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Tour de France: Jambon Report - Stage 16
By Locutus
Date: 7/19/2006
Tour de France: Jambon Report - Stage 16

Golden Hams of the Day

  • Mickael "Bone Machine" Rasmussen (Rabobank). Yeah, this is the Bone Machine we have been waiting for. Rasmussen had been working dutifully for Menchov this whole Tour and taking little chunks of mountains points whenever he could. Today, Rabobank let him off the leash and he attacked as soon as he saw the first sign of a hill. He dropped all but one rider by the top of the first climb, and by the middle of the second climb he was all by himself. Rasmussen took first at the top of every mountain, and in the process he built up a big lead that allowed him to win the stage by a comfortable 1' 41" margin. He also took a 45 point lead in the race for the Polka-Dot Jersey, and he will likely sew up his mountains lead tomorrow. Rasmussen is rapidly becoming a Tour legend, and the hottest thing in Denmark since Bjarne Riis went bald.
  • Carlos "Sassy" Sastre (CSC). This attacking climber put the wood to his GC rivals up that final climb. It was his attack that put Landis out the back and that blew up T-Mobile as they tried to chase him down. Sastre finished the stage in 2nd at 1' 41" behind Rasmussen, picking up a 12" time bonus and 13" gap on the new Yellow Jersey Pereiro. Sastre is now in 2nd on GC at 1' 50", and he will likely attack again tomorrow. Why? Because that will be his best chance to take more time from Pereiro, and he will want a bigger cushion on Klöden going into that final time trial. In a race where all the big GC men have had bad days, Sastre has been the most consistent. With one more day in the mountains, he is starting to look like the only guy who can still know Pereiro off.
  • Oscar "No Perro" Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne). Landis is not the one looking silly for his failure to chase down Pereiro on Stage 12; after all, there were a lot of other teams in the race with reason to chase Pereiro that day. Today, Oscar rode like a guy who is going to win the Tour de France. When T-Mobile put the hammer down in pursuit of Sastre, Pereiro was right there when most men were dropped. When Klöden took over the pacemaking himself, Pereiro pulled through and helped drive it home. Pereiro then took the sprint for 3rd on the stage at 1' 54" behind Rasmussen and limited Sastre to only a 13" gap at the end of the day. This gave Pereiro a commanding 1' 50" lead over Sastre on GC, and think about this: there are no more uphill finishes, and Pereiro is a pretty decent time trialist. All he has to do is suck wheels tomorrow and ride a strong time trial, and he will be the biggest surprise winner of the Tour in modern history.
  • "San" Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile) and Cadel "Hellraiser" Evans (Davitamon-Lotto). When Sastre attacked, only these two men and Pereiro could respond. Klöden once again did an awful lot of work and finally got something to show for it. His 5th place finish at 1' 56" moved him into 3rd on GC at 2' 29", and he is now set to make a run at the top step of the podium over the next few days. For his part, Evans recovered well from his bad day yesterday to climb back into podium contention. Evans was 4th at 1' 56" on the stage, and this jumped him from 7th to 5th on GC at 2' 56". Evans is now 27" away from the podium… if he can keep having days like today, he just might pull it off.
  • Christophe "Le Bug Taster" Moreau and Cyril "Bio-Diesel" Dessel (AG2r-Prevoyance). The two Frenchmen are becoming national heroes with their performance in this Tour. On that final climb, Moreau struggled early but fought all the way to the finish. Along the way, he hooked up with Dessel and towed his teammate to the line. They finished that stage in 6th and 8th respectively at 2' 37" behind Rasmussen. This moved Moreau from 11th to 8th on GC at 7' 03". Dessel's gutsy performance kept him in the hunt, as he only fell from 3rd to 4th on GC at 2' 43". Dessel is only 14" behind Klöden for that final spot on the podium. If he could actually make it up onto that final podium in Paris, the French might build the guy a statue for his efforts.

Ham-Gazers of the Day

  • Floyd Landis (Phonak). I blame Sir Isaac Newton. Gravity had been Floyd's friend for the first 2 ˝ weeks of this race. Then today, on the hardest day in the Alps, gravity turned against him with a vengeance. Floyd rode a brilliant race tactically, but on the final climb, gravity sucked the strength out of his legs and he lost big time. Floyd finished the stage in 23rd at 10' 04", and he also lost over 8' to his biggest GC rivals. He fell down into 11th on GC at 8' 08". The good news: Floyd is only 2" out of the top ten, tomorrow is another climbing stage, and Floyd can still win that final time trial. If he can bounce back from this horrible day, he could still make some noise in this race. The sci-fi fan in me is always looking towards the possibilities of the future, and I can't help making some early predictions about next year's Tour: I predict that Oscar Goldman will take over as the director of Team Phonak, and "Bionic" Floyd will return with his surgically enhanced hip to win the Tour de France. Also, Chewbacca will shave his legs, take up bike racing, and win the Green Jersey ahead of a complaining Tom Boonen. Hey, a guy can always dream.
  • Levi Leipheimer and Marcus Fothen (Gerolsteiner). Levi has serious cajones. Today he went on the attack on the 2nd climb and got a 3' gap on the big GC men. Unfortunately, when the race heated up on the final climb Levi was caught and dropped by the very men he hoped to take time from. Still, that's the way to go down: swinging like crazy and giving it your all. And at the end of the day, Levi was able to hold onto his GC position: he finished the stage 9th at 3' 24", and he is still 9th on GC at 7' 46". For his part, Fothen lost time to his biggest rival in the Best Young Rider competition: he finished the stage in 17th at 8' 37", which cost him 4' 16" to Damiano Cunego of Lampre. Fothen still has a 2' 42" lead on Cunego, and he will take time from Cunego on that final time trial. Now he just has to hold on for one more day in the Alps.
  • David de la Fuente (Saunier Duval-Prodir). Well, the attacking Spaniard really gave it his all to hold onto the Polka-Dot Jersey. Today was one mountain day too many: he got shelled on the climbs, but de la Fuente should be applauded for holding the mountains lead for so many days. Tomorrow he can still attack to try to take some points, but somehow I think Rasmussen will be ready for that.
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