Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tour de France: Stage 8

Le Grand Bornand to Tignes 165 km

CRASH! Rogers and Arroyo have crashed descending the Cormet de Roseland. One hangs onto the guide rail trying not to drop further into the abyss. The other vanished over the edge. Shit.

Tour Stage 8. GNB Sports here. Good morning.

Rogers (TMO) is the one hanging onto the guide rail. Arroyo (GCE) clambers back up to the road out of the woods. Rogers has a new bike and wobbles off. Arroyo looking for a bike. There, a new bike for Arroyo; he doesn't appear hurt and off he goes as well. My Gods...

The riders take amazing risks descending. Straight down from the helicopter the skinny road looks like a black string thrown mountain side, twisting back on itself over and over and over again. What a technical descent and these men are throwing themselves down it as fast as they can.

All the leading contenders remain in the peloton, still steadily holding the breakaway to 3:50. Two category-1 climbs to go. Here are today's climbs:

  • Cat-4 Col du Marais (3.8km long at 4.1%)
  • Cat-3 Cote de Bouchet-Mont-Charvin (2km at 7.1%)
  • Cat-2 Col de Temie (9.5km at 4.0%)
  • Cat-1 Cormet de Roseland (19.9km at 6.0%)
  • Cat-1 Montee d’Hauteville (15.3km at 4.7%)
  • And the final ascent: the cat-1 Montee de Tignes (18.0km at 5.4%).
Levi Leipheimer just got a new bike. A busted derailleur after his chain got wrapped around. Great bike change; that's how it's done. OH my! His manager's car is sneaking him a major push out of sight of the referee. Heh. A very professionally given push. It's for recovery from a mechanical so even if Levi was seen it will likely only get him a fine, not a disqualify and this is the time for his manager to take the risk; Leipheimer must get back to the peloton before the climb up Montee d'Hauteville begins.

Michael Rogers after that brutal crash, after hours out front with a Yellow Jersey firmly in his grasp, has now not only lost the lead of the Tour and dropped back at least ten minutes, but is holding his wrist funny, is unable to grip his handle, and is calling for the Tour doctor. Rogers can barely stay on his bike, obviously in severe pain as he climbs.

While 180 riders started the race today with no overnight abandons, the youngest rider in the race, Mark Cavendish of the T-Mobile squad, the Lanterne Rouge at today's start abandoned one hour into this stage taking us down to 179 riders. Australian Stuart O'Grady who crashed on the descent of Cormet de Roseland is on the way to the hospital by ambulance and that's 178. And now, sadly, Michael Rogers in tears has abandoned so the Tour has 177 riders. From the leader of the Tour four minutes ahead of the Yellow Jersey to a crash, agony, and the end of his race. How fast life can change.

Michael Rasmussen (RAB) now leads the race on the road, 6:03 ahead of the peloton 25 km to the win but we're not even over this next-to-last Col and still the final 18 km up the Montee de Tignes to the finish. More riders are continuing to abandon; as we predicted yesterday, we can't keep track of all the abandons. We'll update near the start of Stage 9.

Rasmussen is over the top of the penultimate climb and down, down, zooming down at top speed towards the valley. Here come the leaders to the top together. One final descent, then the last race to the finish. If any of the leaders are going to make a move they'll make it on the coming climb. It all depends how they're doing. The Alps are different than the Pyrenees. Different riders do better in one set of mountains over the other. The climbs here are less steep, not as long, and the roads generally aren't as good. If you're a climbing God, the Pyrenees are for you. However mostly it depends on which type of slopes you've trained on.

CRASH! Yet again on the descent but he's up and sorting himself out, his elbows covered in blood. 60-80 km per hour on these descents.

Michael Rasmussen is now all alone in front, having ridden the two trailers straight off his back wheel. The angel is flying up to a Yellow Jersey.

Here comes the attack. Only the leaders are left in the final climb of the day. Rasmussen all alone 5:25 ahead. The leaders of the tour have made their move and dropped the peloton, starting to roll past the chase groups, leaving everyone in their wake as they take off to see who is strong and who isn't on form. In this group are Moreau, Kloden, Valverde, Iban Mayo, Leipheimer, Vinokourov and even Gerdemann the Yellow Jersey is hanging tough. That we wouldn't have imagined after his solo ride yesterday but as we've pointed out over and over, wearing Yellow gives a man the strength of two men. Popovych and Contador are also in this group with 12.5 km to go. This isn't a steep climb but it is long. The riders are moving fast, trying to stay in contact. If you get dropped here it is very hard to ride yourself back up to the group.

