|Golden Hams of the Day|
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Jean-Patrick Nazon (Jean Delatour). As I commented in the ticker, Jean-Marie LeBlanc is probably Mr. Happy now, dancing a merry jig while Mario Cipollini drinks another glass of wine on the beach and swears in Italian. The sprinter of the controversial Delatours came good today, taking 2nd place in the first and third intermediate sprints and winning the second one outright. This gave him 14" in time bonuses, enough to put him 8" ahead of Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com) on GC by the end of the day. He had nothing in the final sprint, coming in 14th, but he won't care: he has the Yellow Jersey, and has vindicated his team's selection in the minds of many. He should enjoy that Yellow Jersey while he can, because his team is going to get smoked in the team time trial tomorrow. He will likely hand that Jersey over to Victor Hugo Pena (US Postal), Joseba Beloki (ONCE-Eroski), Tyler Hamilton (CSC), Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi), or David Millar (Cofidis). These are the best-placed men in the teams that are favored for tomorrow, but Nazon won't care. His sponsors (including the American Ritchey company, who provide his bars and stem) will be ecstatic with this result. And as for Nazon, well, to paraphrase Robert DeNiro in The King of Comedy, it is better to be King for a day than anonymous for a whole lifetime. Nazon has earned his status as King of the Tour, and even if it's just for a day, he'll always remember July 8, 2003, as one of the best days of his life.
- Alessandro "Sir Perceval" Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). The noble and well-mannered Italian sprang back from a suck day yesterday, finding his way through that chaos of a finish to smoke everyone in the final sprint once again. His white and blue train gave him a great leadout through the wasteland of challengers in the final few kilometers, but that final sprint was a free-for-all that was about as Darwinian as you're going to see on the flats. He was on the wheel of Vainsteins, and then jumped around the Latvian before he could react and moved to the center of the road to hold everyone off for the victory. He didn't contest the intermediate sprints like Nazon and McEwen, and seemed to have more in the tank at the end as a result. He moves into 3rd in the Green Jersey competition 14 points behind McEwen, but he won't care…in this race, it's all about the stage wins. With Aitor Gonzalez riding like an also-ran, we could see a repeat of the Giro where Petacchi's great sprints save Fassa Bortolo from oblivion as their GC men struggle. Or maybe Ivan Basso will repeat his performance of last year and have another great ride in the mountains to join Petacchi as one of the heroes of the Tour.
- Romans Vainsteins and "California" Fred Rodriguez (Vini Caldirola-Sodi). Rodriguez gave Vainsteins a great leadout, even slowing to allow a Fassa rider come to the front so that he could leadout Vainsteins a little further near the end. Freddy had to fight like hell in the last 2km, sprinting several times to help Vainsteins move up to the sharp point of the field. Together, these two won the fight for position against such tough elbowmen like Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) and Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) to get a clear look at the finish line. Vainsteins did a great sprint for 2nd place, but got jumped by Petacchi and couldn't quite come around the Italian at the finish. Still, 2nd place against such a talented group of sprinters in such a sprinting free-for-all (Domina Vacanze, where art thou?) is a fine result. Look for these two to continue to be a factor in the sprints all the way into Paris.
Grazed Hams of the Day
- Erik Zabel (Telekom) and Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo). Once again these guys were out of the money, with Zabel coming in 4th and McEwen rolling across in 5th in the final sprint. McEwen held on to the Green Jersey and Zabel is still in 2nd in that competition, but these two will be eating their livers out about that fact that they haven't landed a stage win so far in the race. They will have lots of opportunities later on, but after tomorrow the Yellow Jersey will no longer be within their reach.
- "Red Stallion" Stuart O'Grady (Credit Agricole). Stuey came into the race with what looked like great form, but has been pretty anonymous so far. He was 10th in the final sprint today, 8th yesterday, and 13th the day before. His teammate Thor Hushovd announced that he wanted to race for Green this year, and so far he leads Stuey in that competition by 8 points (Hushovd is in 7th at 57pts, and Stuey is 10th at 49 pts). In past years, however, Stuey has gotten stronger as the race has gotten longer, while most of the other sprinters start to fade and lose their snap…especially after the mountains hit. So all is not lost, O'Grady fans, as "The Red Stallion" will likely start to climb up the Green Jersey standings and start to make some noise in the very near future.
