TDF Stage 9 – And Then There Were Two

14 Jul

Stage 9 confirmed what Stage 8 alluded to – the Tour de France champion this year will be either defending champion, Alberto Contador or Saxo Bank’s, Andy Schleck. If those two stay healthy with no mishaps, it will come down to mano-a-mano in the Pyrenees.

Third place on the podium is still up for grabs. I see Sammy Sanchez, Denis Menchov, and Levi Leipheimer all having a chance. Sanchez and Menchov are about even, with Leipheimer a minute back.

There were many questions about the strength of the Astana team prior to the Tour. Daniel Novarro and Paolo Tiralongo keep answering those questions soldiering Contador up the climbs – particularly Novarro. The pace he sets is just brutal knocking everyone off the back except a few elites. He did it today and did the same thing two days ago – setting a murderous tempo for what must seem like forever to the guys try to keep up behind him.

There were so many impressive moments in today’s stage. Schleck repeatedly attacking Contador, trying to shake him loose, but to no avail – then dropping everyone else from the group – was an impressive display of strength. It was an impressive display of race tactics when they decided to work together to cut their time loss to the 4-man breakaway – and then catching them 1km from the finish.

Impressive was Saxo Bank’s Jens Voight’s performance today. Voight is the epitome of the type of rider you need as a teammate if you are a serious contender. No one works harder for his team leader then Jens Voight.  He turned himself inside out for Schleck today; it was just an unbelievably gutsy performance. Voight got in the breakaway for the sole purpose of being down the road near the summit of the Col de Madeleine so that when Schleck got to that point he could work for him. Voight had to be near exhaustion, but when Schleck approached with Contador, somehow Jens found something, got in front and paced Schleck up the climb. After pacing Schleck for several kilometers Voight was so spent he almost did a track stand (complete stop while on bike) because he simply had nothing left.

Cadel Evans is a great bike racer, currently holding the world road champion jersey. Evans had a very bad Tour last year, but was optimistic about his chances for this year. In the past, Evans did not have a team that could adequately support him and yet he finished in 2nd place twice. There were questions about how well BMC would perform today in protecting the yellow jersey, but they did a solid job early in the stage setting the tempo on the climb and protecting Evans. Unfortunately, Evans had a bad day (turns out he fractured his left elbow in Sunday’s crash) and was dropped off the back. He lost 8 minutes today and with it his chance for the Tour de France win. He was obviously devastated, starting the day with the yellow jersey, and losing 8 minutes to the new leader – Andy Schleck. When Evans crossed the finish line teammate Mauro Santambrogio tried to comfort him.

Stage 10
Tomorrow is Bastille Day, look for a breakaway with riders from the French teams – Cofidis, Francaise des Jeux and Bbox-Bouygues – perhaps "little Tommy Voeckler" (Phil and Paul’s nickname for him) from Bbox or Sylvan Chavanel will have a go at another stage win.

Look for Team Radio Shack to try and get 1-2 guys in the break.  They need to salvage something, a stage win would be huge.

*Pictures are from Getty Images

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No Responses to “TDF Stage 9 – And Then There Were Two”

  1. Susan July 14, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

    How about that for a prediction – Team Radio Shack got in the breakaway and end up with their first stage win!

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