Pereiro wins and Evans shows 'em
Not bad. In fact, pretty good.
But Evans wasn?t satisfied. He attacked early and, with three other confederates, including the eventual stage winner Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), persisted to the finish at
Evans?s attack was bold ? and effective; it vaulted him into 7th place overall, behind Armstrong.
Indeed, his escape was a model that Armstrong?s higher-placed adversaries might want to emulate. Too bad there are a rapidly diminishing number of opportunities to do so.
Jan Ullrich made a few moves but none were sustained. Ivan Basso stayed mostly quiet.
Only Alexandre Vinokourov continued to animate the peloton and, although his thrusts went largely unsupported by his T-Mobile team-mates (or anyone else), he now lies a respectable (if disappointing) down in 8th place.
Can he keep Jan Ullrich, now in 4th spot at , at bay?
Next Saturday?s 55-km time trial at St. Etienne now appears to be the stage that will decide the no.3 podium spot. Does Rasmussen have enough of a lead? Should he try to increase it before the time trial, perhaps on the hilly Stage 18 (Albi-Mende)?
Ullrich, a superior time-trialler (as opposed to a definitely inferior Rasmussen), has the advantage. But Rasmussen will battle. He came to this year?s Tour hoping to win the climbing title and take a stage win. He has accomplished both goals. But now a podium spot beckons. A great incentive.
And Armstrong? He now appears invulnerable, barring the unforeseen. He seems to be spending his final days as a competitive cyclist basking in a warm glow of adulation ? and playing it safe.
Who can blame him?