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95th Tour de France - le Tour Report Card: Stage 19
By Staff
Date: 7/26/2008
95th Tour de France - le Tour Report Card: Stage 19

95th Tour de France- le Tour Report Card: Stage 19
The last realistic chance for a break to succeed sees the most aggressive rider in this year’s tour finally get his time in the sun…

By Tim Lee

Another ‘recovery’ day before Saturday’s showdown meant the time was ripe for one last breakaway in this year’s Tour. With 11 teams still without a stage success on what was the last realistic chance to go up the road, there was no shortage of attackers today. Surprise surprise it was two French teams that found the right combination to make it to the line first while the bunch was content to have an easy day and continue speculating whether or not Sastre had enough time in the bank for tomorrow’s time trial. Here is the analysis courtesy of le Tour’s very own report card:

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 good can come from this.
R- Stands for repeat. Given to riders who have failed this year and need to return for redemption in next year’s edition.

Special awards
• OFE- Obligatory French Escape. Nuff said really.
• le Tour Farceur Imbécile Award- Otherwise known as the ‘tool’ award given to the rider who makes a decision that 99% of us can see is either wrong or futile but they believe it has merit to it.
• Honourable mentions- For those that excel but just don’t quite get the result they are after. Thank Paolo Bettini at the Giro.

A - Sylvain ‘Better late than never’ Chavanel was mentioned in the stage 14 report card for his incessant attacking without getting the just reward. Having spent more time in a breakaway than anyone else -  415km to be precise - and been voted the most aggressive rider on no less than three stages, today’s winner has finally broken the drought! He’s been waiting eight years for today to come and it showed when he crossed the line looking happy as Larry. One of the most popular stage wins this year and thoroughly deserved. After missing the break yesterday Cofidis now have two stage wins this year, which can be considered a success for them. It’s too bad Chavanel just signed on the dotted line for Quickstep…

B - Gerald ‘Me too’ Ciolek won the bunch sprint for third today indicating he is coming out of his first Tour with some good form. After sacrificing his own chances for King Cavendish earlier in le Tour it would be fantastic to see the German speedster pull one out of the bag on the Champs in two days.

C - This goes not to a rider, but to a debate. The Carlos Vs Cadel debate is heating up like a Vindaloo curry the day before ‘Super Saturday’. In the red corner CSC are reported to be quietly confident of their man, while in the blue corner Silence-Lotto have been heard to state they like their man’s chances.

Everyone has an opinion and readily shares it except the two riders at the epicenter of the duel. Cadel will win because conventional wisdom would suggest he can- just look at previous TT results. But hang on Carlos will win because of the ‘yellow factor’ and the belief that the final TT does not favour the chrono specialist as it depends more on who is fresher after three weeks of racing. Then again, what if it rains? Or if someone has a flat tyre? Or if there are unforeseen circumstances? Oh the tension is too much just let the final battle begin!

D - Fabian ‘Man’s man’ Cancellara rolled in 3’35’’ behind the winner today looking physically drained and feeling the effects of working so tirelessly for his team over the past three weeks. Could it be that the big Suisse star is starting to crack and his Olympic dreams are not looking quite the shade of gold they have been? Possibly, but it is more likely he was saving himself for tomorrow’s TT where he will again start as favourite and no doubt be giving Sastre important time checks.

E - Wim ‘Tail end’ Vansevenant lost his ‘lead’ in the Lanterne Rouge Classification today. The Belgian who is riding his last Tour was hoping to go out on a high (or is that low?) by taking his third consecutive Lanterne Rouge but Bernhard Eisel may have spoilt this. The Austrian is now 42 seconds behind (or is that in front of?) Vansevenant in the race to finish last. It seems that the Maillot Jaune is not the only contest that will go down to the wire in the TT! Rumour has it that Silence-Lotto has produced a one-off non-production model Ridley to give Wim the edge tomorrow. It has Harley Davidson hangers, mountain bike tyres, and balloons hanging off the seat post to collect as much wind as possible in the hope of losing (or is that gaining?) those 42 seconds in the TT.

R - After a punishing and no doubt painful day yesterday Damiano ‘Blondie’ Cunego did not start today’s stage. Who can blame the little prince really? With a grazing to his face, chest and stomach the Italian had no reason to continue the tour with his hopes of a high place overall dashed. Here’s hoping he can get better and come out fighting soon.

Fabian Wegmann, Juan Antonio Flecha, and Roman Feillu all failed to make the time cut today. Their respective teams all attempted to persuade race officials to extend the time limit but were met with blunt refusals. As if it was not enough of a smack in the face to struggle to finish half an hour behind the bunch but then to be told that they could not start the next day would be a real blow to these guys. Such a pity to be so close to Paris and have to go home. They will all be back bigger and better next time.

OFE - Jeremy ‘Siegfried and’ Roy almost pulled a rabbit out of the hat today by coming so close to winning the stage. Another of Marc Madiot’s younger chargers put in a great attacking ride today and almost secured Francaise Des Jeux their first stage win of this year’s Tour. Not bad for a rider in his first Tour to be beaten by the vastly more experienced Chavanel. Next year eh?

le Tour Farceur Imbécile Award
No tools for the second day in a row. Shock horror! It cannot last surely…

Honourable Mention
Erik ‘Geriatric’ Zabel
is just a picture of consistency. He finished a strong second in the bunch kick today ahead of chief threats Duque and Hushovd. All going well the veteran German will finish second in the points classification in Paris which will be such a credit to the second oldest man in the race this year. How about this; Zabel has not finished worse than third in his favourite classification in his last 11 Tours, yes that is 11 Tours. It really will be such a shame when he finally hangs up his wheels.

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