Friday, July 14, 2006

Discovery Back In Action

Discovery Channel was all but dead. That's what the web sites and the commentators were saying after yesterday's mountain stage, where George Hincapie, Yaroslav Popovych and Paolo Savoldelli all finished far back and lost tons of time to guys like Floyd Landis and Denis Menchov. Today, however, a redemption:

Photo courtesy of AFP

Popovych attacked his breakaway partners with 3 km to go and won solo across the line in today's Stage 12 of the Tour de France. He finished nearly four and a half minutes ahead of the main field, including Landis, Menchov and all the other contenders. Popovych now moves into tenth place overall, halving his deficit to the leader and positioning himself well as the race nears the Alps. The current overall:

1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 53.57.30
2 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance 0.08
3 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 1.01
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 1.17
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 1.52
6 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile 2.29
7 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 3.22
8 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Agritubel 3.33
9 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance 3.44
10 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel 4.15

Every single day this Tour gives us more surprises.

What isn't surprising, though, is George Hincapie's complete lack of contention for the overall win. At least, it's not a surprise to me. Just before this Tour started, tons of people---even some with credibility like Bob Roll and his OLN coworkers---were predicting Hincapie to win it all or at least finish on the podium. This for a guy who had only won a single stage of the Tour in the past 7 years and who had never been among the top contenders in high mountain passes. They were picking him above people like Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich (still set for the race at that point). I assume it may have been residual Lance-sturbation, but whatever the reason they chose Hincapie, it was wrong.

Seriously, Hincapie's a great one day rider and a strong climber in certain places, but he's no Grand Tour winner.

Look for Popovych to use Jose Azevedo in the Alps and ride a strong final time trial. He could easily finish in the top 5. As for the top spot on the podium, that's for Floyd Landis to lose.