It’s been a long, long time since a Yellow Jersey favorite has cracked so badly. Not since Jan Ullrich in 1998 or Miguel Indurain in 1996, or Lance Armstrong in 2003 or when…who knows. Floyd Landis looked very strong on L’Alpe D;Huez and previously in the Pyrennes. Even tough the Phonak team was not that strong, it seemed that Landis was on his way to his first Tour de France victory. But, today’s stage showed a weaker Landis who uncharacteristically rode near the back of the field. Once the attacks came, Landis had no strength to reply and suffered horribly on the climb. Ten minutes after Rasmussen came in for the victory Landis limped in being towed by Axel Merckx. Landis fell all the way to 11th place on GC and now looks to be out of contention for the Yellow Jersey at over eight minutes behind Oscar Periero. What happened? Was it the hips? a cold? sore legs from L’Alpe D’Huez?
One reporter for Active.com pegged that there was a problem with Floyd Landis just after the L’Alpe D’Huez stage. Martin Dugard wrote:
The mood around here is that the race is Landis’s to lose. But so many things can go wrong. For starters, he had a terrible cough during the post-race press conference. Though Landis was clear-eyed and articulate, he had to stop several times to hack. Whether there’s something in his lungs or not, only Landis knows, but that’s the sort of thing that can steal energy and competitive efficiency. You’d better believe that other teams will try to capitalize on that soon. They know that Landis’s legs are cooked after today, and will send lesser riders out to attack, hoping to find a chink in Landis’s armor.
The epic implosion of Landis is somewhat reminiscent of Ivan Basso’s crack in last year’s Giro. Basso came back a few days later to win a mountain stage and the final TT. If Landis can recover enough for tomorrow, he could put a big stamp on the Tour to show that this was just a bad day. His Yellow Jersey chase is mostly over, but the way this Tour de France has gone, I am not counting anyone out.
Tomorrow’s final Alpine stage is like game 7 of the NBA fnals or the Hockey playoffs. Anyone who wants to win the Tour has to show up and make a statement. Everyone in the top ten could potentially win the Tour in some way. Riders who have cracked one day come back recharged the next. So it is anyone’s guess who will win this year.
Team CSC and T-Mobile look to be to two powerhouses. T-Mobile has quite a few guys that can help Kloden. CSC is the best team in the Tour right now and the way Sastre attacked today should have T-Mobile shaking a bit. With Schleck playing support and powerhouses like Zabriske, Voight and Vande Velde CSC will have enough firepower to add another Grand Tour win to their palmares.
Damiano Cunego is having a great Tour, he is not far from taking over the Best Young Rider competiton from Markus Fotham. He came close to winning on L’Alpe D’Huez and finished respectably in today’s stage. Cunego could probably sneak out a stage win while the top GC guys battle it out for Yellow.
Frank Schleck is not a name that would have been on the lips of many folks venturing to guess who would win the stage to L’Aple D’Huez. Schleck added his name to the legends of L’Alpe D’Huez making it two stage wins for CSC and a third second place for Lampre as Damiano Cundego just fell short of upending Schledck for the win. Cunego looks fiesty and is searching for a stage win in the Alps. Schleck used a well timed attack and powered away from “Il Prinicpe” to come in solo for a win.
Lampre must be Italian for second place.
Cunego, Commesso and Ballan have been bridesmaids for more times than one team should be allowed. Doe Cunego have the energy to go for another flyer tomorrow? Possibly. Maybe it is a curse put on Italians after the World Cup win. Italians were out in force with Cundego, Garzelli, Mazzoleni and Simoni in the mix for the stage. Garzelli looked formidable in the early mountains, but decided to hold on for the 17 others in the day long break. He eventually was dropped, but hooked onto the Landis/Kloden group to get third place on the day. Lampre will get their win at some point. The next two days give Damiano Cunego a few more shots at taking a mountain stage. The final sprint in Paris could be the place when Bennati could get his stage win.
The Yellow Jersey is back on Floyd Landis’ shoulders, but he could have waited one or two more stages. The Phonak team got some rest and help from Caisse D’Epargne who did lots of pace making and almost kept Oscar Periro in Yellow. Oscar lost it by only a few seconds, but this was just trying to evade the inevitable. One thing Floyd Landis has going for him is consistency. Of all of the current crop of contenders, Landis has performed well in the time trial, the Pyrennes and now the first stage in the Alps. Meanwhile Kolden faltered in the Pyrennes, but came back very strong today. Menchov looked unbeatable in the Pyrenne, but showed he is not that strong today. Menchov’s Rabobank team looked scary strong last week, but now they look like any other team. Phonak had a few guys stick around long enough to help Landis. Perdiguero set a blistering pace, while Axel Merckx ofray into the day long break allowed him to be in a great spot on the slopes of L’Alpe D’Huez.
