Sunday, July 22, 2007

28:50

I am a partisan no more. Hoping against hope for the rabbit to come out of the hat, I admit that I had unreasonable expectations to see Alexander Vinokourov rise like a phoenix from the ashes and seize this Tour de France as his by rights. After today's stage, Vino' has shown the limits of his superhumanity and has revealed that he is but a man. Now, I am free to watch this Tour without that aching glimmer of hope for a comeback like I had in 1988 when Greg Lemond lacked just a few seconds to take the maillot jaune going into the final stage time trial against Laurent Fignon. Now, I can just watch this fantastic Pyreneean showdown.

Today was amazing with riders attacking again and again, never gaining until they were able to break their competitors. I think that now you get a good idea of who the true contenders are: Rasmussen, Contador, Evans, Leipheimer and Kloden. With two mountain stages and a time trial left, a grand game of cat and mouse is solidly afoot. And now that there is (theoretically at least) no doping, the riders seem to suffer more and to recover slower, paying for their efforts with huge chunks of time in the subsequent days. This makes the fireworks today seem all the portentious for the efforts to come. This could swing favor to someone like Levi Leipheimer who, as Shelly put it, is a "steady Eddie", not capable of matching the accelerations of the pure climbers, but not losing huge chunks of time either. Both he, Evans and Kloden would have to be ranked as the best tt'ers in the bunch at the top and this could spell more swings of fortune for the top 5 come time trial time. At this point, it's a crapshoot.
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