I promised fireworks and they delivered a chess match. I wanted a slug-fest and they gave me a tickle-fight.
First off the bunch lets a group of non-GC contenders get 11+ minutes up the road. In the end most of the break stays away and young Frenchman Brice Feillu gets the win. Good for him, and France, but it rates a “don’t care” in my book for exciting bike racing. In the GC group perennial wheel-follower Cadel Evans actually attacked today. Yes, it was late in the stage and not at all devastating, but hey, he was there. If Cadel’s attack was weak, Jurgen Van Den Broeck’s was embarrassing. It almost looked like an afterthought.
Finally inside of 2k Contador manned-up and put in a nasty attack. The TV cameras sort of missed it at first, but later had a good long shot of him coming from a wheel or two behind Armstrong and putting an instant gap on the GC group. Nobody moved to go after him, so they all must have been pretty gassed. I suppose we’ll never know if Armstrong could have gone with him, but chose not to or if he simply could not. In a post-race interview Armstrong said that AC’s attack was not part of the plan:
Asked if Contador’s move had been pre-arranged, Armstrong said, “That wasn’t really to the plan, but I didn’t expect him to go by the plan, so [it was] no surprise.”
That seems a tiny bit pissy, but who knows. I will stoke a little inter-team strife with this image I came across that appears to show Armstrong at the front of the chase, with a I’m going pretty hard look on his face. But, of course I wasn’t there, so again, who knows.
The next 2 days both feature big, long days in the mountains, but neither is a mountain-top finish. Saturday has 3 categorized climbs, but the last one is over 40km from the finish line, so big time gaps on GC would have to be created early-ish and held. Sunday has only 2 climbs, but the second is the Tourmalet – a monster. 17km of climbing. Again, however, they are 50km from the finish after the descent of the Tourmalet, so things can re-group.
With the lack of action today from everyone except Contador the teams of the other GC guys really have to get going on these stages. Do something interesting – attack in groups of 2 or 3, go from a long way out, something… No sense in leaving this race to the last week.