|Golden Hams of the Day|
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- "Capo" Baden Cooke and "Mad" Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com). The Aussie Sprint Mafia took control again today. FDJeux.com hung back and didn't do much work until the end. In the final few kilometers, McGee attacked and then stayed near the front to help out his teammate Cooke. Heading into the final straightaway, Cooke was in third wheel behind Jaan Kirsipuu (AG2r Prevoyance) and Jean-Patrick Nazon (Jean Delatour). They were along the left barriers, but then Cooke jumped to the middle of the road at the perfect time to take a great win. His stage victory not only moved him into 3rd on GC at 4", but also preserved the lead of McGee from the challenge of McEwen and Zabel. Cooke is also in 2nd in the points competition, only 1 point behind McEwen. With another good day tomorrow, Cooke could take both the Yellow and the Green Jerseys. As it is, the Aussie Sprint Mafia is dominating the top of the leaderboards.
- Jean-Patrick Nazon and Frederic Finot (Jean Delatour). Jean Delatour finally showed up to race today. Finot was out front for most of the stage: he started in a two-man breakaway with Lilian Jegou (Credit Agricole), but Finot attacked with over 40km left to ride solo to the finish. He looked like he might actually hold on to win the stage and take the Yellow Jersey. He was finally brought back in the final 3km by an insanely fast charge led by the sprinters' teams, but in the final stretch the sprint was led out by Nazon. He probably started the sprint too soon, but given that and the fact that he was stuck on the front, Nazon did a great job to take 2nd place behind Cooke. He's now moved into 6th on GC only 6" behind McGee, and Yellow is not out of the question if he has a good day tomorrow.
- The domestiques for Lotto-Domo, Telekom, Fassa Bortolo, and Quickstep-Davitamon They didn't get the stage win, but these men put in one hell of a chase to bring back the very determined Finot. It really looked like they'd blown it, but then they kicked into higher gear in the final 10km to shut down the breakaway. They will be frustrated that their sprinters didn't get the win (or at least a Yellow Jersey), but the strength they showed should be a source of encouragement in the stages to come.
Grazed Hams of the Day
- Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). Okay, so he's not in the same form as the Giro. Petacchi's men worked on the front all day, and he looked good when he won the sprint for 3rd in the final intermediate sprint. Then he got shelled in the final 5km and wasn't able to contest the sprint. His win yesterday was awesome, and he'll likely be back to contest more sprints down the road, but today his legs went south on him and took away his dream of a Yellow or Green Jersey.
- Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) and Erik Zabel (Telekom). These two sprinters also didn't do so well today after a huge turn by their teams on the front. McEwen did manage to take 3rd in the second intermediate sprint, and that plus his 6th in the finale kept him in the Green Jersey (barely). But today his dreams were of Yellow, and with the rise of Cooke, it looks like he will be hard-pressed to take the Yellow Jersey from the feisty FDJeux.coms. Zabel wanted to win on his birthday, and his 4th in the final sprint wasn't bad. He's now in 3rd at 7 points behind Cooke in the Green Jersey competition, and the German Champion's consistency could prove to be a decisive factor once they hit Paris.
- Lance Armstrong (US Postal presented by Berry Floor) and Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi). Today the big GC favorites stayed out of trouble and just followed the hams of their teammates. Lance had a small contusion yesterday, but said this morning that he was fine. Both are saving their energy and doing just exactly what they have to do to be successful in the final two weeks.
Crazy Jane's Jambons Délicieux: Stage 2
- Tyler "One-Armed Bandit" Hamilton (CSC). Tyler once again showed today that he is one of the toughest men in the peloton: he completed the stage in 100th place in the same time as Cooke in spite of his broken collarbone. He was surrounded by his teammates all day, and his injury will likely still force him from the race eventually. However, today he gave his fans a ray of hope, as he brought back memories of his 2nd on GC in the 2002 Giro (when he overcame a broken shoulder he suffered in the first week). Tyler's ability to hold on this long is amazing, and if he actually manages to finish this race and be competitive on GC his American fans will just go absolutely batcrap crazy with joy.
- Jimmy Casper (FDJeux.com). Like with Hamilton, I can't believe Casper finished the stage today. He was dropped towards the end, but he was riding with a danged neck brace all day. His injury is such that the prospect of Casper finishing in Paris is not bad if he can hold on and rehabilitate his neck over the next couple of days. Here's hoping the tough Frenchman can hold on and contribute to his team's already amazing successes in this year's Tour.
Tyler Hamilton - Yesterday, we at the Jambon awards were bemoaning the loss of the 2002 Giro's little engine that could, but today, like the rockstar he is, that toughguy is back in the saddle. The official word from the judges here is that there is nothing more délicieux than courage and grit like that. Little Tyler may be a teensy bit accident prone, but he's shown that he has the heart of a lion. Oh, and he's as cute as a button, too. Allez, Tyler!
Commentators Phil Liggett & Paul Sherwin - In what other sport could you have the commentators cheering the breakaway as hard as you are? When Phil ramps up the excitement to call the sprint, I am on the edge of my seat; and there's nothing better than when Phil goes out on a precarious limb of prognostication and Paul cuts in with the voice of reason. Phil and Paul have been at this for years, and what comes through day after day is their immense passion for cycling. Their empathy for the riders and encyclopedic knowledge of the sport guarantees crack coverage of all the action, but what I love most is the emotion; the way Phil gasped today as Finot was caught, knowing how disappointed the young Frenchmen must have been not to be able to hold on. I can't wait until someone drags his "huge carcass" over the mountains or reaches "deep into his suitcase of courage." At bottom, I always feel like Phil and Paul are all about the love, and that is délicieux.
Give us your picks! Are we missing your most délicieux rider in our line up? drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, and help us celebrate the beauty of cycling!