On another hot day, David Millar (COF) took out his first road stage in the Tour with a fine performance, outsprinting breakaway mates David Etxebarria (EUS) and Laurent "Le Mop" Brochard (DEL). The three were originally in a group of eleven that attacked early and dominated the action in the stage. The original breakaway included Millar, Etxebarria, Brochard, Bobby Julich (TEL), Michael Boogerd (RAB), Miguel Martinez (MAP), David Latasa (BAN), Javier Pascual Rodriguez (BAN), Eddy Mazzoleni (TAC), Beat Zberg (RAB), and the incredible Laurent Jalabert (CST). Postal was more than happy to let these riders go, expecting that sooner or later either the sprinters or other GC riders would come to the front to help with the pace.
The break built up a lead of just under 14', moving Jalabert--the highest-placed rider in the breakaway--into the virtual top five on the GC. Jalabert also took all of the King of the Mountain points on the stage, stretching his lead in that competition. While Telekom sat on in the peloton due to having a teammate up the road, the other team with a good sprinter, Lotto-Adecco, sat on for no apparent reason at all. Finally, Lampre-Daikin sent riders to the front to protect their 4th place rider Raimondas Rumsas, and their work brought the gap to the breakaways down quickly during the last 15km. Within the last 15km, Millar leapt off the front of the breakaway group and only Boogerd, Etxebarria, Brochard, and Latasa were able to join him. There were a flurry of attacks amongst these five leaders in the last few kilometers, but all of them were thwarted. Etxebarria and Brochard looked to be the best sprinters in the break, but Millar had other ideas. Latasa led out the sprint up the left side with Etxebarria on his wheel. Then Brochard put in a blistering attack as the group drifted to the right, with Millar catching Brochard's wheel and moving around Latasa and Etxebarria. Then Millar made his move, going around Brochard on the left. Etxebarria grabbed Millar's wheel, but couldn't make it around the powerful surge of the talented Englishman. Millar took the sprint, followed in order by Etxebarria, Boogerd, Brochard, and Latasa. The peloton came to the line 9' 56" behind Millar, with Baden Cooke (FDJ) once again getting the better of McEwen (LOT) and Zabel (TEL) in the sprint. McEwen's finish one place ahead of Zabel now has the two riders tied in the points competition, a race which is likely to go down to the final sprint in Paris.
See the live report for the stage and GC results.
Ham-Gazers of the Day:
Golden Hams of the Day:
- Lotto-Adecco. Once again they didn't even bother trying to help chase down a breakaway on a flat stage. Don't they want to help McEwen win the Green Jersey? He seems to be out there all alone these days.
- ONCE-Eroski. They sat behind the Postal train and saved their energy for the Alps while letting Lance's boys tire themselves out. They will have to start to play their final cards tomorrow up the dreaded Mont Ventoux. Beloki has said that the ONCE boys will begin their attacks on Ventoux's moonscape. Beloki's boys look to have the strength to at least challenge Armstrong, so here's hoping that they live up to Beloki's words, as their wheel-sucking is starting to get a bit boring.
- Laurent Jalabert, CSC-Tiscali. He attacked. Again. Where does he get the energy? I can barely manage to roll out of bed and sit in front of my TV to watch him ride. He was amazing, again, and will hopefully win the Mountains competition. His ride today also landed him in the top ten on GC: he's now in 9th, 8' 57" behind Armstrong.
- David Millar, CSC-Tiscali. He bonked hard yesterday, but rebounded today to take a hard and well-earned victory. Kudos to Millar, who does just seem to keep getting better and better.
- Laurent Brochard, Jean Delatour; David Etxebarria, Euskaltel-Euskadi. They have both rescued their teams from obscurity in this Tour. Etxebarria has put in the only serious attacks from the team that was supposed to light up the mountains. His talent and perseverence has kept them from becoming the joke of the Tour. Maybe they are waiting for the Alps? I hope so, because their attacks are usually a joy to watch.
Finally, I would like to change the additions to the "Belli Club" for fighting riders that I made yesterday. Upon further review of the tapes, the comments of the riders, and judgment of the race jury, I've decided to remove Carlos Sastre (CST) from this club. The thin-skinned Christophe Moreau (CA) clearly initiated the confrontation, taking at least two punches at Sastre and riding hard into his wheel (see related stories here and here. For his part, Sastre did nothing other than try to fend off the bullying of a surly Frenchman who has suffered off the back all race. With that in mind, Moreau stays in the club and Sastre is excused.