|Tour de France: Jambon Report Stages 3-4|
|Tour de France: Jambon Report Stages 3-4|
|Golden Hams of the Day|
- "T-Bone" Tom Boonen (Quick Step). Did you see that sprint? He came from way back, picked his way around the wheat and then blew off the chaff. Boonen is clearly the dominant sprinter in the race, leaving strong sprinters like McEwen and Hushovd far behind. His lead in the Green Jersey competition is 20 points, and he doesn't look like he'll be letting up any time soon. It's too bad Petacchi isn't here: it would be interesting to see how Boonen would stack up to the Italian when both are at their peak.
- Erik "The Red" Dekker (Rabobank). The mad attacker didn't get the stage win, but he took the Polka Dot Jersey by virtue of winning two of the climbs on offer. That's particularly amusing to me, as last year when I was visiting the Tour in the Alps I saw Dekker far behind the grupetto looking like he wasn't going to make it up the Col de Forclaz (and he got a long, long push from a sympathetic fan). To put it nicely, Dekker isn't the fastest climber in the pack. So the popular Raboman will certainly enjoy his time wearing the mountains jersey, because the only thing completely certain in this Tour is that Dekker won't be in polka dots for long.
- Stuart "Red Thunder" O'Grady (Cofidis). O'Grady took 3rd after McEwen was relegated for giving Stuey that chin massage with his helmet. Taken together with O'Grady's great sprint for 4th in stage 1, and it looks like he's found his sprinting form of old. O'Grady is now 2nd in the Green Jersey standings, and with his strength and penchant for long breakaways, he could be the biggest threat to Boonen come Paris.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Discovery Channel. The boys in white and blue started the team time trial slow, but they ripped it up on the last half of the course to take a narrow 2" win over CSC. The team kept all nine men together as they set the record for the fastest TTT in Tour history, averaging 57.324 kph over the 67.5 km course (that's approximately 35.619 mph for those of you who don't speaka da metric system). That put Lance "El Jefe" Armstrong in Yellow by 55" over his teammate "Gorgeous" George Hincapie, and 1' 04" up on Voigt of CSC. More importantly, Lance's nearest GC threat is Vinokourov at 1' 21", with Basso at 1' 26" and Ullrich a distant 1' 36". And the mountains have yet to come.
- Team CSC. Yes, there was that very unfortunate accident involving Zabriskie (see below), but the CSC boys gave Discovery everything they could handle today. Ivan "Bello" Basso is now once again a major GC threat, as he took big time out of many of his rivals and now sits in 10th at 1' 26". Basso took 28" out of Ullrich, 38" out of Heras, 48" out of Landis and Botero, and 2' 33" out of Mayo. If he can just stay consistent and come to the mountains with his "A" game, Basso could be the only man to threaten Lance for the overall in Paris.
- T-Mobile. The mighty pinkos rode to a solid 3rd today, giving up only 30" to Discovery and 28" to CSC. This means that Alexandre "The Great" Vinokourov is holding on to 7th on GC at 1' 21", making him the closest real threat to Lance. Jan "U-Boat" Ullrich seemed to be back to his powerhouse old self today as well, and he now rests in 14th on GC at 1' 36". Now the men in pink look poised to make a serious run: all they have to do is sit in for the next few days and rest up for the mountains. With many favorites fading big time, T-Mobile is starting to live up to their billing as one of the strongest teams in the race.
Grazed Hams of the Day.
- Phonak Hearing Systems. They came in as a favorite to win this thing today, with such strongmen as Landis, Botero, Pereiro and Hunter driving their team time trial train. While these four men were strong, the rest of the team looked shaky as the leaders crossed the line in 5th with only the minimum five men in the group. This means that they gave up 40" to Armstrong and 38" to Basso on a day where they wanted to make time. All is not lost: Landis is in 20th at 1' 50" and Botero is 27th at 2' 18", both well within reach of the podium. But today will be a big blow to the team's morale, one they will have to put behind them quickly as they get ready for the Alps.
- Gerolsteiner. The waterboys couldn't match the firepower of the big guns, or even some of the smaller guns, as they struggled across in 8th. This mean they gave up 1' 20" to Lance and chunks of time to many other rivals. Levi "Button Fly" Leipheimer is now in 30th on GC at 2' 31". He will have to have to rally in the mountains if he wants to break the top five by Paris.
- Euskaltel-Euskadi. The good news: the Orangemen, who love the mountains and hate to time trial, didn't come in last today. The bad news: they came in 16th, giving up 2' 35" to Lance and 2' 33" to Basso. This means that Iban "Miracle Whip" Mayo is now in 147th, a monstrous 5' 48" behind Armstrong. Any GC podium illusions that Mayo may have had are long gone now: he must focus on attacking in the mountains, taking stages, and maybe chasing the Polka Dot Jersey if he's going to salvage this Tour.
- David Zabriskie (CSC). He was flying, a major motor in the CSC train that was looking like they might beat Discovery. Zabriskie looked like he was going to hold onto the Yellow Jersey possibly until the mountains. Then with 1.5 km left, he clipped the back wheel of a teammate and went down hard into the barriers. He didn't stay down long, jumping up immediately, remounting his bike, and rolling to the finish. But with his Yellow Jersey ripped, blood rolling down his left arm, side, and leg, he still finished only 1' 28" behind Discovery, and now sits in 9th on GC at 1' 26". Zabriskie showed a lot of mental toughness to get up the way he did and hold his composure to the finish. He's very beat up, and he'll have a hard time keeping in the race for the next few days. Here's hoping he heals quickly and comes back strong in the mountains to show his quality. And we salute Zabriskie for a brilliant few days in Yellow.
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