Other contenders to consider:
Cadel Evans couldn’t come up with the performanc he needed to be a top favorite. Carlos Sastre is close enough where he could be dangerous in the next few days. Andreas Kloden looks very strong. Leipheimer put in a typically Leipheimerish performance. He is top ten, maybe top five potential, but he can never put the whole package together for a top placing.
Overall, another epic performance for L’Alpe D’Huez where nothing was very predictable. A fine win by Frank Schleck, and a glimpse of greatness from Damiano Cunego. Landis is on control and is slowly building a nice enough lead to win the Yellow Jersey and keep it in America’s hands for the eighth straight year.
It’s extremely easy and you might get some help too. Point is that with so many people walking around it is easy to do whatever you want to and not have anyone do anything about it. This video was made well over five years ago as you can tell in the end.
Eddy Merckx is riding with the Phonak team since his son Axel is part of the team. Here is a nice pic of Axel and Eddy riding together. Eddy Merckx lost lots of weight recently and now looks like he could race again if he wanted. What is odd is the fact that Eddy is riding one of the team issue BMC bikes. Not a big deal, but Eddy would have to know that any ride he goes on during the rest day will guarantee a photo opportunity especially if he is riding with a big Tour favorite and his son too. Wonder why he could not bring one of his own bikes? BMC must be relishing this pic, will the Swiss bike manufacturer use this in their ads?
Yaroslav Popovych was finally unleashed today with a fine stage win. After the four pronged GC experiment finally failed with poor performances by everyone on the Discovery Channel, the team was allowed to “just go for stage wins”. That change in strategy worked better than expected as Popovych vaulted up the GC from 23rd place to 10th as a result of the time gains in the breakaway.
Popovych was very strong, and showed his form by attacking four times to get away from his breakaway companions who are both very good sprinters. The first attack shook off the French hope for a win on Bastille day. Alessandro Ballan kept chasing down the attacks by Popovych and Friere. With Ballan doing most of the chasing, Popo and Friere kept attacking which made it seem like they had an alliance. But, this could have been due to Ballan feeling good and being a bit too eager to go after each and every attack. With all of the chasing down, Ballan was not able to setup a counter attack of his own, which made him the whipping boy for Popo and Friere.
Now with Popovich only four minutes down compared to nine yesterday, there may be some renewed enthusiam to place a Disco man high on the GC. Popovych should have been supported as the main man all along. Bruyneel may have been hesitant since he is young, but he does have the skill and needs to learn to be the team leader. The lack of support for one particular rider caused all round mediocrity. Did Bruyneel forget that the four pronged approach never worked for teams like T-Mobile who had Ullrich, Kloden, Vino and another rider all gunning for glory? Disco should have kept the same plan as the last seven years and simply installed Popovych as the main guy.
Conventional wisdom says that if you do poorly in one mountain range you do well in the other. With L’Alpe D’Huez on tuesday Disco must be looking at the Alps as a chance to be contenders again. Then again, so are a bunch of other guys, as no one is conceding anything to Landis just yet.
Bobby Julich is writing for ESPN.com about the Tour de France. Since his crash in the Time Trial Bobby J has been healing up at home in Nice. He wrote about his Stage 11 impressions including some gentle words about George Hincapie’s GC intentions.
I don’t know whether George’s injury from earlier this season is catching up with him, but it might have hindered his preparation for the Tour de France. It’s easy for me to sit here at home and make comments on his performance. I’ve known George since he was 12 years old and he will go down as one of the most successful riders in the world. I really think it was unfair at this late in his career to put all of this expectation on him. And he didn’t pick an easy race to go over the general classification!
When I first heard that he was challenging for a leadership role and the GC, I didn’t really believe it. I just don’t think it was fair to push him into that. It’s like going from 0-to-60 without shifting gears. He is taller and heavier than most of us out there. The fact that he is so successful with such a bigger frame shows you how talented and professional he is.
I’ve knocked on Hincapie because I simply did not believe that his GC intentions were serious especailly for a rider of his build. In some ways it is not fair to George to get that pressure placed on him late in his career and in the toughest race in cycling. Maybe I would have believed Hincapie’s GC intentions if he placed high in the Tour of California, Georgia, Suisse, Romandy or any other race. Just liek Danilo DiLuca should not be racing for GC in Grand Tours Hincapie should stick with what he knows best and dominate. So, hope to see George go for the win in Paris-Roubaix next year and not think about being the next Lance, but being himself.
The Tour de France finally had a major shake up that revealed the top contenders for the Maiilot Jaune. The top guys included Floyd Landis who is now in Yellow, Denis Menchov and Levi Leipheimer. The first major mountain stage provided some surprises as T-Mobile collpased after a very dominant first week of good results and a spell in Yellow. Andreas Kloden let his legs do the talking, but all they could do was whisper as Klodi was shot off the back of the lead group. Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre performed well, but could not match the accelarations of Menchov, Landis and Leipheimer.
