|Golden Hams of the Day|
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Alessandro "Italian Stallion" Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). While Aitor Gonzalez has struggled all season, Petacchi's sprint victories have made every grand tour a success for Fassa Bortolo this year. His teammates helped chase down the break, gave him a good leadout, and then gave Petacchi a nudge to wake him up long enough to dust everyone in the dash to the line, again. When he put his hands up after his easy victory, he showed that he is hands down the best sprinter in the sport these days.
- Erik Zabel (Telekom). The German Champion was a strong 2nd today, and while he had no answer for Petacchi, he is still my favorite to win the points jersey. Why? Because yesterday, with those mean climbs, Zabel finished only 4' 12" behind the winner, while Petacchi finished over 12' minutes back. Petacchi will most likely not last through the three straight mountaintop finishes at the end of the first week, but even if he does, Zabel has much better climbing legs and will have the upper hand in the final two weeks. Petacchi did manage to make it all the way to Madrid last year, but he has more miles in his legs this year may consider his job done if he wins another stage or two.
- Joaquin Rodriguez (ONCE-Eroski). The Spaniard got the Golden Jersey for the second straight day in his national tour, and also kept his lead in the points competition. Because his team's sprinter Angel Vicioso got up the road today, the ONCEs got to sit on while the big sprinters' teams did the chasing. All in all it was an easy, successful day for this rider. He'll remember the last couple of days with a smile on his face for the rest of his life.
- Giovanni Lombardi (Domina Vacanze). Mario who? He got 5th in the final sprint today, and while he didn't win he still showed that he has good legs. He won a stage of the Giro this year, and look for him to take at least one stage before this Vuelta is over.
- Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Davitamon) and Julian Dean (CSC) . They were 3rd and 4th on the stage respectively, and once again showed that they are capable of mixing it with the big guns in the sprints. Look for these two to keep the race exciting for the next few weeks, especially in the flats.
- Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (ONCE-Eroski) and Roberto Heras (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). After the fireworks of yesterday, these two did exactly what they were supposed to today. On a very dangerous day with lots of rain and sketchy roads, these two GC favorites just followed their teammates' hams and kept the rubber side down. They finished in the same time as Petacchi, while men like Frigo lost another 15" in a field split. Now they are just saving their energy and staying out of trouble until the first big individual time trial this Thursday.
Crazy Jane's Museo Especial del Jamón: Los Jamones Deliciosos
I think I speak for many of the ladies when I say that it's always a pleasure to see Alessandro Petacchi. How does he make a sprint in the pouring rain look like a walk in the park? The handsome Italian, who is now the third man in history to win stages in all three grand tours in the same year, is clearly the biggest rocket of them all right now, and it's such a bonus that he makes it look so good. On that note, Alessandro Petacchi is today's poster boy...
...but I must tell you, this picture is delicioso on more than one level. I mean, Petacchi is fabulous, but look at the concentration in Eric Zabel's face, and the full commitment in Tom Boonen's body as he charges, head down, to throw his bike over the line for third. Watching the sprint today, I was cringingly peeking through my fingers, because there's nothing I want to see less than all those smooth arms and legs tangled up with twisted metal on a bed of wet concrete; but how incredible is it that nearly two hundred men, traveling nearly 50kph under their own power, can move in fluid unison despite pouring rain to contest a sprint, and the result is a moment in time like the one pictured in the photo above?
Cycling is glorious, is it not?