It's with some trepidation that I, Crazy Jane, attempt to step into the big, manly shoes of my fellow columnist here at Jambon Headquarters today, as Locutus flies off to France to track the Tour with Yellow Jersey Tours. Some guys have all the luck! But, don't worry, race fans, he has his assignments! If you and I have any luck, the maestro will return to mail in the Jambon awards tomorrow, but here's how I see it for today:
Golden Hams of the Day
- David "Maintenant!" Moncoutie (Cofidis). Moncoutie looked like the least likely stage winner out of today's breakaway, with Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) the fastest finisher, and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) the man most likely to escape on one of the sharp little climbs heading into the tough, uphill finish, but Moncoutie took one right out of the manual, and hit his competitors exactly when it counted. When Flecha, looking like he was close to the rivet, made his move, Martinez easily countered to bridge the gap, and Moncoutie was gone. While Flecha and Martinez looked at each other for guidance, and shook their heads in resignation, Moncoutie drove it all the way to the line for a comfortable victory in Figeac. He had plenty of time to join the French fans in celebrating the second French victory in as many days. Vive La France!
- Erik "The Big E-Z" Zabel (T-Mobile). The hills are upon us, and Erik Zabel started the day only 10 points behind current points leader Robbie McEwen. McEwen has had the advantage in the sprints thus far, but Zabel is only getting stronger, and he's a much better climber than the current front-runner for green. Today, Zabel was faster, with McEwen, perhaps feeling a little sapped by the hilly course and hot weather today, and just barely hanging on to pip Bettini for third. Yesterday, Locutus noted that Zabel had been very consistent in the finales from the start, and today he crept just a little closer to taking the shirt off McEwen's back. Clearly, it will not pay to underestimate the man who wore green in Paris for six consecutive years from 1996 to 2001.
- Lance "El Jefe" Armstrong (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). Armstrong had another good day today, keeping his ducks all lined up and looking ominous in the pack... until that bit where he decided it might be groovy to mix it up in the sprint! Armstrong's attention to detail is just the thing that's won him 5 Tours de France, and after last year's near-loss experience, he's especially hip to how much, uh... every second counts. Lance and the rest of the big dogs head into mountains tomorrow for the first stage that is guaranteed to rip the field to shreds, and with so many of the G.C. Contenders looking ready to have a real go, we should have a good battle on our hands over the next few days in the Pyrenees. Armstrong is ahead of all of his rivals, and if he's on target, they're going to be hard-pressed to take that time out of him.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo). These two riders didn't really see that much ham today, since they were in the break with stage winner Moncoutie, but they saw the ham du jour when Moncoutie made all the right moves and left them in the dust. After Moncoutie let these two Spaniards shoot their bullets getting after one another before jumping, Flecha and Martinez spent rather a lot of time looking at one another and wondering just exactly what ought to be done. Chase, you silly boys! I'm not sure if Moncoutie's erstwhile breakaway companions just didn't have the juice, or if they horsed around too long to make a chase stick, but one thing is certain - they watched the hams that counted today go up the road.
- Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile), Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank), Gilberto Simoni (Saeco), Tyler Hamilton (Phonak Hearing Systems), Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) and Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi). There's a whole pack of dogs just waiting to have their day in that peloton. All of them, except Mayo, who is truly the man to watch on tomorrow's stage, are in good position, and have done all they could to be ready for what's to come. May the best man win!
Crazy Jane's Le Tour Delicieux is taking a hiatus today... the ladies of the panel and I have to save our strength for the mountains! Before I go though, I do want to clue you in to the charms of today's posterboy, David Moncoutie, this guy had all the right moves:
David Moncoutie - all smiles
Photo by Christine Grein
Until tomorrow, then, Au revoir, my pretties!