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95th Tour de France - Le Tour Report Card: Stage 14
By Staff
Date: 7/20/2008
95th Tour de France - Le Tour Report Card: Stage 14

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.

Special awards
• 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 stages.

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 peloton.

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.

Honourable mentions
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 sprinter.

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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