A ride for the ages by a magnificent Dane
Even that grandiloquent adjective does not describe adequately the feat accomplished Sunday by
Rasmussen took the lead at 4 km, was joined after 13 km by Dario Cioni, who accompanied him for the next 85 km. After that, for 73 km, Rasmussen soloed before raising his arms at the
This was a breakaway for the ages, a heroic feat that put Rasmussen in the company (for today at any rate) with the likes of Merckx, Coppi, and Hinault ? Tour champions whose middle name was Attack.
Rasmussen?s solo breakaway succeeded against heavy odds.
Stage 9 was no pussycat. Three Cat. 3 climbs greeted the riders right after the start at Gerardmer. Then came the Cat. 2 Le Grand Ballon. After a long descent there was another Cat. 3 up the Col de Bussang, which merely served as the entr?e for the first Cat. 1 climb of the 2005 Tour, Le Ballon d?Alsace (9.1 km at 6.8%). After that it was mostly downhill for 43 km to
It was clear that Rasmussen wanted to keep Cioni with him as long as possible but Cioni simply couldn?t keep up. Rasmussen, incredibly, seemed to get stronger after he began to solo to the finish line.
Impressive, if not quite as heroic, were Frenchman Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) and German Jens Voigt (CSC) who dropped four other riders at km 115 and rode the rest of the race together, finishing second and third respectively.
That effort put Voigt in the yellow jersey and Moreau in the runner-up position, 1.50 back. Lance Armstrong now stands third, at 2.18.
Armstrong?s Discovery Channel team performed more in keeping with their reputation Sunday, in contrast to the day before when they left Armstrong stranded on the 2005 Tour?s first serious climb, Col de la Schlucht.
But serious questions remain about Armstrong, and Discovery Channel?s, position as favorites to win this edition of the Tour.
At this juncture, prior to three tough mountain stages after tomorrow?s rest day, Armstrong?s chances of being in yellow in
But?that?s all one can say. This is not a dominant Armstrong that we see ? at least not yet. Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Alexandre Vinokourov, Iban Mayo, Roberto Heras, Alejandro Valverde ? all remain contenders, and others could be added to the list.
One thing we know for sure is that Mickael Rasmussen made a serious bid today to wear the King of the Mountains Jersey in
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