|Golden Hams of the Day|
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- "Ant"-Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo). So wasn't he like supposed to be the next great Grand Tour racer or something? Yeah, since winning the Vuelta a España a couple of years back, the AntAitor has come across some pretty hard times. The fact that the peloton was so indifferent to his presence in the breakaway today is an indicator of how low down on GC he is in this Tour. Still, he put in a stellar ride, attacking as the road started to get hillier and headed into the twists near the finish. His time-trialing power helped him keep the gap all the way to the line, as he won easily from that big break. I'm still not sure why the French Eurosport guys played that old song "Superstitious" as they showed Gonzalez crossing the line in the replay (that was just plain weird), but he got to celebrate on the podium and win in front of his family, so for Gonzalez this was certainly a day to forget his frustrating seasons and enjoy the moment.
- Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak). The younger brother of the great Laurent had a great ride himself today, winning the sprint to come across the line in 2nd place. With Hamilton out of the race, Jalabert and his mates now have a much freer hand to show their talents (just like the Fassa boys in the absence of Petacchi). I'm still not sure why the sprinters' teams didn't mount a stronger chase with the rest day tomorrow…it's not like they're going to have that many more chances for victory in this Tour… but Jalabert made the most of it, and showed why he is such a solid and respected professional.
- "Rabid" Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo). The Little Emperor took out the sprint in the peloton to extend his lead in the Green Jersey competition to 225 points over Eric Zabel's 212. With only a couple of more opportunities for the sprinters to gain points, it's starting to look like McEwen is going to run away with it this year. He has really struggled with his crash injuries in the mountains, and there is still a monster stage to come next week. If McEwen can manage to survive the remaining climbs and make a decent showing in Paris, he'll get to take his 2nd Green Jersey back home to Australia… or at least to his new home in Belgium.
- The Peloton. It really looked like most of the riders were just gassed after those hard mountain stages. In the final few kilometers, on those little hills leading into Nimes, the peloton blew to pieces as many of the riders' legs rebelled at anything resembling a positive gain in altitude. U.S. Postal kept Lance safely out of trouble, Voeckler took another day in the Yellow Jersey for Brioches la Boulangere, but other than that, there wasn't a whole lot to write home about today in regards to the pack. Igor Flores jumped up and screamed for a minute while we were eating lunch when his brother Iker got involved briefly in a move… that was adorable… but not much came of it, and it was a day of rest a day early for most of the riders and the fans.
Crazy Jane's Le Tour Delicieux
Ok, so here's what happened: midway through today's stage, I passed out cold. The mountains wore me out, people. Like the peloton today, once the break was off, I was lulled into a state of complete unconsciousness as soon as it became totally obvious that no thrilling chase or heartbreaking last minute catch would be forthcoming.
As I slept, my cheek pressed into the arm of my couch, Phil and Paul droned pleasantly on in the background, and I dreamt of Crazy Jane's perfect breakaway: Ten tall, long-legged roleurs with smooth brown skin powering through endless fields of sunflowers and lavender. The chasing field was helpless to match the awesome power of the breakaway companions, and they rolled on, driving a relentless pace, their (say it like Paul!) "long, bronzed legs" gleaming with perspiration, and pumping like pistons. As the pace quickened toward the finish, Phil's voice amping up to match the burst of speed at the line, I shook myself out of my coma-like stupor to see... Aitor Gonzalez! Winning a stage of Le Tour de France!
"Uurggghhh." I said, to no one in particular, my cheek reddened and imprinted with the texture of my couch. "That was weird!"
Anyway, here's a picture of today's winner, race fans, but I was barely conscious at the time, so I'll leave it to all of you so say whether it not it was delicieux.
Photo by Christine Grein
Moving right along! White Jersey Watch give me a chance to note, once again, that Little Tommy "Ti Ti" Voeckler is brilliant. The Maillot Jaune kept the rubber side down today, and goes into the second rest day as the King of the Road. Voeckler's Brioches la Boulangere team rode in the wind again today, taking valiant responsibility for the defense of the Maillot Jaune for the 10th day. For the record, my sister and I went out to a Boulangerie last night and had some Cafe au Lait and a Brioche, and I can report that Brioches are indeed delicieux!
Sandy Casar continues to rock the Maillot Blanc, but he'll turn it over to Voeckler, who leads that competition by 8:29, when the Yellow changes hands, as it inevitably will. Can Voeckler hang on in white? Stay tuned tomorrow for Crazy Jane's White Jersey Review!