Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Tour 2009: Team Time Trial Returns!



Stage 4 of the Tour de France is in the books, and what an exciting day it was out on the course. Stage 4 was a team time trial, which hasn't been held in the Tour for three years, and it put all the riders out on the course riding as a unit for a change and not as individuals.

When the day started, all eyes were on Lance Armstrong and Team Astana. Yesterday, seven-time Tour winner Armstrong showed his experience and savvy recognizing a break opportunity in the nasty crosswinds that plagued the course, and sticking with the lead riders, he made up valuable time on other race contenders, most of whom failed to see the break coming. As a result, Lance moved up to third place overall in the General Classification, and had the chance to end the day today in Yellow, thanks to powerhouse Astana being the favorite in team time trial.

To claim the Yellow Jersey, Astana would need to make up 40 seconds on Team Saxo Bank, whose Fabian Cancellara has held on to the lead since a blistering individual time trial back in the Prologue on Saturday. Astana was the last team out o the road today, and they did indeed attack and attack hard, winning the time trial in impressive fashion and almost making up that 40 seconds. But at the end of the day, Cancellara stayed in Yellow by the smallest of margins, just a fraction of a second in front of Lance. In fact, it is so close, that the leaderboard currently has Cancellara in first with Lance listed as "0 seconds" back.

Pre-race favorite Alberto Contador, who is a teammate of Armstrong on Astana is now in third, just 19 seconds behind. Fourth and fifth places also belong to Astana, with Andres Kloden and Levi Leipheimer in fourth and fifth respectively. Those standings are a clear indicator of who has the strongest team in this year's Tour.

My guess is that Cancellara, barring any unforeseen accidents, will remain in Yellow now until Friday, the first mountain stage. The Saxo Bank rider is an amazing time trialist and quite fast on the open road, but he is no climber, and will likely fade in tye Pyrenees. Will Lance be there to claim the Jersey? We'll have to wait and see. And what about Contador? How does he feel about his teammate stealing the spotlight? Hopefully team dynamic stays in place, but there are some big egos around the Astana training table each night.

5 comments:

Ryan said...

We'll see. Can't count out Vandevelde, and Schleck who have shown to be proficient climbers (among others). Also, even though Cadel Evans kinda disappointed people last year, it could be chalked up nerves...we'll see if he's for real this year.

I want to gives props to Menchov, but my guess is that he will be wiped out after going hard in the Giro this year.

Adventure Junkie said...

Oh yeah, there is a lot of time left in the race, and we're not into the Pyrenees until Friday and the Alps are looming down the line.

The problem is that Vandevelde and the Schlecks, along with Evans, have lost precious time the last two days, and Contador is tough to catch under any conditions.

I'm still not convinced Armstrong is a contender until I see him hang with the top riders in the mountains, but he is riding well so far.

Ryan said...

Lance Armstrong is just absolutely amazing. Will be watch in anticipation.

ecrunner said...

I know in the past Lance has been strong on the climbing stages... at least enough to ward off competition. But there are so many people looming around that one weak stage could lose it for him. With all the hype about his return and his potential to win, I will be honest and say that I will be disappointed if he doesn't. But if he doesn't win, it will put his ego in check (like it should for all men).

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