Michael Rasmussen took the initiative in what is seen as an annual break to gain the Polka Dot climbers jersey. The difference this year is that he was also able to snatch the Yellow Jersey. The wiry Dane dominated an early breakaway with Michael Rogers. It looked like Rogers would take over the Yellow Jersey from his young teammate Linus Gerdemann. Rogers at that point was the team leader for T-Mobile and he took an early opportunity to flex his muscles and make a claim for the Yellow. But cycling is a ver unforgiving sport. Going down the Col de Roseland descent Rogers crashed with breakaway companion David Arroyo of Caisse D’Epargne. Arroyo went over the guard rail and into the trees while Rogers crashed on the road. Arroyo looked OK, but Rogers never recovered and had to retire from the race.
On a similar descent Stuart O’Grady crashed hard and had to be taken to hospital where it was determined that he had cracked ribs but no spinal damage. Robbie McEwen came in outside the time limit and was eliminated. Any remaining Aussies in the race should count their lucky stars. The elimination happened in threes so other Aussies should theoretically be OK to keep riding.
Michael Rasmussen’s grab for the Yellow comes with new determination. The Dane sees a chance to get on the podium in Paris. He is still sore about the botched Time Trial two years ago when he crashed numerous times and made a big mess of a critical TT. With well over 100km of Time Trials still to go this is a tough task, but he has a little bit of a lead over most of the TT favorites. If Ras has done any amount of work to improve his TT positioning or handling he should be much better off.
Other notable racers today included the resurgence of Iban Mayo who attacked with conviction not seen for a few years from the Tour. Christophe Moreau attacked a few times but did not get any help from Valverde. Valverde is a big favorite and he did not help Moreau try to put in time on the Kazak crew of Vinokourov, Kloden and Kashekin. This could be seen as biding time or a lost opportunity. Tomorrow is a rest day, the Kazaks are hurt, so why not test them or try to put in time while they are down? Valverde will look at today as somewhat of a missed opportunity.
Levi Leipheimer must feel abandoned by Discovery Channel. What happened to the well oiled machine of the Lance days? They are long gone. Disco is now a group of opportunist who may pr may not be working together as a cohesive group. Hincapie was out in front all day long. Contador went with an attack, bit it did not seem as though it was to cover for Levi as much as to see how well he could do. Popovych is given freedom to do what he likes to and try to win a stage. All of these efforts were no help to Leipheimer who is still in a decent position to do well, but not much better than if he were racing at Gerolsteiner. What’s up with the Discovery Channel mechanics? Two major technicals in one day? Lance would go nuclear of anything like that happened when he was racing. Discovery Channel is just not the same team as before and they are not in support of Levi. If Levi does win it will be in spite of his team, not because they are helping him. Astana is actually supporting their three headed snake by having guys do tempo work and supporting their top guys. Discovery Channel looks like it is a free for all.