Monday, July 23, 2007

A day in the Pyrenees

And what a day it was, with a Cat 2 climb to open the day's 122-mile ride, and then back-to-back HC climbs with a mountain finish atop the famed Plateau de Beille, scene of many a great day in the Tour de France. All of the major contenders were there, and then they all began to drop like flies.

First, it was Vinokourov who showed the grit and guts of the champ of Khazaksthan, - I'm not sure how you spell Kazahkstahn so I've spelled it differently every time - that he is in Saturday's individual time trial, winning it by more than a minute and by more than 3 from Rasmussen, the Tour leader. But he paid for it on Sunday and was dropped by the Peloton as they ascended the Beille. Ultimately, he could only wave at the cameraman on board the motorcyle closest to him as it sped away.

As they went up, Alejandro Valverde went bye-bye, Iban Mayo cracked, Cadel Evans fought deep into the Beille before he, too, had to let go, Soler was dropped, Carlos Sastre floated away and Levi Leipheimer, who later admitted that sudden accelerations up mountains just aren't his style, just had to keep turning over the pedals as Rasmussen and Alberto Contador rode away into the mist.

In the end, it came down to Contador and Rasmussen, marking each other every step of the way, attacking each other to try and rid one of the other, before Contador crossed the line ahead of Rasmussen by about 2 bike lengths.

For their efforts, Rasmussen keeps the Yellow Jersey again, and Contador moves to 2nd place overall, but Rasmussen put serious time between himself and Cadel Evans. That's important because no one believes Rasmussen can beat Evans in the individual time trial still to come on Saturday, and he needs all the time he can get.

On Monday, it's Day 2 in the Pyrenees, another brutal day for the mountain goats to show their stuff. There are 2 Cat 2s, a Cat 1, then an HC, then a Cat 1 climb up the Col de Peyresourde.

Can Rasmussen and Contador duplicate yesterday's efforts? Contador is a rookie teammate of Leipheimer's...did he stretch Rasmussen enough yesterday to allow Leipheimer to make a move today? We'll see as it plays out today. I'm in the office today, so I won't watch it until don't call me and tell me who wins.

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