Thursday, July 20, 2006

RESURRECTION & REDEMPTION

PARDON THE SPIRITUAL LANGUAGE. It's a resurrection! It's redemption! Okay, maybe it's over the top to put what happened in today's stage of the Tour de France in such spiritually-charged terms.

HE WAS DEAD AND IS ALIVE. Let's just say that after yesterday's disasterous Stage 16 finish, American Floyd Landis' realistic possibilities for winning the Tour were dead. But after his long break-kneck breakaway over the last of the French Alps in today's stage, Landis' hopes for wearing the Yellow Jersey in Paris on Sunday are definitely alive.

HE WAS WRITTEN OFF AND IS REDEEMED. Yesterday, folks were writing Landis off as a pretender instead of a contender. Today, he found redemption in the eyes of the toughest of cycling and sports critics. Experts are calling today's comeback the greatest in cycling history. It was truly inspiring to follow.

CHARGING FROM 11th to 3rd PLACE. On this, the last mountain stage in the Alps, Landis broke away from the pack early in the stage. He made a heroic effort to stay clear of his rivals to the very end, using his championship mountain bike experience at climbing and descending to his highest advantage. He became the 10th American to win a stage of the Tour de France. More importantly, he finished with a time good enough--five minutes, forty-one seconds ahead of second-place finisher Carlos Sastre--to put him back into 3rd place overall. Landis is now just 30 seconds behind the Yellow Jersey of Oscar Pereiro and 17 seconds behind Carlos Sastre.

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO. Everything now hinges on Saturday's individual time trial. Between Landis, Pereiro, and Sastre, Landis has clearly superior ability in time trials. He was over one minute and thirty seconds better than all the current contenders in Stage 7, the first individual time trial of this edition of the Tour de France. He must be considered a favorite to win or finish ahead of his rivals in the 2nd individual time trial stage coming up on Saturday.

HOT POTATO. 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. The current leader, Oscar Pereiro, was over 30 minutes behind Landis after the Pyrenees mountains; now he leads. Landis was down and out, it was said; but then he fought back. Go figure! Anything can happen before Paris on Sunday. Tune in. Hang on. It ain’t over…

FOLLOW IT LIVE ONLINE. Find links to follow the 3 final stage of the Tour de France live online (live ticker, live audio, live video) and read 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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