Riders remaining: 150
Distance: 188.5 km
- Côte de Baleix 1.4 km; 8.0 %; 3 category
- Côte de Villecomtal 3.7 km; 4.3%; 4 category
- Côte de Miélan 1.4 km; 5.4%; 4 category
- Côte de Sainte-Dode-aux-Croix 2.0 km; 5.0%; 4 category
- Côte de Theux 1.4 km; 6.4%; 4 category
- Cote de la Montagnére 1.4 km; 5.3%; 4 category
With the mountains behind them, the sprinters were breathing a sigh of relief today, ready to challenge the first flat stage in a while. Slightly undulating at the beginning, the road eventually evened out for a quick run to the line. As far as excitement, these level stages often lack the interest of the Pyrenees or the Alps, but with the drug scandals and roadside bombs of the last few days, the attraction of viewing was definitely high at my house. Not so much to see what would happen next, but to have our faith in cycling restored by the competitors who remain.
And restore it they did, at least for this fan. Alberto Contador of Team Discovery Channel refused to wear the maillot jaune until he had earned it with a day of racing. Plus, statements like this indicated frustration by many over both the alleged and the admitted substance abuse violations of the past few days:
“Five people have spoiled it out of nearly 200 guys who started in London, so it is a minority…” --- Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain), Team CofidisSo as not to forget the actual status of the race: Daniele Bennati of Team Lampre conquered Stage 17 after besting a breakaway group that had been ahead of the peloton most of the day. Others in the leading group: Markus Fothen of Team Gerolsteiner, Martin Elmiger of Team Ag2R Prevoyance, and Jens Voigt of Team CSC.
“It’s 2007, everyone’s accessible by cell phone, e-mail or Blackberry…I declared where I was 365 days a year. Everybody has to play by the same rules.” --- Lance Armstrong in a telephone interview with Forbes magazine, referring to the accusation that Michael Rasmussen failed to notify the UCI of his whereabouts during training.
Team Discovery Channel status
With the “virtual” yellow jersey on their team, the “Disco Boys” stepped up to the plate and led the peloton for the better part of the day. It was great to see them all at the front of the bunch, riding together in support of Alberto Contador, much like the team used to pedal as one for Lance Armstrong.
Mr. Contador has had quite the Tour de France, what with being propelled into first place by unusual circumstances rather than through his own effort and the efforts of his teammates, although his demonstrated talent had him in second place overall before the explusion of Michael Rasmussen, the former maillot jaune from Team Rabobank. Contador also sits in first place for the youth classification award and in second place for the King of the Mountains competition.
As for the others, they can all claim congratulations for putting Discovery Channel in first place in the team competition. Hopefully, success in that arena will bring them a much-needed sponsor now that their contract with the television network is set to expire at the end of the season. With podium finishes looming on the horizon in no less than three of the five Tour competitions, I cannot imagine the former U.S. Postal franchise/current Discovery Channel team searching long for supporters. Then again, this is the world of cycling where life can change at the drop of a hat…or the turn of a wheel.
Race Withdrawals Stage 17
As the Tour de France weathers the current doping scandal, more riders were added to the withdrawal list today. Among them, the race leader and the members of Team Cofidis:
- Michael Rasmussen (Denmark)
- Denis Menchov (Russia)
- Sylvain Chavanel (France)
- Stéphane Auge (France)
- Cristian Moreni (Italy)
- Nick Nuyens (Belgium)
- Staf Scheirlinckx (Belgium)
- Rick Verbrugghe (Belgium)
- Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain)
- The Saunier Duval team has sponsored a project to plant trees in Mali. One sapling will be donated for every kilometer raced as part of an escape group during the Tour de France.