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Tour de France: Jambon Report Stage 8
 
By Locutus
Date: 7/9/2005
Tour de France: Jambon Report Stage 8
 
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Pieter "Oscar Mayer" Weening (Rabobank). The kid went into that long break with some really powerful old pros: both Salvatore Commesso (Lampre-Caffita) and Juan Antonia Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) have previously won Tour stages. However, the kid wasn't intimidated. On that final climb of the day, that appropriately named Cat 2 Col de la Schlucht (a German name meaning "French mountains suck"), Weening charged away from those oldsters like they were standing still. When he got caught by a charging Klöden near the top, it looked like the fresher German would likely take the stage. But no, Weening showed some very savvy race skills and let Klöden, who is still a GC threat, do all the work in that final kilometer. Then Weening came around and just nipped Klöden in the closest photo finish I've ever seen (I mean, can't they just give ties? I couldn't tell the difference…). In the end, it was a brilliant day of riding that saw orange flags waving madly to salute the young Dutch star on the rise. Surprises like this are what always make the Tour such a joy to watch.
  • "San" Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile). The German star caused a small earthquake to rattle the French countryside today as he charged up that final climb and put some serious pressure on the Discovery squad. Klöden has not been very good this year, but he's finally found some of that form that got him into the 2nd spot on last year's final podium in Paris. With Armstrong occupied with marking Vinokourov and Ullrich, "San" Andreas launched a vicious attack that scorched past the men in the break and even took maximum points from Weening at the top of the climb. Klöden got the short end of that photo-finish, but he really rode like a champion today as he picked up 27" plus a 12" bonus on all of the big GC favorites. He now resides in 9th on GC at 1' 50", but more importantly, he showed today that T-Mobile has yet another major weapon in their mountain arsenal as they try to unseat Armstrong.
  • Vladimir "Shag" Karpets. The man with the magic Russian mop of hair had no problem keeping pace with the big boys, coming across in 29th at 27". His position is now 11th on GC at 2' 13", and with the big blowup of the Discovery Channel's Popovych on the stage, Karpets now has a 1" advantage in the race for the White Jersey. Karpets is, of course, the defending champion in the young rider competition, and it looks like he's the man to beat once again as the race heads into the big mountains. Scruff-loving teenage girls must be loving it.
  • Michael "Bjergmester" Rasmussen (Rabobank). Denmark is pretty flat. I know: I've biked through it. So how is it that Michael Rasmussen has become such a master of the mountains? Today he attacked in that early break with Hincapie (Discovery) and Voigt (CSC), and he just ate up the climbs to take maximum points over all four Cat 3s. Then he charged to the front of the Yellow Jersey group on the Col de la Schluck to take 3rd over the top, giving himself a healthy 12 point lead over Klöden in the race for the Polka Dot Jersey. As we saw last year, Rasmussen can really attack hard in the huge mountains to come. Given the form he is showing and the dedication he seems to have to win the mountains classification, I'd have to say that this crazy Dane is going to be very, very hard to beat. Look for him to wear those 'Dots all the way to Paris.
  • Chris "Cracker Jack" Horner (Saunier Duval-Prodir). So did you notice who was on Lance's wheel when he was marking Ullrich on that last climb? That's right, "Cracker Jack" Horner was there rubbing shoulders with the big boys when the whip came down today. While his supposed team leaders flailed, Horner was mixing it in the sprint and came out with a respectable 9th place on this stage, 27" behind the winner. The only other teammate of his in the Yellow Jersey group was little Leonardo Piepoli, and he was just barely hanging on to finish last in that group. Horner is the strongest guy on Saunier Duval, and they need to recognize this and make him the man for this race. Horner is their highest man on GC in 45th at 4' 54", and as Horner showed today and in the Tour de Suisse, he's a powerhouse who can hang with the best of them: he's their best hope for a stage win and a high GC finish. Let's hope the team management figures this out soon.
  • Joseba Beloki (Liberty Seguros). Okay, it was only a Cat 2 climb. But man, did you so the attacks that people were launching on that thing? And at the end of the day, who should happen to finish in the Yellow Jersey group but Lance's old nemesis Beloki (32nd at 27"). This is the first time since that horrific 2003 crash in the Tour that Beloki has shown some decent race legs at this level. Here's hoping that he continues to improve, and that he's able to give his team leader Heras all the help he needs as the race moves forward.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Discovery Channel. Today wasn't a complete bust: George Hincapie went in the early break and forced T-Mobile to chase like mad. Also, Savoldelli was able to counter two of Vinokourov's powerful attacks, dragging Lance up to the Kazakh Champion's wheel. Still, Lance was clearly upset at the end of the stage: halfway up that last climb, he found himself surrounded by over thirty enemies without a friend in sight. The T-Mobiles took advantage and really put the wood to him, but Lance was up to the challenge as he marked Vinokourov and Ullrich, his biggest threats. Still, as Lance himself noted, the Discovery team might have spent a bit too much energy defending that Yellow Jersey over the past few days. They will have to chew over more than their dinner at the table tonight, as they regroup and come up with a plan to fend off the increasingly optimistic pack.
  • Robbie "Napoleon Dynamite" McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) and all the other sprinters. Well, good old Napoleon Dynamite was off the back along with all of his sprinter colleagues today (and thanks to DP reader Erik Mayer for that updated nickname). Old Robbie is a wise man, and like all smart sprinters he just saw the road tilt up a bit too much and went "forget it." Tomorrow will be even worse, but you can always count on the Aussie Champion to put on a show: on uphill finishes, he never fails to ride a wheelie across the finish line. With all the attacking going on in the mountains, the sprinters never get flustered; they just stick together and ride it in at their own pace. Sounds like the way to do it, if you ask me.
Grazed Hams of the Day.
  • "T-Bone" Tom Boonen (Quick Step-Innergetic). Boonen really is feeling the effects of that early crash yesterday. His back is ailing, and he was dropped by the peloton in those early climbs. However, the tough Belgian was able to recover enough to catch the pack and hand with the grupetto on the final climb. Boonen lost six points to Hushovd early in the stage, but he managed to hold on to his Green Jersey at the end of the day as he came across next to McEwen in 135th, 17' 41" down. Tomorrow will be another big test as Boonen tries to get his body right. Here's hoping the rest day comes soon for Boonen, and that he's able to recover to light up the sprints again on the other side of the mountains.
  • Dave Zabriskie (CSC). This really is a mental battle now for the race's first Yellow Jersey wearer. Still suffering from the injuries he sustained in that crash during the team time trial, Zabriskie rolled across the line dead last today (180th at 51' 12"). Like Boonen, he had a hard time keeping up with the peloton for much of the stage. I wouldn't be surprised to see Zabriskie leave the race soon, as his wounds are clearly destroying his race legs. However, as he showed today, Zabriskie will not give up without one big fight. Hang in there Dave!
 
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