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.
• 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
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
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
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…
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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