Here are some random Larry King style comments:
So American viewers not get two for the price of one. Armstrong is retired, but we get Leipheimer and Landis as two of the three top riders.
Rabobank have lots of confidence in Menchov, so much so that Rasmussen is not going for the Polka Dots this year and being a super-domestic. His climbing form must not be that great since he did most of the flat and lower slopes pulling while Boogerd pulled on the final climb.
Boogerd is in the best form of his career as he almost latched back onto the lead group after pulling everyone up the climb.
Where is the killer instinct? Landis seemed to want to bid his time and got the Yellow jersey somewhat reluctantly. His Phonak team will have to work for the next few undulating days. They will probably be keen enough to let a break go down the road as has been the MO of the peloton in the past few days.
Landis is sitting pretty in yellow, bad hip and all, but his Phonak team was not nearly as strong as Rabobank who look very formidable. Not only did they have Flecha in a break all day, but Skeltor Rasmussen did some major pulls while “Best smile in the peloton” Boogerd was better than most of the contenders for Yellow.
Iban Mayo has yet again abandoned the Tour de France on the first serious mountain stage. The Basque rider was once thought to be the one to beat Lance Armstrong. In 2003 he putthe hurt on Armstrong and won the stage to L’Alpe D’Huez. Ever since then, Mayo has not been anywhere near that form and has struggled when the roads went vertical. Is this the end of Iban Mayo as Tour contender?
The mountains arrived in the Tour today, but for the major players not much changed when compared to the previous week’s flat stages. The Tour gently introduced a few mountains to shake up the peloton, making it easy for guys like Leipheimer and Mayo to catch back on after being shelled. After more than a week of pushing the big gears, the monster climbs are a shock to the system, so a stage like this is easy like Sunday morning for most of these guys.
The Col de Soudet and the Col de Marie Blanque were placed too early in stage to make any difference.
The result is a long breakaway with some potentially tough GC riders shooting up the ranks. My guess is that after spending most of the stage out ina break, Dessel and Mercado might just as easily shoot down the overall classification just as quickly as they shot up.
So nobody showed their cards today other than Michael Rasmussen putting in a small attack to scoop up a few points in the mountain competition. No surprise that he is on form, and he may be the catalyst to really shake thnings up tomorrow. Several climbers such as Rasmussen, Simoni and more can get a decent chance to shoot up the GC and hope for a podium spot since the wide open field of contenders does not seem contain very explosive climbers.
Tomorrow is a tough, epic Pyrennian stage, with the Col de Tourmalet, Col D’Aspin, Col de Peyresourde, Col du Portillion and the Puerto de Beret in the finale. All climbs are Cat 1, except for the Tourmalet which is HC. Expect Rasmussen to try a long break to make the Malliot au Poi his and either Phonak or T-Mobile to get shelled. My guess is that T-Mobile may not be as good in the mountains as they were in the first week.
The news was out yesterday as the “blabber mouth” New York Times released an article about Floyd Landis’ hip. Seems that Floyd Landis has been riding with a degenerative hip since he signed with Phonak. Landis started suffering chronic pain associated with the hip around the time he signed with his new team. He only put the hip replacement off since things were not very secure career-wise at Phonak. Tyler Hamilton and Santi Perez’s positive drug tests did not help Phonak’s bid to join the ProTour and a medical absence would probably have meant the end of Landis’ career at that point. Floyd decided to run the hip int the ground much like an old car. He had some decent performances last year despite the chronic pain. Now 18 months later, Floyd has a few stage race victories under his belt and is sitting pretty in second place in the Tour with the mountains to come.
The hip problem explains Floyd’s radical seat position which in turn requires him to have his hands almost in front of his face. It will be interesting to see if Landis keeps this radical position once his hip is back to normal. My guess would be no since his position does get some UCI scrutiny and it cuts down on visibility. This is pending Landis’ return next year which is a big mystery since no athlete has ever come back from hip surgery. But those atheletes such as Bo Jackson were in weight bearing sports. Landis may not be affected as much since cycling is not a weight bearing sport.
Assuming Landis does return, rumors are flying around about what team he will ride for next year. Seems that will probably revealed at next week’s rest day. Speculation is ripe now that Floyd will sign with Discovery Channel since Armstrong is heading out to visit the Tour next week. I would doubt that since Phonak is being replaced by American company iShares who would probably want to keep a high profile rider such as Landis. Given Floyd’s hip announcment,it would seem that the deal for next year is done, and it would probably be with his current team.It would be difficult to switch team and come back from hip surgery in one year even if the new team is the friendly and familiar confines of Discovery Channel.