95th Tour de France- Le Tour Report Card: Stage 14
France dished out more sublime weather today and in turn the race gave us some
equally magnificent action. The skies were blue but the finish was all green…
By Tim Lee
On paper this stage only had two fourth category climbs but on closer
inspection the profile rises about 600m from start to finish and the climbs
themselves were strategically located, especially the final climb coming just
nine km from the finish. Only the toughest of the sprinters would make it to the
finish with the big boys, or would it be a breakaway? Lets see how the Report
Card interpreted the action.
A- Outstanding achievement worthy of all the superlatives known to mankind.
B- Damn good effort but falling just short of stardom.
C- Middle-of-the-rode but can hold their heads high.
D- Needs improving but there’s a skerrick of hope.
E- Remedial classes required. No good can come from this.
• OFE- Obligatory French Escape. Nuff said
• le Tour Farceur - Imbécile or el Tonto Payaso... Otherwise known as the ’tool’
award, this goes to the rider that makes a decision that 99% of us can see is
either wrong or futile but they think there is merit to it.
• There will also be some honourable mentions to those that excel but just don’t
quite get the result they were after. Think Paolo Bettini at the Giro.
A - Oscar ‘Houdini’ Freire unleashed his trademark late surge to smoke
everyone in the final 50 metres today. Without Team Columbia driving the pace,
the sprint was quite disorganised in the final kilometre until the triple world
champion finally pulled into top gear to take a classy win. The win was all the
more impressive given the bulk of Rabobank is designated to helping the ice man
Menchov. He has now extended his lead in the green jersey competition and is
looking solid as the race heads towards Paris. Isn’t it nice to see
classification leaders actually winning in their respective classifications and
not just steadily building their leads with non-descript performances?
Vittoria Oscar Freire!!! Photo ©
2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti
B - Jose Ivan ‘Motor man’ Gutierrez
was in the day’s major break and felt the
impetus going out with 25km to go. He may have preferred to keep the company for
a little longer but had to go to have any chance at staying away but it wasn’t
to be. After making Casar and Tankink look a little second-class the multiple
Spanish TT champ powered on but started to fade on the final climb. At the very
least he put Caisse d’Epargne on the TV for a while and saved his team from
having to chase but it would have been nice to see him last all the way to the
finish and take home a rare victory outside of Spain. Next time eh?
Jose Ivan Gutierrez Photo courtesy Abarca Sports
C - Erik ‘Geriatric’ Zabel
just can’t help but keep on turning those decrepit old
pins over and over can he? But with more top three performance than some of the
younger, supposedly fresher pairs of legs he really has redefined the word
consistency. With performances like these, it is quite sad to think that we
could be seeing the German in his last tour and even last season. For a guy that
has given the sport so much (lets forget about last year’s confession’) it would
be wonderful if the old man of sprinting could pick up his first stage win since
2002 and go out on a high.
Erik Zabel - Focused before stage 4. Photo ©
2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti
D - Thor ‘Husky’ Hushovd is known as a sprinter who can hang tough when the
finish is not pancake flat. However today he could only manage 10th and as a
result he now finds himself 37 points adrift in the green jersey competition.
Things were looking pretty rosy after stage two when he won the stage and
donned Maillot Vert but this goal has become slightly pear-shaped in recent
A better day to remember, Thor wins stage 2. Photo ©
2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti
E - Team Barloworld. The report card two days ago mentioned that a stage win was
much needed to lift the morale and we thought things could not get much worse;
but two days is a long time in modern cycling. With Baden Cooke withdrawing from
the Tour and now Barloworld announcing that they are pulling the financial plug
straight after the tour things certainly are looking pretty grim. The four
remaining riders in the race certainly must be about as happy to be in this
situation as the Euskatel-Euskadi are to ride a team time trial. Here’s hoping a
replacement can be found and they can continue on in their current guise.
OFE - Sandy ‘Beaches’ Casar and
William ‘Ixnay on the’ Bonnet were part of a larger
group that broke away five kilometres into the stage but then made the crucial
break of the day, which only included two other riders. Casar thankfully avoided
any dogs on the course this year but neither could avoid the catch of the
le Tour Farceur Imbécile Award
Thankfully no one really justified the tag of ‘tool’ today so we will have to
wait until tomorrow to see if the nonsense behaviour continues.
Sylvain ‘Brick wall’ Chavanel just keeps on trying to attack at the business end
of these stages and consistently rides into what we affectionately call the
psychological brick wall that comprises either his own physical limitations or
the unmatchable strength of the chase behind. Inevitably he finds himself
getting caught but one of these days it is going to work. He is easily having
the best season of his career so it could happen in the next week.
Julian ‘Stepping out of the shadow’ Dean made it over the final climb today and
sprinted home for fourth. A good effort in itself, but perhaps more impressive
when considered that his former boss Hushovd could only manage tenth. Being
beaten by a former lead-out man must be the height of embarrassment for a
Leonardo Piepoli and
Moises Duenas Nevados score a positive press because they
have at least manned up to tell the truth about their pathetic existence, unlike
some others who sulk away muttering excuses and justifications.
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