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Tour de France: The Jambon Report – Stage 18
By Locutus
Date: 7/23/2004
Tour de France: The Jambon Report – Stage 18
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step – Davitamon). He worked well in the six-man break, and then put in a great attack on the final climb. Unfortunately, Garcia Acosta caught him and made it a two-man sprint for the finish. Our guide Igor Flores said at the time that it was a good attack, but that "Vincente, much stronger. Mercado, climber. Vincente, win." With the big man clearly the favorite in the sprint, the small climber Mercado outmaneuvered Garcia Acosta and got him in front. Then, Mercado jumped at the perfect moment and barely held it to the line. Our Basque staff jumped from their seats and cheered, not only because a Spaniard had won, but also because the little guy had pulled off a big upset. It was a magnificent day for Mercado, who until today had suffered through a relatively poor Tour. Now, he will go home with another big win to his name and count this Tour a success. His patience and brilliant tactics turned around his year with one big effort. Such moments are what always make the Tour such a pleasure to watch.
  • Vincente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears – Banesto). He did a great job to bridge up to Mercado, but didn't respond to that final attack quickly enough. It was a great ride for the Spanish strongman, as he positioned himself perfectly for the victory. It didn't work out today, but Garcia Acosta did his sponsors proud and made this stage much more than filler before the time trial.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Lance "El Jefe" Armstrong (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). He covered that break in the beginning, giving us the bizarre spectacle of the Yellow Jersey on the attack early in a long and relatively unimportant stage. He dropped back to the peloton after his point was made to Simeoni, and spent the rest of the day behind his posse getting the royal treatment. Tomorrow we'll get to see Big Tex make his final serious point in that long time trial. In the meantime, Lance just reminded everyone once again that it's never a good idea to piss off this Texan.
  • Jan Ullrich and Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile). With the all-important time trial on the horizon, the big pinkos were taking it easy and even joking a bit with Armstrong. According to the team, Klöden is the man they are trying to get into 2nd, but I wouldn't write off big Jan so quickly… he's a time trialing monster who has been getting stronger every day, and he could just pull off the final big surprise of the Tour and jump onto the podium in Paris.

Crazy Jane's Le Tour Delicieux In Brief...

So, yeah, there were some shenanigans today, and I've gotten quite a few letters from readers who wonder how I can "spin" Lance Armstrong's move to quash Simeoni positively. The answer is, I'm not going to play in that particular sandbox for two reasons: first, As someone who wants to see what actually does happen rather than having my own expectations met all the time, I like this story (and most others) better without spin. Second, the strong men of the peloton make decisions like that in every single bike race, and if you think all of those decisions are purely sporting, you're nuts. The peloton has it's own code, it's own logic, and it's own system of crime and punishment, and that fact is the source of so many of the most interesting things about this sport. Since I don't run with the pack, I would love to put a question or two to El Patron on that topic, but until I get that opportunity, I'm going to be like Switzerland. Finally, this column is about the love, not the spin.

I'll admit that it's been a tough year to keep the topic light in this column. There's been a lot of drama with all the latest allegations, some really sad news, and really, just mountains of negativity in our sport recently. Ror the record, though, I still love to write that phrase "in our sport," because I love to feel that even though I pretty much just ride my bike to yoga class and back, it's my sport, too, and I'm proud of it. I'm going to carry on with the mission of Le Tour Delicieux, and I only mention any of this to be clear: making a perspectival decision is different from being oblivious to other perspectives.

Delicieux today: Juan Miguel Mercado's crafty "little big man" stage win; every single glorious second that Chechu Rubiera was leading the peloton; George Hincapie and Axel Merckx chatting at the back of the peloton (round up the good ones!); Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich riding along, having a laugh; Johan Bruyneel's megaton hotness; Ivan Basso's face; Little Tommy Voeckler's very existence on planet earth, and Fabian Cancellara is still my personal favorite.

There's really no excuse for it today, but Axel "Big Sexy" Merckx is my posterboy, mostly because he's not exactly punishment to look at, and I know there won't really be another opportunity. Anyway, here's no way I could neglect show y'all this supermodel pose:

Work it, baby!
Photo by Christine Grein

White Jersey Watch was delicieux again today, because that little monkey Thomas Voeckler looks as good in white as he did in yellow. Sandy Casar made a move on him today, but Vladimir Karpets's Illes Baleares-Banesto team dragged him back into the fold. Here at Crazy Jane's copy desk, we are realistic: Karpets will likely be the Maillot Blanc on Sunday, but it's "Ti Ti" who is number one in our hearts.

Tomorrow should be a killer, people. Lance Armstrong has the tour sewn up, so personally, I'm hoping that Jan Ullrich's big muscles go "pow! Pow! POW!" and that big hammering beast wins his ass off.

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