Monday, July 17, 2006

Today In The TdF
Today is actually a rest day which the cyclists will need after a punishingly long (180.5 km) stage on Sunday. Add in the loss of two cyclists out of three who crashed in the six-man breakaway, and the drama factor of this year's race just keeps going up. I'm amazed that Mattias Kessler (German riding for T-Mobile) not only survived the crash but stayed in the race. He was riding last and David Canada (Spain riding for Saunier) just ahead of him lost his rear wheel and started on an agonizing spill (broken collarbone and a very bad case of road rash) that essentially blocked Kessler from moving right and getting away from the impact. Kessler went over the guardrail (as did Rik Verbrugghe who was leading the breakaway at that point and is out with a broken leg and probably some other injuries as well) but finished out the race with stones from the crash imbedded in his helmet.
Tomorrow the peleton returns to finish the stage up L'Alpe d'Huez. This is a 13.8 km climb at an angle of 7.9%. That is hellish. This is a "hors categorie" (beyond classification) climb and is the second of the day. The prior HC climb is up Col d'Izoard but is easier for several reasons: it is about mid-way through the stage (Huez is where the race finishes), though it is actually longer by 700 meters, it is "only" a 7% grade. And this is one of those "gut check" moments of the tour. If a rider can crank out a win up this mountain, he will be worthy of the yellow jersey and he will make a statement to the rest of the entrants. It was on climbs like this that Lance Armstrong proved his greatness. I hope Floyd Landis (my favorite as I've said before) crushes this stage. But even if he doesn't he is still in good position to win the Tour. I'd just like to see him do it on the same slopes that a talented rider from Texas became a superstar who is recognized the world over by just his first name.

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