Saturday, July 08, 2006

"Surprising Day at the Tour"

Not exactly. But to listen to the OLN commentary or read any American news source it seems like it was a shocking day, and mainly because George Hincapie didn't win. But, really, was there anything in his past other than his relationship with a certain Texan that showed his might? Um, no.

One shocking thing was the poor performance of Levi Leipheimer. I don't think anyone expected this and, in fact, I don't think he's ever ridden anything close the this bad a time trial. After two top 10 Tour finished and in a year he's supposed to be peaking, it seems to point to something being quite wrong. We'll see in the days ahead.

Another is the crash of Bobby Julich, who now holds the unprecidented distinction of crashing out of the Tour twice as a team leader (if de facto this time), in time trials, something normally thought of as safe. The only explaination that I can find for this is that perhaps thinking he'd be there to support Basso in the mountains, he didn't recon the time trial courses because he didn't think he'd be allowed to ride hard, and was therefore unaware hidden curb that seemed to cause his accident. But, man, even with the crash, it was still pretty much bad luck to be forced out of the race.

Other than that, today was filled with proven time trialists having good performances. The "completely unexpected" winner, Sergie Gonchar, wouldn't have been so unexpected had he not come to the race to ride for Jan Ullrich (who must be beside himself seeing how his team performed today on a course that perfectly suits his talents). After all, he's won a stack of time trials over the years and held the lead in the Giro de Italia. Rogers, Lang, Landis, etc, etc. were all expected to do well here.

Landis was the big winner for the day, moving into the clear race favorite. Kloden proved to be fit as well and is now, "suddenly", a contender. Other proven guys had solid rides, mainly GC threats Evans, Menchov, Sastre. Some of the best climbers, like Rujano, Mayo, and Simoni lost a ton of time which will, undoutable, lead to many attacks, fireworks, and a fun time in the mountains. Who of the favorites will be able to follow?

As for Discovery, they now have a clear leader, 2-time Giro winner Paulo Salvodelli, and a great team to support him. But what does this do to the American coverage? The way OLN's been reporting, it's not far fetched to think they might just throw in the towel and get back to bass tournaments and shooting things. How can we sell a race to the American public without a a movie star mug with a podium girl wife? Landis is more like that kind of working-class hero the French would rally behind. We certainly can't broadcast something like that!

Allez, Floyd!

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