Sunday, July 09, 2006

Tour de France, Post Stage 8 Notes

[photo caption] T-Mobile's Serhiy Honchar is surprised that he's in yellow. So is everyone else. (photo courtesy LeTour.fr)

Saturday's 52km individual time-trial brought great change to the GC standings at the Tour de France.

Sprinters Tom Boonen (Quick-Step), Robbie McEwan (Davitamon-Lotto), and Thor Hushovd (Credit-Agricole) were vanquished from the top of the table and now occupy their lower, more proper, places in the standings.

Going into the stage, the favorites were the American riders. Floyd Landis (Phonak), Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), David Zabriskie (CSC), George Hincapie (Discovery), and maybe even Bobby Julich (CSC) were supposed to shine.

Of these, only Landis lived up to expectations, producing a solid ride despite a bike change along the way. Zabriskie's ride was acceptable, though not up to his standards. Hincapie proved that he was Hincapie the Domestique and not Hincapie the Team Leader. Likewise, Leipheimer's immensely disappointing ride probably lost him control of his Gerolsteiner team in favor of Austrian Georg Totschnig.

Disastrous, however, was Julich's ride. Little more than a mile into the time-trial, Julich entered a "s"-curve too fast, went down, and severely damaged his right wrist. Doctors on scene reported that Julich's skin had suffered abrasions so deep that one could easily see the tendons and bone just above his hand. Needless to say, Julich was forced to abandon the race.

Where does this leave the pre-race favorites? Here are the riders I tipped in my "Tour de France, Redux" post little more than a week ago along with their current outlook:

--Damiano Cunego (Lampre)
The former Giro winner is now 07'06" down. His Tour will now revolve around trying to win a mountain stage, however unlikely that may seem.

--Danilo DiLuca (Liquigas-Bianchi)
DiLuca did not start Stage 2 due to illness and abandoned the race. Even worse for Liquigas, their other most notable rider, Magnus Backstedt, has ridden a miserable Tour.

--Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto)
Evans is still a legitimate GC contender currently in 8th place at 01'52" back. Davitamon-Lotto has had a great Tour thus far, with sprinter Robbie McEwen dominating the green jersey competition. Look for Evans and his team to do everything they can to ensure a yellow jersey / green jersey double in Paris.

--George Hincapie (Discovery)
If it's not clear to Discovery Channel Directeur Sportif Johann Bruyneel by now, it should be. The three-headed Discovery leadership monster of Hincapie/Popovych/Savoldelli isn't scaring anyone. What Discovery is going to have to do is decide which one of the three aforementioned riders will be the team's designated leader and the entire Discovery team will have to put everything they can behind him. And that still might not be enough. The biggest problem facing Discovery is that Hincapie nor Popovych nor Savoldelli has done much of anything to grab the reins of the team. Savoldelli is currently the highest on the GC in 13th at 02'10" back. Hincapie is in 17th at 02'30" back, and Popovych is in 23rd at 03'27" back. While Savoldelli may have the pedigree with his two Giro wins and Hincapie is the (American) sentimental favorite to replace Armstrong, Discovery may have to force Popovych to the fore if only to find out what they have in the Ukrainian. Rumors persist that Discovery has been courting Landis about a return and, if that's the case, this may be Popovych's only chance.

--Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile)
The enigmatic Kloden has had a great first week and currently sits in 6th on the GC at 01'50" back. With his podium finish in '04, Kloden probably represents T-Mobile's best chance right now. However, like Discovery, T-Mobile's leadership situation may be unsettled. Ukrainian journeyman Serhiy Honchar won the Stage 7 time-trial by over a minute and currently sports the maillot jaune. Likewise, Matthias Kessler won a stage and was caught in the last 200m in another in Week 1, a distinct sign that Kessler may be trying to grasp the team's leadership as well.

--Floyd Landis (Phonak)
Landis has to be considered one of the most, if not the most, likely to win the 2006 edition of the Tour de France. Floyd has won three stage races already this year, is a proven commodity in the hills, and may be the strongest time-trialist in the peloton. However, Landis has relinquished over one minute to the field in two time-trial mishaps, and that single minute may be the difference between podium steps for Landis in Paris.

--Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner)
Leipheimer's Tour hopes went up in smoke with his terrible Stage 7 time-trial performance. To add insult to injury, Leipheimer may also have lost control of his team Georg Totschnig.

--Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Mayo is down 06'11" and will try to make up that time in the mountains. It won't happen.

--Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
Like a pest that won't go away, Menchov keeps hanging around. The Russian currently sits in 10th, exactly two minutes behind Honchar. Menchov "won" the Vuelta after Roberto Heras' disqualification last year, so he has the chops to contend. Whether the Rabobank squad can properly support him may be the bigger issue.

--Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery)
See "Hincapie".

--Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
Despite Rasmussen threatening the podium in last year's edition of the Tour, his complete inability to perform an even adequate time-trial has forever dashed his chances as a legitimate GC contender. Now Rasmussen and Rabobank will have to decide whether he should focus on the King of the Mountains competition or devote himself entirely to Menchov's cause.

--Carlos Sastre (CSC)
Basso = gone. Julich = gone. By default, Sastre has become the leader of team CSC, even producing a splendid time-trial yesterday to put him in 16th on the GC at 02'27" back. Having lost the two strongest riders on the team, however, will Sastre, the heretofore super-domestique, have enough support from CSC for a podium spot?

--Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery)
See "Hincapie".

--Gilberto Simoni (Saunier-Duval)
Simoni is now 05'34" back in 49th place on the GC. Like Cunego, Simoni is now left to look for individual stage wins.

--Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Out. Broken collarbone. Stage 3. Abandoned for the second straight year. A terribly disappointing outcome for the rider who most had tipped as the race favorite before his crash. Maybe next year, Alejandro.


Blogger Super Rookie said...

your predictions sucked balls.

can't believe it took you this long to finally blog about the tour....


Sun Jul 09, 09:51:00 PM 2006

Blogger AdamB said...

Nice post.

I think Hincapie is (and has been from the beginning) the leader of this team. I think the other guys have just been keeping it close in case he crashes out or something. I'm hoping that we'll see him break out in the mountains, that he really is a true climber now.

Also, whatcha think about Floyd's hip?

Mon Jul 10, 12:04:00 PM 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

no one wants to talk about karpets... you just wait.


Tue Jul 11, 06:55:00 AM 2006


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