Friday, July 13, 2007

Le Tour de France 2007 - Stage 5 - Pippo predicts and wins

Well I believed him. I would have believed Oscar Freire, or even Zabel, too, if they'd been bold enough to say it. But Filippo Pozzato did say it, quite plainly, and then delivered. That, surely, is pretty special.

It was a tougher parcours that was made for the lighter-built sprinters, and indeed they hung in there grimly up and over those 8 categorised climbs. Whilst not exactly the Alps, it was tough enough to see off the more specialised sprinters like McEwen and Boonen, and especially Hushovd. With them out of the way the remaining fast men went for it, leaving Pippo to thread his way through the pack to a glorious win. Perhaps surprisingly after such a long, tiring defence of the lead Cancellara hung in there too, and as none of his closest rivals (especially Hushovd) made the effort to dig so deep he was rewarded once again with the golden fleece. And with most of the other top sprinters shelled on the last climb Zabel made off with the green. Not a bad script so far, eh?

You can add in Vinokourov's chain problem and subsequent fall with about 23km to go. He didn't look pretty afterwards. Despite losing some skin he remounted and did a TTT back, falling short of catching the leaders by just over a minute. Now this is definitely a problem for him, but not insuperable. He will have to attack in the mountains now, whereas he was only expected to attack before. It adds urgency to the event when you are suddenly 2 minutes off the overall. More seriously perhaps is that teammate and fellow contender for the overall Andreas Kloden clipped a wheel and fell as well, breaking a vertebra. Whilst definitely painful, it may not stop him from riding... however it's certainly a painful distraction, doubly so that Astana now has both of its contenders shopshoiled at the same time.

We'll have to see how Vino recovers. In the meantime there's another opportunity for the sprinters coming up, before we hit the higher stuff and the main game begins.