Well the 8th stage promises to be a brutal one with a distance of 165km from LeGrand-Bornand to the ski town of Tignes. But it's not the horizontal profile that's the killer, it's the vertical with 3 category 1 climbs - Cormet de Roseland (19.9km @ 6%), Montee d’Hauteville (15.3km @ 4.7%) and Montee de Tignes (18km @ 5.4%). Yikes the legs are trembling just thinking about it. Chuck in a Cat 2, 3 and 4 for good measure and we should get a good shaking out from this stage leading into tomorrow's rest day.
An early breakaway of 18 riders was established during the 2nd category climb up the Col de Tamie at around the 36km mark. Among them were Mick Rogers (T-Mobile) and Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) who are the leaders for their respective teams.
Cormet de Roseland
The first shudder put through the field was on the climb up the Cormet de Roseland with the irrepressible Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) exploding away from the peloton to join Michael Rogers' group and completely shattering it leaving just Rogers, Berhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner), David Arroyo (Caisse D'Epargne), Antonio Colom (Astana), Stefan Goubert (AG2R) in the lead. They would end up going over the top of Roseland 1 min 16 secs ahed of the second group of 7 containing George Hincapie (Discovery), and 5 min 06 secs ahead of what was left of the main peloton.
So even though there are 3 big names ahead of them, none of the GC riders have blinked at this stage preferring to hang tough with the safety in numbers strategy.
But, as we know, going uphill is only half the battle, you also have to go down the other side and this can be fraught with danger. Just ask David Arroyo and Mick Rogers who crashed on the descent with Arroyo disappearing into the trees on the side of the road. Fortunately both were unhurt and were able to rejoin the race pretty quickly.
Sadly for Mick Rogers the earlier crash has seriously hampered his climbing effectiveness thanks to an injury to his right wrist and when Michael Rasmussen said GO, only Colom and Arroyo were able to go with him. Rogers looks at this point as though he will be lucky to survive the day...and sure enough, a few kilometers later he abandons the Tour de France in tears. (bugger) He's gone from being the virtual leader of the race to out with one misjudged corner.
Montee de Tignes
Hitting the final climb and Rasmussen puts the blowtorch to Colom and Arroyo and they crack in quick succession leaving him to ride on alone. We've seen this in past Tours but it never fails to impress.
Back down the road and the attack from the peloton finally comes, but it's Christophe Moreau that makes the move, taking with him Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D'Epargne), Frank Schleck (CSC), Alberto Contador (Discovery), Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) and Cadel Evans.Cadel Watch
Although Cadel covered moves today, like last year, he simply refuses to initiate any attacks himself. At some stage if he's going to be any chance he's going to have to try to put others into difficulty in stead of just reacting.
You could see that Christophe Moreau was getting very frustrated at the lack of help as he was trying to put a big gap on Vino and Kloden. I'm just hoping that Evans is racing to a plan that includes covering moves in the Alps and then attacking in the Pyrenees (I've got to hang my hat on something).
In a disastrous day for the Aussies, Mick Rogers abandoned, Stuart O'Grady also crashed and was taken to hospital and Robbie McEwen didn't make the time cut-off and is also gone for this year. Which prompts me to add the comment I made earlier...BUGGER!
As it was he managed to finish in 6th place for the stage, with the top 10 looking like this.
- Michael Rasmussen
- Iban Mayo
- Alejandro Valverde
- Christophe Moreau
- Frank Schleck
- Cadel Evans
- Andrey Kashechkin
- Alberto Contador
- Denis Menchov
- Carlos Sastre
The Contenders1 Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
3 Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) 2' 39"
5 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D'Epargne) 2' 52"
6 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) 2' 53"
7 Christophe Moreau (AG2R) 3' 06"
8 Alberto Contador (Discovery) 3' 10"
11 Carlos Sastre (CSC) 3' 35"
12 Andreas Kloden (Astana) 3'46''
13 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery) 3' 53"
14 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Caisse D’Epargne) 3' 54"
15 Haimar Zulbeldia (Eukatel) 4' 00"
17 Denis Menchov (Rabobank) 3' 19"
22 Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) 5' 23"
37 Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel) 4' 32"
I've added Rasmussen and Alberto Contador to the list of contenders after this stage. Even though Rasmussen isn't a noted time-triallist he may do enough in the Alps and the Pyrenees to make that a moot point. As for Contador, wow, how much speed has he got going up those climbs? Except for a flat tyre late he would have been right up there in the top 2 or 3 for the stage. I would think he'll be the Discovery leader from here on out with George Hincapie cracking big time on the last climb and dropping right out of contention.
Yellow (Leader's) Jersey : Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
Green (Sprinter's) Jersey : Tom Boonen (Quickstep)
Polka Dot (Climber's) Jersey : Michael Rasmussen
White (Youth) Jersey : Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile)
Team Leader : Rabobank