Well, I've been able to get a decent night's sleep thanks to a much needed rest day - it was nice of the TDF organisers to think of the viewers in far-flung locations. I have absorbed the shock of Mick Rogers and Stuart O'Grady crashing out and have filled my mind with positive thoughts over Cadel Evans' chances over the next couple of weeks. It's time to bring on Stage 9.
The final day in the Alps begins at Val d'Isere and the riders are immediately confronted with a Hors Categorie climb and then a steadying downhill run before a 36km climb that includes a Category 1 climb followed by another Hors Categorie climb. Its then a 38km drop to Briançon where the stage ends - a total of 159.5km.
The Climbs - Right from the starting flag the route heads up the 15km climb to the Col de l'Iseran. They then ride to St-Michel-de-Maurienne at the 86.5km mark and the start of the climb up the Col du Telegraphe (all 13.5km of it) and then round things off with an 18km climb to the top of the Col du Galibier.The Highlights
Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery) was first over the 1st hors categorie climb of the day Col de l'Iseran, 30" ahead of Laurent Lefevre and Juan Mauricio Soler and the rest of the peloton hard on their back wheels. They now have around 70km of downhill riding to get to the second climb.
The prelude to the main climb was the Col du Telegraphe and Mikel Astarloza (Eukatel) made the early attack and went over the top in front.
But it was always going to be the Col du Galibier where the big moves were going to be made and that's exactly what happened. But it came from an unexpected rider in Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez (Barloworld) who put the gas down and tore up the mountain.
From the big names the move came from Alberto Contador who took off 9km from the top with Cadel Evans the only one to cover the move. After a brief recovery from the explosive first effort, it was obvious that Evans wasn't going to be able to help in the break, so Contador simply said "arrivaderci" and tore off up the road. It was all part of a well-planned move by Discovery with Contador timing the move to perfection and caught his team mate Yaroslav Popovych right at the top of the climb 2'05" behind Soler. Evans was in 4th place another 15 seconds behind. Once again Vinokourov couldn't cover the move from the rest of the main contenders and and fell over a minute behind the group that contained the yellow jersey as well as his team mate Andreas Kloden.
Through Briançon and a group of 13 were hunting down the escapee Soler with a downhill run until the final 1.2km at which point the road kicked up to a final hill. It looked touch and go for a while there but Soler managed to hold on in a very exciting finish to win by 38 seconds from Alejandro Valverde with Cadel Evans digging deep to finish the stage in 3rd place with the same time. Contador, Mayo, Rasmussen, Leipheimer, Kirchen, Kloden and Sastre made up the top 10.
A bold effort to cover Alberto Contador's move up the Col du Galibier renews hope for his GC chances even though he didn't have the legs to go with him a second time when Contador put in his second effort. Still, the signs are positive that Evans was prepared to move clear of the rest of the main contenders.
Cadel was caught on the descent and then, inexplicably, allowed a gap of around 12 seconds to form when a group of 5 that included Valverde and Rasmussen got away. Fortunately they closed it up with around 3km to go and over the final kilometer it was Evans and Valverde who looked the strongest.
A big effort by Cadel has been rewarded with a move up the GC to 4th place.
1 Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
2 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D'Epargne) 2' 35"
3 Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) 2' 39"
4 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) 2' 53"
5 Alberto Contador (Discovery) 3' 08"
6 Christophe Moreau (AG2R) 3' 18"
7 Carlos Sastre (CSC) 3' 39"
8 Andreas Kloden (Astana) 3'50''
9 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery) 3' 53"
15 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Caisse D’Epargne) 6' 36"
16 Haimar Zulbeldia (Eukatel) 6' 42"
18 Denis Menchov (Rabobank) 7' 10"
21 Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) 8' 05"
Yellow (Leader's) Jersey : Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
Green (Sprinter's) Jersey : Tom Boonen (Quickstep)
Polka Dot (Climber's) Jersey : Michael Rasmussen
White (Youth) Jersey : Alberto Contador (Discovery)
Team Leaders : Caisse D'Espargne
A wonderful day for Cadel, especially seeing as he was much more attacking today. Noted in Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen's commentary were the comments that Sastre and Leipheimer were supposedly saving themselves for the Pyrenees. With a few days of flat racing and then a time trial before the Pyrenees we should see a few escapes over the next few days with the GC contenders lying low and (hopefully) out of trouble.
Just one more thing though...how much potential does Contador have??? Talk about having future Tour de France winner written all over him. Very impressive.