Anarchy reigned supreme again at the Tour de France as the pave’ may have dashed the hopes for many of the Tour’s favorites. General Classification contender Christian Vande Velde was unable to start today’s stage after a crash, in which he suffered broken ribs and re-injured is back, claimed his Tour hopes yesterday and Frank Schleck was claimed by a crash today which broke his collar bone.
The race was won by Cervelo’s Thor Hushovd who crossed the finish line pounding his chest with an emphatic victory over Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara. More importantly Hushovd claimed the green jersey with the victory and a commanding 50 point lead over most of the other sprinters in the point’s competition.
Cadel Evans was the day’s biggest gainer as he jumped all the way to third place overall after finishing in the lead group which only contained six riders. Cadel and Cancellara powered the small group so that he and Andy Schleck could gain valuable time on the other General Classification contenders. Evans is now well positioned to move into yellow if he can climb with the other favorites when the race hits the Alps on Saturday.
Lance Armstrong lost major time after suffering an inopportune flat tire which caused him to loose 50 seconds to his arch rival Alberto Contador and nearly two minutes to BMC’s Cadel Evans. Armstrong started the day in fifth place as the top GC contender but now has slid down to 18th place overall and seven places behind the other top GC contenders. Lance rode valiantly to limit his losses after Murphy reared his ugly head. Unless Armstrong has some of the same magic left in his legs that made him so dominant in winning his seven straight Tour de France titles, his best hope may be to stand on the podium again in either second or third place.
Andy Schleck likely cemented his spot on the podium and is now sitting in sixth overall and second behind Evans among the top GC contenders. It remains to be seen how Schleck will respond to the loss of his brother in the mountains as he is sure to be isolated when the attacks come but he should be able to do enough to keep a podium spot. The one thing that could derail his chances, other than a crash, is the 52 kilometer time trial on the Tour’s penultimate day.
Alberto Contador also acquitted himself well riding very well on the cobbles. He was in the third group on the road and was able to, with help from teammate Alexander Vinokourov, power his way forward to rejoin the Armstrong group. Then with Armstrong puncturing, he and Vino pushed the pace and was able to put 50 seconds between he and Armstrong.
Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins and Rabobank’s Dennis both rode well today and kept their Tour hopes alive. Both finished with the Vinokourov group a few seconds ahead of Contador and now sit just nine seconds behind the Spaniard.
Luquigas’ Roman Kreuziger and Colombia HTC’s still have a chance sitting about two minutes behind Evans.
Cervelo’s Carlos Sastre is all but out of it sitting almost three minutes behind Evans and given his time trial skills doesn’t really stand a chance of standing on the podium in Paris. This could be a good team for the team as they can focus their attention on defending Thor Hushovd’s green jersey.
The hell of the north turned out to be the decisive stage we all thought it would be. The one saving grace for this year’s tour contenders may be that if anything can go wrong, it can, and will – it’s just a matter of when.
For more great Tour analysis, visit my good friend Tim Liew @ The Armchair Sportsfan.