Wednesday, July 13: Courchevel – Briançon, 173 km
Today was all set to be another day of hell in the high Alps. The riders were to tackle the Col de la Madeleine (Hors Category climb, 2000m, 25.4km at 6.1%, the Col du Telegraphe – cat. 1 climb, 1566m, 12km at 6.7% and the mighty Col du Galibier – HC climb, 2645m, 17.5km at 6.9%.
Thank the heavens for Vino. If it wasn’t for him this procession would have lost all it’s appeal by now. His attack early on gave the Disco boys something to think about, but they seemed happy to let him burn himself out. It was typical of the Kazakh, all bravado and with little hope of winning back the five or so minutes he lost the day before. He just seemed to want to prove something to himself and perhaps his failing team.
The day started with a crash for Tom Boonen (he’s OK) and an early break by Thor Hushovd which was just an attempt to get some points for the green jersey. With only 30-odd kilometres covered Vinokourov attacked. He went clear with a handful of well placed (but not too dangerous) GC riders most notably Colombian demon-descender Santiago Botero (Phonak) it was these two who made the running and they looked like they fancy pushing all the way.
Vino just kept attacking and it was all ‘Santi’ could do to hold his wheel in the run in to the finish after catching Vinokourov for 40 seconds on the back end of the Galibier. It was an insane bit of 100km/h riding by the Colombian ex-MTB rider who caught Vino (who’s no slouch) in a matter of 10kms. Vinokourov said afterwards that despite the set backs of the past few days, he’s in good spirits and will keep having a go.
Once again Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) was rooted to the tarmac and the only hope of a race is being held up by a mighty cool looking Micheal Rasmussen (Rabobank) who just seems to be growing stronger by the day. The ex-MTB world champion from Denmark is the revelation of the Tour and seems to be riding himself onto the podium. Today he sat in 8th wheel almost all day, only coming out of the leaders wake for the sprint for the points at the top of the Galibier. If only he could Time Trial.
Bobby Julich also looked strong and Ivan Basso (both CSC) seems to over the slip up in form he had yesterday. But try as they might to make a race of it the Disco boys are just too classy for them. Lance has it stitched up.
So the outlook looks set fair for the Discovery domination of the race and I doubt we’ll see Vino again until the Pyrenees. Let’s hope that someone fancies a bit of action tomorrow. It’s Bastille day and who would bet against a French win. Perhaps a gift from Lance? Look out for Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R) or perhaps Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole), The RCUK hot tip? Thomas Voeckler (Bouyges Telecom) he’s been quiet for a few days and obviously fancies a dig on the French National Holiday. The terrain is perfect for the punchy ‘cheeky chap’ and boy do the French need to win something…
Elsewhere, sadly Jens Voigt (CSC) was eliminated after a few days of illness got the better of him. Dario Frigo and his wife have been busted for possession of EPO. Frigo will be out of the race, suspended and probably sacked by his team
1. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 4.47.38 (36.087 km/h)
2. Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.01
3. Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 1.15
4. Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC
5. Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita
6. Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel
7. Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
8. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
9. Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank
10. Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner
11. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne
12. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel
13. Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC
14. Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick.Step
15. Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team
1. Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 41.59.57
2. Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 0.38
3. Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 2.34
4. Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 2.40
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne 3.16
6. Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems 3.48
7. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 3.58
8. Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne 4.00
9. Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 4.02
10. Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team 4.16
11. Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems
12. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 4.47