TDF Stage 16

22 Jul

I had high expectations for today, of the latest battle in Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador war that was supposed to happen in Stage 16 today – it didn’t. They watched each other and waited.

I woke up just before 5am, could not go back to sleep so I got up to watch the stage. There was excitement from the start. For starters, there was the heated debate between Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen about Contador’s decision to race on with Schleck unable to due to the mechanical. Bob Roll and Craig Hummer seemed sort of uncomfortable with the dissension, kind of like kids act when mom and dad argue.

Secondly, there was the racing – the racing definitely started out exciting. Riders started attacking as soon as the neutral zone was clear. Lance Armstrong was finally in a break –  which was exciting.

In addition, I just knew as I watched Schleck that he was going to ride up to Contador and rip the yellow jersey off him – not really but I thought there might be something. Of course nothing happened, in fact they rode along side each other and appeared to talk. Word has it that the feud is over; Schleck went so far as to ask fans to quit booing Contador. I have no doubt Schleck still feels Contador acted in an un-sportsman like way, but maybe has decided to let his racing do his talking. We can only hope he has his best legs on Thursday.

Despite the hype, today’s stage was not expected to be the stage that Schleck attacked Contador because of the long descent. If either rider obtained a gain, it could have easily been made up on the descent. I did have my hopes up that the breakaway would make it and that if Armstrong was still there at the end – and he was – he would find a way to cross the finish line first. He did not.

I didn’t understand Johan Bruynel’s tactics, unless what we saw wasn’t what he ordered – but was maybe all Armstrong could do. Quick Step had Carlos Barredo attack (although 40k out was too soon) and ride alone to about 1k from the finish, Chris Horner (Radio Shack) could have made a similar move for Radio Shack. In that case, Armstrong would not have had to work in the breakaway with his teammate up the road – he could have rested and waited.

Instead, Armstrong tried to out sprint a very fast Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox). He couldn’t and Fedrigo took the win. It was a great ride today by Armstrong; he raced well and looked strong, particularly in the early climbs.

No way to know if it would have worked for them to send Horner alone (like Quick Step did with Barredo), but it would have had a better chance for success than to try and win a bunch sprint against Fedrigo and Cunego. Armstrong made such a strong effort; it would have been nice if he could have been rewarded with a final stage win.

As difficult as Stage 16 was, with over 13,000 feet of climbing, somehow green jersey hunter, Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) managed to finish with the main group and regain the green jersey. Hushovd sprinted to the finish, coming in 10th and gaining six points toward the green jersey. Enough points to give him a four-point edge in the competition for the green over Allesandro Petacchi (Lampre).

The race tightened for the climber’s polka dot jersey as well with Christophe Moreau (Caisse d’Epargne) gaining ground on current jersey wearer, Anthony Charteau (Bbox).

Tomorrow is a “rest day”, with Thursday being D-Day. Do or Die for the Yellow Jersey.

*pictures are from Getty Images

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