- Lance "El Jefe" Armstrong (US Postal presented by Berry Floor), "RoboJan" Ullrich (Team Bianchi), and Joseba "Pedicure" Beloki (ONCE-Eroski). Yes, again. On the final day before the first major showdown, the big GC favorites followed the hams of their teammates and stayed out of trouble. Heck, Beloki was so relaxed that he stuck his foot in the window of his team car and got a pedicure in the middle of the stage. Beloki has a good shot at Yellow tomorrow, and Ullrich has a decent chance as well. Lance will be pushing hard too, but his teammate "The Notorious VHP," Victor Hugo Peña is 2" ahead of him on GC and would end up in Yellow if Postal wins the stage. After a few days of ham-gazing, it will be good to see the big guns come out to fire once again tomorrow.
Crazy Jane's Jambons Délicieux - Stage 3
- Michael "Ivory Smile" Boogerd (Rabobank). Things just go from bad to worse for the men in Orange and Blue. First they lost team leader Leipheimer and strongman Lotz in that Stage 1 crash. Then today, new team leader Boogerd went down and banged his knee. He got back up, dusted himself off, and finished in 89th at the same time as the winner. Still, this beaten up and demoralized team will have a very rough go of it tomorrow. Here's hoping that they recover and that Boogerd can repeat his brilliant mountaintop victory in the Alps from last year.
- Tyler "Nails" Hamilton. Tyler came across today in 43rd, in the same time as Petacchi. Tyler has been tough as nails since his Stage 1 crash, showing so much heart riding through that fractured collarbone that he deserved a nickname upgrade. Tyler is being worked on once again by his super-masseur Ole, the man who nursed him through his injury in the Giro. In an interview on OLN, Ole said that the pain will be bad for the next 2-3 days, but will start to diminish after that. The way that Ole and Tyler talk, they are planning for him to be in the race indefinitely. It may be very hard on Tyler to be in the time trial position so long tomorrow, and he might struggle to finish. If he can hang and contribute, his team is actually a favorite to win…and as Tyler is their highest man in the GC, well…let's just say there would be parties all over the world in celebration if he could pull that off.
- Jimmy Casper (FDJeux.com) and Fabio Baldato (Alessio). Still suffering from their Stage 1 misfortune, these two riders continue to soldier on through the pain and make it to the finish. Casper is still wearing the neckbrace and can't turn his head, so he's been sitting near the back and keeping out of trouble trying to recover. Baldato has a gash on his knee and stitches on his hand, and he went down in another crash yesterday. Still, Baldato came across in 190th at 2' 38", and Casper in 196th at 5' 50". There is still enough time before the mountains for these men to heal and make a difference in the 2nd and 3rd week. Hats off to them for their courage and professionalism.
Tyler, Tyler, Tyler! We at the Jambons Délicieux desk have got, let's face it, a bit of a crush at this point. Tyler "Nails" Hamilton is clearly suffering, but hanging in, and one might wonder: why? Well, his own disappointment aside, it seems he wants to at least return the faithful service teammate Carlos Sastre has done many times for him and help CSC in the TTT. After that he will take it day by day. What can I say? Tears, here. If Tyler somehow manages to get into the yellow jersey after tomorrow's test of will, I, as Locutus so aptly put it yesterday, will go batcrap crazy. Allez, Allez, Tyler!
Alessandro Petacchi - This time, clean shaven. Those lucky podium girls!
Viatcheslav Ekimov & George Hincapie - Lance calls his two constant companions "the Gorillas of the Peloton," but I beg to differ. Eki, at 37 is the oldest man in the race, and not only is he still riding like a horse, but he is undeniably délicieux. And, do I even need to say it about George? Just the smallest glimpse of him laughing and joking along today in the peloton is confirmation that when he went down in that crash on stage 1, he didn't break his charm. Gorillas? I think Lance is just jealous!
Tomorrow's TTT will be the perfect opportunity for Crazy Jane's Team Kit Review! Stay tuned, and as always, if we've missed your most délicieux rider, do drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.