Floyd Landis may as well book himself in for his much-needed hip replacement
surgery early because he is not going to win the Tour de France this year after
experiencing a major bonk in last night’s stage 16. (FYI – a bonk is cycling
for hungerflat, which is marathon running for hitting the wall.)

Cadel Evans rode himself back into contention with a pained ride, sticking
to Andreas Kloden’s back wheel and dragging himself up the mountain to gain time on his
competitors, namely, Denis Menchov and Landis.

Oscar Pereiro has retaken the lead. He took a free 30 minutes
(thir-tee minutes!)on a breakaway in stage 13 when the peloton felt he
was no longer a threat – 29 minutes in arrears of Landis who was wearing
the maillot jaune. Pereiro finished tenth last year and remains a competent
climber and timetrialler.

He had one off day early this tour, which usually spells the end to general
classification hopes. Riders consider the top ten a worthy prize but when they
fall out of contention, they ride with less intensity to save their energy for an opportunity to
win a stage. Individual stage wins are held in the same esteem as a top ten
ride overall.

It was a fluke Pereiro was given more rope than an 18th century English fleet
last Saturday, taking over the maillot jaune. It was a tactical decision by
then leader Floyd Landis and his Phonak team because their team was relatively
weak and did not have the talent to protect him. The rationale was that they
could take some time off before he won it again, which he duly did in stage 15,
so his team had two days off. But he surrendered the lead to Pereiro last night
and has dropped outside the top ten, and has absolutely no chance to win from
there. It’s a good example of how a single tactical faux pas can cost you this
race.

There are four riders now in contention for the podium: Pereiro who leads,
Sastre at 1’50”, Kloden at 2’29” and Evans at 2’56”. No more predictions.
It’s time to let their legs decide in tonight’s final decisive mountain stage,
and in Saturday night’s 56 kilometre timetrial.

Peter Fray

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