Fools Ride?

Posted: July 18, 2010 in It's All Important Stuff

The winner of the stage today is revealed later in this story.  Don’t read, just yet, if you want to keep the mystery.

Team Astana punished the entire peloton to the base of the Port de Paliheres.  The average pace was 32 mph for 80 km – wow, that is fast.  Perhaps you have seen a local downtown criterium with pro riders.  They ride about 30-31 mph. Imagine doing that for 2 hours then climbing an HC (outside categorization) Tour de France climb, resting a bit and killing it up a category 1 to a mountain top finish.

I will admit that I do not understand Team Astana, Contador or Vinokourov at all.  They have so much talent, yet manage to continue to display no common sense about tactics.

Two days ago Contador chases down Vinokourov,  certain for a stage win, and gained no time on any one important.  Today they burn the entire team to the base of the first big climb, dropping no contenders as they go.  Up the climb, Contador’s own teammates set a pace that he cannot follow, so he calls a sort of truce with Andy Scheck.  This would make sense if Contador actually attacked on the Ax-3 Domaines, but no he does not.

Instead, Contador sits up, nearly needing to drop a foot, while France’s Christophe Riblon soloed to the Tour de France Stage 14 victory.  I think the answer is that Contador couldn’t pull it off on either climb today.  He is good, but Schleck is just as good or better.  I wonder if Andy Schleck called Contador a “girlie man” today.  What do they say to each other?

“On the second to last climb, his whole team surrounded him and I could see they wanted to give the impression that he wasn’t feeling good today,” said Schleck in a post-race press conference. “But I knew it wasn’t like that — they wanted me to attack.”

Schleck knew he was vulnerable to attack on the Ax-3 Domaines, and refused to be put in the wrong position, while Astana wasted their team to no real avail.

“I told him (Schleck), ‘If you go too deep today, it could be dangerous for tomorrow,’” said Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis.

Though neither picked up time on each other, their tête-à-tête had an unexpected, perhaps unwelcome, result. As the two dueled in the final kilometers, Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez and Rabobank’s Denis Menchov, the race’s third and fourth-placed riders, rode ahead and picked up 14 valuable seconds on the leaders. Sanchez is currently two minutes behind Contador.

Meanwhile, Levi drops another spot.  Denis Menchov will whip Sammy Sanchez in the final Time Trial on Saturday.

Below is a premonition about the podium in Paris:

Standing<!––> Rider<!––> Team<!––>

Time<!––>

Gaps<!––>
1. SCHLECK Andy TEAM SAXO BANK 68h 02′ 30″
2. CONTADOR Alberto ASTANA 68h 03′ 01″ + 00′ 31″
3. SANCHEZ Samuel EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI 68h 05′ 01″ + 02′ 31″
4. MENCHOV Denis RABOBANK 68h 05′ 14″ + 02′ 44″
5. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen OMEGA PHARMA – LOTTO 68h 06′ 01″ + 03′ 31″
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