Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Stage 17: Back to the flatlands

Gotta give a guy credit for trying: Andreas Klöden turned out in a specially-designed cast today, but the pain was just too great attempting to ride and he had to retire by 22 km. I've heard no major mention of his injured teammate Matthias Kessler - he's in the peloton doing his best after their crash yesterday. Ah, yes, he finished with the grupetto of the last five riders over the finish line today.

No shakeups at the back of the rankings today. Probably, barring any major crashes, the order of these last five riders will remain close to the same in the general classification all the way through the individual time trial, Stage 20 on Saturday:

Place Number Name Team Nationality Time behind Lance
151 162 FÖRSTER Robert GST GER 3h 38' 45"
152 134 KNAVEN Servais QST NED 3h 40' 43"
153 127 TOMBAK Janeck COF EST 3h 40' 58"
154 049 VANSEVENANT Wim DVL BEL 3h 47' 14"

and our Lanterne Rouge, who finished in the 148th spot in today's stage:
155 194 FLORES Iker EUS ESP 3h 53' 23"

One never wants to say that anyone has a "lock" on any position until the Tour is officially over, but Iker Flores seems to be as solid in his position as Lance is in his own. In the first time trial of the Tour, they finished in this order: Knaven #43, Förster #74, Vansevenant #133, Flores #149, and Tombak #179 - so if they ride similarly in the final time trial, probably Knaven and Förster will have the best opportunity of these five to rise significantly in the overall standings.

Martin Dugard had this to say today about Lanterne Rouge Iker Flores:
"... Flores [seems] destined to [remain] last. As a man who has finish last in the Raid Gauloises, I can honestly tell you that the sting doesn’t last long. All I remember is that crossing the line had a life-altering effect. So I’m rooting for Flores to avoid a crash or random pedestrian encounter in the four remaining stages. I want to see him make that finish in Paris."

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