7000 Feet! Col du TourmaletThe ascent of the Col du Tourmalet in this year's Tour de France is just beginning. I have been waiting days for this; can Schleck successfully attack Contador! Andy Schleck has no choice but to try, and Contador is a truly formidable opponent. Nobody is in any doubt about what needs to be done. This is so much fun.
I have to give the US Network Versus great credit for their superb coverage of the Tour, relayed to us happy Canadians by our Outdoor Life Network. This is one of those rare summers when I am not in Europe during the Tour, and the coverage available here is SO much better than what I am used to seeing in Europe. One lovely innovation on stages that feature long climbs, where major battles are enacted, is to run the ascents commercial-free. Thanks Versus, and thanks, Toyota (Whoops, today it was Nissan, not Toyota, though I will defend myself by pointing out that is was Toyota earlier in the week. Womder if ObamaAutos can do the same.)!
UPDATE (16:46 Tour time): The teams are slowly starting to melt away; Cancellara currently up front working for Schleck. Schleck's Saxobank team are killing themselves in his support. This is a very interesting sport and a very interesting and complicated event; there are so many secondary prizes and victories and the role of the team is extraordinary in individual performance.
UPDATE (16:51 Tour time): The peloton keeps shrinking; Cancellara has dropped but Saxobank and Astana have team members defending Schleck and Contador; Saxobank currently controlling the pace.
UPDATE (16:55 Tour time): Of course there is a breakaway group, but now down really to one person with a hope of stealing the stage. Schleck cannot wait much longer if he wants to start the time-trial Saturday with the yellow jersey. Wow! Vinokourov is dropping off the peloton. Hesjedal, the Canadian, still hanging in.
UPDATE (17:02 Tour time): Armstrong is still in the peloton (with three other Radio Shack riders!) as Saxobank keeps throwing riders into forcing the pace. Kolobnev, the one remaining breakway rider, still has a couple of minutes on the field.
UPDATE (17:04 Tour time): Contador the only Astana rider in the peloton now. Barredo is trying to break! And here goes Schleck, with all his team having peeled off, and Contador is holding on.
UPDATE (17:08 Tour time ): This is what sports does best. One on one. It is Schleck and Contador on his wheel; they will eat up the last breakaway rider. Contador holding on nicely so far.
UPDATE (17:10 Tour time): Sami Sanchez, despite a terrible fall early in the stage (at which the field slowed down to allow him to rejoin the peloton, by the way) is holding on behind Schleck and Contador. Ryder Hesjedal is looking good. But the duel at the front is fabulous. I feel exhausted already and I am just sitting on the couch.
UPDATE (17:18 Tour time ): "Contador dancing on the pedals" and that is indeed how it looks. It now seems Schleck cannot shake the Spaniard.
UPDATE (17:23 Tour time): Seems Schleck knows he cannot drop Contador with 4km to go. And Contador attacks! And Schleck sits behind him. Oh I now so look forward to next year's Tour!
UPDATE (17:33 Tour time); This was just incredible. What a duel, and what class to give Schleck the stage.
UPDATE: (17:35 Tour time) Hesjedal finishes fourth in the stage! Fantastic for an unknown (in Canada) Canadian. This should move him up the general classification.
UPDATE: (17:50 Tour time): It's nice to see Contador and Schleck congratulate one another at the end. Hesjedal is really happy, and that is nice to see. Go Calgary! RadioShack's Chris Horner is having one heck of a last week and finished eighth, heading his team. He clearly feels he has served his team, "and today I was there for me."
UPDATE: (18:00 Tour time): Stage winner still gets pantsuits and it is three sides air-kissing starting on the left. Hmm Yellow jersey pantsuits too today. Not sure I much like this.