Sunday, July 16, 2006

Stage 14: The fatigue follies

Abandonments today:

OLN says that Gilberto Simoni, leader of Saunier Duval, 5-time Tour veteran, 2-time Giro champion, one-time nemesis of Lance (and all-around loose cannon) was at one point about 8 minutes in arrears of the peleton and may sneak off the back today, although he seems to be attempting to rejoin the peleton on the descents. He was in 35th position overall in the general classification.

Milram rider Celestino Mirko has withdrawn from the Tour today on the road. He was doing quite well in the Tour at 46th place overall.

Magnus Backstedt of Liquigas (Lanterne Rouge after Stage 4) has abandoned today also, on the ascent of the Col de Perty. He was in 158th position in the General Classification. Pez sez (from the morning before the stage): "Unfortunately he has picked up ‘a bit of a cold’ which is holding him back a little. I asked him how his morale was and he said good but he was lacking a bit of energy. Not surprising after 14 stages which by this point, in his own words mean that he’s “so f*&%ed anyway it takes every ounce of energy to stay upright!”."

It seems the riders are quite fatigued from yesterday's long stage and aren't recovering well in the heat of July. (Will somebody please tell George Hincapie to eat a sandwich?) Probably many abandons to come on Tuesday, as well, when the Tour arrives at Alpe d'Huez.

Update: Well, Simoni managed to hang on to the autobus to finish in 151st place, and I imagine he's hoping to get lots of recovery on their rest day tomorrow.

We have two additional riders who couldn't quite make it through to the rest day, though: Today David Canada, a Spanish rider from Saunier Duval, and Rik Verbrugge, a Belgian rider for Cofidis, also abandoned after a crash (also involving Mathias Kessler of T-Mobile) in which both appeared to incur some injuries after Verbrugge went over a guardrail followed by Kessler. Martin Dugard described it succinctly: "Rik Verbrugghe and David Canada ended their Tour in an ambulance, having overshot a turn and broken a femur (Verbrugghe) and a clavicle (Canada). The pavement was hot from the weather and it seems they hit a patch of gravel going at too high a rate of speed. No matter the reason, the two of them were obviously in great pain. The cyclists know that crashing is part of the job, but when you see them just lounging around before a race the scars are discomfiting."

Philippe Gilbert, a Belgian from the Française des Jeux team, was the final rider across the line at 32:05 after the stage winner. His teammate Sébastien Joly remains solidly in the Lanterne Rouge slot, about 15 1/2 minutes cumulative time behind any other rider in the 2006 Tour de France. Joly seems to be content riding at the rear of the peleton most of the time - I noticed his number 155 a couple of times in the TV coverage riding just ahead of the team cars. He finished in 149th for the stage today.

Many riders lost time today. Gert Steegmans, a Belgian sprinter on Davitamon-Lotto and leadout man for Robbie McEwen, entered the Final Three of the General Classification in 154th place by losing 22:08 today.

There are 156 riders remaining in the Tour de France, and we will probably see several more withdraw on Tuesday.

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