Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tour de France 2008

Stage 17 - Wednesday, July 23: Embrun - L'Alpe d'Huez, 210.5km

This is the stage that all climbers want to win. Those mythical 21 hairpin bends have become synonymous with the Tour de France and a year without the Alpe seems somehow to have something missing. This is a long stage that takes in the familiar – but no less brutal – Cols du Galibier and Croix de Fer, although as a change they are tackled in a different order from usual.

In all likelihood, the main contenders will sit behind their team-mates for as long as possible and look to make their move on the final steep climb to Alpe d'Huez. The non super-climbers high up in the overall – if there are any left at this stage – will be looking to hold on for as long as possible. For the sprinters however, this will be a day of pure suffering.

The small town of Embrun must think all of its Christmases have come at once as this is their second stage of the Tour this year (they have been awarded the start of stage 15 due to rock falls in the Alps forcing a course change.) Alpe d'Huez on the other hand has hosted the Tour 25 times since that first time in 1952 when Fausto Coppi won, this equates to almost every other year.

Last time the Tour finished here, in 2006, it saw the emergence of Fränk Schleck (CSC) as a future major force in Grand Tours as he dropped riders like former Giro d'Italia winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre) on the way to victory.
Stage description lifted from

The tour might not be won today but lots of riders could definitely lose it today. The top riders will need to stay close. If the top riders finish the day within a minute or so of each other than the race will be decided on Saturday during the last Individual Time Trial. Hopefully it will be close otherwise watching a time trial can be real boring.

Cadel Evans is only 9 seconds back. He is very good at time trialing. If Teams CSC wants Frank Schleck (or even Sastre) to have a chance to win, they are going to have to try and get rid of Cadel today.

Riders have been fallen off the back of the Peloton all day. The sprinters especially are getting hit hard. They just need to hang on and make sure they don’t miss the time cutoff and get booted from the race.

2-4 riders have been around 5-6 minutes in front all day. But I got a feeling they are going to get reeled

Yes they were caught by all the contenders. And Sastre broke away from that group.

The crowds are nuts on these final KM’s.

Sastre has a 2 minute lead with 2 mile to go. Evans is trying to cut the lead so he can get the yellow jersey back during the time trial on Saturday..

Carlos Sastre of Spain and Team CSC takes the stage win and the Yellow Jersey so is he the team leader of CSC or is Frank Schleck? I guess it’s Sastre. He’s the better time trailer of the two.

So the top five overall are as follows. Evans is the best at time trialing and Saturday’s time trial is a decent length () so he might be able make up the time.

1 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC-Saxo Bank
2 Fränk Schleck (Lux) CSC-Saxo Bank 1.24
3 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner 1.33
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto 1.34
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 2.39

The Jersey statuses

Maillot Jaune (yellow jersey - overall leader) – Carlos Sastre of Spain who rides for CSC

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) – Bernhard Kohl of Austria who rides for Gerolsteiner

Maillot Blanc (white jersey - best young rider - under 25) – Andy Schleck of luxumborg who rides for CSC

Tour tidbits

What's the protocol for kissing the podium girls? Sometimes it's left cheek, right cheek... other times, left, right, left... or maybe it's right, left, right. Anyway, what gives?
Generally speaking, the custom for kissing an "acquaintance" in France is on the cheek, three times, starting with the left cheek. In Italy, it's twice, also starting with the left cheek. So in the Giro d'Italia you'll see that most of the Italians will kiss the podium girls twice, and in the Tour de France, most of the French riders will kiss the podium girls three times. But if you win, whatever you do, no kissing on the lips, and definitely no tongue!

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