Today's stage gave the first thrilling rush of excitement that this tour has had to give. On the edge of my seat, I played that age old mental math game of counting down the seconds to see if George Hincapie was going to wear the first maillot jaune of his long pro career. Sadly, he came up just 5 seconds shy of the mark. Regardless of what side you fall on with regard to the Columbia/Garmin polemics, it would have been great to see George wearing yellow after such a cheeky move from the 12 km mark. If only we could see some audacious riding from others.
It is this point that we need to discuss the imminent return of Alexandre Vinokourov. Vino's return could be the breath of fresh air that the stagnant peloton needs. Vino is the wild card, the joker and the ace in the hole all rolled up into one. He is a time bomb full of hand grenades with a hair trigger and a mean streak. Vinokourov can be counted on to do the unexpected, the unconventional. The easiest way to predict the unpredictable nature of Vino is to think when would be the dumbest time to attack and that is the moment when Vino will throw it down, launch the reckless attack and ride with a wild-eyed abandon.
While everyone seems to have resigned themselves to the script that Astana has put forth for this tour, the peloton lacks a rider willing to go for broke. To my way of thinking, Cadel Evans is the man with nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing the audacious, unexpected, and foolhardy move. It can't be just one attack and "oh well, that didn't work". Evans needs to go again and again and again until he either explodes or gains something. But that's the gambler in me talking. Lance Armstrong has once again turned the Tour into a poker game of grim-faced players who aren't willing to go all in, lest someone else make the lower step of the podium. Vino is the embodiement of the slots player run amok in the poker game, pulling the lever over and over again on the off chance that three bars or three cherries will line up and the coins will come dumping out. Who cares that the odds are against such behavior; he certainly doesn't.
The calculating tactician in me looks toward Wednesday's stage as a game changer. Four Cat. 1 climbs, 2 of which are in the final 30 km with the last being a scant 15 km from the finish and one Cat. 2 climb, all on the day before the ITT has the makings of a day of attacking and counter-attacking. At this point I would think that a 1-2 punch combination from Garmin's Wiggins and Vande Velde is the only serious move that can crack Astana and their slow grinding tempo train. Do something, no matter how stupid or ill-advised or else face the inevitability of racing for scraps and allowing Astana to make the race all about them.
Luna Cycles Fantasy Tour de France powered by Ambien GC standings after stage 14:
Charles Bennett Bernanke's Bumblers 9557
Peter Purcell Team Heal With Steel 8825
Nicole Thomas Espresso Train 8799
Shane Norris Team Inizio 8493
Charles Hicks Team Buuurrnn! 8261
Mellie Black Team Limp Along 8231
Grom Team CrashWagon 8119
Ron Swenson Team Theoretical 8031
jim brown stylin' and profilin' 8018
Chris Thomas Dessel Engine 7912
Grant Dunstan Lone Beer Ranger 7876
Eddy Winkler Team Not Caught Yet 7677
John Hansen Lumpy skates 7308
Mary Ann Brown Hope & A Prayer 7219
Jeff Welch Pigs in Zen 7205
Steven Boike RPM 7175
Lara Cassidy Lara's team 7022
Trey Barnes Steam Donkey 6862
Jenna King Le Chiffre 6853
Scott Staley JRB Racing 6790
Chris Harris Equipe Poisson 6701
Player barrett team player 6680