Route: Le Grand-Bornand – Tignes
Riders remaining: 180
Distance: 165 km
- Col du Marais 3.8 km; 4.1%; 4 category
- Cote du Bouchet-Mont-Charvin 2.0 km; 7.1%; 3 category
- Col de Tamíé 9.5 km; 4.%; 2 category
- Cormet de Roselend 19. km; 6%; 1 category
- Montée d’Hauteville 15.3 km; 4.7%; 1 category
- Montée de Tignes 18 km; 5.4%; 1 category
Wow! What a day Stage 8 turned out to be --- full of suspense, mishaps, and destruction. Most of the race favorites and team leaders did not necessarily deliver the performances that everyone expected/anticipated; other race favorites and trusted domestiques crashed or were injured; and the one overall contender who was on the verge of capturing the day and, possibly the yellow jersey, left the race in tears and pain after hitting the deck (and a guard rail) in a bad braking maneuver on the descent of the Cormet de Roselend. Yes, Michael Rogers of Team T-Mobile, an Aussie from Canberra, retired from what was, by many accounts, his best Tour showing ever, the victim of a hand and knee injuries, plus a dislocated shoulder.
Stage 8 also saw the withdrawal of another Aussie favorite, Stuart O’Grady of Team CSC. Having also gone down on the descent of the Cormet de Roselend, it was reported that Mr. O’Grady had initially remounted his bike and was back in the race. A short while later, complaining of severe back pain, the Australian competitor was transported by ambulance to a hospital in Moutiers where he underwent x-rays and an MRI scan. It was almost frightening to see the television coverage of the cyclist in a neck brace, lying on a special stretcher, the kind used with suspected spinal injuries. Fortunately, his wounds were not as severe as initially suspected. He suffered fractures to five of his ribs and possibly some vertebrae, but reportedly had no damage to his spinal column. Praise the Lord!
This late-breaking information from the Team CSC website does not sound quite as encouraging, however. It also gives more details about how the crash occurred:
O’Grady was working his way through the peloton with bottles [of water] for his teammates during the final descent, when the crash happened.Additional victims of the punishing pace and tough climbs of Stage 8 fell to the clock instead of the crash. Disqualified were Robbie McEwen of Team Predictor-Lotto, Danilo Napolitano of Team Lampre, and Cédric Herve of Team Agritubel, all for finishing outside the stage cut-off time of just over forty minutes behind the stage winner, Michael Rasmussen of Team Rabobank. Respective completion times:
The Australian rider landed on his right side and punctured one lung, broke his collarbone, shoulder blade, five ribs as well as some bones in his spine. It is important to point out, though, that it is not the spine itself [that] was broken.
Herve 49 minutes, 57 seconds behind
McEwen 1 hour, 9 minutes, 22 seconds behind
Napolitano 1 hour, 16 minutes, 33 seconds behind
So, out of this mess, we have only two Australian competitors left: Cadel Evans of Team Predictor-Lotto and Simon Gerrans of Team AG2R Prevoyance. Poor Team T-Mobile, after such an encouraging day on Stage 7, what with Linus Gerdemann (a young rider) winning the yellow jersey and the group capturing the lead in the team competition, they now finds themselves with only six riders. Stage 8 claimed two of their teammates during the race (Mark Cavendish and Michael Rogers) and a crash with a spectator after the competition claimed one more, Patrick Sinkewitz. Mr. Sinkewitz was heading back to his hotel when he struck a 78-year-old man from Luxembourg head on. The cyclist was treated for a broken nose, head trauma, a shoulder injury, and two lost teeth. He returned to Germany for further tests and, so, is out of the Tour de France. The elderly gentleman, sad to say, remains in a coma at a hospital in Chambery.
Team Discovery Channel status
With Team T-Mobile in a shambles and only a few of the others at full strength with nine guys each, how is Team Discovery Channel faring in all this mayhem? Well, Levi Leipheimer hasn’t “shown his cards” yet as to his true strength, only marking the race favorites like Alexander Vinokourov and Denis Menchov during Stage 8. The cyclist is riding conservatively, yes, but he also isn’t wearing himself out in the Alps. His stated plan was to be more aggressive in the Pyrenees. We will have to wait and see what happens. At the moment, Stage 8 results show that Mr. Leipheimer gained time on his rivals, moving up into 13th place overall from 16th. Not bad, considering that he did nothing but mark time in the peleton and with a select group of team leaders.
As for the rest of the “Disco Boys,” I haven’t seen much written about them. George Hincapie appears to have fallen back to the role of domestique, not worrying about placing high for himself, but concerned about working for Levi, the Discovery Channel team leader. Alberto Contador managed a great ride in Stage 8, keeping up with a group of escapees led by Christophe Moreau. Yaroslav Popovych stayed amongst the leaders on the road as well, indicating that his legs are still fresh. A rest day can play havoc with the body, so we will need to watch everyone carefully on Tuesday to see if their fitness levels have suffered.
Race Withdrawals Stage 8
- Ivan Ramiro Parra (Columbia)
- Cédric Herve (France)
- Romain Feillu (France)
- Danilo Napolitano (Italian)
- Robbie McEwen (Australia)
- Stuart O’Grady (Australia)
- Mark Cavendish (Great Britain)
- Michael Rogers (Australia)