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Tour de France: Jambon Report Stage 14
 
By Locutus
Date: 7/16/2005
Tour de France: Jambon Report Stage 14
 
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Georg "Top Notch" Totschnig (Gerolsteiner). He was in the big break of the day, and when they hit that Above Category climb with 40 km left, it was Totschnig who powered away from them all. His victory was the first for an Austrian rider since 1931, a huge achievement for himself and his countrymen. Last year, Totschnig was right in the middle of the GC battle in the mountains. This year he has struggled, but with his ride today he's back in the ball park. Totschnig is now up to 14th on GC at 9' 14", and the way he rode today he looks like he could climb even higher. That is, if he didn't go so deep that he'll have nothing left for tomorrow.
  • Jan "U-Boat" Ullrich (T-Mobile). On the Above Category climb of the Port de Pailheres with 40 km left, T-Mobile came to the front and gave Ullrich a leadout like Discovery Channel usually does for Armstrong on the last climb of the day. Though Vinokourov's attacks seemed to me to be a bit out of sync with the work of the rest of the team, you can't argue with the results: Armstrong was immediately isolated on the lower slopes of the penultimate climb, and with Ullrich up the road Armstrong was put on the defensive. Armstrong was able to counter, but Ullrich's accelerations and hard work made the stage. Ullrich only finished 4th on the Stage at 1' 16" behind Totschnig, but he jumped four places on GC to 4th at 4' 34". With another tough stage tomorrow and a long time trial still to come, look for Ullrich to finish on the final podium in Paris. He may not be on the top step, but after his dismal performances on Stages 1 and 10 this comeback is another indicator of the staggering talent in Ullrich's body. Without Armstrong around next year, I fully expect Ullrich to bury the Tour competition once again like he did in 1997.
  • Lance "El Jefe" Armstrong (Discovery Channel). Isolated from his teammates and with GC rivals throwing the kitchen sink at him, Armstrong showed why he's The Boss: he kept his cool, watched his closest GC challenger Rasmussen, and then blistered up the slopes to Ullrich's wheel. Together will Basso and Ullrich, Armstrong put the climbing Dane into the red zone to increase his GC lead from 38" to 1' 41" by the end of the day. He then blew Basso and Ullrich off his wheel at the top of the final climb, the Ax-3 Domaines, to take 2nd place on the stage at 56" and snatch a 12" time bonus. With only one serious mountain stage left, Armstrong is looking better and better. He has played his main rivals against one another and put them all farther back in his rearview mirror with the minimum amount of energy. Look for more of the same tomorrow, and enjoy it while you can: it will be the last time we will ever see Lance bust out that legendary Can of Texas Whupass on a mountain stage of the Tour de France. Another thing to note: Armstrong has taken 2nd in three stages so far, but he hasn't won one yet. You can bet he will be hungry for the win tomorrow and in that final time trial.
  • Levi "Button Fly" Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) and "Pretty Boy" Floyd Landis (Phonak). Like last year, both Levi and Floyd have come good in time for the final mountain stages. Armstrong's former teammates both rode admirably today: they both managed to make the Yellow Jersey group of five riders on the penultimate climb, and they were the last to be dropped by the Basso-Ullrich-Armstrong battle on the Ax-3 Domaines. At the end of the day Levi finished in 5th at 1' 31", and Landis came across in 6th at the same time. This moved them up in the GC so that Leipheimer is now in 5th at 4' 45", and Landis is 6th at 5' 03". Both men can bring a good time trial, and that makes both a major threat for the top five come Paris. There's just that monster stage tomorrow to tackle, but like last year, I'm betting both men are in thick of things until the end.
  • Ivan "Bello" Basso (CSC). The classy Italian was back up front battling with Armstrong in the mountains of the Tour again. He came in 3rd on the stage at 58", but he also took time on Rasmussen to close in on that 2nd podium spot. Basso is now 3rd on GC at 2' 46", which puts him 1' 05" behind Rasmussen, and he is fully capable of taking more time than that from Rasmussen in the final time trial. Basso has yet to have a really bad day, which is surprising given that he rode the Giro. Tomorrow will be the big test: if his form holds and he has the legs to stay with the leaders, he'll land on the podium again in Paris. I think the big battle now if for 2nd and 3rd, and I think Basso and Ullrich will take this battle to the final time trial. If either of them has a bad day, Leipheimer and Landis could jump even further up in the GC.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole). France will be in the dumps tonight: their great GC hope Moreau tumbled from 3rd on GC to 10th with his poor performance today. Moreau was dropped early on the penultimate climb, and he struggled even more on the Ax-3 Domaines. He finally crossed the line in 24th, 6' 47" down on Totschnig, which put him at 8' 37" behind Armstrong on GC. While Moreau is still the highest place Frenchman in the race, he will now have to suffer a beating in the French press.
  • Santiago Botero (Phonak). Talk about erratic. Botero, who put in that monster attack with Vinokourov on the last Alpine stage, was missing in action today in the first hot roll through the Pyrenees. Botero was a horrible 76th at 29' 08", a result which caused him to plummet twenty-three places on GC: Botero started the day in 5th, but he now sits in 28th at 32' 12" behind Armstrong. But don't forget about Botero: he has a tendency to do things like this and then go on a monster attack again a stage or two later. We could still see him as a stage winner before Paris.
  • Michael "Bone Machine" Rasmussen (Rabobank). The lanky Dane didn't really have a bad day, but as he can't time trial, he needs to be gaining time on his rivals in the mountains. Instead, he gave up time to most of the men threatening his 2nd position on GC: he finished the stage in 8th at 1' 47", and he is within the reach of the five men behind him now. Tomorrow is another day with a lot of mountains, so the Bone Machine will have to get cranking early and take that time back if he wants to be on the podium for the big party in Paris.
 
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