|Golden Hams of the Day|
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Thor "Thunder God" Hushovd (Credit Agricole). With only a handful of kilometers left, Hushovd was off the back after a crash and had to be paced back to the front of the field by his teammates. Then, like yesterday, Hushovd's leadout man Julian Dean gave it the gas in the final kilometer and blew the remainder of the Fassa Bortolo leadout away. That was when Thor broke out Mjølner, his mystic hammer, and launched his sprint to the line. While he only came across in 2nd, that was good enough for the Norwegian Champion to retain his Green Jersey and claim the time bonus he needed to take the Yellow Jersey. This is the first time a Norwegian has ever worn the glorious Yellow Jersey; with an 8" lead on Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) and a 17" lead on McEwen, Hushovd looks to have the form to hold that jersey until the team time trial on Stage 4.
- Robbie "Napoleon" McEwen (Lotto-Domo). The Little Emperor has been racing on familiar roads, as he lives in Belgium with his Belgian wife and rides for a Belgian team. He used his local knowledge of the finale to launch his sprint at the perfect time; yesterday, he left it too late, but today his quick burst gave him a huge gap on the field and he rolled to an easy win. While hampered by the loss of his friend and leadout man Nick Gates, McEwen has shown that he is far faster than his rivals right now. Men like Petacchi, Boonen, and Cipollini will have to find their legs soon and sort out their leadout problems or the fierce McEwen will continue to paste them for the next couple of weeks.
- Paolo "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Red Polka-Dot" Bettini (Quick Step-Davitamon). He once again took home the King of the Mountains Jersey, taking maximum points on the first climb of the day. He then came to the front to do a lot of work for the struggling Boonen at the end of the stage. Quick Step hasn't had a lot to cheer about with their big man Boonen unable to fire his best sprint, but Bettini's mastery of the Polka-Dots will provide them some solace as they search for answers.
- Jakob Piil (CSC). For the 2nd day in a row, the big Danish power rider went on a dangerous break. He has probably been off the front of the race more than he has been in the peloton so far. While his attacks have yet to pay off with a win, Piil has taken the pressure off of his team and gotten them some good publicity. If he continues with his aggressive riding, he might also just steal a stage before we hit Paris.
- Alessandro "Italian Stallion" Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) and Tom "Daniel" Boonen (Quick Step-Davitamon). These two big-name sprinters were supposed to be having some kind of big duel in the sprints of the Tour, but so far neither has even been able to crack the top five. Today Petacchi crossed the line in 8th, while Boonen crossed in 12th. Their teams have worked themselves half blind to set these speedsters up, and the lack of results so far will certainly hurt their teams' morale. There are still a lot of flat stages to come over the next two weeks, so there's no need to panic. However, with all the expectations surrounding these men coming into the Tour, their performances so far can only be considered a bitter disappointment.
- Mario "SuperFabio" Cipollini (Domina Vacanze). Bad luck has plagued the Italian legend for the past couple of years. He crashed yesterday, and today his leadout man Gian Matteo Fagnini crashed out of the race. Despite this hardship, Mario was still at the front of the race contesting the sprint and came in 10th. It was good to see him there, and hopefully this means that the old lion is starting to find his legs again.
- Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com). His leadout ace Bradley McGee has been ailing (his pelvis is out of whack after injuring it while lifting heavy things during a move to a new home), and Cooke himself had some sort of mechanical problem today. He came across the line in 15th, a sub-par performance for the defending points champion. Rumor has it that his sprint is fine; it's just a matter of him and his team having a good day. Like Petacchi and Cipollini, Cooke will likely be happy once the annoying, sprint-sapping little hills of Belgium are behind him.
- Tyler "Nails" Hamilton (Phonak). Today the crash-plagued American was completely anonymous, keeping himself upright and behind his teammates all day long. He had a nasty strawberry on his right hip as he crossed the line yesterday; the uneventful day today will hopefully help him recover from any lingering effects from his crash. Now he just has to make it safely over those cobbled sections tomorrow….
Crazy Jane's Le Tour Delicieux!
People, the Delicieux factor took a couple of blows today. Firstly, Robbie McEwen won, and secondly, Fabian Cancellara lost the Maillot Jaune.
Despite that, I am starting with the man who is 2004's clear delicieux favorite again today. Cancellara lost the Maillot Jaune, and that's a bummer because he'll be harder to spot and admire in his Fassa Bortolo strip, but sweet Jesus, did he ever ride like a champion before he did it! Seeing the Maillot Jaune drill it at the front of the pack, head down, long, bronzed legs pumping like pistons as he sacrifices his own glory for that of his team, is just so hot. Too bad Petacchi couldn't put a cherry on top. Still, I'm fanning myself right now. Really. Cancellara was fourth in Paris-Roubaix this year, so I am crossing my fingers and toes that he has a nice, featured ride tomorrow when the Tour de France hits the cobbles. In closing: mmmm... Fabian Cancellara.
Oh well. I guess Thor "the Thunder God" Hushovd isn't so bad if you're going to have accept a consolation prize. He is a big, burly viking, afterall.
It's become necessary for me to mention Il Rey Leone. Mario Cipollini, whom I think is freaking magnificent, has had a rough tour thus far. In the prologue, they mutilated his couture, yesterday he crashed, and today, he lost his number one leadout man, Gian Matteo Fagnini, who broke his collarbone in a very unfortunate crash. Tomorrow, he'll rattle over cobblestones, and I can't imagine he'll enjoy that. Cipollini has been shafted by the tour for years, and now, finally back in, it seems like nothing's going his way. I hate to see so much bad fortune heaped upon the shoulders of cycling's biggest showman. This is very likely Cipollini's last tour, and I would like nothing better than to see him unfurl all that Italian splendor in victory, but even if he doesn't manage it, Super Mario is still a beloved Champion, and an all time superhero of delicieux proportions.
The Postmen rode like champs at the front of the race, keeping their man out of trouble. George Hincapie, blah, blah, blah... do I have to say it? Big Hink was all over the front, and looking like a big, strong movie star, but enough of that for now, because the man I really want to mention today is that huge hottie, Viatcheslav Ekimov. Ekimov was hard driving it at the front of the peloton after the break was caught, and although some of the other little bike boys seemed a bit twitchy after that, Eki reeled 'em back in like the little fish they are, and was obviously completely prepared to spank them if they got out of line. There are a lot of directions I could go after that last sentence, but I think I'll stop right there, and just say that every man who rides the Tour de France is a big stud, but Eki, with 13 complete tours in his rock hard legs is especially Delicieux. The fact that he's 38 years old only makes it more bewildering. He's our posterman for today:
Photo by Christine Grein
Finally, White Jersey Watch gives me the opportunity to drink once more from my favorite well du jour: mmmm... Fabian Cancellara. Scrumptious!
I've been storing up reader tips for the Delicieux Reports to come! We need all the help we can get, spotting all the beauty in the peloton, so send your picks for Le Tour Delicieux to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave them in the comments at Le Tour Delicieux headquarters!
Au revior for now!!