Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Vino Redeemed

courtesy AFP

This year's Tour de France is quite the roller coaster. In the early stages, David Zabriskie seemed like the fastest guy on two wheels, taking the opening time trial and holding the yellow jersey for several stages---and then crashing spectacularly in the team time trial and eventually quitting the race a couple days ago. Robbie McEwen couldn't buy a win against Tom Boonen, and he even got relegated to the back of the field in one bunch sprint for some questionable antics. In just a couple days, he came back and took two victories from Boonen with relative ease.

Yesterday, on the final climb to Courchevel, Alexandre Vinokourov of T-Mobile was dropped hard by the elite group led by Lance Armstrong. Vino looked totally spent and his race appeared over.

Not so. Today, he and Santiago Botero (another rider I predicted to be a possible dark horse winner of the Tour) broke away on a stage filled with major Alpine climbs and held off the field to the end. Vino out-sprinted Botero for the win, and gained more than a minute on The Boss. Still 4:47 back, Vino has lots of ground to cover if he wants a podium spot, but the Alps aren't over and the Pyrenees are still to come. A lot could happen. Botero especially has a chance to contend for a high placing, as he is now only 3:48 back in sixth place.

This is definitely the most exciting Tour since 2003. Hands down.