|Golden Hams of the Day|
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Thomas "No Doubt" Voeckler (Brioches la Boulangere). The heroic little Frenchman once again rode far over his head to hold off Armstrong by 22" by the end of the day. The French Champion has been inspired, and he will now keep the Yellow Jersey (in all likelihood) through the rest day. It was truly inspiring to watch Voeckler's ride on Eurosport around the pool TV here in Montpellier France: there was a group of Germans, Americans, Frenchmen, and Belgians all cheering for Voeckler to just hold on for one more day. When he pulled it off and pumped his fist at the finish line, we all cheered, inspired ourselves by the continued success of this wonderful underdog.
- Lance "El Jefe" Armstrong. Who's the boss? Yeah, that's right. Over the last two days Lance and his boys have busted out that big can of Texas whupass, and only Basso has been able to respond. While there are still challengers for the overall victory, the most dangerous men in the time trials have been buried. The climbers who remain have been only able to limit their damage to Armstrong, and not take time from him like they'd hoped. Lance only has to ride defensively now, and save his efforts for the two remaining time trials. And with the exception of Basso, everyone else now is definitely racing for 2nd place.
- Ivan "Bello" Basso (CSC). The only man with a chance, Basso once again showed that he has raised his game to the next level. He crossed the line right behind Armstrong, and now stands in 3rd on GC at 1:39 behind Voeckler. He put big time into all of his other rivals, and now looks like a very strong bet to finish on the podium. The promise of this brilliant Italian has been fully realized in this Tour, and he now looks like he will rival Cunego for the hearts of his countrymen for years to come.
- Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner). The Austrian had the ride of his life today, finishing 3rd and coming across the line only 1' 05" behind Armstrong. In the process, he moved himself up into 6th on GC, and now looks like he can threaten for the podium. Totschnig is the only man in the top five other than Armstrong who can ride a good time trial. This makes him a danger man for Basso, Mancebo, and Klöden, who will have to put more time into him on the mountains to come.
- Francisco "Neck Brace" Mancebo (Illes Balears-Banesto) and Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile). They came across the line today in 5th and 4th respectively, but they were 1' 27" behind Basso and Armstrong. Mancebo, the Spanish Champion, continues to show that he is on the form of his life, and he will likely continue to attack in the Alps. For his part, Klöden once again showed that he is the strongest man on T-Mobile right now, climbing away from team leader Ullrich. With many more mountains to come, Klöden will likely continue to be given a free hand to ride for himself, something that could help the German champion land in the top five come Paris.
- Jan "U-Boat" Ullrich (T-Mobile).Ullrich struggled again today, losing over two more minutes to Armstrong. This dropped him to 8th on GC at 7:01 behind Voeckler, and probably cost him a podium finish. Unless he has a miraculous comeback, this will go down as Ullrich's worst Tour ever. That is actually quite an amazing feat, as Ullrich really isn’t riding that badly. However, when you're a former champion and have never finished worse than 2nd, days like today go from looking slightly off to disastrous.
- Roberto "Spanish Fly" Heras (Liberty Seguros) and Iban "Miracle Whip" Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi). These two little Spanish climbers continue to struggle today, finishing in 49th at 21:35 and 115th at 37' 40" respectively. Both are still threats for a stage win, but they will have to scramble to find their legs before the Alps if this dream is to come true.
Crazy Jane's Le Tour Delicieux!
Oh yeah, baby. Another epic day in Le Tour Delicieux! I think it would be safe to say that hotpants Armstrong has a pretty firm grip on the proceedings, and lord knows he did adopt that expression of steely determination that never fails to cause me a bout of senseless gawking, and that's cool and all, but frankly, I am tempted to just give it up and turn this column into a daily round up on why Little Tommy Voeckler is such a freaking superstar, and I'm going to need a thesaurus to do it. That kid is killing me! Seriously, I cracked a tear today, watching him swerve and struggle toward the line, cross-eyed with effort and driven forward by sheer will alone. By the time it seemed like he had a chance to stay in yellow, I was squealing like a little girl, and could barely look at the TV! Thomas Voeckler's finish today was officially my favorite part of the tour thus far. LE PLUS DELICIEUX, people. I was slain.
