Friday, July 15, 2005

Stage 13: Back to the flatlands

Alejandro Valverde, the Spaniard riding for Illes Balears who had been in 5th place overall and leading in the young riders competition, has withdrawn due to a knee injury suffered earlier in the Tour.

Again and again, the lesson is driven home: You can't win in the Tour if you don't finish! Other than stage wins and some publicity, that is.

This flat stage is one of the last big days for the sprinters. There probably won't be too many shakeups in the overall standings, either in the front or the rear of the peloton today.

Yes, sure enough.... Valverde was today's only abandon, and most riders finished in the main peloton - all but six riders crossed the line in two huge groups.

Iker Flores retains his hold on the Lanterne Rouge spot, but his margin has been decreased to about six minutes. There were two riders that had a very late finish: Wim Vansevant and Johan Van Summeren, teammates from Davitamon-Lotto, who limped across the finish line together eleven minutes after the main peloton. That brings them down to 2nd and 3rd from last in the general classification. These Davitamon riders may have burned themselves up leading the peloton and chasing down the breakaways during the stage today, but it paid off hugely in another victory for the team when their sprinter Robbie McEwen won a third stage.

Sprinter Bradley McGee ( lost time also with a finish 5:40 after the main peloton. He has reportedly been experiencing some hamstring cramping and wants to recuperate a bit before the big mountains.

So most riders survived another fairly quiet flat stage today, giving them a brief "respite" (if one can call cycling 173.5 km/107.8 miles a "respite") before tackling the Pyrenees.

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