95th Tour de France - le Tour Report Card: Stage 15
The Tour journeys into neighboring Italy on a wet day filled with action. An
Aussie wins the stage but probably not the one you were thinking of…
By Tim Lee
More useless trivia for you all. The tour has never had a stage finish at
Prato Nevoso but the Giro has. The last occasion was in 2000 when Stefano
Garzelli out sprinted then-race leader Francesco Casagrande and went on to claim
the overall race win. That day, seven riders finished within a minute of the
stage victor. Interesting huh?
Contrastingly, last time the Tour had a stage finish in Italy was in 1999 at
Sestrieres when some Armstrong guy tore the field apart and only one rider (Alex
Zulle) finished with a minute of the stage winner. It was Armstrong’s fifth tour
stage win but his first at altitude, which was a surprise at the time but became
all too familiar in the ensuing years of his domination.
There were surprises aplenty today, so much so that some new grading scores
had to be introduced into today’s report card. Here it is:
A- Outstanding achievement worthy of all superlatives known to mankind.
B- Damn fine effort but falling just short of stardom
C- Middle-oh-the-road but can hold their head high
D- Needs improving but there is a skerrick of hope
E- Remedial classes required. No good can come from this.
F- Indicates a fall has taken place and is worthy of mention.
R- Stands for repeat. When a rider needs to return to next year’s tour for
• 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.
The tour camera helicopter hovers over the peloton as it passes in stage 6.
Photo © 2008 Simon
A - Simon ‘Go
go’ Gerrans entered the break today because he had a day off from
helping team leader Thor Hushovd. As a child Gerrans grew up in the next paddock
over from a certain Phil Anderson, who introduced him to the sport. Since then
he has often stated his desire for a Tour stage win but never in his wildest
dreams would he have expected to claim a summit finish at le Tour. He was on the
ropes several times when Pate and Martinez were pushing the pace on the Prato
Nevoso but dug deep to hold their wheels. It paid very wealthy dividends in the
end when he burst away shortly before the finish to claim Credit Agricole’s
second win at this year’s Tour. Very welcome no doubt, given the team is one of
many searching for a new sponsor next year. Next stop post-Tour is to help Cadel
B - Bernard ‘Col’ Kohl -
The aptly named (but not spelt) the Austrian is having a tour to
remember. In both big mountain top finishes so far Bernie has put time into the
favourites group and is starting to look quite threatening if he can continue in
the same manner. He is now seven seconds from yellow and has a handsome, but far
from unassailable lead in the Mountains competition.
Bernhard Kohl and Carlos Sastre climb in the yellow jersey group.
2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti
C - ‘Lanky’ Frank Schleck and
Carlos ‘Astra’ Sastre piled on the totally expected pressure today
and both gained as a result. In a great day from CSC Schleck senior now sits in
yellow that was so tantalizingly close for five days and Sastre has moved to
within 49 seconds of the lead. With two riders in the top six CSC can now play
the numbers game against the other highly placed riders. The signs are ominous
and they will surely attack like it is going out of fashion in the next two
D - Cadel
‘Rock star’ Evans didn’t have a great day today. He always looks
god-awful on his bike when the road heads skyward and today was no exception;
but he limited his losses and rode a smart race. If the TT was tomorrow he would
still be in the driver’s seat but with two mountainous stages to come he will
surely hope for a change of fortune. Maybe riding back in the anonymity of his
Silence Lotto kit will relieve some pressure and allow him to fully concentrate
on the race at hand.
E - Damiano ‘blondie’ Cunego
has had a tour to forget up to this point but many thought the Italian roads may
be the catalyst for the little prince to bounce back and show the world his
incredible ability to ignore gravity. Alas he finished about three minutes down
on the big guns. Something has seriously gone awry for the gifted Italian since
finishing a promising fourth in the Tour de Suisse.
F- Today’s report card also includes
the mark ‘F’. This does not signal fail, but rather fall. Oscar ‘Carrera’
Pereiro performed a triple summersault back flip in the pike position as he flew
over a guard rail and landed a long way from where he went off the road. That
signaled the end of the Tour for poor Oscar who now has his first DNF in a Tour
in his fifth appearance. Luckily, he ‘only’ sustained a displaced humeral
fracture and didn’t do anything more brutal.
Denis ‘The menace’ Menchov put in an
attack at just over three clicks to go but unfortunately became intimately
acquainted with the asphalt shortly after. In a sporting gesture, the group held
a short ceasefire until he was back on.
At about 48km to go there was a pretty spectacular bilateral roundabout crash
involving the likes of Sebastian Lang, David Millar, Vincenzo Nibali, Damiano
Cunego, and Christian Vande Velde. Roundabout shots always look spectacular from
the aerial view, but even more so when it looks like a game of human skittles…
R - Stands for repeat. These guys
pulled out today and so need to come back next year to see if they can score a
pass grade. Mark Renshaw will be sorely missed by Thor Hushovd after launching
the Norwegian rocket so successfully in stage two. Stijn Devolder also pulled
out but little has been made of it.
Better days... Stage 6 All French Break: Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ), Fredy Bichot
(Agritubel) and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis)
Photo © 2008 Simon
OFE - What, no French riders in the
breakaway? The Frenchies will be kicking themselves too, as the break
successfully evaded the clutches of the main field all the way to the line. Well
at least there were two French teams in the break, so all was not lost today for
the home nation. First Frenchman over the line was Sandy ‘Beaches’ Casar who now
trails stage 11 hero Amael Moinard by five seconds for the honour of highest
placed local rider in the Tour.
‘Handy’ Andy Schleck rebounded from a down
day on Hautacam to be a super domestique deluxe today. He whittled the front
group down and lay the foundations for both Sastre and Schleck senior to gain
time. He also conveniently closed the gap to Vincenzo Nibali to 12 seconds in
the young riders classification. This guy is so physically talented he has the
potential to be the next Schleck… Hang on a minute(!)
A gruppetto with maillot vert Oscar Freire that would finish almost 21 minutes
down on stage winner Simon Gerrans. Photo ©
2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti
A salute to the domestiques - Having
worked their buns off to protect, support and deliver their leaders to the final
sprint or climb during an alpine stage often working to the point of exhaustion.
To survive the riders form gruppettos working together to perform a balancing
act of effort. First to go fast enough to avoid being eliminated for finishing
over the time limit, and second to conserve as much energy as possible for the
next stage when they will be called on to wake up in the morning and do it
again; be it a flattish sprinters stage or one of a series of climbing days...
A gruppo climbs the Prato Nevoso including: George Hincapie, John Lee
Augustyn, Erik Zabel, Haimar Zubeldia, Peter Weening, Marco Marzano and Peter
Velits. Photo ©
2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti
Each of these "domestiques" long ago rode through the gauntlet of racing from
amateur, U23 circuits to attain their position in the professional ranks where
they will be called upon to sacrifice their ambitions to the goals of the team.
It can be easily forgotten that their results do not represent their ability or
talent; each of these rider if given the opportunity could win a stage or ride
the legs off a top amateur.
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