Sunday, July 10, 2005

Items Of Interest

Stage 8 of the Tour was interesting for a number of reasons. Allow me to list them:

1) Discovery Channel was nowhere to be found on the final big climb of the day. Only Il Falco was there with Lance as the road turned upward for the final time of the day, and he was toast after just two major attacks by Vinokourov, leaving Lance alone to chase his rivals down. He did so, but not without some energy loss and perhaps a significant blow to his morale. The key to his success over the past six years has been a team that ruthlessly dominates the climbs---a team nowhere to be seen in Stage 8.

2) T-Mobile had all three major contenders on the final big climb---two of whom attacked relentlessly (Vinokourov and Kloden) and one who kept Armstrong firmly in check by riding his wheel (Ullrich). T-Mobile was a force to behold in Stage 8, as Vinokourov attacked twice and softened up the field letting Kloden race away for a stunning second place finish (and a big time gain on Lance).

3) Andreas Kloden is clearly back in form after a weak spring. He was smooth as silk up the last climb and fast as lightning down the descent. With Vino and Ullrich also showing strength, T-Mobile has all three contenders ready to actually fight for the victory this year.

4) Joseba Beloki finished well, inside the front group with Armstrong, Ullrich and the other major contenders. Though Stage 8 was not nearly as tough as the later days in the Alps and Pyrenees, Beloki could finally be returning to the form he lost during a horrible crash in the 2003 Tour. Time will surely tell.

As the climbs get harder in the coming days, the race will surely become even more exciting than it is now.