Friday, July 10, 2009

And So It Begins............

Today the Tour started in earnest for the contenders, Stage 7 started in Barcelona and finished on top of the HC Arcalis. After an early morning break built up a lead of almost 13 minutes at one point, the peleton with Astana on the front started to pull back time. It was almost a given that the break would succeed and that barring something extraordinary from Fabian Cancellara, Armstrong would be in yellow at the end of the stage. Astana decimated the field and by the official start of the climb (which was actually 10k after the road started to pitch up) the field was in shambles and the breakaway's lead had dwindled to a mere 7 minutes. Young Brice Fellieu of Agritubel attacked and went clear of the break with less than 5k to go to the summit. By this time it was obvious that the peleton (or what was left of it) would not catch the breakaway and it looked as though the main contenders would ride to the summit together, however in an attempt to gain back some of the 3 minutes he had already lost Cadel Evans launched an attack which was quickly covered by Lance. Another Silence Lotto rider went off the front and it looked as though Astana was content to let him go when Alberto Contador launched a counter-attack and went over the top of the attacking Silence-Lotto rider. Andy Schleck and Evans tried to nail back the gap, but once Contador goes he GOES and no one was going to catch him. Lance playing the loyal teammate sat on Schleck and Evans to the finish line and lost 21 seconds to Contador in the process. Lost in all of the favorites attacking was the fact that Rinaldo Nocentini became the first Italian in 9 years to wear the Maillot Jaune.

Tactically Astana could not be in a better position teamwise. With Contador, Lance, Levi and Kloden all in the Top 7 they have all of their Aces yet to play. Kudos to Bradley Wiggins for a fantastic climb today and also to Christian Vande Velde for hanging with the favorites in the mountains. Cadel gets thumbs up for FINALLY attacking and not being a wheel follower as in years past (if he had done this once in each of the past two years he might be the two time defending champion). I will preface this next statement with 1) I am a Lance fan and 2) I want him to win his 8th Tour. That all being said in my opinion Contador gets the douchebag of the day award for the late attack. There was no reason to attack other than to put time into Lance plain and simple. The Lotto rider that went clear wasn't close on GC and posed no threat, Cadel had tried to attack and it had been neutralized, and Andy Schleck seemed to be in no shape to launch an attack. Contador went clear knowing that Lance wouldn't chase down an teammate and that he could at least take back the time he was behind and possibly grab the Yellow Jersey. If it were me I would put the hammer down on Contador in the next two days (assuming Lance is capable of doing so) just to show him who is boss.

Like sands through the hourglass so are the Days of Astana....the soap opera continues.

1 comment:

peachy said...

It seemed like a questionable move to me as well - though perhaps not more questionable than Armstrong latching on to the Columbia break in Stage 3. The interesting question is what happens if Astana does fracture. I really wouldn't be surprised - given Astana's strength and depth, and the relative weakness of the other teams - if Contador and Armstrong both still made it to the podium. (It was impolitic of him to say it, but in my opinion Armstrong was correct in labelling last year's tour as rather low wattage.)