Alberto Contador gave Discovery Channel and the Tour de France organization A.S.O. a surprise win today. The 24 year old Spaniard also won the white jersey of best young rider to boot. Hopefully he will avoid the same fate as the last man to wear Yellow and White in Paris, Jan Ullrich. Contador is more or less clear of any involvement in Operation Puerto. He had to comeback to racing from a near fatal blood clot in his head and now has a metal pate in his skull. His win could also boost Discovery Channel’s chance of finding a new sponsor for 2008. Not to mention the third place of Levi Leipheimer and the first podium of an Aussie ever. The Tour podium came out just as many fans and organizers had hoped, especially as the top three was oly separated by a slim 31 second margin.
Michael Rasmussen is still reeling from his firing from Team Rabobank. The 33 year old racer is back home giving interviews about his sudden sacking while leading the Tour. Whether he was doping or not, the missed tests and obfuscation of his whereabouts created enough concern from Rabobank management to sack the racer while leading the Tour. Rasmussen like any fired employee is in denial.
“I know very well that I was late with information about my whereabouts,” Rasmussen said in Friday’s edition of the Politiken newspaper. “For that I have been punished with a fine and warnings. But that it should lead to such drastic (measures) which have been taken, is out of all proportion.
“I have now had time to collect my thoughts and I can guarantee that I am not done as a rider.”
Unsurprisingly, He is bitter about the ordeal too.
“I was kicked out of the hotel like an animal,” Rasmussen told the Berlingske Tidende daily.
The real reason Michael Rasmussen was dumped from the Tour? According to The Daily Show not only was he suspected of doping, he was also smuggling plums.
With all of the stress both on and off the bike it seems like a great day to let a breakaway go for the win. Eight men moved clear of the peloton and gained a big lead that ended up with Daniele Bennati easily taking the win over the remaining three breakaway companions. Included in the break was Jens Voight who missed out on a win yet again.
The big news of the day was the lack of Yellow Jersey in the Peloton. With the sacking of Rasmussen for lies about his whereabouts during missed UCI drug tests, the Tour was missing its lead racer. Alberto Contador assumed the Yellow Jersey at the end of the stage, but he too is not squeaky clean as his name was mentioned in the Operation Puerto investigation. Contador is cleared at the moment, but his name is somewhat stained.
Team Rabobank has pulled Yellow Jersey wearer Michael Rasmussen out of the Tour de France. Rasmussen is also out of a job to boot. This was a result of violating team rules on the issue of his missed out of competition tests. Basically Rasmussen was lying to team management about his wearabouts saying that he was in Mexico while he was actually in Italy meeting with an unnamed doctor. Rabobank decided to pull the man from a sure Tour de France win and avoid a rash of post Tour controversy that would surround Rasmussen after the Tour.
The Stage 16 winner has not been a popular Yellow Jersey wearer. He was booed at the podium and on the course. When he signed in the announcer would stop talking. Basically Rasmussen was persona nongrata at the Tour which was trying to recover from the Landis fiasco of 2006. The last thing the Tour de France needs is another scandal related to the Tour winner.
With three doping related departures in three days, the Tour is reeling with talk of doping and cheaters. It is probably not much fun being a weary Tour de France racer seeing that the end in Paris is near, but wondering if the sport will continue in the same way after that. The sport will survive, but with fewer sponsors. Hopefully some sponsors can see that the tide may be turning. With these high profile scandals the sport may be getting cleaner. It is a risk, but from afar this sport must look like it is gutting itself.
Now the only thing to do is look forward to the finish of the Tour in Paris. The Tour is not finished as I thought earlier today when Rasmussen won and put more time on Alberto Contador. Now Contador will inherit the Yellow Jersey. He may not wear it in tomorrow’s stage. On Saturday’s Time Trial it will be a showdown between Contador, Evans and Leipheimer. The podium can be totally shaken up perhaps with Evans even winning the whole race. So, for fans its time to take solace. The race is still very much open and an unpopular winner has been yanked. There may be hope for the better I hope.
