|Golden Hams of the Day|
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- David "Friskie" Zabriskie (CSC). He was one of the first riders to go, and yeah, he might have had the benefit of a good wind that the big guns didn't get. But he still absolutely smoked the course, demolishing everybody but the big man himself. He did it in the Giro, and he proved today that it wasn't a fluke. Think about this: Zabriskie has now won a stage in the last three grand tours. He pulled off an amazing solo victory for US Postal in last year's Vuelta, he won the first big Giro time trial this year, and now he's taken the first big time trial and the Yellow Jersey at the Tour de France. If you weren't paying attention, he also rode very strong in the mountains of this year's Giro in the service of Basso. It's looking like very soon, Zabriskie might be a GC man to be feared as the young rider continues to develop. As it stands, he kicked the greatest cyclists in the world all over the road today. As Zabriskie himself might say, "not bad." With his teammates Jens Voigt and Bobby Julich riding so well today (8th at 1' 04" and 11th at 1' 06" respectively), CSC now holds a slim 4" advantage over Discovery Channel in the team competition, which currently gives them the pole position for the all-important team time trial (or TTT) a few days from now.
- Lance "El Jefe" Armstrong (Discovery Channel). Well today was much more of a smackdown than most people anticipated. Lance was the only one to challenge the time of Zabriskie, and that was even after he lost time as he pulled out of his pedal going down the start ramp. He finished only 2" down on Zabriskie, but more importantly, "El Jefe" put the wood to his rivals and embarrassed the biggest threat of them all, Jan Ullrich, by passing him on the course. You want a message? Here's the message: I'm Lance, I'm back, and you'd better start racing for 2nd right now. Armstrong and his team are now perfectly positioned, as CSC will get to spend their energy defending the Yellow Jersey over the next few days while the Disco boys relax (as much as that is possible in the Tour) and prepare for the upcoming team time trial. Armstrong looks like he can't wait for the next smackdown to come.
- Alexandre "The Great" Vinokourov (T-Mobile). So, um, who is the leader of T-Mobile? Fulfulling many people's expectations, Vinokourov showed that he is incredibly fit and ready to roll: he came in 3rd at 53", and put time over everyone of importance except for Lance. As the time trial isn't exactly his forte, it's safe to say that Vino solid finish was the product of pure strength and amazing form. Today, he looked like he might be the only serious threat to Armstrong in the entire race. He showed by his convincing win on Mont Ventoux in the Dauphiné Libéré last month that he is a major threat in the mountains. If the T-Mobiles can limit the damage in the TTT, Vinokourov could well turn out to be the top pinko and their best hope for the podium.
- "Pretty Boy" Floyd Landis (Phonak). When he finished, Floyd's time didn't look that great, but by the end of the day, it looked pretty awesome. He came in 6th at 1' 01", and put time on men like Ullrich, Basso, Leipheimer, and his teammate Botero. The time he took isn't much, but it should serve as a big morale boost for Landis as he moves forward as a team leader in the Tour for the first time in his career. The Phonak squad is a serious threat to win the TTT, so with a little luck, Floyd could be right on Armstrong's heels (and well ahead of his other rivals) by the time the race hits the mountains. Last year, Landis owned the Alps: if he can find those climbing legs again this year, he could very well end up on the podium in Paris.
- Vladimir "Shag" Karpets (Illes Balears). Quietly, the hairy Russian who won the White Jersey last year showed that he is going to be a big factor in this year's race, as he came across the line in 9th at 1' 05". The team's designated leader coming into the race, Francisco Mancebo, finished a dismal 97th at 2' 31": that puts Karpets in position to take over the squad if he can have a good first day in the mountains next week. Many people have picked Karpets as a darkhorse challenger for the podium. It's too soon to tell if that is a realistic possibility, but Shag certainly got off to a great start today.
- "Gorgeous" George Hincapie (Discovery Channel). So how dangerous will George be next year when he doesn't have to ride for Lance? The Big Hink followed up his two stage wins at the Dauphiné last month with an amazing time trial today, coming in 4th at 56". That's only three seconds slower than Vinokourov, and well ahead of a lot of big names. George's work in the wind tunnel in the off-season seems to have really paid off, and he now looks poised to help Lance drive the Discos on to victory in the TTT. He also looks like he has more than enough gas to gorilla his way around the pack and keep Lance safe over the next few weeks. And next year? Stage wins, baby, nothing but stage wins.
