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95th Tour de France - le Tour Report Card: Stage 17
By Staff
Date: 7/23/2008
95th Tour de France - le Tour Report Card: Stage 17

95th Tour de France- le Tour Report Card: Stage 17
The queen stage delivers all the anticipated fireworks and sets up a thrilling final time trial in two days to decide the winner of this year’s Tour.

By Tim Lee

Wow what a day! The strongest team in the race again piled on the pressure that resulted in another change of leadership, the seventh of this tour since it started in Brittany what seems like an eternity ago. All the big guns made it to Bourg d’Oisans together for the ultimate showdown on the last big climb of this year’s Tour. The 21 hairpins provided the platform for some awesome action that will be integral to the final outcome of the race. How did your rider fare? Allow le report card to analyse the best, worst and everything in between of today’s stage.

A- Outstanding achievement worthy of all superlatives known to mankind.
B- Damn fine effort but falling just short of stardom.
C- Middle-of-the-road but can hold head high.
D- Needs improving but a skerrick of hope remains.
E- Remedial classes required. No goo can come from this.
F- Not fail, but rather fall. This goes to the most spectacular bungle of the day.

Special awards
• OFE- Obligatory French Escape. Nuff said
• le Tour Farceur Imbécile. 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- Carlos ‘Astra’ Sastre. The Spanish veteran conducted a school on how to win the tour with sheer guts today. Yes he had a team that would make the incredible hulk look like a runt but at the end of the day he still had to deliver the final knockout punch on the famed Alpe d’Huez. The equation was simple: he needed to take minutes, not seconds. After an appetizer that was shut down by Menchov he then launched the killer blow and was not seen again until the finish. Despite the fact that the ten best riders in the race were together behind him, Sastre consistently pulled away to a maximum advantage of about two and a half minutes which was only reduced in the final kilometre by the counter attacks of Sanchez and junior Schleck.

B- Fabian ‘Man’s man’ Cancellara. This guy is not small but his driving on the front for his leaders over the Col de le Croix de Fer softened (or is that deadened?) everyone’s legs in the lead group. Then just as his praises were being sung as if he was going to roll into the finish with le autobus he pops up on the valley road and stretches it out again until Bourg d’Oisans. Absolutely brilliant!

C- Peter ‘Velo’ ‘Velits. The young Slovakian rode a great stage today to drop yesterday’s breakaway hero Stefan ‘Schuey’ Schumacher and make it over the Col de la Croix de Fer alone in the lead. He was caught early on the final climb up Alpe d’Huez but he had shown himself to be a strong rider for the future whose star will surely continue to rise. Probably the highlight of le Tour for Milram thus far.

D- Cadel ‘Rock Star' Evans. Things were looking good for the Aussie at the start of the final climb. Menchov was dropped and Sastre was not gaining much time. But Cadel soon found out the hard way what it means to be the favourite in a group with multiple team mates of the guy up the road. Eventually he could not afford to wait anymore and came to the front with four clicks to go to try to reduce the damage Sastre was doing but the gap had already blown out to over two minutes. He is now left with a 1’34’’ deficit to Sastre, which sets up a thrilling final time trial in stage 20. Oh and Menchov bridged back up to the Evans’ group to add a little more salt to an already aching wounds…

E- Jimmy ‘Ghost’ Casper was in trouble on the first climb of the day today, which this report card puts in the “not ideal” category especially when there are two Hors Categorie climbs remaining. Not known as anything even vaguely resembling a climber, poor Jimmy was eliminated today as he finished outside the time limit.

F- Within a span of about 20km both George Hincapie and Bernhard Eisel hit the tarmac and subsequently showed some extra skin for the remainder of the stage. Neither was seriously injured but it reflected the bad day for Team Columbia that also saw Kim Kirchen drop outside of the top ten on GC.

le Tour Farceur Imbécile Award
The stage 16 report card was critical of Yaroslav ‘where’s the logic’ Popovych spending precious bikkies on a rather futile escape the day before the queen stage of le Tour. One wonders what Evans thought of this on Alpe d’Huez when he really was looking for some cooperation in the chase of Sastre? Popovych was utterly dominant as a junior and espoir and has the ability to himself be a challenger in le Tour but he is really has not shown it at this year’s Tour.

OFE - Sure Remy Di ‘Gregarious’ Gregorio and Jerome ‘Pina Colada’ Pineau were impressive but today’s award has to go to Stefane ‘Grand daddy’ Goubert. Not strictly an escape as the name of this award suggests, but Goubert was the first French rider home today. Even more impressive was that he didn’t do it in a long-range breakaway, but rather stayed with the favourites until the end. Even more impressive still is that he is the oldest man in the race at 38 (yes, there is someone older than Zabel still riding). He rode superbly to help his team’s designated GC riders Efimkin and Valjavec, riding guys 17-years his junior off his wheel!

Honourable mentions
On such an epic day it is difficult to single out particular riders because everyone rode their hearts out today. However Team CSC were truly beyond impressive today. O’Grady and Sorensen drove the pace on the flats in the first half of the stage; Voigt and Gustov worked tirelessly on the valley roads; Cancellara and Arvesen were awesome on the lower slopes of the climbs; while Schleck senior and junior played the perfect team mates on the final climb to enable Sastre to make the gains he did. The best team performance in years that would rival any of the efforts from USPS/Discovery.

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