Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tour de France 2008

Stage 18 - Thursday, July 24: Bourg d'Oisans - Saint Étienne, 196.5km
The Alps are behind us now, but this stage is by no means flat with a third, a second and a fourth category climb to deal with. The course doesn't suit the sprinters, but neither is it tough enough for the climbers and overall contenders, for this reason it has breakaway written all over it. Anyone who has managed to save a bit of energy over the preceding few days will have a go here and in all likelihood the time gap allowed will be enormous providing nobody of any note is in the break.

Bourg d'Oisans has been a stage start time 19 times before, but has never hosted a finish. Sitting as it is at the foot of Alpe d'Huez, it is a natural choice for the next day's stage. The last time a stage started here was in 2006 when the course headed north to another mountaintop finish at La Toussuire. Danish super-climber Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) took the victory alone on his way to taking the polka dot mountain jersey.

Saint Etienne is another regular Tour host, having been a stage town 23 times before, partly because it used to be the centre of the French bicycle industry. Last time the Tour was here it saw Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel) cement his seventh and final Tour de France by taking victory in the final time trial of the 2005 race. That day also saw the tragicomic end to Michael Rasmussen's (Rabobank) hope of a podium place, as a disastrous ride saw him crash twice and change his bike three times.
Stage description lifted from

Today was a status quo day. Other than the sprint at the end by the 2 riders out in front, not much happened. I suspect tomorrow will be the same as everyone is saving themselves for Saturday’s individual time trial.

Marcus Burghardt took home another Tour stage win for Team Columbia on the 196.5 kilometre trip away from the. Burghardt bested his breakaway companion, Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) in a hotly contested sprint. The Quick Step rider, desperate to salvage his team's lackluster Tour, attacked repeatedly in the final kilometres, but just could not shake the big German.

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 - There are three riders away on their own, why isn't the peloton chasing them?

There may be any number of reasons why the peloton doesn't chase down a breakaway. The first is that nobody has decided to chase it down yet. A few riders will often escape in the early part of a stage, tear up the road for a while, gain some valuable exposure for themselves and their sponsors and get reeled in later in the day when the peloton decides to start taking the race seriously.

Alternatively, it may be that the break is composed of little-regarded riders who are no threat to any of the leaders. If that's the case, it may simply not be worth anyone's while to make the effort to chase.

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