Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The last shall be first

The sorting has begun, and the tremendous talents are starting to show of many of the professional cyclists in the peloton who haven't yet gotten much recognition this Tour. It simply underscores the fact that every rider out there is a phenomenal athlete in his own right. (And also why it truly rankles me when riders at the bottom of the General Classification are derided as "losers". Unfortunately, since I'm catching up from being away I will have to skip most details of stages 8, 9 and 10).

Losing significant time in Stage 9: Sprinter, 2006 stage winner, and former two-time Lanterne Rouge Jimmy Casper, dropped at about 65 km to go:

169. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 6h 10' 51" + 31' 23"
170. CASPER Jimmy 123 AGRITUBEL 6h 10' 51" + 31' 23"

Two former Lanternes Rouges were making the headlines in Stage 10 yesterday.

Remy Di Gregorio (Stage 4 Lanterne Rouge, 2007) was recognized as the most combative rider for the stage and later said: "It was a beautiful day for me. I had planned to escape and I managed to spend a good part of the day in the lead. I was also able to climb well on the Col du Tourmalet and I went over the top with a lead of two minutes. This might have been sufficient if circumstances had been a little different in the race but with way that CSC swapped off behind me – to ensure that they put time into the Valverde group – I found myself in a situation that was rather dire despite the advantage I’d been able to build. I did not lose so much time in the valley and am proud of the way I raced. I loved this day, especially when I think that last year I only got to see the mountain stages of the Tour on television because I’d broken a rib in the first week. The experience of climbing at the front of the Tour de France as we went over the Tourmalet is something that provided me with a good revenge for the situation I found myself in last year.”

Leonardo Piepoli (Stages 1-3 Lanterne Rouge, 2005) came to the forefront finally as the stage 10 winner in an impressive ride along with his Saunier Duval-Prodir teammate Juan Jose Cobo Acebo.

Yuri Trofimov, a Russian rider in his first Tour riding for Bouygues Telecom, withdrew from the race on Stage 10, reducing the peloton to 169 riders.

Arriving at the back of the bus on the Hautacam on Stage 10:

167. CASPER Jimmy 123 AGRITUBEL 4h 53' 33" + 34' 06"
168. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 4h 54' 22" + 34' 55"
169. CAVENDISH Mark 43 TEAM COLUMBIA 4h 54' 22" + 34' 55"

Eisel had been visiting the doctor as early as 36 km into the stage. Cavendish crashed at about 15 km before the finish line. Cavendish, the 2008 double stage winner riding for Team Columbia, was the Lanterne Rouge for Stage 8 of the 2007 Tour.

The final seven riders in the overall standings as of the first rest day of the 2008 Tour de France include two two-time Lanternes Rouges separated by only 8 minutes 43 seconds:

163. CASPER Jimmy 123 AGRITUBEL 44h 17' 05" + 1h 47' 56"
164. CHICCHI Francesco 63 LIQUIGAS 44h 17' 11" + 1h 48' 02"
165. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 44h 17' 42" + 1h 48' 33"
166. RIBLON Christophe 108 AG2R-LA MONDIALE 44h 18' 56" + 1h 49' 47"
167. AUGE Stéphane 182 COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE 44h 22' 19" + 1h 53' 10"
168. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 44h 24' 06" + 1h 54' 57"
169. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 44h 25' 48" + 1h 56' 39"

I also happened to notice that in the last 20 places in the overall rankings there are 9 French riders, and no French riders at all in the top 20 places in the standings. That must be very difficult for the French to see in their national race on their national holiday!

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