|Golden Hams of the Day|
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). Dude is making it look too easy. He was along the left-hand barriers, and when the leadout moved toward the center of the road he hugged those barriers and launched with about 350m left. Flying by Hushovd (Credit Agricole) and Cooke (FDJeux.com), he moved away from the field and swung to the center of the road to win by over a bike length. He sat up, looked over his shoulder, raised his arms, and shook his head as he coasted easily across the line. This is his fourth win in five road stages this Tour. He now has a 26 point lead on 2nd place Cooke in the Green Jersey competition, a commanding lead given how strong he has looked so far. The mountains start tomorrow, but Petacchi is confident that he is a good climber who will come through just fine.
- "The Red Thunder from Down Under," Stuart O'Grady (Credit Agricole). He launched his attack with Geslin before the first intermediate sprint, and he stayed off the front for over 190km. After that long breakaway, he still had enough in the tank to finish 20th on the line. He moved up to 6th in the Green Jersey competition at 53 points behind Petacchi. Stuey isn't so hot in the sprints as he once was, but his attacking style and his great form have kept him in that race for the last two years. His ride today really did his Australian Champion's Jersey proud.
- Anthony Geslin (Brioches la Boulangere). The young Yeasty Boy hung with O'Grady the whole way, even though he looked like he was going to die at a few points. O'Grady attacked him on the final climb, but Geslin fought his way back to O'Grady's wheel and refused to lay down the entire day. He and O'Grady were caught inside the final kilometer, bringing their brilliant breakaway to a sad end. Still, the young Frenchman gained himself a lot of confidence and experience today, as well as a lot of valuable exposure for his sponsors.
- Christophe Mengin (FDJeux.com). He attacked from the peloton up the Cat 3 Cote de Echarmeaux to take 3rd place on the climb, dropping Polka-Dot Jersey holder Finot like a rock. In the process, he took back the Polka-Dots that he gave up to Finot yesterday. It is unlikely that he will hold that jersey past tomorrow, but like last year, Mengin has done a great job going after the small mountains during this first week.
- "The Notorious VHP," Victor Hugo Peña (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). Peña kept bugging Lance to let him do some riding in front of the Texan or to do some pulls on the front. The Texan refused, but late in the stage Peña dropped back to get some water from the cars for his teammates. Even though he was wearing the Yellow Jersey, Peña's work ethic was impossible to curb, and the sight of the Yellow Jersey fetching water was something nobody could remember seeing before. Still, it's an appropriate testament to The Notorious VHP's humility and commitment to his teammates. Even though he wears Yellow, he hasn't let it go to his head or make him forget his larger goal: to get Lance to Paris in Yellow. Tomorrow he is fully capable of staying with the leaders and defending the Yellow, but more likely he will sacrifice himself for Armstrong as the long-term GC battle starts to take shape. The sight of a class rider like Peña in Yellow for the past two days has been glorious, and as he spends his third day in Yellow tomorrow I will cherish every moment of it…he's the type of rider who makes this sport so wonderful. Allez, Victor Hugo, Allez!!
Grazed Hams of the Day
- Oscar Freire (Rabobank). He just hasn't had it in the sprint so far this Tour. With McEwen, Kirsipuu, and Zabel out of the running, Freire had a great opportunity to charge and get a high stage finish. Instead he crossed the line 17th, completely out of the running. This has been a dismal Tour so far for Rabobank…here's hoping their luck turns around and they get some good results before the roll into Paris.
- The Mountain Men. With the Alps coming tomorrow, all the big GC men and climbers kept themselves quiet and out of trouble today. Armstrong and Heras (US Postal), Beloki (ONCE-Eroski), Simoni (Saeco), Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Garzelli (Vini Caldirola-SoDi), Botero (Telekom), Mancebo (iBanesto), Millar and Moncoutie (Cofidis), Hamiton and Sastre (CSC)… they all finished in the pack at the same time as Petacchi and avoided the crashes that plagued the sprinters near the finish. Tomorrow doesn't have a downhill finish, but it does have some monster climbs that will show us who has their climbing legs and who doesn't.
- Frederic Finot (Jean Delatour). Okay, so he was on a long breakaway yesterday and he was probably tired. But still, the man wearing the Polka-Dot Jersey for best climber got dropped on a simple Cat 4 climb today. That's sad. Hopefully the young Frenchman will recover enough for some more long escapades after the Alps are in the rear-view mirror.
Crazy Jane's Jambons Délicieux - Stage 6
- Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) and Erik Zabel (Telekom). The two top sprinters continue to have a miserable race. Neither one has a stage win yet, and today they crashed together as they headed into one of the final corners for the sprint. Both bounced back up and rode on, but by that time the peloton had flown the coop and their day was over. To make matters worse, both dropped in the Green Jersey competition…McEwen is now in 3rd, 34 points behind Petacchi, and Zabel is 5th, 46 points behind Petacchi. There is a long way to Paris, and they both will have lots of chances to make up points and take stage wins. Here's hoping that their injuries in today's crash are as minor as they looked, and that these two men rebound to challenge the big Italian down the road.
- Tyler "Nails" Hamilton (CSC). His collarbone fracture is stable, and while he felt terrible after the team time trial, Hamilton expressed relief that he seems to have been feeling better since then. Now he faces the Alps, and says that while he doesn't feel 100%, he still feels strong enough to be competitive and perhaps help his teammate Sastre. Whatever happens, Tyler has demonstrated King Kong cajones by coming this far. Regardless of the outcome of the coming stages, Tyler is a winner for his ride in this Tour.
Well, as sad as it was to see Stuart O'Grady and Anthony Geslin caught in sight of the finish line (because Stuey's trips to the podium are always a gigantic pleasure), new evidence has come to light about Alessandro Petacchi: he is 6'1"! I'm sure some of my readers already knew that the handsome, turbo-charged Italian was all that AND full grown man size, but it was news to this reporter. These are the facts: that man is délicieux. Moreover, he looks great in green - just like I predicted. More than one member of Crazy Jane's panel is currently putting the wonders of modern technology to use to replay the handshaking bit on the podium, because dude, nice... lycra.
The Usual Suspects:
Victor Hugo Peña's Golden Ham award (above) says it all, and I'm only going to add that he's still pumping out high wattage charm, too. When he gets to work in the mountains you know he'll be just as glad to be a part of the Postal Team's "drive for five" as he is to wear the yellow jersey these three days. Sportsmanship and humility like that is always délicieux. Tyler Hamilton continues to force the love right out of us all with his brave ride; Allez Tyler! Today also saw some nice little moments with perennial favorites in the charm department, Axel Merckx and George Hincapie, both of whom did some quality time at the front of the pack looking big and strong, just like we like 'em.
It was a shame that Eric Zabel crashed, but he did have an especially enjoyable little interview with the ever delightful Frankie Andreu, where he talked about his chances in "zee sprint." I'm sure everyone knows what a few sentences of broken English can do for a guy! I enjoyed Paul Sherwen's adorable little smile today, as I always do, and some members of our panel add that these hot stages are especially riveting because everyone's zipped down their jerseys... but I dunno - it sure does reveal a lot of bony, sun-starved chests and questionable jewelry selections!
Finally, something has got to be said about Johan Bruyneel. He jumped out of the car for a minute today to change a tire and give climber Manuel Beltran a push back into the race, and I am jumping all over this opportunity to point out that there aren't many in the world of professional cycling more délicieux than that guy. Some of the ladies here would like to see him in lycra, and back in the day, he even made that pink ONCE monstrosity of a kit look good; but for my money - I like him in the team presentation suits looking all handsome, in control and manly. Break me off a piece of that, wouldja?