After a week of fast racing and lots of crashes, part of which took
most of the Credit Agricole team out of contention, the Tour has finally
arrived to its magical terrain, the mountains. Names like Col de
la Madelaine, Tourmalet, La Plagne are mystical locations and this Thursday,
the real race begins.
What, Lance Lost a Time Trial?
Hey, you over there, thinking this is the end of the world, snap out
of it. This is after all, what we all wanted to see, a real fight
in Le Tour. There were so many comments at the beginning of the race, ďLance
will win big...Thereís nobody who can beat Lance ...blah...blah...blah... yadda...yadda...yadda...yadda.Ē
And after the first time trial, the time gaps are not as huge as in years
past, and the interesting thing is that the riders still in contention
are starting to believe that maybe one of them can defeat the Texan.
ONCE is still there, carrying the yellow jersey and keeping their two
main guys on top, but how hard will Manolo Saiz drive his boys before they
show signs of cracking? The vociferous manager has told the team
that he is expecting more than just a good showing this year, and that
will add extra pressure to Gonzalez de Galdeano and Beloki to perform at
the highest level and go for broke.† Can they do it? Hey you!
Yes, you, the one asking too many questions, am I a fortune teller?
I think not!
Many people chose to follow a rider and declare themselves ďhis biggest
fan," just to turn around and bash the poor bastard when things go south.
Well, I will not do that here, instead, I will offer the German star some
advice. But before I do that, Iím still a fan of Tom Steels regardless
of him leaving the tour without giving my fantasy team a single point.
After all, good olí Tom has won no less than seven Tour stages and that
alone, in my book, is good enough. But now, back to the man with the injured
knee. Two words for the Telekom rider: ERIK DEKKER!!!!!!!!!!
So what if your knee hurts and you had troubles with the booze and some
extracurricular activities that have made your boss think twice why the
heck you are still wearing the pink tunic. Donít come here looking
for some compassion, because thereís none. Instead, follow the example
of ďMr. Triple Stage Winner in one Tour.Ē The dude breaks his
leg at Milan-San Remo and many in
the know consider his season a complete loss.† Instead, the Rabobank
man hits the pool and gets on with some serious rehab work, gets back on
the bike, trains like hell and helps a teammate win his first stage at
the Tour de FRANCE! (And he came close to winning the darn thing himself).
He got dropped, and instead of running home crying to momma, he put his
nose to the stem and caught the group. Not happy with that, he attacked
several times, working the break and laying the ground work for Kroonís
victory. Not that Karsten doesnít deserve credit, but it was good
for the youngster to have such an experienced man wearing the same colored
jersey. So Jan, come back from vacation, smell the roses and get
on the bike, stop running away from your problems. It is up to you.
I mentioned last week that I was hoping for an unknown rider to steal
the show. Maybe not win the race, but give Lance and the rest a run
for their money.† Well, Iím going to put my money on Raimondas Rumsas.
The man from Lampre, yes Lampre and not Fassa Bartolo (he did ride for
them last year), as was reported on another site, is my pick for the Dark
Horse Award. Iím hoping that he delivers a performance just like
Salvodelli did at the Giro.† Hang in there, lurk in the shadows of
the so-called protagonists, and hit them when they least expect it.†
So here it is, to a royal battle in the mountains of France.† May
the best man win.
Ride hard, ride fast!
P.S. Hope to see some of you in Colorado. Thatís if I have enough
oxygen in my lungs to talk to you. See you in two weeks.