Lance Armstrong in the Mountains: The Real Race Begins
We'll see a mad dash for the polka dot King of the Mountains jersey, currently worn by French rider Jérôme Pineau. But the real race to watch involves just a few men who will be testing each other over the six substantial climbs on the ride to the Station Des Rousses.
Here are the riders and times that really matter:
Andy Schleck (22 seconds behind Evans)
Alberto Contador (1:01m)
Brad Wiggins (1:10m)
Lance Armstrong (1:51m)
If history is any guide, these favorites will stick to each other like glue over the first five climbs, and only with a few kilometers left on the final slope, the Lamoura, will they attack each other to gain time. It's then that we'll get a real sense of where this year's Tour is going.
We'll be back with some updates.
Update 2:French riders Sylvain Chavanel and Jérôme Pineau continue to thrill the home crowd. Chavanel's victory today was a fitting way to take back the leader's yellow jersey from Fabian Cancellara.
As for the big men? They bided their time, waiting perhaps for tomorrow for the big fireworks. Armstrong, Contador, Evans, Wiggins, Schleck -- they all looked strong as they marked each other and finished in a bunch.
The only ominous sign for Lance was how few teammates he had with him on the last climb. Only Levi Leipheimer appeared to be there with him at the end.
Update 1: After a week of racing, it's not too early for some thoughts on the Versus broadcast. Host Craig Hummer seems to have settled down a little this year and is doing better at his role. But he's still no Al Trautwig. Al was no cycling expert, but he worked that to his advantage, asking questions rather than offering opinions, and he lent a gravitas to the proceedings that Hummer can't duplicate.
Meanwhile, what's happened to Bob Roll? "Bobke" seems to have been seriously reined in, and he's become little more than a master of the obvious. Roll was a great addition to the broadcasting team because he was so unpredictable, outrageous, and yet had credibility because he'd actually raced the race. But so far this week, he's done little more than simply repeat what his boothmates have said. Here's hoping he loosens up.
As for Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, they continue to be the past masters of cycling broadcasting. We can't help feeling this way probably because we've been hearing them announcing cycling seemingly forever. But we're fortunate to have them, especially now that the Tour is broadcast in incredible HD and the race and the landscape look better than ever. Bravo, Versus, bravo.