Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thoughts on TdF Stage 16

1.  How tough is Tommy Voeckler? Apparently, as tough as he wants/needs to be. What a ride today, first to the top of all four mountains, taking the polka dot jersey in the process, and first to the finish line.

2. I expected the "heads of state" to take charge of today's race and fight for the victory on the Tour's toughest mountain stage, but they just continued their Kabuki dance well behind a huge 38-man breakaway.

3. It certainly couldn't have been an "easy" day for Wiggo and Team Sky to defend the yellow jersey. But it certainly makes it easier when the other contenders are content to sit in and wait until the day's final climb to try a move. 

4. Or is it that Team Sky are just so strong and set such a pace as to discourage early attacks? The fact that Cadel Evans cracked again today on both of the stage's last two climbs suggests that Sky are just too damn strong for the challengers.

5. Liquigas finally sent Ivan Basso up to the front to set the pace on the final climb of the day so as to soften up the group for an attack by his teammate Vicenzo Nibali, who started the day in third place, 2:20 behind Wiggo. The trouble was that Wiggins still had four teammates around him. He and Chris Froome easily pegged back Nibali.

6. Cadel Evans seems to have lost any chance he had at a podium finish in Paris. In fact, the podium is nearly set in stone at this point: (1) Wiggins; (2) Froome; and (3) Nibali. Of course, that's barring some catastrophe between now and Sunday.

7. The oldest rider in the race, Jens Voigt, who soon will be 41 years old, finished 6th in the toughest stage of the race.

8. Despite Voigt's attempted heroics, Team RadioShack lost its lead in the team competition today, a day after erstwhile team leader Frank Schleck was withdrawn from the Tour following an adverse finding on an in-race drug test. They now trail Voeckler's Europcar team by just under one minute, which they should be able to regain in the final time trial, if they keep the race close until then.

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