Riders remaining: 165
Distance: 196 km
- Col de Port 11.4 km; 5.3%; 2 category
- Col de Portet ‘Aspet 5.7 km; 6/9%; 2 category
- Col de Menté 7 km; 8.1%; 1 category
- Port de Balés 19.2 km; 6.2%; H category
- Col de Peyresourde 9.7 km; 7.8%; 1 category
Monday is cleaning day at my house with breakfast out at a local restaurant when the chores are done, so I didn’t tune in to race coverage until the bottom of the third climb. From a quick perusal of the newsflashes, it seems I missed a few attacks and at least one crash involving Christophe Le Mevel of Team Credit Agricole and Inigo Isasi of Team Euskaltel Euskadi. It also looked like some early escapees eventually organized themselves into a group of twenty-five that stayed in front until the slopes of the new Tour ascent, Port de Balés.
The weather was classic “Pyrenees,” with fog at the summit of the debut climb. I enjoy watching the Tour de France when the clouds move in. The landscape is so intriguing when covered by passing shadows and the race seems more mysterious as spectators wait for their favorite cyclists to emerge from the mist. The scenery is breathtaking on television; I can only imagine how much better it is in person.
Alexander Vinokourov was, again, the talk of the town. Having done well in the time trial on Stage 13 and having fallen back so far on Stage 14, I suppose I should have expected a redemptive ride, but I never anticipated a solitary charge for the line. The strategy worked; Mr. Vinokourov won the race; and brought himself back into the top ten overall.
The other hot topic of discussion was Alberto Contador. Once again, he played “cat and mouse” with Michael Rasmussen in the closing kilometers of the race, a tactic I thought he employed on purpose in order to deal a psychological blow to the maillot jaune. Apparently not, according to an interview that was posted on the Tour de France website. Quoting Mr. Contador:
It was a good day for me. It turned out to be a spectacular stage and I wanted to manage a good place. Other than what happened in front, it ended well for me. I tried to attack and I hoped to be able to drop Rasmussen but he continues to prove that he’s really strong. Each time I attacked he was able to come back to me, but I have to take inspiration from the two days because we have taken time out of the time trial specialists.With two days in the Pyrenees leading to a Contador-Rasmussen showdown, I would expect a third day in the mountains to yield a similar result. We shall see.
Team Discovery Channel status
Once again, the men in the Planet Earth jerseys proved themselves to be the strongest in the race. Not only do they have two men in the top five places overall, Alberto Contador in second and Levi Leipheimer in fourth, they currently lead the team competition. No wonder. It was obvious on the last climb that Team Discovery Channel has power. With half the squad remaining to support Levi, their team leader, into the final kilometers, the “Disco Boys” were able to isolate Michael Rasmussen from all but one of his domestiques, and they eventually cracked that man as well. Still, no one can rest on their laurels until the finish line in Paris.
Unrelated to anything except, I suppose, team moral, listen to what the wearer of the white “youth” jersey, Alberto Contador, had to say about Team Discovery Channel and his opportunity to ride with them:
This is my first Tour and it was meant to be a learning experience, but I’ve had great support from my team. It’s an honor to ride for Discovery Channel because I always admired the way they controlled the race. My hero is Lance Armstrong because of the way he won seven Tours but also because of the way he beat cancer. I had an operation on my brain a few years ago and there was a lot of doubt about how I would be, but now I’m back on the bike and that’s when I’m happiest.I don’t know about anyone else, but I like his attitude so far. Let’s hope he can stay on the right track as he matures in his cycling career.
Race Withdrawals Stage 15
- Philippe Gilbert (Belgium)
- Filippo Pozzato (Italy)
- Christophe Le Mevel (France)
- Cyril Dessel (France)
- Fred Rodriguez (USA)