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Tour de France: Jambon Report - Stage 19
 
By Locutus
Date: 7/22/2006
Tour de France: Jambon Report - Stage 19
 

Golden Hams of the Day

  • Sergei "Spellcheck" Gonchar (T-Mobile). Another time trial, another big victory for the big grinder. Gonchar crushed every time check, blistering the course with an average speed of 50.479 kph. Gonchar is a former GC hopeful who has gotten a bit long in the tooth and lost some of his climbing ability, but his ability on the flats is as great as ever. This victory gave T-Mobile it's third stage win, and when you consider the scandal that started this race, this has been a darned successful Tour de France for the hot pink wonderboys. And its great to see a guy get his first two stage wins after such a long career with none.
  • Floyd "Fist of Fury" Landis (Phonak). Landis came into the stage in 3rd at 30" behind Pereiro, and he took care of business. Floyd was 1" up on Gonchar after that first time check at 16.5 km, but only 10" up on Pereiro. Landis slowed a bit, but Pereiro slowed down much more. Floyd still managed to take 3rd on the stage at 1' 11", and by the end of the day he was 59" clear of the field on GC. So Landis will now be the 3rd American ever to wear the Yellow Jersey on the Champs Elysees, and he gives the United States its 8th consecutive Tour victory and 11th in the last 21 years. More importantly, Floyd provided one of the greatest (if not the greatest) comeback in Tour de France history. We'll be talking about this one for a long time to come.
  • "San" Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile). He's had a good Tour with only a couple of slightly off days in the mountains, but today he had to ride his butt off if he wanted to be on the final podium. Klöden started the stage in 4th on GC at 2' 29" behind Pereiro and 2' 17" behind Sastre. He found his 2004 legs one final time and spanked the course, finishing the stage in 2nd at 41" behind his teammate Gonchar. This moved him up into 3rd on GC at 1' 29", giving T-Mobile a happy ending to it's GC chase and putting Klöden on the podium for the 2nd time in his life. If anything, this ride has vindicated Klöden's 2nd place in 2004 and shown that it wasn't a fluke: he's a quality rider who can attack like crazy when it counts.
  • Damiano "The Omen" Cunego (Lampre). He was only 5" up in the race for the White Jersey, and Cunego isn't known for his great time trialing. However, Cunego used raw power to finish the stage in 10th at 3' 44" behind Gonchar. This moved Cunego up into 12th on GC at 19' 21", and ensured his place in the White Jersey in Paris. Though he started slowly, Cunego has finished his first Tour de France well, and he looks like he will be back to challenge for the podium in a couple of years. But first, he wants to win another Giro d'Italia.
  • Oscar "No Perro" Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne). He started the day in the Yellow Jersey, barely, and he wasn't expected to really challenge the leaders in the time trial. As happens so often, however, Pereiro was inspired by his leader's jersey and he rode the time trial of his life. He went all out early on, but he couldn't maintain that high pace. Still, he finished the stage in 4th at 2' 40", which was good enough to keep him on the podium in Paris. Pereiro will finish the race in 2nd on GC at 59" behind his former teammate Landis, but he won't be disappointed: he lost the Yellow Jersey to a friend, and he's going to finish 2nd in the Tour de France. For a guy who came into the race as a domestique to help Alejandro Valverde, this has turned into a dream come true. Pereiro has provided one of the most compelling stories in this Tour of surprises, and he deserves all the glory he will bask in tomorrow.

Ham-Gazers of the Day

  • Carlos Sastre (CSC). The gutsy Spaniard gave it his all, but he only managed 20th on the stage at 4' 42". This dropped him from 2nd down to 4th on GC at 3' 13" back. Still, Sastre has led the charge for a CSC team that, like T-Mobile, was shaken by the loss of a leader due to a drug scandal at the beginning of the race. They still managed to attack like crazy, win stages, and put a guy in 4th on GC. That's a lot more than most teams can say.
  • Michael Rogers (T-Mobile). The World Time Trial Champion only managed to come in 19th on the stage at 4' 35", but you can't blame Rogers: he has been working his butt off for Klöden for the past couple of weeks. There was no way Rogers was going to climb up into 9th on GC… the gap was too big… so he just did what he had to do today to preserve his 10th place. This is a solid finish to what has been a strong Tour for Rogers, and now he has proven he can ride high on GC in the biggest race in the world.
  • Marcus Fothen (Gerolsteiner). Fothen did well, but not as well as he would have liked. He ended the stage in 13th at 4' 15", which put him in 15th on GC at 19' 57". He lost out in the White Jersey race, but for a young man looking to build for the future, 15th in the Tour de France isn't bad at all. In fact, I suspect we'll see him in the top ten of a grand tour some time soon.

Le Creusot? C'est Delicieux!

Well. Finally something a little predictable happened in this year's tour!

Heading into stage 19's final time trial, all things being equal, I figured Floyd Landis would be able to come out on top by at least a minute, maybe two. He came out of his bus, under big pressure to perform, and warmed-up in Le Creusot without even looking at the assembled press and fans. He just fitted his headphones into his ears, mounted the trainer, and gave 100% of his focus to the task at hand. Then, he took his bike to the start house and took care of business.

