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95th Tour de France: Jambon Report, Stage 12
By Andy McGrath
Date: 7/17/2008
95th Tour de France: Jambon Report, Stage 12

Golden Hams of the Day

  • Mark “The Cocksure Cavalier” Cavendish (Team Columbia)
    The boy done good. One stage win was enough to confirm his status as cycling’s next big little thing. But the two other triumphs have just hit in the psychological hammer-blows to his rival sprinters, as well as sending British fans into paroxysms of sheer delight. Cavendish – at his cocksure, cavalier and Columbia-cosseted best - is untouchable at the moment. After having to move up inside the last 2 kilometres, the casual way he sprang through the middle of the bunch today shows again that he is peerless. God help the other sprinters when he gets consistently good positioning. Moreover, god help the interviewers when his interview vocabulary expands beyond the frequent usage of "You know". He’s expected to abandon in the Alps and from there, it’s next stop Beijing, though frankly it won't matter at all if he bombs.

  • Sebastien “But I’m Better Than My Brother!” Chavanel (Cofidis)
    It’s easy to forget that the French are occasionally good for other things apart from champagne, suicide breaks and losing wars. Once or twice in the Tour, Jimmy Casper or Sebastien Chavanel come good to challenge in the bunch sprints; today was one of those examples. The only thing separating Seb Chavanel from a maiden Tour win was the peerless Cavendish. Looking at the positives, the Francaise des Jeux sprinter gets to put one over a certain someone who is arguably disproportionately paid and adored considering his results - his older brother Sylvain. I’m sure their mother is equally proud of both of them…

  • Juan Jose “Ole Ole Ole” Oroz (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Arnaud Gerard (Francaise des Jeux) and Samuel “The Dwarf” Dumoulin (Cofidis)
    Kudos to today’s transition stage breakaways: Oroz, Gerard and Dumoulin were gone with the wind for most of today’s stage, though it ultimately ended in vain. As for the diminutive Dumoulin, he is just doing it for fun now that he’s taken the obligatory annual French stage win and subsequently will never have to buy another pastis in his life. Alas, the midget rodeo will continue to miss one of its stars, but their loss has been his country’s gain this July. French cycling takes a lot of stick (see above), but in all seriousness, their never-say-die attitude cannot be faulted. If there is any justice in this world, it will be rewarded by another stage win before Paris.

Ham-Gazers of the Day

  • Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Erik Zabel (Team Milram) etc.
    Tour stage winners and green jersey wearers past and present: that blue hobbit-like flash galloping up the road is Mark Cavendish. I suggest you chase him as he is making you look very slow and foolish. The cycling annals will, if things stay as they are, document Freire as the green jersey winner this year. However, cycling fans and historians already know that the star sprinter of this year’s race is Mark Cavendish.

  • Sebastian “Loving-the-Drug-Losers” Lang (Gerolsteiner) and Vincenzo "The Shark" Nibali (Liquigas)
    ‘Wha, huh? How did this happen?’ think Sebastian Lang and Vincenzo Nibali this morning. With de la Fuente and Ricco out of the picture, suddenly the duo find themselves in the polka-dot jersey and white jersey respectively. As the pack heads east towards the Alps, the King of the Mountains competition is wide open. Anyone could win, and it will may well hinge on the three Hors-Cat monsters in the Alpe d’Huez stage. As for the Young Riders competition, Nibali only has three other rivals within five minutes: Roman Kreuziger, Maxime Monfort and Andy Schleck.

Genetically-Modified Hams

  • Beltran was a member of the old guard, Duenas on the periphery of minor stardom. But, without a doubt, Riccardo Ricco is the biggest star to be caught yet. It seems likely to materialise that he was super-drugged on Superbesse. Moreover, that explosive attack on the Aspin was just incredible, leaving everyone else as if they were just standing still. We wanted to believe it to be possible, but insiders and cynics alike will see this result in particular as the explosion of a ticking timebomb: Ricco has been suspicious for several years now. Alas, the Cobra’s poison has infected the whole team, as Saunier Duval have felt the need to say au revoir to the race. Do they know something we don’t? Let’s not jump to conclusions but, suffice to say, Piepoli and Cobo’s urine samples from Hautacam will be under Free-Willy-esque levels of heavy scrutiny this week. Let's not forget Frank Schleck either. Unfortunately, in this current uber-fragile atmosphere, any exciting accelerations or unexpected stage performance are liable to the utmost examinations.

    Two worrying things too. Firstly, Ricco’s test was taken from the Cholet time-trial where he finished a lowly 115th. 115th! Clearly, performance-enhancing drugs just ain’t what they used to be. It (almost) seems ridiculous to have drugs found in your bloodstream for such a sub-standard performance. Secondly, we have seen three positive tests from the first four stages of the 2008 Tour alone. My word, Tom Boonen is fast looking like a choirboy for his cocaine-related indiscretions. The sadly-pertinent question is, who will be the next big fish to be caught in the doping net?

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