The fear of the End Times was palpable in the Dauphine Libere peloton today, though not inspired so much by the date (6/6/06, in case you have been on Mars for the last month, in a cave, with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears) as by the apocalyptic visions of 21 switchbacks following hot on the heels of tomorrow’s not so flat time trial. At 44k in, Phillipe Gilbert and Sebastien Joly of FdJ, along with Cedric Vassuer of Quick-Step, teamed up to play wheat to the peleton’s chaff, braving much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the day’s only break. Vasseur was Left Behind some distance from the final ascent, and Joly was most certainly not (it’s a play on his last name – tee-hee!) to be condemned on the last trial of its 4th category slope. Despite attempts by several individuals to beef up the pace, Gilbert continued to extend his advantage until he commenced his victory salutes at roughly 5k to go.
Jean Marie LeBlanc, who, despite stepping down last year, is apparently still “director” of the Tour de France, was also on hand at the Dauphine today, to throw the fear of his God-like powers into certain demons in the sport, namely Manolo Saiz. LeBlanc stated that Saiz had been on the “naughty” list since 1999, though the Frenchman did not elaborate as to why; what he did intimate with decided force, however, was that the entire Astana-Wurth squad would be racing on the Cipo’ plan if the words “venga venga venga” are so much as whispered at the ’06 Tour. Yeah, and if you think cycling without “venga!” is a sign of the apocalypse, just check these out: a plague of snakes (though sadly, none of them are on a plane) and Gilberto Simoni admitting he’s a loudmouthed blowhard. Too bad there were no “sporting lawyers” atop the Morizine in 2003 to get him to recant his statements about the Tour having no climbers.