There's something about a guy knowing what he has to do, and then just doing it, that will never, ever get old. Just like pictures like this one:


Floyd Landis reaps the spoils
Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti

Also delicieux on stage 19 was Damiano Cunego's ride to keep the Maillot Blanc. Cunego is just a kid, but he's seen a lot of action. This time trial is where he served notice that when there is a damned good reason to step up, he can do it. I love the way Le Tour takes boys and turns 'em into men who command a certain respect. I hope to see some great things from little Damiano in the future.

Probably the most delicieux thing I saw all day was the way Oscar Pereiro took his loss of the Maillot Jaune. Pereiro had a big, enthusiastic, well-costumed cheering section, who waited for him all day long next to the Caisse de L'Epargne bus. They chanted a big round of "Ole, ole, ole, ole!" when he arrived, looking trim, suitably charming and latin, and all dressed up for the ball in his yellow skinsuit.

IMG_9430
Oscar Pereiro's biggest fans
Photo c. Crazy Jane, 2006

Pereiro had very little hope of carrying the day, but he gave it every last thing he had, putting up a very strong time to take 2nd in the G.C. over much more likely suspects. At the finish, Pereiro, smiling from ear-to-ear, gave Landis his sincere congratulations and a big hug, happy in his former teammate's glory, even though it meant less for him.

Oh, cycling! You're killin' me! You're Goddamned Killin' me.

And now, I hope you enjoy this special, delicieux photo feature, because when I spotted nuclear weapons grade charm yesterday in Le Creusot, I took its picture just for you.

Check it out:

So, yesterday, I said this column was about two things: the feats of strength and grace that do so often take place our beautiful sport, and how the guys who make it so damned good look awesome in lycra. I forgot to add the third thing this column is about, and that's the fact that Jens Voigt is a magnificent bike racer with a whole truck-full of hammers. Yesterday, I met up with Jens and complimented him on his fine style in the saddle, and asked him if he had a nice, big, beautiful smile for my column. His response? "That's the only kind I've got!"

I can only concur:

Jens Voigt's Big Smile, Le Creusot
Jens Voigt's lovely smile
Photo c. Crazy Jane, 2006

I also ran into perenial Crazy Jane favorite, Big George Hincapie, who looked well and happy. This tour hasn't been George's best, but he had plenty of reasons to smile yesterday, including gazillions of admirers, and especially the ones that count most: his beautiful family. Here's what Big G. had for us. I like it!

George Hincapie, All Hopped-Up on Charm Enhancers in Le Creusot
George Hincapie tested positive for massive charm
Photo c. Crazy Jane, 2006

Let's talk about Axel Merckx for a minute, ok? Firstly, he was wearing lycra, had smooth brown skin, and was about 8 feet tall. Secondly, I saw him switch with perfect ease between 3 languages in the space of about 5 minutes. thirdly, he was really sweet to his young fans. Asked by a boy of about seven for his water bottle, which he wasn't finished with, Axel replied "You can have it when I'm done, because I need to drink! If I don't drink I won't have energy. Can you wait?" When the little boy, kitted up in a little boy Maillot Jaune, and somewhat abashed, affirmed that he would, Axel said "Oh... I'll drink it right now, ok?" and made one little fan scamperingly happy.

Well played, Axel.

Axel Merckx Warms Up in Le Creusot
Axel Merckx speaking to a young fan
Photo c. Crazy Jane, 2006

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Stephano Garzelli is the prettiest man I have ever seen.

Stephano
Stephano "Mascara" Garzelli
Photo c. Crazy Jane, 2006

And, they don't call Stuey O'Grady "The Freckle" for nothing.

Stuey O'Grady Warms-Up
O'Grady prepares
Photo c. Crazy Jane, 2006

Old Crazy Jane favorite Gilberto Simoni was as much a little Italian doll with perfect hair as ever, and it was lovely to see him again and catch up a little over the language barrier. "Good luck!" I told him, "Be safe!" "Safe?" he asked. "No crash!" I reiterated. "Oh no! No speak!" he replied.

Oh, Gibo. Crazy Jane's panel of experts dubs thee delicieux!

That Lovely Gilberto Simoni
Simoni in good spirits
Photo c. Crazy Jane, 2006

Chris Horner was hoping for a bigger presence in this year's tour, but he suffered through a litany of disaster out there. His hand is still all swollen up after his early crash, and he followed that up with a bout of illness. Despite that, he was ready to rumble, his usual loquacious self, and sporting some very exciting tan lines. It was delicieux to see him in France.

Chris Horner, Charming as Ever
Chris Horner warms up
Photo c. Crazy Jane, 2006

Finally, I just want to make a distinction on the finer point of Russians with mullets in the peloton:

ALLOWED DUE TO CONSISTENT BAD-ASSERY:

The Toughest Guy in Le Creusot: Viatcheslav Ekimov
Viatcheslav Ekimov
Photo c. Crazy Jane, 2006

MUST BE STOPPED:

Let's Talk About KARPETS, Ok?
Vladimir and his Karpet
Photo c. Crazy Jane, 2006

That is all.

 
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