Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Stage 15: Alpe d'Huez

I loved this stage!! Talk about high drama and champion performances! Whew!

Riders finishing in the back of the pack today, but FINISHING: at 36:22 after the stage winner, Christophe Le Mevel, a French rider for Credit Agricole came across the line, at the same time as Oscar Freire in 152nd position, the Spanish rider for Rabobank. Yes, THAT Oscar Freire, the 2-time stage winner in this Tour. Whatever it takes to reach Paris! Keep chugging up those mountains, Oscar! Well give the guy a break, though, he must have been a teensy bit fatigued from flying back and forth to Switzerland to see his new son Marco Freire who was born on Sunday. Probably not as tired as his wife, but....

Several riders withdrew today, as expected on one of the toughest days of the 2006 Tour. Say "So long, thanks for the memories!" to Tom Boonen, the Belgian rider for Quickstep-Innergetic who wore the maillot jaune for four days of this Tour (and who also simultaneously held the lead for the sprinter's green jersey on one of those days). Also abandoning today: Bram DeGroot, Dutch rider for Rabobank; Beat Zberg, Swiss rider for Gerolsteiner; and Andriy Grivko, Ukranian rider for Milram.

Sébastien Joly, the 9-day Lanterne Rouge, showed off his skills in mountain climbing and finished well up in 52nd position at 7:51 behind the stage winner. That puts Wim Vansevenant back into the Lanterne Rouge slot today, after he finished with one of the last large groups across the line in 34:11.

Today we saw an impressive finish by the Lanterne Rouge of the Prologue, Rubén Lobato, the Saunier Duval rider who finished in 6th position immediately behind Floyd Landis and Andréas Kloden. That moves him up to 34th overall, and we expect (like Leonardo Piepoli last year) to see his standings improve even further in the next two mountain stages.

It's not over until it's over!

Update on the abandonments: Cycling News says Tom Boonen had trouble breathing today. Too bad, since he was #2 in the green jersey rankings when he quit the Tour.

I haven't found any news yet on the other abandonments - I didn't hear of them involved in any crashes, but a lot happens on the road in the Tour that never gets reported widely.

I can't believe Boonen is out!!!!
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