Golden Hams of the Day
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Filippo Pozzato and Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo). Yet another surprising young winner from Fassa Bortolo! Sure, Fassa was expected to come to the Tour and win stages, but it was Alessandro "The Great" Petacchi, their ace sprinter, who was supposed to deliver the wins. Instead, the amazing Cancellara won the Prologue and the first Yellow Jersey, and was off the front on yet another hard attack near the end of today's stage. After that break was brought back, Pozzato found his way into a break with some big names, and he smoked them all. By matching Mancebo's accelerations on those final little climbs and then besting him in the sprint, Pozzato showed both power and poise. It was a well-deserved victory for the young Italian, and another wonderful treat in this Tour of surprises.
- Francisco "Neck Brace" Mancebo (Illes Balears-Banesto). His head is always cocked to the side as if he has a pinched nerve or some sort of neck problem, but there's clearly nothing wrong with Mancebo when it comes to climbing. A top-ten finisher the last couple of Tours, Mancebo snuck off the front in a seven-man break near the finish. It was Mancebo's brutal acceleration up the final climb that put the wood to his fellow escapees Paolo "Polka-Dot" Bettini (Quick Step-Davitamon) and Laurent "The Human Mullet" Brochard (AG2r Prevoyance). Both Bettini and Brochard are extremely powerful riders who excel on the short climbs, but Mancebo left them in the dust. While he only came 3rd in the three-up sprint to the finish, the gutsy Spaniard took about 18" out of all of his GC rivals. This was enough to move him from 25th to 18th on GC, 10' 18" behind Thomas Voeckler (Brioches la Boulangere) and a mere 43" behind Lance Armstrong (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). While that won't keep Armstrong up at night, it will be important to those fighting for the lower spots in the GC top ten like Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole).
- Stuart "Red Thunder" O'Grady (Cofidis). It was a hard day for the freckled Aussie, as he missed the split when CSC went to the front in the crosswinds and broke the peloton apart. However, his team came to the rescue, doing most of the work to drag the two pelotons back together before the finish. Despite losing a couple of earlier intermediate sprints for 3rd to McEwen, O'Grady rallied in the final sprint to take 10th, three spots ahead of his compatriot. This gave O'Grady a slim one-point advantage over McEwen that allowed him to keep the Green Jersey for another day. It's been a difficult Tour for Stuey, but he continues to persevere in spite of all the obstacles and bad luck that has been thrown his way.
- Jakob Piil (CSC). The Dane has clearly been the most aggressive man in the race. His work in the break on Stage 5 gave his team the lead in the Teams Competition, and today he was once again flying off the front on the attack. And this was after he went to the front to do a lot of work for his team when they were trying to split the peloton to bits. While the CSCs have yet to get the individual victory they crave, the work of Piil has ensured that they stay ahead in the Teams race; hopefully, their attacks will give a more satisfying payoff soon.
Grazed Hams of the Day
- Jan "U-Boat" Ullrich (T-Mobile) and Tyler "Nails" Hamilton (Phonak Hearing Systems). When the CSCs, with the assistance of the US Postal Service, went to the front to push the pace, these two GC men were never in danger. Both got another day closer to the mountains without any crashes during the stage. This means that Hamilton had time to heal his bruises and road rash from his spill yesterday while just following the wheels of his powerful teammates. For Ullrich, well, he still looks like he hasn't even put in a serious effort yet. His climbing ability is always a question mark, but if you saw his victory in the 1997 Tour, then you realize what kind of a complete and total beating he can give the entire peloton when he's at his best (his margin of victory was over nine minutes that year… that's right, nine freakin' minutes). Armstrong remembers that performance (though he wasn't in the race that year), and ever since then, Armstrong has insisted that Ullrich is the most talented and dangerous man in cycling. This year Armstrong still fears Ullrich the most, and the effortless way Ullrich has ridden so far must have Lance thinking about that 1997 Tour. I can't wait until this race gets to the mountains.
- Jaan Kirsipuu and Jean Patrick Nazon (AG2r Prevoyance). These two sprinters got caught out with O'Grady when the peloton split, and their team had to really put in a huge effort to help Cofidis close the gap. After all that, Kirsipuu could only manage 24th and Nazon 107th in the uphill sprint finish. These men clearly prefer the flatter stages, but unfortunately for them, tomorrow's profile looks like more little hills throughout the day.
