Tour de France Update #3
Two weeks are now gone in the Tour and Floyd Landis is still looking good for a win in the GC. Thatís a good thing because with an impending hip replacement surgery this could be his last race. If he can hold on for six more days of racing he will go out on top.
The past week saw the Pyrenees come and go and a pecking order established among the contenders for the GC. On the first mountaintop finish Denis Menchov and Cadel Evans demonstrated that they were the only ones capable of challenging Landis.Levi Leipheimer also regained his form to challenge in the mountains. Itís too late for him now, but you have to respect his effort. After the horrible time trial it would have been easy for him to quit, but instead he has come out swinging and a high placement for him is still possible.
After stage 12 saw Discovery Channel get their stage win, stage 13 saw Landis hand the yellow jersey to Oscar Pereiro after a long breakaway. This move has received a lot of criticism, but I think it was the right move. Pereiro is a good rider, but his high final placements in the past have been due to breakaways like this one. He has never challenged the GC riders straight up. His 1:29 lead is one that Landis is confident he could make up in the final time trial alone. The real result of this move by Landisí Phonak team is that they were able to do little work on the stage, and no pace setting the following day. Phonak has now made it through 2/3 of the Tour without having to really work hard. They should be well rested to support Landis in the Alps. In addition, Pereiro is more of a threat to places 2-10. He is a good enough rider in the mountains that the other teams will have to mark him to defend their positions.
In addition to his team not having done much work thus far, Floyd Landis himself looks like he has not been tested at all. He was entirely comfortable riding on Menchovís wheel on stage 11, never having to get out of the saddle and chase. It will take a lot more than that to keep him from the yellow jersey.
For the coming week, the race now enters the Alps for the very difficult stages 15, 16 and 17. If Landis is to be beaten, it has to occur here. After these stages, there are only two flat stages and the final long time trial, and Landis will be favored for the time trial. If Menchov or Evans are to win they must not only pass Landis, but gain enough time to hold him off in that final TT.
In a three week Tour like this alliances normally form where one team will do work for another team in return for a favor later on. There has been talk of alliances being formed between teams to assist Denis Menchov, but I wouldnít bet on their success. The reality now is that there are more teams that have reasons to assist Landis than Menchov or Evans. With only a few stages left, those teams that have been shut out of the stages will want assurances that Phonak will not chase their breakaways ( Euskaltel comes readily to mind). In addition, there is a battle underway for the polka dot jersey for best climber and the green jersey for the sprinters. Menchovís teammate, Michael Rassmussen, is one of the favorites for the polka dot. Evans teammate, Robbie McEwen, is the favorite for the green. There are several teams who will want to break up those parties, so donít be surprised if Phonak finds some unlikely allies in the coming week. Finally, as early as tomorrow other teams will begin to concede the overall and will start riding to defend their own positions, all of which should assist Landis.
What do I see for the coming week? I think Landis is going to cruise to victory.
I donít think he has yet shown his best form in the mountains. He may allow others to get the stage wins, but I think he will put more time between himself and the other GC contenders in the Alps, and then cap it off with a win in the final time trial. He will want to drop Pereiro before that final time trial, so it may be that we will see one all out effort by Floyd to accomplish that if Pereiro wonít go away on his own. As always, another concern is to avoid any illness or crashes, either of which could put him out in an instant. Finally, donít count out Levi Leipheimer for the podium. If he maintains his form through the mountains, and finishes with a time trial like he is capable of, he could very well wind up in the top three.
In any event, we have three hard mountain stages in a row that will either cement Floyd Landis as the winner, or provide us with a new champion who got there by virtue of his climbing ability. Either way it should be fun to watch.
Posted by BVBigBro at July 17, 2006 10:10 AM
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|# July 17th, 2006 10:17 AM kris|
|I can't believe how much I've come to like the Rabobank guys. I almost bought a Rabobank water bottle at Budget Bikes this weekend.
I'm soooo rooting for the Chicken to win tomorrow's stage.
|# July 17th, 2006 10:24 AM BVBigBro|
|I used to like Rabobank, but they've been a bit too whiny for me this year. I hope they get shut out tomorrow and Fabian Wegman takes the stage and the polka dots on a long breakaway. |
|# July 17th, 2006 10:25 AM kris|
|I almost bought you a team bottle Saturday, but I had no idea who you'd want. |
|# July 17th, 2006 10:28 AM BVBigBro|
|Don't. I use my own team's bottles. |
|# July 17th, 2006 9:35 PM kris|
|Cool but creepy thing I discovered about cycling today (from Marco Pantini's Wikipedia page:
Pantani returned to action in the Giro in 1997, but was felled by a black cat which ran out in front of him during one of the first stages, ending his race.
Pretty scary given that he was dead by 2004.
|# July 18th, 2006 7:58 AM BVBigBro|
|Actually, he crashed avoiding the cat. |
|# July 18th, 2006 8:17 AM kris|
|Boonen just abandoned |
|# July 19th, 2006 9:19 AM kris|
|Go Chicken Go!
Rasmussen's got 5 minutes with 36K to go up in the Alps.
|# July 19th, 2006 9:40 AM kris|
|now 4:31 with 15K up the mountain...
Levi is attacking, Landis is dropped...the yellow jersey could change back to Peirero again. Things are happening fast and furiously.
W00T! The chicken does it!! Phonak tactics don't look so sound anymore as Pereiro will be in yellow and Sastre & Evans all will be well ahead of Landis now.
|# July 19th, 2006 10:33 AM BVBigBro|
|Phonak's tactics were perfect. There's something wrong with their man. Landis would never have lost to Pereiro. |
|# July 19th, 2006 10:42 AM kris|
|Their tactics gave Landis no room for error. They made it so that he couldn't have a bad day. That's a lot of assuming. |
|# July 19th, 2006 10:51 AM BVBigBro|
|They made it so he COULD have a bad day. In all likelihood, he had several. He would never have lost the Tour to Pereiro, he could only lose to the others, and that has happened for the moment. |
|# July 19th, 2006 10:56 AM kris|
|Cycling News cracks me up. Today on Landis:
Landis is passed by Karpets and Vila, going backwards. He looks bad today, as bad as a David Hasselhoff music video. He's eight minutes down.