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Tour de France: The Jambon Report - Stage 12, Part 2
 
By Locutus
Date: 7/17/2004
Tour de France: The Jambon Report - Stage 12, Part 2
 
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Ivan "Bello" Basso (CSC). He stepped up to the big time today, the only man able to keep up with Armstrong during his patented attack on the first uphill finish. Basso seemed to be comfortable on Armstrong's wheel, even pulling through to help "El Jefe" put more nails into the coffins of Ullrich, Heras, and Hamilton. With this performance, Basso moved from top ten contender to serious podium threat. His CSC mates have been great, but Carlos Sastre's attacks today really help set up Basso for their illusive first stage victory. Basso now moves up to 6th on GC at 6:33 behind Voeckler and 1:09 behind Armstrong, and Bjarne Riis looks more and more like a genius every day.
  • Lance "El Jefe" Armstrong, Jose Azevedo, "Gorgeous" George Hincapie, "Pretty Boy" Floyd Landis, Jose Luis "The Punisher" Rubiera, and "Handy" Manuel Beltran (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). Another brilliant performance today by the men in blue as they put the hurt on the peloton, shredding it to pieces on that final climb. Hincapie; a supposed flatlander, was blowing putting people like Hamilton into trouble as he set the pace on the last climb of the day. Beltran and Landis did some monster work as well, and then Rubiera and Azevedo really put the hammer down to whittle it to only Lance and a few others. Azevedo was particularly impressive today, as the new guy really showed quality in destroying most of Armstrong's rivals up La Mongie. Then "El Jefe" just had to open up that can of Texas whupass up the final few kilometers to finish the job, putting all of his serious GC rivals far behind him. The fact that Armstrong's biggest threats are now Basso and Mancebo speaks to the quality of the beating he gave the field today, as well as the degree to which these two climbers have improved this year. Lance is now 2nd on GC, only 5:24 behind Voeckler, but he has a huge lead on the men who really matter. Lance is now well on his way to number six, and psychologically you can already see the other riders racing for second place.
  • Francisco "Neck Brace" Mancebo (Illes Balears-Banesto). The Spanish Champion showed his strength in that finish on Stage 10, but today, like Basso, he really took his game to a new level. Attacking Armstrong and putting most of his rivals behind him, Mancebo showed that he is ready to challenge for that podium in Paris. He's been in the lower half of the top ten the last couple of years come Paris, but this year the man with the twisty-necked climbing style looks prepared to have the ride of his life. He came in 4th today only 1:19 behind Armstrong, a huge accomplishment in itself, but he now stands in 7th on GC at 6:43 behind Voeckler, and looks ready to more damage in the stages to come.
  • Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile). When he won the sprint for 2nd on Stage 10, I thought he was making a mistake by not pulling off to help Zabel in the points competition. Today, however, he revealed that in fact he is a GC threat in his own right. While he still insists that Ullrich is the team leader, Klöden was by far the strongest man on his team today, coming across the line in 3rd only 20 seconds behind Basso and Armstrong. He now sits in 5th on GC only 6:33 behind Voeckler, and he is 2:58 ahead of his teammate Ullrich. While not the time trialist that Ullrich is, all the mountains left in this race could well catapult Klöden into the top five by Paris if he keeps this up. In a year of huge surprises in the Grand Tours, that would be one of the biggest of them all.
  • Thomas "No Doubt" Voeckler (Brioches la Boulangere). He rode himself inside out again, going way over his head to finish only 3:59 down on Armstrong in today's stage. That kept him well up in the race for the Yellow Jersey with a 5:24 lead over Lance by the end of the day. While nobody expects Voeckler to be in Yellow for much longer, he has held onto that Jersey much longer than expected already. The French Champion has shown the talent, skill, and pure guts to make him a hero in France and admired the world over. Every day Voeckler finishes in Yellow is a bonus by this point, but I for one will be sad when he gives that jersey up.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Jan "U-Boat" Ullrich (T-Mobile). Ullrich has lost his Tours against Armstrong on the first serious day in the mountains every year he has faced him. This year was no exception, with Ullrich dropping over two minutes to "El Jefe" as he struggled to find his climbing legs. Ullrich does poorly in cold conditions, and today he had plenty of that in the leadup to the final climb, but he's not making any excuses. While disappointed, the big German doesn't know the meaning of the word quit, and if you look back over the past few years, he has always rebounded from that first bad day in the mountains with some monster rides. It's not over yet, and Ullrich will keep on fighting, but unless Armstrong bonks big time it looks the "U-Boat" will be fighting yet another losing battle this year.
  • Tyler "Nails" Hamilton (Phonak Hearing Systems). As Tyler pointed out, his team was very strong, with a lot of men near the front at the end, but his own legs were just terrible today. He lost over three and a half minutes to Armstrong and Basso, as well as big time to many of his other GC rivals. This pretty much puts an end to his hopes of overall victory, and unless the tough man from Marblehead can bounce back quickly, he won't even be much of a factor in this race. With so many of his teammates going better than him today, he'd better get it in gear tomorrow or he will end up having to work for Sevilla's GC chances for the rest of the race.
  • Roberto "Spanish Fly" Heras (Liberty Seguros) and Iban "Miracle Whip" Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi). These two little Spanish climbers who were supposed to light up the climbs ended up far behind their rivals today, as they finished respectively in 2:57 at 1:03 behind Basso and Armstrong. With quality riders like these two, you can expect that they will recover and go on the attack in on the climbs to come. However, their shot at upending the big American is over, and they will both have to settle for racing for stage wins and the lower spots in the GC top ten.
 
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