Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tour de France Stage 10

Route: Tallard - Marseilles
Riders remaining: 171
Distance: 229.5 km
- Côte de Châteauneuf-Val-Saint Donat 3.3 km; 3.1%; 4 category
- Côte de Villedieu 1.1 km; 5.2%; 4 category
- Côte des Bastides 7.5 km; 2.9%; 3 category
- Col de la Gineste 7.5 km; 3.2%; 3 category

The race spent today transitioning from the Alps to the beautiful southern coast of France, closing out Stage 10 in Marseilles. I always seem to have an attention deficit problem during these middle days of the Tour. Let’s face it (for me), they just aren’t as suspenseful as the mountain stages. The profile has turned flat, granted (depending on the landscape) the first day out of the Alps can sometimes be a bit hair-raising, due to tricky descents but, after that, it just gets dull…and long (look at the distance covered today!). The teams are focused on setting up their sprinters and protecting their “GC men,” their contenders for the overall lead, their best hopes for the coveted yellow jersey. Today was no different. It was a routine “day in the saddle,” as cyclists say and, for teams like T-Mobile and Astana who have lost riders to crashes and illness that meant a day for recovery. Yet, in light of the blazing temperatures of 98-100° F, I am not sure how much recovery the competitors will enjoy.

As routine as these transition days may be for the overall leaders, they are anything but for the lesser-known cyclists in the peloton who use them to make a name for themselves, or for their team. They attack the group early to mount an escape that, hopefully, will last the day and give them the maillot jaune for just a moment. Today was no different. At the 2 km mark (remember, the total distance for the day was 229.5 km), the first group of six went ahead. They managed to stay alive for about 35 km before being caught by the peloton. Within five minutes of that catch, another escape attempt was made. That one lasted only 5 km. Shortly thereafter, a third escape attempt was made that succeeded, eventually gaining over ten minutes on the peloton. The stage winner, Cedric Vasseur, was from this band of intrepid road warriors who braved the heat for a day of glory.

Team Discovery Channel status
After such a great day on Stage 9, the “Disco Boys” stayed out of the fray on Stage 10, keeping Levi Leipheimer safe and the rest of the team healthy as well. Of course, such a conservative stance caused them to drop slightly in the team competition, where they now sit in third place, but still only six seconds behind the second place contenders, Team Caisse d’Epargne.

One accolade of note: Yaroslav Popovych started today wearing the red jersey of “most aggressive rider” for his performance in the last mountain stage. He was first over the highest pass of the Tour, the Col d’Iseran, and second over the following two summits yesterday, earning himself 69 points in the King of the Mountains competition. Please recall that at the beginning of Stage 9, Mr. Popovych had 0 points in the climbing contest. He earned them all in one day. Pretty impressive!

Race Withdrawals Stage 10
None. Praise the Lord!

Race Trivia
- David Millar, a rider for Team Saunier-Duval, is allergic to the sun. Consequently, despite the scorching heat, he wore a long sleeve jersey to protect his skin.

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