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95th Tour de France - le Tour Report Card: Stage 15
 
By Staff
Date: 7/21/2008
95th Tour de France - le Tour Report Card: Stage 15
 

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:

Grading
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 redemption.

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.


The tour camera helicopter hovers over the peloton as it passes in stage 6. Photo © 2008 Simon Alderson

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 in Beijing.

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.
Photo © 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 Alpine stages.

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 Alderson

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.

Honourable mentions
‘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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