July 18, 2006
Tale of the teammates
Today's stage was a beautiful show of cycling as a team sport. Everywhere you looked, there were riders making moves or countering moves through the assistance of teammates who sacrificed their own chances for the team or team leader.
The best and biggest example was Jens Voigt, who got to contest two different races today. After a long tempo ride at the head of the break, then crashing while roasting the breakaway, Voigt chased back on and took a few more pulls, until he couldn't pull any more. Zabriskie took over escort duties for Schleck, who noted the work they put in to set up his victory.
Voigt, though, wasn't finished. As the GC contenders came by, he took up lead duties for Carlos Sastre, helping pace Sastre up toward Klöden and Landis, and setting a pace that Davitamon-Lotto's Cadel Evans couldn't match. He finally shuffled in 13:52 behind winning teammate Schleck.
Landis had Axel Merckx, who was also in the early break, and looked unprepared to jump in amongst the race's strongest riders when Landis, Klöden, Leipheimer, and Sastre came alongside. Ready or not, he pulled without relief for more than a kilometer up the Alpe.
Similarly, Andreas Klöden had Eddy Mazzoleni, who pulled almost to the line after dropping (or falling) off the break with Cunego and Schleck.
Denis Menchov is being labeled the day's big loser, but he could have lost more time if not for his arachnoid teammate Michael Rasmussen, who caught his leader from behind to set pace and offer support and a water bottle Menchov couldn't spare the strength to take.
David Arroyo paced yellow jersey Oscar Pereiro for miles, and Mikel Astarloza likewise gave his all to protect Cyril Dessel's tenuous 3rd place for at least one more day.
That was an awesome stage. I wouldn't want to be chasing Landis tomorrow, when they give him back that yellow bicycle.
Dave Zabriskie has some interesting comments on today's stage at his blog:
Posted by: ewmayer at Jul 18, 2006 10:26:10 PM
"Today's stage was a beautiful show of cycling as a team sport"
Exactly. It was poetry. As much as cycling can be an individual sport, all at once it can be about both.
Today's stage reminded me why I love cycling so much. This year's Tour has easily dislodged the last few "clinics" and fully replaced it with a race.
Posted by: matthew at Jul 19, 2006 12:55:44 AM