Wednesday, July 19, 2006

HEARTBREAK IN THE MOUNTAINS

YELLOW, NOT, YELLOW, NOT... Just when it seemed like American Floyd Landis was in charge of the Yellow Jersey, having gained it in the Pyrenees mountains, yielded it to a crazy breakaway rider, and regained it on the fabled mountain L’Alpe d’Huez on Tuesday, he lost it again today. Landis rode with his rivals to the base of today's final mountain climb, but with only 15 uphill kilometers to go, he ran out of steam. His rivals sped up and he had nothing left in his tank to stay with them. It was heartbreaking to watch. All he could do was hold on and ride out the nightmare.

AMERICAN CONTENDERS FADING? And so the American we’d hoped would win the Tour de France moved from first to eleventh place. He crossed the finish line over 10 minutes after stage winner Mickael Rasmussen and well behind the contenders--German Andreas Kloden, Spaniard Carlos Sastre, Australian Cadel Evans, Spaniard Oscar Pereiro Soi, Russian Denis Menchov, and American Levi Leipheimer. Leipheimer is now in eighth place, ahead of Landis. Either Leipheimer or Landis COULD ride their way back into contention, but it is a long, long shot.

HOT POTATO. I imagine Americans will find it harder to take interest in the first post-Armstrong Tour de France without an American vying for the lead now. In recent years, the Tour has been Armstrong’s to lose. But this edition of the Tour de France is anyone’s to win. And so far it has been an unpredictable free-for-all. The Yellow Jersey seems like a hot potato nobody can hold on to for very long. Less than sixty seconds separates second through sixth place--an amazing feat after over 1500 miles of racing. The current leader, Oscar Pereiro, was over 30 minutes behind Landis after the Pyrenees mountains; now he leads. Go figure.

TUNE IN. Anything can happen before Paris on Sunday. Tune in. Hang on. It ain’t over… Follow the Tour daily with my stage-by-stage recaps and Stage Notes at http://tdf05.blogspot.com - The Tour de France for the Rest of Us.

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