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Tour de France: Jambon Report Stages 18 and 19
 
By Locutus
Date: 7/22/2005
Tour de France: Jambon Report Stages 18 and 19
 
Golden Hams of Stage 18
  • Marcos "Pepper" Serrano (Liberty Seguros-Würth). Serrano was a prime mover in the big break of the day, and when they hit the last climb he was able to power away over the top for the win. Up that steep Cat 2 beastie before the finish, Serrano had to duel with a pesky Axel "Tie-Rod" Merckx (Davitamon-Lotto) and the wheel-sucking Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis), but in the end the pure climbing power of the spectacular Spaniard was too much. In many ways, this victory had parallels to the win of Hincapie a few days ago. Like Hincapie, Serrano is a quality rider who has been working in the service of team leaders in the Tour for years (Beloki and Heras, to be more specific). In Stage 18, he got to ride for himself and get some karmic payback for all those years of loyal service. He certainly deserved the heck out that win.
  • Cadel "Hellraiser" Evans (Davitamon-Lotto). When the peloton blew to hell on that final climb, who else but the Hellraiser was up with the Yellow Jersey and his biggest rivals. While men like Vinokourov, Rasmussen, Mancebo, and Landis struggled behind, Evans was able to mix it with Armstrong, Basso, and Ullrich and come out of the fray unscathed. Heck, he even took the top place in that group by sprinting across the line for 11th. More importantly, Evans picked up 37" on Vinokourov and 49" on Landis. This means that he leapt back over Vinokourov into 7th on GC at 9' 49" and put some more distance into Landis before the final time trial. This means that the race for 7th through 9th in the time trial tomorrow will be up for grabs. If Evans has a good day, he could end up taking home 7th on GC, not bad for his first Tour de France.
  • Jan "U-Boat" Ullrich (T-Mobile). The mighty German machine was tailed off of that Armstrong group on the final climb, but he gritted his teeth and fought back with sheer guts. By keeping Basso and Armstrong in his sights and finishing in 14th at 11' 18", he increased his chances of finishing on the final podium in Paris once again. Why? Because the man in 3rd on GC, Michael Rasmussen, was only able to manage 16th on the stage at 11' 55". The 37" Ullrich picked up brought him to within 2' 12" of the climbing Dane on GC. In the opening time trial of this Tour, Ullrich took 2' 06" out of Rasmussen in only 19 kilometers. With 55 kilometers to work with tomorrow in the final time trial, Ullrich should crush the course and improve his 4th on GC to a 3rd or (if Basso has a bad day) 2nd place finish. I expect Armstrong to win the stage tomorrow, but I really think Ullrich will push him very close and perhaps take one last piece of flesh from the Texan to end their storied rivalry. We'll see… it should be fun to watch one final time.
Golden Hams of Stage 19
  • Giuseppe "Body Check" Guerini (T-Mobile). Yeah, it was totally "Attack of the Super Domestiques" week in this Tour. Hincapie, Serrano, and Guerini all took stage wins despite the fact that they came to this race to support their big GC men. Guerini rode well all day, and his brilliant attack within the final 2 kilometers left his three breakaway companions in the dust. Unlike the finishing straight up the Alpe d'Huez a few years back--where Guerini was accidentally body-checked off his bike by an overzealous amateur photographer who had his head up his butt--Guerini had no problems once he flew the coop today. Instead of the high drama of remounting his bike and holding off the chasers for a win like at the Alpe d'Huez, Guerini had a relatively easy solo stroll down the finishing straight where he got to relax and raise his arms in victory. No highlight-reel fiascos, just a straight-up, hammering, hard-fought victory for the classy Italian. Again, after all his work for his teammates over the years in the Tour, this was a very well deserved win for a guy who usually has to play third or fourth fiddle.
  • Oscar "Guerrero" Pereiro (Phonak). The Spanish warrior was off the front again today… has this dude stopped attacking since the Pyrenees started? After a sub-par first part of the Tour, Pereiro has rallied like mad to climb up high on the GC. He did a huge amount of work to finish 4th today at 12", and he also took another 4' 09" out of the peloton. This catapulted him up into 10th on GC at 12' 39", and with Pereiro's strong time trialing skills, I doubt that the men behind him will be able to take that spot back tomorrow. Last year Pereiro finished 10th on GC in the Tour, and it looks like he's going to pull off that feat again this year. Not bad at all for the 28 year old who will likely be a big factor in this race again next year.
  • Thor "Thunder God" Hushovd (Credit Agricole). Well the mighty Norwegian has not yet been able to use his hammer Mjølner to get a stage win, and today he only managed 16th at 4' 31". Still, he was only one place behind McEwen and he was one place ahead of O'Grady, his biggest threats in the race for the Green Jersey. With only the final stage in Paris remaining for these guys to pick up points (they won't be factors in the time trial tomorrow), Hushovd has a 15 point lead on O'Grady and a 19 point lead on McEwen. If Hushovd can just finish well in Paris, he'll be the first Norwegian ever to win the Green Jersey competition. Then he really would be a Norse god.
Ham-Gazers of the Past Two Days
  • Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank). Once again, the lanky Dane struggled and gave up time to his GC rivals. He slipped to within easy reach of Ullrich, and now he must simply focus on riding the time trial of his life to stay in the top five. With men like Ullrich, Mancebo, and Leipheimer breathing down his neck, tomorrow will be a very stressful day for Rasmussen. However, he has already sewn up the Polka Dot Jersey competition, his primary goal for this Tour. Also, these are the kinds of problems you want to have: I mean, he's going up against Ullrich for a podium spot and Mancebo and Leipheimer for a spot in the top five. Before the race, Rasmussen never would have dreamed this was possible. As it is, all he has to do is finish upright in Paris and this Tour will have been a profound success for the Dane and his Rabobank squad.
  • Floyd Landis (Phonak). Floyd rode well in the Pyrenees, but he's struggled and lost little chunks of time the last few times the GC men went at each other. He has now slipped to 9th on GC at 10' 42", which means he has to take 31" from Vinokourov and 53" from Evans if he wants to move up tomorrow. Landis is an outstanding time trialist, and this is perfectly within his abilities. The big question is whether he has enough gas left in his tank after three hard weeks of racing to put in the kind of time trial of which he's capable.
  • Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole). The great French hope is clearly going to win the unofficial title of Best Frenchman in the Tour de France, which is very prestigious. However, he slipped another spot on GC today because of Pereiro's great ride. Moreau now sits in 11th on GC at 13' 25", which is 36" behind Pereiro. Moreau is a strong time trialist, but so is Pereiro. The battle between these two for that final spot in the top ten will be one of the most interesting sideshows of the race tomorrow. If Moreau can't pull it off, it will likely be another round of hair-pulling for the French media who have been miserable ever since Richard Virenque and Laurent Jalabert retired.
 
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