The Pyrenees stages of the Tour have whittled down the list of contenders for the 2007 Tour de France to two names. Michael Rasmussen is still in Yellow but has a relentless Contador ready to pounce into the lead. After yesterday’s well played out win on Plateau de Beille, Contador and Discovery Channel have a leader they feel could win the Tour de France. Contador has launched several blistering attacks to take out almost every rival except for Rasmussen.
Wow the Albi TT was nothing but surprises all around.
Rasmussen does not meltdown or lose time. In fact he catches and passes his three minute man Alejandro Valverde.
Alejandro Valverde put in a time around Alessandro Ballan’s whoo must have been riding simply to get through the TT and hunt for stage wins in transitional stages. Valverde stunk up the road.
Fabian Cancellara crashes and does not win.
Lots of racers crash incluing Kloden, Gusev and others.
Vino crushes everyone to put in a memorable performance to come back in the contention for a breif time.
Levi Leipheimer does alright.
Alberto Contador is a contender for the Yellow Jersey possibly.
Alberto Contador is exciting to watch. His high cadence pace and aggressive attacks in the mountains have made him one of the more entertaining cyclist in the Tour de France. This weekend ‘s stages were among some of the more exciting stages in the past few years. The trend we can see developing is that Alberto Cpontador is a true contender. Perhaps he has been the secret contender for Discovery Channel all along. No one can doubt that Coontador has the skills necessary to win if not this year then next year and probably a few years after that.
The stage up Plataeu de Beille featured a mono-a-mono battle between Rasmussen in the Yellow Jersey and Contador in the White Jersey. Lots of talking and possibly sniping going on between the two racers. They probably both agreed to put as much time as possible into their rivals namely Cadel Evans who was working on his own pace up the insanely steep climb. Contador with Johan Bruyneel’s direction was able to force Rasmussen to make the pace and stay in second position going into the final kilometers to get the stage win. A small extra time bonus helped to close the margin slightly to Rasmussen to boot. The display of confidence and the ability to follow through successfully on a high pressure stage were a big boost to Discovery Channel who now look like a formidable team.
Now that the Apline section of the Tour de France is over, Michael Rasmussen safely in Yellow possibly until Saturday’s Time Trial at Albi.The Time Trial will be the key to Rasmussen winning the Tour overall. The famouse meltdown that he experienced in the Tour’s last Time Trial in 2005 is legendary. The Danish climbing specialist comes to road racing from a mountain biking background. That would theoretically mean that he should be a better than average bike handler as far as road racers are concerned. Here is a video from Youtube showing the dreaded highlights of Rasmussen’s 2005 Time Trial.
Watching the video the impression is that 1) Rasmussen did not spend much if any time training on his time trial bike. He looks uncomfortable riding it especially on the descents. 2) He is a bundle of nerves and is choking. Yes, the Chicken was choking that day
Alexandre Vinokourov’s charge for the Mailliot Jaune could be a lost cause for 2007. Vino could not hold the pace of the top contenders and finds himself several minutes behind. Vino has been battling injuries and the pain showed today as he was riding with the group of second flight contenders and came in over 2 minutes behind current Yellow Jersey Michael Rasmussen. The pain and devastation showed as Vino burst into tears realizing that the dream of winning the Tour is out of reach. Vino’s performances at the Tour have always been on extremes. In the past he would blister the field attacking at the most unexpected moments gaining time while competitors were sleeping. Remember that famous crash of Beloki and Armstrong in 2003? They were chasing Vino who was blitzing the field. Then he would follow tose performances with almost legendary time losses. Vino was not able to string together enough good days and luck to be a overall winner.
Mauricio Soler gave Barloworld some great press today. The Columbian climber from the wildcard team did not have any major wins in his palmares. Just a stage at the Tour of Columbia. His solo effort up the Galibier and into Briancon was
impressive as he held off a hard charging group that swelled with most of the major contenders for the Tour.
Soler’s Barloworld team gave the ASO plenty to be happy about in the Tour so far. They’ve had several racers in breaks during the first week and now a stage win.