- Iban Mayo (Euskaltel Euskadi). The Great Orange Hope must be waiting for the mountains. His time trial position looked like he was trying to see how much wind he could catch in his chest while he poked along the route. Maybe his jersey was wet and he was trying to dry out the chest part. For whatever reason, he came in a dismal 175th at 3' 14". Maybe the big deficit will get him a bit of leeway: if he's not a GC threat, maybe Lance and Jan will let him ride off the front and take a stage win or two. Of course, I think that Mayo would be served best by focusing on the Polka-Dot Jersey. If he made up his mind to ride for the 'Dots, then I doubt there's anyone in the peloton with the willingness or ability to stop him. That seems to be the only way he'll get up on the podium in Paris now.
- Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile). Jan reportedly had a rough crash yesterday, and seemed to be feeling the after-effects a bit today: he came in 12th at 1' 08", which would be good for most anybody who wasn't Jan Ullrich. A monster time trialer, Ullrich's best hope in this Tour was to take time out of Armstrong in these solo jaunts against the clock. Over the years, that's seemed the only place where he has a possible advantage over the Texan. With the next individual time trial three weeks away, Ullrich now has to recover his morale and find his form quickly if he's going to make it through the mountains in a good position. Luckily, Ullrich has shown a tendency in the last few years to get stronger the longer the race goes on. Here's hoping he shakes off that crash and today's performance and is back to his old self very soon.
- Ivan Basso (CSC). Many people have wondered about what kind of form Basso would bring to the Tour after having burned so many matches in the Giro. He looked to have improved his time trialing immensely in the Giro, but today there was slim evidence of that: he came in 20th at 1' 24", giving up huge time to Armstrong and falling behind people he hoped to beat. His team looks strong, as he had three teammates finish ahead of him on the stage. With Basso looking questionable, you have to wonder if CSC won't return to their old, opportunistic ways and start racing for the stage wins. At the very least, you can expect them to try to defend the Yellow Jersey for as long as they can. Who knows? Maybe Zabriskie, Voigt, or Julich will actually emerge as top ten GC threat this year. We'll have to wait until the first uphill finish to sort that out.
- Bradlee McGee (FDJeux.com). Two years ago, this would have been the perfect distance for McGee. However, the time trialing demon has focused on improving his climbing over the last two seasons, and some say it has hurt his time trialing power. That seemed to be the case today, as the classy Aussie struggled to 18th at 1' 24" when he was a favorite to take the victory. Hopefully this means that Bradlee has got some serious climbing in those legs and is ready for the Alps.
- Michael Rogers (Quick Step). Like his compatriot McGee, Rogers was picked as a possible winner today. After all, he is the defending World Time Trial Champion, and he rode well in the recent Tour de Suisse. But maybe he left too much on the road in Switzerland: today, he struggled mightily and only managed 45th at 1' 53". Rogers will certainly be upset by this result, and his team won't be too happy about it either. But his team will now be able to focus on "T-Bone" Tommy Boonen for the next few days while Rogers regroups in the pack.
- Santiago Botero (Phonak). The Colombian is a fearsome time trialist who has shown his best form in years this season, but he was still only able to manage 25th at 1' 30". Botero always seems to have at least one bad day in the Tour; maybe this was his bad day. His teammate Landis is well-positioned, the team is strong, and with a solid TTT Botero could be right back in the thick of things. And when he gets to the mountains, watch out: he has won the Polka-Dot Jersey before, and can really tear it up when he attacks.
- Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros). Heras hasn't shown much this season, and is likely saving up for defending his title in the Vuelta a España in September. His ride today, 79th at 2' 20", is about what you'd expect from a little climber like Heras (for comparison, he finished 56" up on Mayo). So it wasn't a bad day for Heras, but it did seem to indicate that this Tour might not be suited for him. There are some stages later in the mountains where he could make some noise, but it seems extremely unlikely that Heras will be able to make up that much time on all the strong men in front of him.
For those of you who don't remember, here is the scientific language that the DP's linguistic engineers created to describe that certain aspect of the sport of cycling: ham-gaze verb: 1) in cycling, the practice of watching other riders make the race; to sit on while other riders take off down the road. 2) the act of staying in the peloton and watching the "hams" of other riders in front of you. 3) the visual aspect of going off the back when other riders increase the tempo. noun: ham-gazer. synonyms: ass-watch, rear-view. antonyms: attack, hammer.