An incredible performance from Francis Lee, no less than five of the top ten riders today were in his team : Armstrong, Kloden, Leipheimer, Basso and Valverde. Unsurprisingly in the overall game he finds himself in the top hundred for this stage for a second time (equal 43rd place). The front of the Fella’s tour peloton are now bunched with 50 points separating, fairly equally, 1st from 4th place.
212(+32,-60) Simon White (France)
206(+38,-66) Joost Dantuma (UK)
182(+34,-90) Paul Evans (France)
162(+46,-110) Francis Lee (France)
52 (+0,-220) Keir Mitchell (UK)
The mountain stages are putting strain on some of the fancied riders. After an early breakaway by Joost Dantuma’s distant undead cousin Joost Posthuma, my phone rang as an excited Paul Evans noted Jaksche (amongst other strongly placed riders at that time) were in his lineup. Unfortunately that same lineup is a little sprinter-heavy at the top, whilst riders looking likely to be placed in top tens to come such as Levi Leipheimer are strategically better placed where it might matter – the American rider’s worth 9 to Franco and only 2 to Paul.
Commentators stopped talking about a peloton as over the two Cat 1 climbs riders got dropped and caught up all over the place. Worst sufferers were Vinokourov and Jens Voigt (the former signalling another bad omen for my team after the loss of Kirsipuu on Sunday), whilst Armstrong made a real show of strength with his team helping him all the way. A spot of redeeming luck for me meant that Valverde sprinted to take first place, allowing me 3 much needed bonus points for Armstrong as he’s second in my team. That bonus keeps Joost – I can almost hear him sledging from behing my back tyre – from pulling around me and sprinting ahead for the time being at least.
If the general trend continues, Franco is in a nice position to challenge for a late push, and right now he’s protected from the headwind at the back of the pack. Oh, and don’t forget to wave to Keir Mitchell, failing to score (points) again and fourth from bottom of the overall classification. Rumour has it he’s working on turning bicycle handlebars into interesting smoking paraphernalia, after being responsible for Franco’s recent performance boost.