Route: Bourg-en-Bresse – Le Grand-Bornand
Riders remaining: 183
Distance: 197.5 km
- Côte de Corlier 6.4 km; 5.3%; 3 category
- Cote de Cruseilles 7.1 km; 4.4%; 3 category
- Cote Peguin 4.3 km; 4.1%; 4 category
- Col de la Colombiére 16 km; 6.8%; 1 category
It may have been Stage 7 of the Tour de France today, but it was really Day 1 because today was the first day in the mountains. The “sorting hat” began to select the strong men of the peloton, and guess who made the cut? Of the race favorites and team leaders, all of whom finished together at three minutes and thirty-eight seconds behind the stage winner, these guys remained:
- Alejandro Valverde of Team Caisse d’Epargne
- Oscar Pereiro of Team Caisse d’Epargne
- Levi Leipheimer of Team Discovery Channel
- Cadel Evans of Team Predictor-Lotto
- Juan Miguel Mercado of Team Agritubel
- Haimar Zubeldia of Team Euskaltel-Euskadi
- Denis Menchov of Team Rabobank
- Michael Rogers of Team T-Mobile
- Carlos Sastre of Team CSC
- Alexander Vinokourov of Team Astana
The most impressive ride of the day, however, was delivered by Linus Gerdemann of Team T-Mobile. He broke away from the peloton at around the 25 km mark and stayed in front of the pack to the bitter end, earning himself the white jersey of “best young rider,” as well as points in the King of the Mountains competition, an admirable accomplishment for a rider who is only in his second year of professional cycling. After today’s performance, I would say that Mr. Gerdemann is definitely a man to watch for the future.
On a curious note: one phenomenon of the Tour de France that I have never understood is the penchant for speed early on a mountain stage. For example, the average speed for the first hour today was almost 25 mph on the flat part of the course, not drastically different from other stages but with mountains on the horizon, I would think the riders would conserve their energy. Not so. I suppose the tactic is to wear down the marginal guys early, leaving only the competitors of concern, the survivors who can handle the pressure of the climbs. It works, but it sure is cruel. It certainly demonstrates survival of the fittest…Tour de France style.
Correction from Stage 6: Enrico Degano was still in the race at the start of the day! Yesterday, live Tour coverage reported that the Team Barloworld competitor had abandoned the race after crashing in the feed zone. Apparently, that was incorrect. Read this posting from the Stage 7 newsflash:
One of the Barloworld riders, Enrico Degano, crashed in the feed zone of the sixth stage. It was announced during the live coverage on LeTour.fr (and in the stage summary) that the Italian sprinter --- who currently holds the position of ‘Lanterne Rouge’ in the 2007 Tour de France --- had, in fact, abandoned the race. This is incorrect and we offer our sincere apologies for any confusion caused by this error. His team manager, Claudio Corti, was contacted this morning by LeTour.fr and he explained that Degano did sustain some injuries in the crash, but he still found the energy to finish 16th in the stage to Bourg-en-Bresse. “It will be difficult for him in the mountains today,” said Corti, “but hopefully we’ll have other riders who can perform in the mountains like the Colombians Felix Cardenas and Juan Soler.” Once again, apologies for the error in yesterday’s report and best wishes to Mr. Degano today.I guess that explains why I couldn’t find Degano’s name on any of the withdrawals lists this morning. Unfortunately, after a little over one hour of racing in Stage 7, Mr. Degano did abandon his first Tour effort, the result of the injuries he sustained yesterday.
Surprise of the day: the third place competitor in the sprint competition and the second place finisher in Stages 5 and 6, Oscar Freire of Team Rabobank, did not start this morning. Apparently, a nagging saddle sore was more than he was willing to endure for the next two weeks.
Team Discovery Channel status
The men with the planet Earth on their jerseys are still holding their own, but if you want an illustration of how quickly life at the Tour de France can change, observe the overall placing of George Hincapie at the end of today’s race. After a week in sixth place, George fell to 54th in the standings. Vladimir Gusev, on the other hand, remained in seventh place. He did lose the white jersey, though, due to the outstanding ride of Linus Gerdemann, who won the stage. Gusev is now three minutes, fifty-one seconds back in the “youth” competition so reclamation is possible with an individually great ride in either the Alps or the Pyrenees. Only time (and the goals of the team) will tell. Remember, their primary reason for racing is to put Levi Leipheimer in the yellow jersey. A solid ride by Levi today propelled him from 22nd place overall to 16th, so he is gaining ground on the lead. A few more consistent days in the Alps and the prize could be his.
The most encouraging sight of the day: Team Discovery Channel with four men in the leaders’ peloton supporting and protecting Levi. That’s half the team, indicating that, despite the recent injuries to Benjamin Noval and the loss of Tomas Vaitkus in Stage 3, the “Disco Boys” are doing well. George Hincapie came in six minutes behind the stage winner today, but I haven’t read anything that indicated his slower time was the result of illness or injury. It could have been a strategic move by Johan Bruyneel, the sporting manager of Team Discovery Channel, to reserve some men for the climbs of Stage 8, which are much more difficult than the cotes and cols of today.
More information on the Benjamin Noval crash in Stage 5: Apparently, the rider went through the back window of the French team car that suddenly stopped in front of him. He had twelve stitches to his inside right bicep, eight stitches to his inside right forearm, one stitch to his right finger, and three stitches in his chin. That is a few less stitches than the original thirty that was posted here on Gooseberry Lane; my apologies for the overstatement. Speaking about the crash, Johan Bruyneel had this to say, quoting from The Paceline website:
“We’ve seen the images of the crash now on the television. The car had a French TV crew inside the car and the director was entertaining the camera, explaining race tactics as he was driving and going all out downhill. I think it’s pretty dangerous to do that. There are some people who talk about the danger or usefulness of using radios in a race and I have my opinion on that, but I definitely have my opinion about TV cameras in the race cars. Seeing certain directors trying to be the star of the show and wanting to entertain the TV while they have to drive and think about the safety of the riders. It’s definitely very dangerous. That’s why we never have TV cameras in the car, or at least if we do we pretend that they are not there. I don’t think we can say the same of everybody.”You know, I have acted as a sag wagon/team car for my husband during some charity bike races and during his ride across part of southern Minnesota several years ago. I can attest to the difficulty of staying alert while paying attention to the cyclists, the other automobiles…and the small child that was in my car. :-) Undue distractions were certainly not what I needed while performing that job. I think Mr. Bruyneel has every cause to be irritated with the antics of the Bouygues Telecom driver, especially in light of the fact that, in eight days of racing, the Tour de France has endured at least two such incidents: Mr. Noval’s altercation and the crash of Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez in Stage 1. Keeping the roadway as safe as possible/reasonable should be the paramount concern.
Race Withdrawals Stage 6
- Enrico Degano (Italy)
- Ruben Lobato (Spain)
- Oscar Freire (Spain)