Well, it’s over 24 hours later and I am still trying to piece together how Oscar Freire won yesterday (check out the video on OLN’s webpage). Marino Basso once commented that Oscar Freire looked like he was asleep outside the month of October (implying that he only rode well at Worlds), but that’s simply not the case. Sure, the guy is injured a lot, but when healthy, his wins come in all sorts of races (Brabantse Pijl, T-A, etc.) and are some of the gutsiest around (his Tour de Suisse bunny-hop, for example). The Stage 5 group gallop yesterday was no exception, with Oscarito (he’s only 5′ 7″) taking off alone from 300m to go on the (riders’) right side of the road, using only the slipstream of the fading Steegmans to accelerate, then pounding away alone like a madman while Boonen jockeyed and Robbie got boxed on the other side of the road; an impressive surge, especially considering the Spaniard is feared for his deadly late charges as well.
By contrast, the only real surprise in today’s stage was McEwen’s “running man” style victory salute. As the video shows, the Aussie got a “TGV Ride” from Steegmans (who has been doing a bang up job, despite his little boo-boo yesterday), and the Belgian complicated things dramatically for the other contenders by pulling off immediately into Robbie’s wake following his leadout. Boonen once again got tooled on, losing the speed and position he needed to win after a couple of bumps with Jimmy Casper, right as McEwen prepared for launch. I know the Friendly Ghost’s street cred is up to it’s highest levels since 1999, but still, the dude is tiny and getting tinier. Boonen’s gotta be a little ashamed at not being able to nudge him out of the way. As of yesterday, T-Bone was remaining upbeat about his winless streak, but following tomorrow’s TT (interesting map graphic…) it’s unlikely he’ll still be able to drown his sorrows in a sea of yellow.