I guess the thing that gets me the most about Voeckler's performance is the fact that if he hadn't happened into the right breakaway and scored the Maillot Jaune, it's unlikely that we would have had any cause to mention his name at all, but since then, we've discovered him by watching him discover something in himself that he never knew was in there. Voeckler, at 23 years old, is a talent, and the French Champion, but do you think he honestly believed he's be able to survive today's stage, defending the Maillot Jaune by the skin of his teeth? There's just something incredibly compelling about watching a fresh-faced boy like Voeckler discover what he's made of, and race fans, this kid is made of some good shit. Voeckler is top quality, and class and heart like he's shown is about the most delicieux thing the Tour de France could ever have offered up. In short, my pretties, THOMAS VOECKLER RULES, and all of us at Crazy Jane's copy desk think we might be in love. It's the heroism, baby.
He's not the only one, though, because the unbelievable rockstars of US Postal rolled on today, too. Yesterday it was all about George Hincapie and Jose Azevedo, (and they ruled again today) but today I need to tip the chapeau to hard-driving Floyd Landis, who is a total stand-up guy with immense personal charms, and Chechu Rubiera, who is not only a bike racer par excellance, but who, I'm pretty sure, generates far more wattage with his generous and sparkling smile than he ever could using his big muscles to pedal his bike. Kids, that's a lot of wattage.
Chechu Smiles! That's what I'M talkin' About!
Photo by Jaime Nichols
We got some more quality time with extra delicieux Italian Ivan Basso today, too. It awesome that the only man who could stay with superman over the past two days has been such a looker! I love Le Tour! Basso has been pretty darned brilliant for years, and it looks like he's fixin' to be a Grand Tour-meister of the future, and if that pans out, we're in for some delicieux years in professional cycling. Basso looked a little pressed today, but he was too strong for Armstrong, and I can't wait to see what happens in the Alpes! AGAIN, I love Le Tour!
More delicieux details? There's always that big studly hammer, Jens Voigt, hard drivin' it in the break. I'm always down for a little of that! I'm compelled to make note of Axel Merckx today, because he was climbing better than ever and looking all tall and blonde. I've got to say a word or two about Gilberto Simoni, too, who is right up in the action today. Gilberto was not a big favorite of this column at the beginning of last year's tour, but the fact that he hung tough and finished, despite the fact that he was completely humbled, the fact that he didn't quit or make excuses, won me over by the end, This year? More of the same. Things haven't gone Gibo's way in 2004, but he's still in it, and he's riding well... perhaps not as well as he'd like, but that just makes his presence more sympatico. Sylvian Chavanel was awesome today - riding in the break, and then being caught, but sticking around to give Thomas Voeckler the help he needed to make today especially delicieux. Finally, we've been suffering for days without a single glimpse of that scrumptious morsel Fabian Cancellara, but I saw him today, and he was up to something that, even if he weren't a special favorite of this column, would make me HAVE to mention him! Sure, he was way out the back, but what do you think that charming creature was up to? He was giving a foundering Iban Mayo a push, and a few words of encouragement! So he finished nearly 40 minutes back... at least he was making himself useful, and looking tall, brown and dreamy while he was at it.
Still, Cancellara's gesture brings me to the sad things about today's stage, as we saw some special favorites really suffer. The worst was Mayo, that fine-boned angel of the mountains, who cracked wide open, losing the better part of 40 minutes to the leaders today. On top of that, Bobby Julich, who was riding so well, crashed hard today, and then there's Jan; It actually pains me to see Ullrich so humbled. All I can tell you is that I hope some of these guys find some legs in the Alpes. I hate to see them go down like this. Come on, boys!
We lost a good man today, in Tyler Hamilton, and before I really had an opportunity to sing his praises like I've been dying to do. I know he's out now, and seeing him say goodbye to Le Tour today was just so sad. Tyler has worked all year for this, and he's built a beautiful team. I can't imagine how low he must feel tonight, but Tyler is all-time awesome, and here at Crazy Jane's copy desk, our love is true.
Good-bye, Tyler! We LOVE YOU!
Photo by Anita Van Crey
White Jersey Watch give me an opportunity to say, once again, that Thomas Voeckler is magnificent. Sandy Casar continues to keep the Maillot Blanc warm, but he's down 8'29" on Voeckler, and while we all know that Voeckler can't finish in yellow, I really, really hope he stands in front of the Arc de Triomphe in white one week from now. Even if he doesn't, though? He'll still be the best young rider in our hearts!