Congratulations to Paul Evans, who takes his first stage win since back when the riders hadn’t been up any steep hills and finished over the border in Germany on July 9th. He’s now back in Francis Lee’s slipstream with less than 10 points separating them, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
372(+28,-54) Joost Dantuma (UK)
370(+31,-56) Simon White (France)
327(+33,-99) Francis Lee (France)
318(+35,-108) Paul Evans (France)
60 (+8,-366) Keir Mitchell (UK)
Paul “the slightly less grumpy Fella” can take heart in having the optimal placement of the three riders most likely to fight hard over the next stages : Armstrong, Ullrich and Basso. However that advantage only comes into play if all three make the top ten. Still just ahead, Joost Dantuma had a tough day. Finishing at the back of the four main riders in the Fella’s tour today, he must be glad that there’s a rest day tomorrow to recoup and get his tactical decisions made clear to all his riders for the final mountain stage on Tuesday. No doubt he’ll take a copy of the Excel chart to his debriefing session and moan about how you can’t even see the separation between the two team lines, them fellas are so close behind. I’ll have time to get my riders to practice the schoolboy trick of pushing the front tyre right up next to Joost’s back tyre, then turning the handlebars to allow the two to rub slightly together and making a silly burning noise. Most offputting it will be for the flying Dutchc@#t.
Out in the blistering heat – in places the bitumen was pretty much melted – the real tour riders had their toughest day yet. The peloton let a fourteen man breakaway get almost twenty minutes ahead. They knew that they didn’t need to up the pace. First, nobody in the break was going to endanger the lead. Second, it was inevitable as the front riders climbed “col” after “col”, that they would lose their pace. With 4 peaks and a mountain finish to get through today, they just weren’t going to keep their average up high enough to stay that far ahead of the best riders behind them. Ten of the fourteen ended up going backwards (relatively speaking) but, helped by how much time they had got ahead, five riders from the inital breakaway valiantly managed to stay ahead. Hincapie was ecstatic as he took his first ever tour stage win, easily beating Pereiro in the final few hundred metres. Boogerd was up there as well, causing Keir Mitchell to come out of retirement on his wedding day to pick up 8 points. That’s a mighty fine gesture for your wedding Keir, just don’t get too excited about the wooden spoon being awarded to “Adios Mofo” instead, he managed to pick up 10 points so he’s still closing the gap.
In the overall classification, Lance Armstrong is still looking strong. Basso tried to attack him by changing the pace several times, but he couldn’t shake the yellow jersey off. Ullrich, on the other hand, had more trouble. Vinokourov was up there with him, leading off an attack and change of pace for him on the last climb – but Ullrich couldn’t do much with it. He looked like he was in pain as he came in to finish having lost time and a place in the general classification: Basso is now second by 16 seconds. I’m hoping Vinokourov can keep being aggressive and working for the Ullrich on the flat. As long as the Kazakh stays with him he’s a real weapon in my fight against Joost every time he makes a top ten finish.
Rest day tomorrow, so I’ll be back on Tuesday for more random rambling,