I spent most of the stage today having this conversation with myself: Are we in the mountains yet? No. Are we in the mountains yet? No. Are we in the mountains yet? No.
Golden Hams of the Day
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Inigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Filippo Simeoni (Domina Vacanze). Geez, today was the most boring day of the Tour yet. If it hadn't been for these two, I'd have gone back to bed. Alas, they finished the stage in 10th and 17th respectively, but they should have taken the day. They spent most of the day off of the front, and when they got caught within 20 meters of the finish line, you could feel their pain. Perhaps Landaluze made a mistake by sitting on Simeoni in the final kilometer… a couple of pulls could have got them to the line clean… but it doesn't matter at this point. Both of these men rode their hearts out today, and for that they deserve a major Golden Ham.
- Robbie "Napoleon" McEwen (Lotto-Domo). The Little Emperor took advantage of the last day for the sprinters until next Sunday (Stage 11 looks to be a bit too steep for most of the fast men). He dodged around the two breakaway men on the right in the closing meters to barely nip Hushovd and O'Grady on the line. It was another crazy sprint, and McEwen showed his impressive skills at finding his way through the traffic to get his nose in front. He'll take a big lead into the mountains in the Green Jersey competition: he is 18 points up on Hushovd, 20 ahead of O'Grady, and 25 ahead of Zabel. These men might be able to get some points over the next few days, but with this lead The Little Emperor won't worry. He'll just hang back and enjoy his time in the grupetto.
- Thor "Thunder God" Hushovd (Credit Agricole) and Stuart "Red Thunder" O'Grady (Cofidis). Both of these men have really come good in the sprints so far this Tour. Hushovd was 2nd today, and O'Grady was 3rd, keeping them in the hunt for Green. These former teammates have both won stages, and now will look to find every opportunity get into breaks and take points from McEwen in the mountains. While McEwen holds the upper hand, these two and Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) are a long ways from giving up just yet.
- Jan "Yawn" Ullrich (T-Mobile), Tyler "La-z-boy" Hamilton (Phonak Hearing Systems), and Lance "Zzzzz-wha?" Armstrong (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor) . This has been the easiest day so far for these three podium favorites. With so many kilometers and so many climbs tomorrow, these guys were just hanging back resting in the field behind their domestiques. Tomorrow will probably not have much of an impact on the GC as there is a long downhill to the finish. Still, it will be a hard day, and anyone who doesn't come with their "A" game is going to lose a lot of time. Most likely, the big names will just be eyeing each other looking for weaknesses, laying the groundwork for the first real showdown on Stage 12 up La Mongie.
- Tom Boonen (Quick Step-Davitamon). He had Hushovd's wheel and had done everything perfectly all day. Then, as he was coming around Hushovd… Landaluze and Simeoni were in his way. He managed to get around them eventually and take 7th, but he looks like he could have actually pushed McEwen for the win. He and his team will be very frustrated, but this is yet another of the lessons that the Tour rookie will have to learn from as he builds for the future.
- Jakob "Hard" Piil (CSC). The crazy Dane wasn't in a break today. What gives? Is he on vacation? This is the first road stage so far where he hasn't made a serious break. Ah well, tomorrow is the kind of day where he will have to work to help his GC men, and maybe if the opportunity arises, he can go off the front again.
Crazy Jane's Le Tour Delicieux!
Well, yesterday, we relived some of the ecstasy, and today I think I
can honestly tell you that we saw one of the most agonizing last minute
catches I've ever seen.
The future was looking so bright for Inigo Landaluze and Filippo
Simeoni when their gap stretched to almost 10 glorious minutes before
the peloton woke up and started to reel those little fish back in. Poor
Señor Landaluze! He's been a pro for two years, with nary a victory to
his name, and it's got to hurt to come so close, only to be swallowed
up mere meters from the line by all those greedy sprinters. If only he
and Simeoni hadn't horsed around in those final moments, neither
wanting to lead out the other's sprint, they might have held on and
saved us from another Robbie McEwen victory. Aye, me.
I'm sure it's no consolation to Inigo Landaluze that he's our
posterboy today. He didn't make it, but it was a good effort, and this
charming Basque is the big favorite of a charter member of Crazy Jane's
panel. This one's for you, Anitz!
Photo by Anita Van Crey
Is anyone else out there ready to get this show on the road already?
Aside from the brief appearance of big blonde hotpants Axel
Merckx in a late effort, and until the last few seconds in Gueret,
the other cause for agony this morning was the fact that this one was a
bit of a yawner. I think today was like that one track you always want
to skip on your favorite CD because the song after it rules so much
harder that you just cannot wait. I don't know about you, race fans,
but I am really looking forward to tomorrow's thrills. I mean, we've
had some primo delicieux moments so far, make no mistake about it, but
I'm ready for the big dogs to start fighting.
White Jersey Watch stays solid, with little Tommy Voeckler
still in the lead and still making yellow look especially sunny, while
Sandy Casar keeps it real in the Maillot Blanc in second place. I know
you'll all be riveted to know that Fabian "le plus delicieux"
Cancellara finished 20th today - I barely caught a glimpse of his
Fassa Bortolo shoulders just behind the melée. I do wish that boy would
step on it!