Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thoughts on Stage 8

Exciting stage today - the first real mountain climbs of this year's Tour. The announcers were bummed that Lance Armstrong has crashed his way out of contention for the GC. There's no doubt that he's ridden in bad luck this year; but as he himself has noted, he's had a lot of good fortune in the past. 

Personally, I'm glad that Lance is now out of contention for several reasons. (1) I never thought he was a real  contender  for the yellow jersey this year in the first place, and especially not after the Stage 3, where he lost significant time to all his rivals on the cobbles of southern Belgium and northern France; (2) it will finally force the commentators to give up the Amstrong v. Contador narrative, which they've drummed to death, and spend more time covering other contenders, including not only Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans but Roman Kreutzinger (my dark horse pick for a young rider to break through at the Tour this year); (3) because Lance is so far behind, the GC contenders may allow him to escape for a possible stage victory in the next two weeks - something that he was unlikely to achieve if he remained within striking distance of the yellow jersey.

The race commentators have noted that Lance will now race in support of Levi Leipheimer, the highest ranked member of Team Radio Shack in 8th position. But Levi's already so far down on the three leaders (Evans, Schleck and Contador) that a podium finish seems more a pipe dream than a real possibility. In fact, it seems more likely than not that the the current top three on GC will comprise the podium at the end of the race, barring unforeseen accidents. Of the three, Evans, who as usual lacks a strong team to support him in the mountains,  is probably the most susceptible to falling off the podium. But even if he falters, there are already too many GC contenders standing between Leipheimer and the top three, including Menchov and the aforementioned Kreutzinger. Several other GC contenders trail Leipheimer by a half a minute or less.

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