KRUSHING THE TOUR: Stage 11

Today Richie Porte and Chris Froome showed, again, why Sky is the strongest team in the Tour.

Race within a race.

Even though I hate when cycling commentators use that phrase to describe "lesser" classifications within a race like the Tour de France, I will use it here, because that's exactly what was happening all over the Alps today. The stage was simply fascinating. There was the race for the stage, The KOM classification, the White Jersey and the General Classification, of course. All on, all at the same time.

The Stage.
When the last 1st Category climb started, there was still no clear favorite to take the stage. It was impossible to even guess if the Yellow Jersey group would catch Kiryenka., Chris Anker Sørensen, Rolland and Kessiakoff. And since no one knew who was between the leading group and the reduced peloton, the mystery was even greater. Then, as we got closer to the finish, and the GC battle was on full effect, Thibaut Pinot, Christopher Froome, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, and even Vincenzo Nibali became candidates for the win. Pierre Rolland, even with a crash on the descent off the Col du Mollard, was the strongest (smartest?) at the end and took the second victory for Europcar in as many days.
 
Climber's Pride.
Apparently yesterday's hero, Thomas Voeckler, killed his legs in his valiant efforts to take the win in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine. It was pretty obvious from the first climb today (Col de la Madeleine) that Voeckler was not going to defend the Polka Dot Jersey, especially since the man in second place, Fredrik Kessiakoff had gotten himself into the 31-man break further up the race. To make matters even more interesting the man in third (Scarponi) was also on the break and the man in fourth (Froome) had the job of bringing Wiggins up the climbs, all the while reducing the size of the break and therefore getting himself more points. Add to that a ballsy performance by Pinot (who came in with 16 points), and you had a very interesting and exciting race for the Dots.The Swede Kessiakoff added 48 points to his tally and now leads Pierre Rolland by 11 points.This competition is just now starting.

Tejay in White, but how long until his boss costs him more time?

See? I told you so.
I mentioned in yesterday's post how the race for the White Jersey was heating up, and today proved to be a great battle. Normally a rider like Tejay van Garderen has very little chance to fight for the White Jersey. Simply put, he has to sacrifice his chances to work for his leader, in this case Cadel Evans. It can be frustrating, I'm sure, but that's cycling. Cofidis' Rein Taaramae and FDJ's Tibaut Pinot don't have this burden. Still, van Garderen was doing well and kept trading the Jersey with Taaramae a few times. Well, today, the Estonian cracked and the White Jersey seemed to belong to the American. But not so fast. Pinot (having the Tour of his short life), was riding like a champ and Tejay was forced to stay back and pace Evans up the last climb. He lost over a minute to Pinot, who now sits a mere 1:54 back. What happened to Taaramae, you ask? I think he's still on the slopes of La Toussuire. I hope someone leaves the light on.

And the big boys?
Evans attacked early with Tejay van Garderen, but Cadel could not keep up. Nibali attacked twice up the last climb, but Froome brought him back. Team Sky has been performing very well. Especially Boasson Hagen, Porte, and Froome. Froome is so strong, in fact, he dropped Wiggins on the last climb and had to basically drive back down the mountain to pick him up. After today's implosion of Evans, and Nibali's failed attempts, I think the only rider strong enough to take the Yellow from Wiggins is Chris Froome. And how awesome would it be if he did?

One thing is for sure, Evans' and Wiggo's lieutenants are in better shape than their bosses right now. Can't wait to see what happens.

Chapeau!
Aside from the obvious, I'd like to remove my proverbial hat to Vasil Kiryienka, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, and Chris Horner for an amazing stage.


Tomorrow.
Stages like these piss me off. They are racing it backwards. The Col de Grand-Cucheron and the Col du Granier are going to waste that early in a stage. Anything half-way interesting that could happen on the slopes, can be neutralized 10 times over in the 4509kms after. Meh.



What a waste of perfectly good first category Cols.