Saturday, July 09, 2005
TdF Stage 8: Discovery's Disappearing Act
PHOTO FINISH; WEENING NIPS KLODEN. In what may be the closest sprint finish in a Tour de France stage,24-year old Pieter Weening of the Netherlands nipped Andreas Kloden of Germany by .0002 seconds to win Stage 8. Notes from this first mountain stage:
- This was the longest stage--231.5 km (143.8 miles)--so far; the longest, Stage 17, occurs on July 20; it's a 239.5 km (148.8 miles) mountain monster.
- The average speed today was nearly 46 km/h. The Tour is being ridden at a record-setting pace. Is the pace is wearing riders out prematurely? Are they saving anything for the real race in the Alps and Pyrenees?
- Lance Armstrong finished in a group of 32 leading contenders 27 seconds behind Weening and Kloden; he maintains a 1-minute lead over his closest rival.
- However...none of his Discovery Channel teammates were in the "group of 32" who dropped the rest of the peloton on the Cat 2 slopes of the Col de la Schlucht (remember, there are two higher categories of difficulty for the mountains the riders will face). Armstrong was isolated on the mountain climb. Some experts are expressing concern for Discovery Channel's ability to adequately guard their captain. While Discovery Channel teammates dropped back, the CSC and T-Mobile squads were well represented and worked together on the climb.
- On the other hand, it must be observed that Team Discovery worked hard at the head of the peloton all day; they did their job, sacrificing themselves so that Armstrong could maintain a substantial lead on what could have been a day of substantial loss of time.
- Stage 8 shook up the top ten in the standings. Jens Voigt, with a 4-second bonus for finishing 4th place in the stage, moved into second place overall, just 1' behind Armstrong. No other top-ten riders gained time, but they moved up as all Discovery Team riders but George Hincapie (now 8th overall) fell out of the top ten.
- Andreas Kloden's effort moved him from 24th to 9th place overall; the German who placed 2nd in last year's TdF is 1'50" behind Armstrong.
- Looking at the "Group of 32" who finished with Armstrong included most pre-Tour contenders: Jan Ullrich, Alexandre Vinokourov, Ivan Basso, Roberto Heras, Joseba Beloki, Iban Mayo, Floyd Landis... The cream is rising to the top as the mountains begin.