So I suppose you’re waiting for me to weigh in on how Hincapie’s win shows DC is the weakest team Lance has ever had. Well, I won’t do that today. Until Vino and Basso ripped their legs off on the penultimate climb (after which only Ullrich, Basso and Lance were left), Discovery rode a solid race, and I’ll credit them for that. What I’d like to point out is that Hincapie’s win (the first in the Tour by a rider on a Tailwind Sports-run team whose last name isn’t “Armstrong”) has been waiting to happen for years. Though the popular media likes to shake their head and sigh at the selfless devotion of Lance’s teammates, it’s not unusual to find one or two of them “sacraficing their chances for victory” by riding way up the road.
Let’s flashback to 2003. Lance looked his weakest in years, with a fiece Jan Ullrich and a decent Team Bianchi snapping at his heels. In the first mountain stage after Lance lost nearly two minutes in the first TT, leaving Ullrich just under a minute behind, Johan Bruyneel told his skinny climbers to look for the early break. Two hours later, Manuel Beltran was 17 minutes up (sound familiar) in a large break, so far ahead that he became the maillot jaune virtuel. Bianchi and Big Jan, T-Mobile and Vino and Euskatel and Mayo/Zubeldia were all unwilling to spot Triki 17 minutes in such hilly terrain, and all took up the pace, leaving a beat-up, demoralized and dehydrated Lance to recover both physically and psychologically.
The only difference between then and now was that Oscar Periro was the best placed rider in the break, and had maybe possibly almost talent enough to beat Lance, had he been allowed to make up his 25 minute deficit. So today, Disco had the oh-so-difficult task of keeping the break away at 20 or so minutes; a far easier thing indeed than drawing it back entirely. With Lance’s rivals all so far behind (and 3 of Rassmussen’s Rabobank teammate in the break) no other teams had a real interest in pulling back the escapadoes, only CSC put a little effort into the chase, allowing Disco to essentially soft-pedal behind. (Speaking of CSC, Basso threw some nasty attacks today. I was impressed, if no one else was).
This isn’t to take away anything from Gorgeous George. He had a gutsy ride. I mean, after sitting on the back and not pulling through all day, to take the win in the final 300 meters like that? He must have dug deep. Who cares how many Paris-Roubaix titles Boonen wins. Hincapie is the best classics rider because of how he rocks it in le Tour.
Anyway, none of you chose George for yesterday (surprise, surprise). There’s a 3 way tie for the lead between Knut, Andrew Gardner and Ryan VanHoff with 8 points. So far, it’s anybody’s game.