As the first mountain stage in Tour de France turned out slightly disappointing, this one was, well, as promised, an ab-so-lu-te blast. Great Dane Michael Rasmussen (of Dutch Team Rabobank) tore the peloton apart, won the stage riding halfway the route virtually without help (as his only ally, T-Mobile captain Michael Rogers unfortunately hit a roadside barrier and pulled out of the race shortly after). Good Lord, what a stunning ride, a phenomenal achievement! Rasmussen not only won the stage, but the maillot jaune and the polka-dot mountain jersey as well.
But the stage also answered many of the questions in this year’s Tour: Vinokourov IS hurt by his crash some days ago, whereas his lieutenant Andreas KlÃ¶den seemed strong – but the latter was unfortunately ordered to stay with his captain, and thereby damaging his own chances in the GC. Team Saunier Duval’s Iban Mayo finished second, which was a nice surprise considering Mayo’s very consistent ability to disappoint in the Tour, year after year. Team CSC-favourites Carlos Sastre and Fränk Schleck rode fairly well, both among the ten fastest riders. But the team directors of ‘the world’s best cycling team’ should be deeply concerned that these guys ride with almost no support from the rest of the crew. What’s going on?
Lots of riders crashed on today’s stage, including Team CSC’s Stuart O’Grady. O’Grady was taken to the hospital immediately, where X-rays showed that he’d broke five ribs, fractured three vertebrae and a shoulder blade. T-Mobile’s team is reduced to six riders (of nine), but after the stage was done, Patrik Sinkewitz crashed into a spectator and broke his nose, while the spectator lost his consciousness, and is now in a coma at the hospital. Tour de France is surely as crazy as it is brutal…
But this day certainly belongs to Rasmussen, who seems stronger, more focused and ambitous than ever. Will ‘the Chicken of Tølløse’ (as he’s nick-named in Denmark) be able to win this year’s Tour de France? Will he aim for the maillot jaune? Asked moments after crossing the finish line, Rasmussen unabashedly answered: “The way I am riding, it would be stupid not to”.
Tomorrow is resting day, followed by the final stagein the Alps Tuesday. I googled the photo above, looking good, eh?