Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tour de France 2008

Stage 12 - Thursday, July 17: Lavelanet - Narbonne, 168.5km

With the Pyrenean stages over, the Tour now begins its journey across to the Alps. This stage features just one fourth category climb as it descends steadily towards the Mediterranean and so is a prime opportunity for the sprinters to reopen their accounts after a hard few days.

Lavelanet, situated in the heart of Cathar country with its hilltop castles, has hosted the start of a Tour stage once before: in 2002. That day saw a very similar course profile – although an entirely different route – and finished not far from today's Narbonne finish in the Herault department's capital Beziers. The stage was won by Scot David Millar (then Cofidis, now Slipstream-Chipotle) from a breakaway group that finished almost ten minutes ahead of the peloton.

Narbonne, with its 13th century Saint-Just cathedral, has been in existence since 118BC when the Romans settle there. The city has hosted the Tour seven times before, most recently in 2003 as it saw the start of the stage to Toulouse that was won by Juan Antonio Flecha. The last stage to finish here – or more accurately at Narbonne-Plage – was the second of five stages won by Belgian sprint legend Freddy Maertens in 1981.
Stage description lifted from

Today’s stage was over-shadowed by the news that Riccardo Ricco of team Saunier Duval has been kicked out for testing positive for EPO. The Italian was taken into police custody before the start of today’s stage. Ricco was 9th overall, first in the young rider competion (white jersey) and had won 2 stages with impressive performances. Now we know why.

The entire Saunier Duval team has withdrawn from the Tour and suspended their operations. This means that besides Ricco being gone, David De La Fuente (the polka dot jersey - mountain competition leader) is now gone and so is Juan Jose Cobo who was 8th overall. The Tour would have let the team continue but they decided not to.

This is all on top of Spanish rider Moises Duenas getting kicked out yesterday for the same thing.

Whenever someone has a great performance that comes out of the blue, there is always the thought in the back of my mind that they are dopers. But I had really hoped he was one of the new young super talented riders who were going to help change the sport. Someone as cynical as me shouldn’t be so naïve.

Ricco the Cheater Being Given the Boot from the Tour

My New Favorite Bike Jersey - Honey Buy Me One for Christmas

Anyway we did have a race today. Today’s relatively flat stage setup nicely for a bunch sprint finish.

A sweet bunch finish with Mark Cavendish from Great Britain who rides for Team Columbia taking the win. This was his 3rd stage win of the tour, I first for a rider from the UK. One can only hope he is clean.

The Hat Trick

There were no changes in the top ten riders but there were jeresey changes.

The Jersey statuses

Maillot Jaune (yellow jersey - overall leader) – Cadel Evans of Australia who rides for Silence - Lotto

Maillot Vert (green jersey - points leader for sprinting) – Oscar Freire of Spain who rides for Rabobank.

Maillot à pois (red and white polka-dot jersey - best in the mountains) – Sebastian Lang of Germany who rides for Gerolsteiner

Maillot Blanc (white jersey - best young rider - under 25) - NIBALI Vincenzo Nibali of Italy who rides for Liquigas

Tour Tidbits - today's selection comes to us at the suggestion of Lady Catherine of France.

The Broom Waggon (also referred to as Sag Waggon) is the affectionate name for the vehicle that follows a Cycle Road Race picking up stragglers (or sweeping them up) who are unable to make it to the finish the race within the time permitted.

In the Tour de France the vehicle used was traditionally a Citroën H Van. The expression broom waggon is a translation of the French, voiture balai. The broom waggon of the Tour de France did indeed once carry a broom fixed above the driver's cab - except in the years that it was sponsored by a vacuum-cleaner company.

The broom waggon is colloquially known as the sag wagon. SAG is an acronym which stands for Supplies and Gear. By extension, cycle-touring groups which have a vehicle to carry their luggage and food are now said to be "sagged" in that they have a vehicle that carries supplies and gear for the participants in the ride.

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