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Tour de France: Jambon Report Stages 11 and 12
 
By Locutus
Date: 7/14/2005
Tour de France: Jambon Report Stages 11 and 12
 
Golden Hams of Stage 11
  • Alexandre "The Great" Vinokourov (T-Mobile). All hail Alexandre the Great! He blew to the sky in Stage 10, but over the two biggest climbs in the race in Stage 11 he was off the front and powering away like his old self. That monster attack and his great sprint victory over Botero only netted him 1' 35" on GC, but that's not what the day was about. This day was about Vinokourov showing why he's one of the best in the peloton, a true hardman who can launch an attack at any time and make it stick. His attack forced the Discovery Channel boys to chase all day, and while Discovery was certainly up to the challenge, this is the kind of pressure that their rivals have to put on them if they want to come back in the Pyrenees.
  • Santiago "The Battler" Botero (Phonak). He seemed to be suffering all day, yo-yo-ing off the back of the attacking leaders time after time. But he just kept battling back, until finally it was just down to him and his old teammate Vinokourov for the stage win. Botero didn't take the stage, but he did get himself right back into the GC picture: while Vinokourov moved up into 12th on GC at 4' 47", Botero climbed all the way to 6th at 3' 48". Both riders may pay down the road for this monstrous effort, but they'll now have a couple of days of easy riding to recover before the real battle in the Pyrenees. Lance has this race by the short ones, but both Botero and Vinokourov showed today that they are not going to go down without one helluva fight.
  • Christophe "Le Bug Taster "Moreau (Credit Agricole). Moreau took the sprint for 3rd, gaining the 8" time bonus that put him up one place on the GC. The great French hope is now in 3rd at 2' 34", just 6" ahead of Basso (CSC). He has threatened to land on the podium before, but all of France is aware that this is the best opportunity Moreau has ever had to really pull it off. He carries a lot of pressure on his shoulders into the Pyrenees… but so far, he's been up to the challenge.
Golden Hams of Stage 12
  • David "Big Cootie" Moncoutie (Cofidis). Like last year, the Big Cootie put in a blistering attack from a breakaway group and drove it home from way out to take the stage. Today his attack went on the Cat 2 Col du Corobin, over 35 km from the line. That's a long way to go solo, especially with so many quality men in the group behind chasing. But on Bastille Day, Moncoutie stormed his own fortress and made himself a national hero. He'll never have to buy a beer in France again. He ended the French drought in this race in impressive fashion, and all I can say is chapeau.
  • Thor "Thunder God" Hushovd (Credit Agricole). You've got to give the Norwegian meatwad credit: despite his bulky frame, he has gone after some of the biggest climbs in France over the past two days in his attempt to claim the Green Jersey. Unfortunately, the mighty Tom Boonen had to withdraw from the race this morning due to one too many crash injuries (now his knee and back are both shot). This left Hushovd as the Green Jersey leader, but he didn't rest on his laurels. No, he once again went on the attack over some mountains. Now, watching a big guy like Hushovd "attack" in the mountains is not pretty… I keep getting the image of the Big Engine that Might Not… but he has earned that Green Jersey on his back now, taking the sprint today for 9th ahead of O'Grady to move up to 142 points, giving him a 22 point cushion. Hei hei Norge, because it looks like your green dreams are going to come true.
  • Stuart "Red Stallion" O'Grady (Cofidis). So Stuey has emerged as the biggest threat to Hushovd, and watching these two duel up the climbs today for a sprinting competition was kind of like watching pigs try to ice skate. But you can't doubt the heart or the talent of these men, as they push through their own limitations in pursuit of that magical Green Jersey. O'Grady also played the role of teammate to perfection today, launching an attack up the Col du Corobin: this strung out the breakaway, forced other men to use up energy chasing him, and allowed Moncoutie to launch his successful attack. O'Grady came in 10th on the stage and is 2nd in the points competition at 22 points behind Hushovd, but part of that stage victory today belongs to him.
Ham-Gazers of the Past Two Days
  • Please. Did you see those mountains? Maybe it's just mental scaring from my own ride through the Alps last year, but I can't do anything but applaud those who made it through these stages. Special notice goes out to poor Jens Voigt (CSC) and Kevin Hulsmans (Quick Step-Innergetic), who both finished the stage just outside the time limit on Stage 11. It's cruel to cut men from the race on a stage like that when they've actually crossed the finish line, but that's the Tour de France. Sure, watching freakin' awesome attacks like those of Vinokourov, Botero, and Moncoutie are great, but for me the most moving part of the Tour is watching those men who have the courage to keep pushing on through the stages despite the fact that they have no hope of a high placing. They just ride on guts and pride, and for the sheer challenge of it. I'd buy any of those guys a beer.
Note: For those of you who emailed me in the past two days, I apologize for not responding... I've been transitioning to a new computer and lost your emails! Please resend them if you can.
 
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