The Tour enters its first rest day deeply in need of it. Even during last night’s stage, crashes took out a number of riders, many of whom started the event expecting individual glory.
Australian Michael Rogers injured his right shuolder after falling at the bottom of the descent, a mishap made all the more painful by the fact that he was in the virtual yellow jersey at the time.
Adelaide rider Stuart O’Grady was taken to hospital following a fall. The injury manifest shows five broken front ribs, three cracked back lower ribs, a punctured lung and a fractured shoulder. The good news is he didn’t suffer any spinal damage. His tour is also over.
Three time green jersey winner Robbie McEwen is out of the race altogether after finishing more than an hour behind the stage winner, most likely a result of his fall in the prologue. Lance Armstrong’s former doctor suggested one could lose 20% power after a crash thanks to the neuromuscular consequences of a full body impact. That certainly looks to be true in McEwen’s case.
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The injured favourites from Team Borat Cycling (aka Astana) lost time last night, with Kloden and Vinokourov giving up a minute to most rivals, and four and a half minutes to the winner of the stage, Danish climber, Michael Rasmussen.
Rasmussen is nicknamed “Chicken”, because, well, see for yourself. At one time, his in-season racing diet consisted of nothing more than rice cakes and soy milk. Hint for any cyclist: tattoos and bone-skinny arms are not a good look.
The organisation of general classification is now open to all comers. There is no one candidate whom the internet bookmakers will install as outright favourite, and professional betters might find an arbitrage opportunity.
Unless Evans has timed his form to peak in a week to 10 days from now, he looks like his best will just deprive him of a podium spot. The long climbs in the Alps tend not to be his specialty. Evans prefers the Pyrenees which are steeper yet not quite as long nor high, and where the tempo in climbing oscillates, whereas the Alps require long stages at threshold. The tour alternates between clockwise and anti-clockwise every year, and this year the Tour hits the Alps first. Next weekend it will pass through the Pyrenees.
It appears France may have a rider for the general classification for the first time in years. Evergreen Christophe Moreau was the most impressive rider on the stage after the winner. He dominated the climb, but his work was all for nought, as Evans et al took advantage of his pace-setting.
The two biggest threats to Rasmussen and Moreau look to be the Spanish pair of Alberto Contador and the equally impressively name Alejandro Valverde. He has been the wunderkind of the Spanish peloton for some time, and this just might be his year.
Traditionally the second Monday is a rest day in the Tour. The race resumes on Tuesday in the Alps, and though the climbing terrain is arduous, it finishes on a mountain descent which tends to mitigate the time gaps and type of racing. The next decisive stage is Saturday’s time trial. Evans is a superior time trialler to the four names suggested as the new race favourites.