- "Rabid" Robbie McEwen. Still recovering from that very hard crash yesterday, McEwen nonetheless managed to gain important points in the race for the Green Jersey. He kept his men out of the chase, just like he promised he would before the stage, but it looks like Robbie's competitive nature got the better of him when he saw the sprint lines. He still trails O'Grady by 1 point in the Green Jersey race, but his sprinting form is clearly second to none this Tour.
Crazy Jane's Le Tour Delicieux!
Well girls, I'm sure you all know very well what MY favorite part of today's race was: Fabian Cancellara, of course, and his big giant muscles, making it happen in a brave attempt at a breakaway along with some other guys... I forget who. Despite being part of a very promising move (Danish hardass Jakob Piil was involved again!), that effort was a bit early, and they were caught just before the hilly lead-in to the finish. Alas! Still, way to make it easy on me over here at Le Tour Delicieux, Fabian, I do hope I see a lot more of that kind of action! Mr Cancellara can't be too unhappy tonight, though, since his young teammate, Filippo Pozzato, took the stage with an easy advantage over two chasing Spaniards, and I must say, it's especially delicieux to see all the young guns of Fassa stepping up, especially since old Rocketpants just didn't have it for Le Tour this year.
Pozzato will be our posterboy today; he's got some votes from the panel. I like that hair and necklace! Perhaps he should consider taking up surfing? Anyway, he did a nice job smiling on the podium today.
Filippo Pozzato, looking like an extra-fancy beach bum
Photo by Christine Grein
The big project today, though, here at Le Tour Delicieux headquarters, is Gilberto Simoni. Poor Gilberto! He is having a purgatorial Tour de France, and it's coming right on the heels of a Giro d'Italia in which he was most vexingly defeated by his own teammate. I hate to see such a Champ, and moreover, such a truly delightful person, suffer like that! Simoni was right in the center of that dreadful crash just under the flamme rouge yesterday, and came over the line looking the worse for wear, supported by his teammates. Today, he was in the car and on the point of abandonment, but was talked out of it and rejoined the race.
Gibo says that his morale is at rock-bottom, but I really hope he hangs on, because Gilberto Simoni is extra delicieux. If you look back into the Crazy Jane archives, you might find that Gibo hasn't always been at the top of the list, but that was before I, and the ladies of my panel, discovered first hand that Simoni is easily one of the most charming creatures in the sport of professional cycling. Last year, despite illness and humiliation in the early parts of the tour, Simoni pulled out a very nice stage win. I hope he can salvage something from this Tour, too, because Gibo? Li amiamo!
Gibo is only one example of how this race is quickly turning into the Tour of the Pedaling Wounded, with all the crashing we've had. It almost seems as if nerves are strung pretty tight, and get tighter with every incident. Today we saw Angel Vicioso with two bandaged knees, a wrapped-up chin and a black eye, Manuel Beltran with a bandaged arm, and Rolf Aldag looking like a mummy. Most tragically of all, Gerolsteiner rider Sven Montgomery, who has started Le Tour over and over again, just to be sidelined by mishap, crashed today and looks to have broken his collarbone. The sight of Montgomery in tears, head down on a spectator's car, was almost too much for me. At this rate, Le Tour is quickly turing into Le Death March, and I want it to stop! Everyone looks a little tense out there, and it's awful seeing so many guys get hurt, which is why I say again: Gentlemen! NO MORE CRASHING!
In other delicieux news, Oscar Sevilla was back in the cars today on water boy detail. It's amazing to see a rider of his quality doing the grunt work, but he's always been a true team player, and I love to see it. It's not like they needed any other bait than simply having Sevilla and Tyler Hamilton on the same squad to hook me, but the more I read and see about this this Phonak team, the more I like it. Tyler's been giving his crew nothing but love in the press, and I like to see them all riding their hearts out. I can't wait for the real show to start when those boys hit the mountains! Meanwhile, Stuey O'Grady hung on by a thread today, but he's still making that green jersey look delicieux, and White Jersey Watch brings us another day with beaming French Champion Thomas Voeckler, in the Maillot Jaune as well. Very nice!
Vive Le Tour!
Don't forget to send me your picks for the Delicieux distinction! We need all the help we can get over here, so e-mail me your choices at email@example.com, or post your comments at Le Tour Delicieux!