Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Le Tour: efforts unrewarded - yet?

I had mixed feelings about a stiff and sore Evans hanging tough in what proved a punishing but not decisive stage 10. What were Riis and CSC on about? Yes, it was impressive teamwork. Yes, they have some amazing riders and at least 2 GC contenders, but what were they expecting? To drop everyone on the flat? Or was the plan simply to dislodge Cunego and Valverde on the first climb and then keep them behind? Was that the plan? To thin the field?

Or were they hoping to hurt an injured Evans? Or all of the above? It seemed that CSC were scheming and hammering to little effect, other than exhausting Voigt and Cancellara. Sure, they got close to launching someone, but it didn't really happen. We all knew that Sastre wasn't going to get away, surely? So was the real plan to boost Schleck up the leaderboard? At least they achieved that, if little else. A puzzled Menchov saw both sides: On the climb to Hautacam CSC went on the attack with Carlos Sastre and eventually got Fränk Schleck away. "It's a little bit strange [what CSC did]," Menchov said. "Well, it's not really strange since CSC had to try. In the end it worked out well for them."

Although the rest day will help them - and everyone - recover, in essence it was a big tactical and power display for small reward - with most of the racing still ahead. They have indeed removed some threats, but will the Sastre-Schleck 1-2 punch be enough when Ricco is sitting on, waiting to pounce?

Ahhhh, crystal ball time. One Pyrennean stage to go. Ricco grabs another win. Ricco edges closer on GC. Evans lets the golden fleece go, hoping to get it back in week 3. Schleck and Menchov battle it out in the Alps. Sastre tries to get away, but is marked. Ricco gets away, grabs more time. Indeed, bring on the Alps. And that delicious, long time trial..