Christophe Moreau (AG2R) keeps throwing little attacks off the front. He's on incredible form this year but can't get rid of everyone. He has managed to split the leaders however; there are two groups now. Moreau's group is one minute up on most of the favorites whom are riding strongly with 10 km to go. Moreau's group is Moreau (A2R), Evans (PRL), Contador (DSC), Popovych (DSC), Schleck (CSC) and Kashechkin (AST) and Alejandro Valverde.

The leaders remain 1:10 behind Moreau. Let's call this Vino's group: Vinokourov, Kloden, Menchov, Boogerd, Gerdemann, Iban Mayo, Leipheimer... And Michael Rasmussen remains all alone riding to Yellow glory, 3:45 ahead of Moreau, and Rasmussen is not slowing down. He's flying up the mountain faster and faster.

With 5 km to go the two groups are coming back together. Moreau tries to stay out ahead but Vino's group is gaining just 20 seconds behind. The Astana train of Vino shuts everyone down. It's a total free-for-all coming to the summit with people trying individual attacks, then being brought back. But where is Levi? Either he got away off the front of Vino's group or Levi has been dropped off the back of the leaders. Everyone shows their true form as we approach the final summit with just 2 km to go to the finish line.

Christophe Moreau rides better that he's ever ridden in his career. Michael Rasmussen is approaching the finish after 130+ kilometers out front. The leaders are coming in 10-15 seconds behind Moreau's group. 400 meters to go for Michael Rasmussen and he's going to take Yellow as well as the King of the Mountains. There he goes across the line charging over not even taking a victory salute as he knows how important the clock is today. And now we wait and see how long it takes for everyone else.

Kloden paces in his team captain Vinokourov whose injuries finally caught up with him on the final kilometers and fell behind what was his own group. Riders sprint to the line trying to get time bonuses, no one taking anything for given. Levi finally crosses in at 4 minutes plus. Vino in just past 4:30. The Yellow Jersey fights his way to the top, crossing just past 5 min; Gerdemann loses Yellow by about 25 seconds but stays in White as the best Young Rider. A valiant ride.

What a battle today has been. Tomorrow is a well deserved rest day. Tuesday is our final day in the Alps, one hundred miles precisely, with two HC climbs including the the largest Alpine climb this year, the Col du Galibier. See you Tuesday morning. GNB Sports; ciao.

UPDATE: Don't miss A Feast on Wheels, unique behind the scenes Tour coverage by correspondent Bonnie DeSimone of ESPN, Boston Globe and the Oregonian.

REST DAY: Monday, July 16

Stage 9 LIVE in the U.S. on Versus: Early Start: Tuesday, July 17, 7:30 - 11:30 AM ET/4:30 - 8:30 AM PT.

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

TDF Stage 8 Results -- Top 10:
Michael Rasmussen has won his third stage of the Tour de France. He will end the day with the polka-dot jersey and also the overall lead.
The top 10 in stage eight is:
1. Michael Rasmussen (DEN) RAB - 165km in 4h49'40" (34.177km/h)
2. Iban Mayo (ESP) SDV - at 2'47"
3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) GCE - at 3'12"
4. Christophe Moreau (DEN) RAB - at 3'12"
5. Frank Schleck (LUX) CSC - at 3'12"
6. Cadel Evans (AUS) PRL - at 3'12"
7. Andrey Kashechkin (KAZ) AST - at 3'12"
8. Alberto Contador (ESP) DSC - at 3'31"
9. Denis Menchov (RUS) RAB - at 3'35"
10. Carlos Sastre (ESP) CSC - at3'35"

TDF: Standings after Stage 8
1 058 RASMUSSEN, Michael DEN RAB 39:37:42.000 00:00:00.000
2 025 GERDEMANN, Linus GER TMO 39:38:25.000 00:00:43.000
3 207 MAYO, Iban ESP SDV 39:40:21.000 00:02:39.000
4 018 VALVERDE, Alejandro ESP GCE 39:40:33.000 00:02:51.000
5 195 KASHECHKIN, Andrey KAZ AST 39:40:34.000 00:02:52.000
6 041 EVANS, Cadel AUS PRL 39:40:35.000 00:02:53.000
7 061 MOREAU, Christophe FRA A2R 39:40:48.000 00:03:06.000
8 112 CONTADOR, Alberto ESP DSC 39:40:52.000 00:03:10.000
9 036 SCHLECK, Frank LUX CSC 39:40:56.000 00:03:14.000
051 MENCHOV, Denis RUS RAB 39:41:01.000 00:03:19.000