Last night’s stage 11 was the final
Pyrenean stage and the mountains provided a shake-up in the general
classification. Evans finished 4th on the stage at 18 seconds behind the winner,
Dennis Menchov, but looked strong and only lost ground when the acceleration
opened up to contest the win.

Floyd Landis is the new leader, and one of
the only riders in the Lance Armstrong epoch to tell the patron, figurehead,
alpha-male Armstrong to go procreate with his maternal genetic code. Landis has
grit and it showed again last night. He also has a deteriorating hip and will
need a hip replacement after the tour, which makes it all the more remarkable.

Evans was at a relative disadvantage last
night because the climbs were not steep enough for him to really stretch his
opponents. A 6% climb is steep for lycra-clad members of the Sunday morning
peloton, but not for professional climbers. The pivotal stages remaining are in
the Alps
on stages 15, 16 and 17, including the famed Alpe d’Huez as the finishing climb
on stage 15. That is an 8% climb.

Michael Rogers came in at three minutes, eight
seconds behind the lead with a fine ride, working for his teammate and putting
pressure on the leaders. He was 12th on the stage and 7th overall.

Victorian Simon Gerrans did the work of
many oxen towing his teammate in the yellow jersey up multiple mountain passes
at the head of the peloton, yet his team failed to keep their hold on yellow.

Meanwhile, Robbie McEwen reinforced his
lead in the green jersey with a win at an intermediate sprint and looks likely
to wear the green jersey in Paris. If he holds it together until the end of the Tour, it will be his
third green jersey title, placing him in the top echelon of sprinters
for his era. There is still work to be done, however. The next three flat
stages – 12, 13, and 14 – are crucial to his overall result.

Peter Fray

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