Sunday, July 15, 2007

Carnage in the Alps

I haven't been able to watch the stage yet, so I actually gasped when I saw the list of today's 8 withdrawals:

136 HERVE Cédric (FRA) AGRITUBEL outside time limit
134 FEILLU Romain (FRA) AGRITUBEL withdrawls
86 NAPOLITANO Danilo (ITA) LAMPRE-FONDITAL outside time limit
46 MC EWEN Robbie (AUS) PREDICTOR - LOTTO outside time limit
35 O’GRADY Stuart (AUS) TEAM CSC withdrawls
23 CAVENDISH Mark (GBR) T-MOBILE TEAM withdrawls
21 ROGERS Michael (AUS) T-MOBILE TEAM withdrawls

O'Grady crashed and his injuries sound serious: "punctured one lung, broke his collarbone, shoulder blade, five ribs as well as some bones in his spine".

Personally, I hope this day - with O'Grady and McEwen out - improves old Erik Zabel's chances of wearing the green jersey a few more times, particularly on the last day in Paris. I think the decision to strip his green jersey win from 11 years ago is nasty, particularly when other living Tour winners have admitted to taking anabolic steroids while competing. Like, for example, Floyd Landis is accused of doing. But they're French. (Right now Zabel is in 2nd place with 134 points to Tom Boonen's 147 points, and Boonen couldn't finish the Tour in 2005 and 2006).

Our old friend Wim Vansevenant (Lanterne Rouge for the 2006 Tour, Belgian rider for Predictor-Lotto) is our new Lanterne Rouge from this stage. This is his 4th Tour de France. He's already shown that he's capable of surviving the entire 3 weeks of the Tour, and he's made it to the rest day now - maybe he'll make it to the bitter end.

Vansevenant is the seventh man to hold the Lanterne Rouge title in this up-for-grabs Tour, and we're only at the end of Stage 8. However, he's far ahead of five of the previous holders of the title - he's still in the Tour, and they're not. Vansevenant has been earning his paycheck riding in support of his teammate, sprinter Robbie McEwen, although obviously now that tactic will change since McEwen is out of the Tour.

66 riders arrived at the finish line and their well-earned rest day in the huge autobus, all assigned a time of 39:07 after the stage winner. That results in our final five riders in the General Classification as:

168. CHARTEAU Anthony 104 CREDIT AGRICOLE 16:51:19 + 01:13:37
169. HOSTE Leif 45 PREDICTOR - LOTTO 16:51:28 + 01:13:46
170. KUSCHYNSKI Aleksandr 156 LIQUIGAS 16:51:56 + 01:14:14
171. ZABRISKIE David 39 TEAM CSC 16:52:22 + 01:14:40
172. VANSEVENANT Wim 49 PREDICTOR - LOTTO 16:54:56 + 01:17:14

Well, if the Big Z loses a couple more minutes to Vansevenant, we may be able to talk about him as Lanterne Rouge after all. I have a feeling he would just laugh and bide his time until the 54-km individual time trial next Saturday, July 21st. Right now he's doing the job he is paid to do out there.

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