Tour de France Stages 13 and 14

Now that I’m home, I’ve watched the two stages – or at least skimmed them.

Saturday’s was a big weird – the top placed guy in the break-away was 28 and a half minutes behind Landis in GC. Everybody expected Phonax to pick up the pace to keep the break-away within ten minutes or so, but either Phonak didn’t have the legs, or they didn’t care, or they *wanted* to give away the jersey, but they refused to step up. And while Rabobank tried to whip up the peleton, the break-away time gap actually increased towards the end. Instead, the 5 members of the break-away finished 30 minutes up, and this put Oscar Pereiro of Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears into the yellow jersey.

If Landis doesn’t get the yellow back, people will mark this stage as the stage when he lost it. If he does, they’ll mark this as a brilliant piece of strategy when you don’t have a team as strong as US Postal of times past.

McEwan and Boonen got good sprint points, and Friere didn’t, so he drops down to third in the green jersey competition.

Sunday’s race had a couple of moderate mountains, and the fatigue is showing. A 6 man break-away got away, but while descending the second last hill, 3 of them crashed hard. Two of the crashers left in an ambulance, out of the race, and Kessler, the guy who won on the Cauberg, managed to get back to the peleton. Kessler soon dropped off the pace, but he managed to finish before the cut-off time and will survive to continue the race. The three surviving members of the break-away attacked each other and one of them fell behind and got swept up into the peleton.

The peleton split apart on the last climb, with the main GC candidates present. Popovych tried to make a lead-out for Discovery, with Hincapie well placed behind him. But that faltered. Then Vandevelde attacked off the front. But the peleton left it too late and they didn’t actually catch the two members of the break-away, so the two finshed, then Vandevelde 3 seconds back, then the 33 members of the peleton 7 seconds back, and then the rest trickled in.

No change in the GC and green jersey competitions today, but some shake-ups in the King of the Mountains points. Last year’s champion Rassmussen moved up to second over-all. Look for him to go on a long break-away on the first big Alps stage on Tuesday to get major mountains points, while the GC contenders watch each other and maybe make an attack on the last climb up L’Alpe D’Huez.

Tomorrow is the rest day, then it’s major mountains stages for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday is flat and long, and Saturday is the time trial that will make or break the tour.