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Tour de France: Jambon Report Stage 9
 
By Locutus
Date: 7/10/2005
Tour de France: Jambon Report Stage 9
 
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Michael "Bjergmester" Rasmussen (Rabobank). Yeah, baby, that's what I'm talking about! The Bjergmester was floating up those mountains today like he'd gotten a helium enema. Last year, the former World Mountain Biking Champion attacked often in the mountains but got swallowed up by the big GC men as they fought over the podium positions. Today, on a profile that no sane GC rider would use to attack, the man they called "The Chicken" drove home an escape for the ages. He launched off the front about 6 km into the race and teamed up with another former mountain biking great, Dario "Choo-Choo" Cioni (Liquigas-Bianchi), as he built up a huge gap on the peloton. As they hit the big climb of the day, the Cat 1 Le Ballon d'Alsace, Cioni could take no more and eventually fell back to the pack. Rasmussen continued to accelerate, taking maximum points over every climb and earning Rabobank their 2nd stage win and 3rd different Polka Dot Jersey wearer in this race. It was such an epic attack, even the normally stoic Bernard Hinault, 5-time Tour de France Champion, couldn't help but smile and give the crazy Dane a little hug as he stepped off the podium. You see, Hinault appreciates when someone goes out and does it old school, and 165+ km off the front of the race with a massive 3' 04" margin of victory is bringing the pain the way Hinault used to do it in his prime. Now Rasmussen lies in 4th on GC at 2' 43", which might be enough of a foundation for him to make a run at the top five in Paris. More importantly, Rasmussen has 88 points in the mountains competition, more than twice as many as the 2nd placed Moreau. With a rest day to recover his strength, I get the feeling we'll be getting a steady diet of the Bjergmester in the mountain stages to come.
  • Jens "Manly-Man" Voigt (CSC). He tried to attack yesterday, but it didn't quite work out. Today, the popular German launched off the front in a group of six in pursuit of Rasmussen and Cioni. He drove the chase like a man possessed, and with good reason: 1) Voigt is on friendly terms with Armstrong (remember when Voigt helped Lance's boys chase down Ullrich in the Alps last year?), 2) Voigt knew that Discovery Channel was looking to unload the Yellow Jersey for a day or two, and 3) Voigt knows that Discovery Channel doesn't see him as a long-term GC threat, so they're not inclined to chase him down. Making grimaces that would make a weight lifter proud, Voigt hammered away and shed everyone but his old teammate and friend Moreau. Together they held the peloton at bay, finishing 3' 04" behind Rasmussen but gaining 3' 00" on everybody else. This gave Voigt the second Yellow Jersey of his career, as he now leads Moreau by 1' 50" and Armstrong by 2' 18". It's unlikely that Voigt will be able to hold onto the Yellow Jersey after the climb to Courchevel on Tuesday, but you never know. Whatever happens, Voigt has proven that his brief 2001 stint in the Yellow Jersey was no fluke: he's a quality rider who deserves the honor.
  • Christophe "Le Bug Taster" Moreau (Credit Agricole). Moreau has a stint in the Yellow Jersey and a few top-five Tour finishes on his resumé, but he didn't seem to be the same rider in last year's Tour. Today, however, he got into the right break and made a lot of noise, showing that his old legs are back and his tongue is at its bug-catching best. Moreau's work with Voigt in the break was enough to put him in a distant 2nd place in the mountains competition. More importantly, he's now 2nd on GC at 1' 50" and must be considered a serious threat for the top five on GC in Paris. Also, he now has a commanding 6' 08" lead on Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom) in the race to be the top Frenchman in Paris (and if you've read the French newspapers during the Tour, you know how important this unofficial competition is for the home crowd). All in all, this was a great day out for the Bug Taster… now we just have to see how well he recovers from this effort over the next few days.
  • Stuart "Red Thunder" O'Grady. On a day when the vast majority of sprinters were either dropping out of the race or sitting back chatting in the grupetto, O'Grady managed to make it to the line in the Yellow Jersey group. By winning the bunch sprint for 4th, O'Grady was able to pick up 18 points on a day when his Green Jersey rivals got nada. Stuey is now back up into 3rd in the race for the Green Jersey, only 24 points behind Boonen. With some more stages like this coming up next week, you have to wonder if Stuey can pull off a huge upset and win the Green Jersey in Paris, a goal that has been frustratingly elusive his entire career.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • There weren't many. This is the end of the first nine days of the Tour, and most everybody is starting to feel a bit tired at this point… I mean, that's why they get the "rest day" tomorrow. There were some fierce attacks by a lot of men in spite of this, and even people just sitting in the peloton had a hard time on the climbs as Discovery Channel drove home the point that they are not as weak as they may have seemed yesterday. When Jose Luis "The Punisher" Rubiera came to the front on the Ballon d' Alsace, you could see where he earned that nickname: guys started getting shelled left and right so that by the top of the climb, only about a quarter of the peloton was left. Today was the end of a brutally fast first nine days of racing that broke all kinds of speed records. Just being in the race at this point is an incredible accomplishment.
Grazed Hams of the Day
  • Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile). The big German took a spill on the first descent of the day and got a bloodied left leg and a banged-up left knee for his troubles. This could be nothing: thankfully, Ullrich seemed to have no problem staying near the front of the Yellow Jersey group for the rest of the day. However, Ullrich has had serious knee problems in the past, so a slight banging now could lead to a problem somewhere down the road.
  • Tom Boonen (Quick Step-Innergetic). The big sprinter with the banged-up back had no problems today, finishing safely and surrounded by his teammates in the big group that came in 19' 06" back. This is a big step forward for the wearer of the Green Jersey, who will now get a rest day to get his back and the rest of his body up to 100% after his crash a couple of days ago.
 
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