|Golden Hams of the Day|
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). He came from way back to fly past Cooke, Zabel, McEwen, and everyone else in the final sprint. This is his third victory in four road stages this Tour. He has a burst that is clearly a lot faster than that of his rivals, and he looks like he could completely dominate this Tour. As McEwen noted, Petacchi may not be the same after he gets a few climbs in his legs. Still, Petacchi has indicated his interest in the Green Jersey, and he closed to within one point of McEwen in that competition today. If he can hold his burst through the mountains, he will run away with the Green Jersey competition by the time they hit Paris.
- Frederic Finot (Jean Delatour). The plucky Frenchman went on the attack today, charging off with four others in search of stage glory. Along the way, he took maximum points on the top of the Côte de Tonnerre at 57km and Côte de Rennebourg at 136km. This put him 3 points ahead of Christophe Mengin (FDJeux.com) in the King of the Mountains competition. There is no way Finot will be in Polka-Dots in Paris, but this Jersey is a wonderful reward for his two great attacks that have otherwise come to nothing. Tomorrow's Stage 6 has two small climbs – a Cat 3 and a Cat 4 – so Finot has a good shot at holding the Jersey until the Alps strike him down in Stage 7.
- Jens Voigt (Credit Agricole), Nicolas Jalabert (CSC), Laszlo Bodrogi (Quickstep-Davitamon), and Ludovic Turpin (AG2r Prevoyance). These four men broke away with Finot and kept ahead of the pack for over 120km today. They all worked hard, and towards the end Voigt was taking some huge pulls to try to save the day. As the pack bore down, Finot attacked and the rest had to sit up. Still, it was a great ride by some great riders, giving their teammates a free ride in the pack and getting good exposure for the sponsors.
- Vladimir "Shag" Karpets (iBanesto.com). The young Russian won the Jersey for the best young rider after the Prologue, but surrendered it to Flickinger (AG2r Prevoyance) after Stage 1. Cooke (FDJeux.com) held the Jersey after Stage 2, but the strong team time trial performance of iBanesto.com yesterday put "Shag" in the White Jersey again. He will likely surrender the White Jersey after Stage 7 (probably to one of his teammates, like Menchov), but in the mean time Karpets is enjoying a wonderful Tour.
Grazed Hams of the Day
- "The Notorious VHP," Victor Hugo Peña (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). When they have the Yellow Jersey, the BlueBerry Boys spend the first hour or so of stages like today working their butts off. As George Hincapie describes it, what happens is that literally dozens of attacks go off the front. If an attack has the wrong composition, it is up to the Posties to chase it down. This exciting but thankless racing always happens before the TV coverage starts: what most of us see is simply the "acceptable" attack up the road, with the sprinters' teams leading the chase behind. The men who do all the work for the Posties in this first hour are the "Gorillas," the big hammers who can set a furious pace on the flats. Usually, the job falls to Hincapie, Ekimov, Padrnos, and Peña. Ah, but today, on his 29th birthday, it was the Notorious VHP who was in Yellow. This meant that he got to sit on, have water fetched for him, and watch along with Armstrong as the rest of the "Gorillas" did all the work. Oh yes, it's very, very good to wear the Yellow Jersey.
- Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) and Erik Zabel (Telekom). These two sprinters are still without a stage win, with the Alps only two days away. Yeah, they are in 1st and 3rd (respectively) in the Green Jersey competition, but the frustration level of these two aces must surely be hitting the boiling point. Petacchi has three wins, and Cooke has one. If McEwen and Zabel can't score a big win tomorrow, they will have to patiently ride through the Alps in the hopes that the fierce climbs sap that winning form right out of Petacchi's body, and slows Cooke to a crawl. That would be a long, depressing climb for these men to go through without a win.
- Angel Vicioso (ONCE-Eroski). The sprinter of the Pinkies went down in a crash in the lead-in to the final few kilometers. He was able to remount and finish, coming in 2' 50" down on the pack. Here's hoping that his wounds are much less severe than Jimmy "Ghost" Casper (FDJeux.com), who came across in last at 5' 29" despite no longer wearing his neckbrace. Tyler "Nails" Hamilton (CSC) finished 105th in the pack, in the same time as Petacchi. He will get another x-ray this evening to reassess his injury to see if he should continue. These riders will need to hurry along the road to health if they are to survive the roads through the Alps.
Crazy Jane's Jambons Délicieux - Stage 5
Another sprint, another victory for Alessandro Petacchi. You know, for the record, it's not getting boring that Petacchi keeps winning. That sprint today was something else - he came out of nowhere and just smoked 'em on the line by more than a bike length, and all I can say is, those are some powerful legs. I'm really missing the incredibly charming Stuart O'Grady and his freckles up there, but Petacchi is not getting any uglier, so none of us at the Jambons Déliciuex copy desk are complaining.
