Monday, July 23, 2007

Le Tour de France 2007 - Stage 14 - Contador climbs to win

In summary, Contador had a lot to gain and set about doing it, with the help of Leipheimer and co. Yellow jersey holder Rasmussen tacked on the back and stayed there, and Cadel Evans did likewise until just before the finale. Valverde stumbled badly and Vino was shattered, both of them losing a lot of time. For Vinokourov it's the end of this year's GC challenge. So Contador won over Rasmussen, but the Chicken had proven himself equal to the challenge and he didn't fret any feathers over missing the win. Evans was just off the final, brutal pace and ended up back with Kloden. For Evans it's time lost, for Contador a significant step forward and for Rasmussen, respect.

The top nine are now Michael Rasmussen first on GC and looking good for Paris. He just has to keep consolidating in the climbs, build on that lead and survive the next TT. It's do-able but he'd expect to lose at least 1-2 minutes in that TT, so he needs that buffer desperately.

Alberto Contador is next and stands a great chance to take the overall, if he can keep this level of attacking climbing up and not lose too much time in the TT. Realistically he's young but strong - if he fades it won't be a surprise - but if doesn't win this year watch out for the future.

After Contador comes Cadel Evans who faded and lost a minute and a place today. He needs to dig deep now and not lose any more time. He proved his TT prowess is the equal or better of all of these top 5 riders, so a motivated final TT could still see him grab the overall prize. After one slightly disappointing Pyrenean stage it's too early to write him off but it was a test and he fell slightly short. Having teammates to help him would have made a difference, but he will face the same problem in stage 15.. and it's a big stage. He could lose more time, or Rasmussen and Contador could crack first.

Leaping Levi Leipheimer has lept up to 4th and is gunning for Cadel's spot. It's a tough ask but with team mate Contador to play with it's game on. Kloden and Sastre follow Leipheimer and pose a threat to both Evans and Leipheimer. Either could pull one out of the bag in the mountains and Kloden especially could take back some time in the TT. It's probably too late for Valverde who has slipped to 9th place, almost 10 minutes back.

So, will it be fireworks in Stage 15? Will Rasmussen and Contador go hammer and tongs again or will they suffer from some pretty big efforts in the last few days? Will someone out of overall contention take a long break and get well clear, leaving the GC battlers to fight it out decisively on one big climb? Or will they batten down the hatches and play it cool?