The players show their stuff - finally

News & Results

07/13/2006| 0 comments
by David Cohen
Denis Menchov takes a great stage win ahead of Leipheimer and Landis. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Denis Menchov takes a great stage win ahead of Leipheimer and Landis. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.

The players show their stuff - finally

The murk that hovered over the 2006 Tour de France dissipated today. We now know who the players are.

The murk that hovered over the 2006 Tour de France dissipated today. We now know who the players are.


It took five hard climbs in the
Pyrenees to sort things out. Denis Menchov (Rabobank) nipped Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), and Floyd Landis (Phonak) at the line to win stage 11, probably this Tour?s most difficult with five leg-quaking climbs.

 

Landis now leads the general classification, eight seconds ahead of Frenchman Cyril Dessel (Ag2R Prevoyance), who fought valiantly to stay in yellow. The dangerous Menchov, who won last year?s Tour of Spain after Roberto Heras was disqualified, trails by a mere 1:01 in third place.

 


Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) is fourth at 1:17 and Carlos Sastre (CSC) is fifth at 1:52.


So, phlegmatic Floyd is now in yellow ? and it?s likely his Phonak brothers will try to keep him there as long as possible, which should be at the very least until stage 15 next Tuesday.


At that point it?s into the
Alps, and it?s likely that Landis -- as he was today -- will be on his own as riders tackle l0 more climbs, including the famous L?Alpe-d?Huez, over three gruelling days.


Today?s five climbs ? Tourmalet, d?Aspin, Peyresourde, Portillon, Pla-de-Beret?brought a sorting out that identified the men who will contest the podium and the other top positions in the 2006 Tour de France.


Yet it wasn?t until the slopes leading to Pla-de-Beret when Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) put the hammer down. He set a blistering pace, leading Menchov, Leipheimer, Landis, Sastre, Evans, and Adreas Kloden (T-Mobile) up the slope.


Leipheimer, who clearly wanted to redeem himself for a disastrous ITT performance on stage 8 and a so-so ride in the first mountain stage Wednesday, pushed the pace, and in the last four kilometers he, Menchov, and Landis, duelled as the others faded.

 


Landis, you might expect, would put on a big push at the end to win the yellow from Dessel. But, no, he grinded along without noticeable acceleration, getting just enough time to evict Dessel from yellow but not expending more energy than he needed to.


If Landis is to emerge the Tour de France?s next Big Man, he will not be in the heroic mould of Merckx, Armstrong, Coppi, or Bobet. He will rather take after someone like Anquetil, who did was he had to do, but no more.


But, then, Landis is a man riding with a bad hip that will have to be replaced after the race. To participate in what is one of the tougher
Tours
, in considerable pain, is probably heroic enough.


Meanwhile, still other things became clearer in today?s slog through the
Pyrenees: George Hincapie will not ? repeat not ?win the 2006 Tour de France. He now lies 40th in the GC, 23:01 behind Landis. He had a bad day, finishing 46th at 21:23.

 


Neither will Paolo Savoldelli figure in the honours at
Paris non July 23. He is now one place behind Hincapie at 24:22. It would appear that Discovery Channel, without Lance Armstrong, is no more

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