I'm going out on my own very subjective limb today and picking Jens Voigt, as well. Big Jens drove it hardcore in the break today, and I must say, I was enjoying it. Go ahead and laugh at me, but that guy is such a hammer, and I've got a weakness for the tall skinny guy with a big adam's apple. He's got a big, sweet smile, too. Go, Jens!
Also, Axel Merckx took a turn on the front today - and even though the UCI's new helmet rule makes it impossible for us to see his soft blond hair, we still got a good view of his long honey-colored legs. He's another one in the big, délicieux adam's apple category, and there are several of us on the panel who are all for it.
In the smile department, Victor Hugo Peña is generating more wattage with that smile, those big brown eyes, and his utterly charming crow's feet than he ever could have done in the Time Trial with his big muscles. The maillot jaune only makes it all look brighter, too. Seeing VHP get the star treatment today was delightful, and no one deserves it more.
Finally, the indefatigable Tyler Hamilton. That crash could have been a disaster for his team, but in the past few days, his courage and grit has turned it around so that I don’t think they could have gotten such terrific publicity if he'd won the Tour! Tyler is the best story of the race thus far, and I hope he has the strength to surprise us even more.
It's Official: Cycling Costumes are Delicieux!
And now, the long-awaited Team Kit Review! As everyone knows, cycling is definitely a costume job: it's about going fast, but it's also about looking good while you're at it. As one professional cyclist told me: "never, ever, sacrifice style for speed!" One of the best things about the Tour de France is the way they manage to round up 200 guys that look good in a skinsuit to ride in it, but as is always the case, some are looking better than others. The Team Time Trial is the most beautiful day of the tour, and all the teams seem to come out looking their best, with everything matched, clean and sleek, so what better time to take a look at Tour de France fashion?
Personally, my top pick is Bianchi. It's nice to see Jan Ullrich in the field again in any kit, but in this one? This new version of the strip that graced the shoulders of legends like Fausto Coppi is brilliant - retro, stylish, and cool. Having said that, I really must say that those TT helmets with visors are absolutely ridiculous. Right up there with 'em is US Postal, who burned up the course yesterday, all the while looking especially smooth, powerful and délicieux, too. Thanks to Frankie Andreu's expert tech tip, we know all about how impressive that new Nike skinsuit is - apparently, it slices, dices and juliennes; but who cares? It looks slick. It's simple, not too busy, and easy to spot in the peloton - "the better to find George Hincapie in a crowd," says one of the DP's readers. Fair enough!
Also looking good - Credit Agricole. There's always something about the flanks of the riders in that kit - all that shiny unbroken green shows the machinery underneath to particularly fine advantage... and not THAT machinery, you perverts! Moreover, Stuart O'Grady's national colors look fantastic with that kit. Long may he reign! ONCE looks good (from a distance) when they trade in that pepto-bismol pink for the infinitely preferable yellow. FDJeux.com has a great look - simple and crisp, and they have some charming boys on their team, too - so that helps.
I like Fassa Bortolo, as does the Daily Peloton's Dutch Treat, Anita Van Crey, but reader Lorna says they remind her of Klondike Bars, and Klondike Bars make her sick. Go figure. Lorna likes Telekom's magenta and black, but I have got to disagree with her there - that pink is a bit much for me, though Eric Zabel looks like a million bucks in his German Champion's strip. Rabobank reminds me of the Dutch Olympic speed skaters - especially in those silver bullet TT helmets. I like being reminded of the Dutch speed skaters. You gotta love the lycra sports. Finally, CSC looks great in the long sleeved skinsuits. I love the black forearms and the wings, and anyway, Tyler's wearing it, so it's cool.
Receiving low fashion marks: Vini Caldirola SoDi Fast Freddy Rodriguez is all Latin charm, with that naughty little smile of his, and the way he always stands around like a little rooster. If anyone makes that kit look good, it's Fred - but that color! On top of that, everyone had different shoe covers on in the TTT! Come on, boys! Kelme-Costa Blanca has the worst kit in professional cycling, but longtime Daily Peloton readers will know that I think their total lack of style only adds inestimable volumes to the kermits appeal.
I can't say I like the red teams, either - Brioches de Boulangerie and Saeco are too much alike, and I know it's arbitrary, but they both get low marks from me, with Salvatore Comesso and Gilberto Simoni getting especially low marks for those custom painted helmets. What's going on with those Saeco boys? As one DP reader puts it, they look like a couple of hockey goalies, only they'd get their butts kicked on the ice! Fair enough. I still think Simoni could take any hockey goalie in the mountains. Quickstep is just plain ugly, and Lotto-Domo, Cofidis and Jean Delatour are busy, busy, busy. Especially Lotto-Domo. They came in dead last in the TTT, and they get dead last in my kit review, too. Axel Merckx is dreamy, but someone get that man a better costume!