ham-gaze verb: 1) in cycling, the practice of watching other riders make the race; to sit on while other riders take off down the road. 2) the act of staying in the peloton and watching the "hams" of other riders in front of you. 3) the visual aspect of going off the back when other riders increase the tempo. noun: ham-gazer. synonyms: ass-watch, rear-view. antonyms: attack, hammer.
Golden Hams of the Day
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Servais "With a Smile" Knaven (Quickstep-Davitamon). Finally, a stage that gave my blood pressure a break! Knaven now has two great victories: he won Paris-Roubaix a couple of years back, and now he's taken a stage of the Tour. He attacked from the startline with nine other men, and because the sprinters' teams were mostly represented, they stayed away for the entire day. Inside 20km left he started to sit on and watch from the back of the group, and then he launched a blistering attack with about 15km left. His powerful move was enough to hold off the group by 17", and he delivered another stage win for the Belgian squad. This makes two stage wins for Quickstep plus a stint in Yellow and a Polka-Dot Jersey for His Royal Majesty, King Richard Virenque. Their Belgian rivals on Lotto-Domo have yet to win a stage, so while they held the Green Jersey for awhile, the Lotto boys are coming out on the losing side of this battle.
- Peter Luttenberger (CSC). The climber was out of his element on this flattest of stages, but he had the good luck to make the break and made the most of it. While he only finished in 7th on the stage at 17", he jumped up five places on GC where he is now 13th at 19' 03". If Gerolsteiner hadn't been chasing so hard to preserve the 12th place of their man Georg Totschnig, the break would have taken a lot more time today. Luttenberger's great performance increased CSC's lead in the Teams Competition to an impressive 16' 57" over 2nd-placed Euskaltel-Euskadi. Another great day for the team from Denmark.
- Bram de Groot (Rabobank). He's made the break on the last three flat stages. He only finished 9th today at 17" to go with his 3rd on stage 10 and his 2nd on stage 11. Rabobank still doesn't have a stage win, but it's not because of a lack of effort on de Groot's part. He's been aggressive and diligent, getting into the winning breaks and working his butt off. With this kind of perseverance, it's only a matter of time before de Groot adds a Tour win to his resumé.
- Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo), Erik Zabel (Telekom), and Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com). These three seem like they're doomed to keep sprinting for the leftovers at the end of every stage. Lotto and FDJeux.com had a man each in the break, so it's understandable that they wouldn't chase today. Still, the large number of successful breakaways in this Tour speaks to the weakness or lack of commitment amongst the sprinters' teams to give their big guns a chance. McEwen was 11th, Zabel 12th, and Cooke 13th today as the field came across 8' 06" ahead of the winner. The battle for the Green Jersey is tightening, as Cooke leads McEwen by 6 points and Zabel by 12 points. Tomorrow should be a day for these three to sprint for the stage win, but as today showed, this is far from a sure thing.
Crazy Jane's Jambons Délicieux - Stage 17
After all the excitement of the past few stages, today was a bit of a snoozer, wasn't it? I'm a little relieved, really. I don't know if I could take much more of the insanity! Just a few things to mention today, getting back to the silly side here after all the heroics of the past few days:
I'm happy to report to you all that, out of the break, the cute one took the win. Despite the fact that Servais Knaven was the Domo rider who put the final nail into George Hincapie's huge ride in the 2001 Paris-Roubaix (an occasion on which the cute one did NOT win, because, as you know, these things are all relative), he's always been a favorite of mine. I think it's the long, beaky nose and the Dutch accent, but I'm charmed! He's a brilliant opportunist, and his move for the victory today was as bold as his victory salute was exuberant, making it another beautiful day in Le Tour.
The Podium Pageant was especially good today, kicked off by Dutch treat Knaven, and followed up by that yellow jersey guy. Does anyone else laugh about Lance Armstrong's big giant Nike's everyday? He looks like he's going skateboarding after the stage! He's the nazz on a bike, but I wonder how he is on crooked nosegrinds? The Boss looked relaxed and comfortable today - he and his boys had a smooth ride, and no doubt he is storing up the power to break out the real Time Trial of his life when things get serious again on Saturday. He looked as compact, well-oiled and clean shaven as ever. Lucky podium girls. Podium beauty continued with a very cute, but very, very dour Baden Cooke, who didn't much like being punked on the line by little Robbie McEwen. I can't say I blame him. I'll be pulling for Cooke in the green jersey competition - he has big blue eyes, and FDJeux.com is a lovable team. Cheer up, Baden, you're the good-looking one. Next up, Reeechard Virenque, King of the Mountains. I must confess, I'm not sure what the French housewives see in him, but apparently he is quite the heartthrob. Go Figure. Rounding out the parade of charm was Best Young Rider Denis Menchov, a favorite in this column, who now leads that competition by more than 42 minutes, and is walking proof that the White Jersey knows how to pick 'em.
The Usual Suspects mostly stayed cozy in the pack, but no one lost any of his good looks, or gained time on the road. As promised, Tyler Hamilton is not ever going to be passed over in this column; he was quiet today, but how about that ride of his yesterday, folks? I'm still not over it.
Tomorrow we've got another flat stage, offering some of the lesser known, but potentially charming bike boys to break away for some TV time, and there's always the continuing battle for green... Until then, au revoir, my pretties!