TDF Stage 8

11 Jul

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

A famous line that aptly describes Stage 8 for two of this year’s favorites to win the Tour – Lance Armstrong and Andy Schleck.

Best of times for Andy Schleck, who won his first stage ever at the Tour de France by taking off from Contador so strongly that Contador couldn’t match the effort. Schleck is young and his Tour career is ahead of him.

 

The worst of times for 7 time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong. He retired in 2005 after winning a record setting 7th Tour in a row. Late in 2008 Armstrong announced he was coming back to racing – and that he did – finishing with an impressive 3rd place in the 2009 Tour de France. He hadn’t had the time to train as fully as necessary to contend for the win, but with a year to do so hopes were high for this year’s Tour.

Those hopes were diminished in Stage 3, when after a puncture he lost 2:30 to the overall leader, and around a minute to his serious competitors.
 
 
 

Today all hope for another Tour victory or podium placement were buried when he finished the worst stage of his Tour de France career – 11:00+ behind the GC favorites and slipping to 39th place overall.

Lance Armstrong looked solid yesterday. Today’s stage however, started out badly when there was an unexplained crash at the 6km mark. He avoided serious trouble by moving to the grass to bypass the fallen riders. Unfortunately, Armstrong crashed a little later just before the start of the Col de la Ramaz climb when he apparently clipped his pedal in the roundabout while going around 40mph. He said the next thing he knew his tire had come off and he was rolling on the ground. It was a hard fall, but he got up, shaken, but otherwise okay.  After getting a new bike from the team car, he remounted and his teammates proceeded to try to pull him back up to the main group.

Armstrong made it back to the main group, but just as the pace was quickening to begin the climb to the summit of Ramaz. Team Sky went to the front to do the pacemaking and continued to turn up the pace. 

As the pace went up, so did the gradient of the climb building to 9-10%.  Saxo Bank took over the pacemaking maintaining the fast tempo.  Armstrong, who was already suffering due to the effort to get back to the group, dropped off the back as did others, among them, Chavanel in yellow.

As the select group with all of the favorites (minus Armstrong) neared the summit, Chris Horner with Team Radio Shack attempted to pull Armstrong back to the group.  The gap between Armstrong and the favorites however continued to build to around one minute.

It was hoped that Armstrong would be able to close the gap on the descent and rejoin the select group, but he was unable to close in – still off the group by about a minute.  Fortunately for Team Radio Shack, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden were in the elite group with all of the GC favorites.

Unfortunately, for Armstrong things went south again.  At the summit of Les Gets, still at around one minute back, an Euskaltel-Euskadi rider in front of him missed getting his feed bag and crashed.  Although Armstrong didn’t go down, his bike did.  With hands on hips in seeming disbelief, he stood for a minute then untangled his bike and remounted.  At that point he must have known it was over. 
 
At the base of the climb to Avoriaz, Contador moved his team up to the front (unbelievably he had 3 teammates left) and turned up the pace. This put other riders in difficulty, but Schleck, Evans and the new leader of Radio Shack, Leipheimer, hung on.  One by one the group picked up the remains of what had been a 7 rider breakaway.
 
About this time it looked as if the favorites would all ride in together.  Contador must have been thinking something similar because he turned to look over his left shoulder to see who was left.  Schleck was watching and right when Contador looked back to his left, Schleck attacked to the right.  Only Sammy Sanchez could follow – Contador either couldn’t or chose not to respond – nor did Evans, Ivan Basso, or Denis Menchov.
 
Andy Schleck took his first stage ever at a Tour de France by beating Sanchez at the line.  It was a great piece of racing when he took the opportunity to gain time on Contador and Evans.  Even more fortunate was the fact that the yellow jersey went to Cadel Evans and not him.  Reason being – the team with the yellow has to do the work at the front of the peloton.  Evan’s BMC squad will have that responsibility when the race continues on Tuesday with another stage in the Alps. 
 
Tomorrow is a rest day.  Don’t be fooled by the term, they don’t race, but they do ride on rest days.  The body doesn’t take kindly to hard racing, rest and then hard racing again.  Think of it as an active rest day.

*Pictures are from Getty Images

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No Responses to “TDF Stage 8”

  1. Tri Girl July 12, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    This stage was heartbreaking for me to watch. One time after another, Lance went down and had one trouble after another. When he put his hands on his hips you could tell he just wanted to scream “SERIOUSLY????”
    He had rather good fortune during his 7 tour wins, and it seems that for this race his good fortune has disappeared. Poor guy- what a sad way to leave the sport. OTOH, I’m happy that Levi and Andreas were able to hang and keep the team at the top. Looks like we have a couple new leaders of Team RS.
    Does this mean Lance will be reduced to a domestique now? I heard some talk about him possibly dropping out of the race now that his chances of winning are over. I can’t see that happening. He’s a class act and will stick with his team to see them get the win (I hope).
    The race this year is certainly the most exciting I’ve seen in a while. I’m on the edge of my seat most days, and with the mountain stages upon us- it will be even more exciting.

  2. Susan July 12, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    It has to be the worst day he has ever had on a bike! He never crashed before his comeback. I’m reading Bill Strickland’s book, Tour de Lance, (yeah, I’m not getting enough of the Tour watching hours everyday..lol) and the part I read last night talked about how since the comeback he crashed more – now this was the 2009 season he was referring to. Still though, interesting.

    This has not been a good year for Lance at least related to cycling. He also has the investigation hanging over his head. I hate to see his Tour end this way but I do really hope he stays and finishes – it’s important for his Tour legacy IMO.

    I’m happy for Levi too and hope he can at least finish on the podium. It is a great tour, thank goodness for DVR so I can record than skip all commercials, etc. It’s still a big time investment. 🙂

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