match Sastre on the final day in the mountains, he should be able to pass Sastre in the final time trial and take a spot in the top five. With Astarloza now sitting in 8th on GC, this is turning into a solid Tour for the Basquemen of Euskaltel.

Cadel Evans finishes the Time Trial second... Photo

Ham-Gazers of the Day
Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) and Carlos Sastre (Team CSC)
They both lost 57" to Rasmussen and Contador on Monday on a course where they shouldn't have lost anything. For Sastre, he has to attack hard tomorrow if he wants to make the final podium. Evans would also do well to take some time back on the two men ahead of him tomorrow, though if can just avoid further time losses he might be okay.

Carlos Sastre finishes Stage 15 Photo

Evans is in 3rd on GC and it's not a stretch to think he could take 4' 00 from Rasmussen and 1' 37" from Contador in the final time trial. Sastre is 5th on GC at 6' 46" back, and he can't time trial well, so attacking in the mountains is his only option. With so many people having so many good reasons to attack tomorrow, it should shape up to be one of the finest stages in years. And remember this: in the mountains, GC riders always hold back just a little because they know that there are still more mountains to come. Tomorrow is the last big mountain stage, so the GC men are going to be letting it all hang out.

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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