Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tour de France: Stage 10

Tallard to Marseille 229.5 km

Hot. It's so hot today. Damn it is hot.

Hi. Stage 10. Good morning. GNB Sports here.

Did we mention how freaking hot it is? Well, it's hot.

Nothing happened for the first 50 km. Then one guy got free. One guy free of course has no chance of surviving so he waited for some help which eventually showed up. Ten guys. Total of eleven, none of whom have a shot at winning the Tour. The breakaway of eleven finally got fully free at the 85 km mark and currently leads the peloton by 10:39 with 90 km to go. Here are the 11 people in the break:

  • Jens Voigt (CSC)
  • Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank)
  • Paolo Bossoni (Lampre)
  • Patrice Halgand (Credit Agricole)
  • Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis)
  • Michal Albasini (Liquigas)
  • Aleksandre Kuschynski (Liquigas)
  • Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux)
  • Cedric Vasseur (Quick Step)
  • Andriy Grivko (Milram)
  • Marcus Burghardt (T-Mobile)
  • Yes, we were amiss in not writing about it yesterday in the main post. Marcus Burghardt did indeed collide with a dog. You may watch it in slow motion no less in the Versus Stage 9 video clips. Marcus is doing fine. So far as we know so is the dog. Marcus's carbon-fiber wheel; not so much. Heh. No one abandoned over night meaning 171 riders started today.

    One bit of sad business. T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz reacted with bewilderment when he was notified his A-sample failed a doping test with a raised testosterone level. He now has five days to decide if he will have his B sample tested. Sinkewitz is in the hospital after being forced to abandon the Tour after Stage 8 when he collided with a spectator while he and the other riders were descending at high speed from the finish line down to their hotels. T-Mobile suspended the young rider immediately and said if Sinkewitz's B-Sample is positive he will be fired. German television stopped showing the Tour today in protest of doping. It was not know if this was a one-day protest, or if the Tour is off television in Germany for 2007.

    Did you know the Tour podium girls -- yes, the girls whom the riders kiss when they're given a jersey -- spend several years working their way up to that level? As in any human enterprise there's a pecking order with podium girls, most of whom are models. The Credit Lyonnaise Yellow Jersey girls spend several years doing promotional duties for the international banking firm before they're allowed to move on to the Tour podium and make air kisses with a sweaty rider. Champion's King of the Mountain's polka-dot podium women also do some meet and greats. Third, PMU's green jersey podium women in addition to their podium duties, do "wild dance routines... in the publicity caravan." Finally, Aquarrel's white jersey podium women help pass out bottled water. None of the women are allowed to go past the friendly kisses they pass out professionally. However. It can happen. U.S. Postal rider George Hincapie noticed Credit Lyonnaise Yellow Jersey podium girl Melanie Simonneau when she awarded him a Lion during the 2003 Tour. They have since married and had a child. *sighs*

    Absolutely nothing is happening in today's Tour. Seriously. The break remains 10:41 away with 65 km to go as everyone speeds along at high speed under broiling skies. There are two cat-3 climbs near the end today. Presumably the breakaway will shatter when it hits at least the second if not the first, but for now we sit, wait, and wish for a cold soda. The tar in the roads has begun to melt: 37 C (98 F) which makes it hard for the bikes to get any kind of rolling advantage. Yes, we told you. It's hot.

    Of course the modern Tour fails to compare to the early days of the Tour back when men were men and Americans weren't invited. Back then -- around World War I -- riders rode the entire Tour as individuals and weren't allowed any help from anyone. In one classic case, the sad story of Eugene Christophe, the first rider ever to wear the Yellow Jersey, leading the Tour with just five stages to go and the win clearly his at last, Christophe was hit by a careless driver who broke Christophe's front fork on a mountain pass. He threw his bike over his shoulder, hiked eight and a half miles back down to a village, went to the blacksmith shop and forged a new front fork, rode back up over the mountain pass and raced on, but it had cost him too much time. Christophe placed but failed to win in Paris. That is bicycle racing. Come to think of it we don't imagine Christophe was met by a podium girl with air kisses either.

    After the first cat-3 climb the lead has broken apart into two groups, a lead of five riders with chase 1 another five riders a full 34 seconds back. If you're paying attention this leaves one rider unaccounted for. Give yourself 10 bonus points if you were paying attention. The Milram man, Grivko, was dropped. Thus two groups of five riders each. The peloton remains 10:30 behind the lead with 22 km to go. The pressure is on Jens Voigt in the lead along with Halgand, Albasini, Vasseur and the white jersey of Sandy Casar. The French have not won a stage yet in the 2007 Tour. Perhaps this is finally their Stage?

    Coming up to the top of the final cat-3 the same five riders remain together, chase 1 is 45 seconds behind, a few other minor chases behind, then the peloton 12 minutes back. The snaking descent is all that remains this hot afternoon. One of these five experienced riders will win the stage just 9 km below.

    Into the streets of Marseille, a huge industrial city, about a mile from the beach. There goes Jens Voight again, hitting the other riders again and again till they haul him back. All anyone needs is 20 meters and they have a chance to win the stage. More attacks with 2.5 km to go and the riders claw their way back together. We're under the 2 km sign and no one knows yet who's going to win. It's pretty much straight all the way in, cat and mouse tactics from here on. Just 1.4 km to go. Everyone trying to be the second person to go as the first person out will certainly lose. Under the 1 km kite and still no one goes. Coming up to 500 meters. The three Frenchman are marking each other, more concerned with beating each other than anyone else. And here they go, racing for the finish... Albasini is running. And Vasseur makes the move up the inside and crosses the line by a nose. The second stage win for Cedric Vasseur ever, the third win for Quickstep in this Tour de France, with France taking first and second on the day.

    The peloton continues to make its way towards the finish. Eventually it will arrive. In the interim the remaining chase groups make their way in. Tomorrow will be flat, a sprinters' day. And hot. See you then. GNB Sports. Good day.

    Stage 11 LIVE in the U.S. on Versus: Thursday, July 19, 8:30 - 11:30 AM ET/5:30 - 8:30 AM PT.

    Today's video highlights -- Great Tour coverage at VeloNews

    A Feast on Wheels: Behind the scenes Tour coverage by correspondent Bonnie DeSimone of ESPN, Boston Globe and the Oregonian.

    TDF Stage 10 Results -- Top 5:
    The top five in the 10th stage are:
    1. Cedric Vasseur (QSI) 229.5km in 5h20'24" (42.977km/h)
    2. Sandy Casar (FDJ)
    3. Michael Albasini (LIQ)
    4. Patrice Halgand (C.A)
    5. Jens Voigt (CSC)

    TDF: Standings after Stage 10
    1 058
    RASMUSSEN, Michael DEN RAB 49:23:48.000 00:00:00.000
    2 018 VALVERDE, Alejandro ESP GCE 49:26:23.000 00:02:35.000
    3 207 MAYO, Iban ESP SDV 49:26:27.000 00:02:39.000
    4 041 EVANS, Cadel AUS PRL 49:26:29.000 00:02:41.000
    5 112 CONTADOR, Alberto ESP DSC 49:26:56.000 00:03:08.000
    6 061 MOREAU, Christophe FRA A2R 49:27:06.000 00:03:18.000
    7 031 SASTRE, Carlos ESP CSC 49:27:27.000 00:03:39.000
    8 196 KLÖDEN, Andréas GER AST 49:27:38.000 00:03:50.000
    9 111 LEIPHEIMER, Levi USA DSC 49:27:41.000 00:03:53.000
    10 027 KIRCHEN, Kim LUX
    TMO 49:28:54.000 00:05:06.000