I was writing this while watching Stage 3, and I had a whole post written about about how formulaic these flat stages can be, with an early breakaway caught close to the finish. Oops. This was about as exciting a flat stage as you’ll see.
The move by team Columbia was shocking. I expected all the teams to take it easy leading in to the team time trial, particularly Columbia, who did a lot of work in stage 2.
It’s great to see teams making aggressive moves early in the race trying to change the GC picture on a flat stage. This year’s Tour is wide open, with Lance Armstrong in great position.
The big question is how Astana reacts to Lance taking a 20 second lead on Contador. Does Johan Bruyneel see this as a fluke, or more reason to make Lance the team leader?
Cavendish won the sprint (again), and at this point he looks unbeatable when he’s in even decent position at the finish. I’d love to see the odds on him to end the Tour in the green jersey. They have to be asking 1/5.
Tomorrow brings the return of the team time trial for the first time since 2005. It’s an interesting stage, particularly because it’s so different from every other stage. We’re likely to see Astana dominate the field, with Saxo Bank and Columbia battling for second. I doubt Astana will gain the :40 on Saxo Bank necessary for Armstrong to take yellow away from Fabian Cancellara. I’ll be cheering for team Skil Shimano because I’m always happy when I recognize the sponsors of these foreign teams.
Rider of the Day
Lance Armstrong – The 37 year old former champ is back. Don’t underestimate the effect Armstrong’s accomplishment will have on the race as a whole. The battle for the lead of Astana was going to be decided (at least provisionally) early in the Tour. Lance just staked his claim, and Contador is going to have to try to respond in the Pyrenees, or end up supporting Lance through the Alps.
Reasons I Love the Tour #3 – The Peloton
The peloton is the hive mind of the Tour de France. No single rider or team can decide whether to allow a breakaway to get away, or to immediately reel it back in. Nor can any small group decide when to go after a break that has gotten away. The peloton seems to arrive at these decisions as a whole. And it’s fast. On flat stages, the peloton can easily outpace any smaller group of riders.
The scene as a breakaway is getting caught, when there are a few riders trying to hold on just seconds ahead of the thundering herd is breathtaking.
All of which makes it even more stunning when the peloton is beaten. When a breakaway succeeds, or when the peloton breaks into pieces on a mountain stage, you feel as though you’ve seen something mighty be conquered.