The 2008 Tour continues to provide an E-ticket ride through France and today's stage was just another day of thrills and spills on the way to Paris. The thrills were provided by Garmin-Chipotle rider Will Frischkorn and his three breakaway companions who beat the odds and held off the peloton to win. They were undoubtedly aided by a horrific crash with about 20km remaining which split the peloton into three groups and put a huge dent into the overall hopes of several riders.
On the positive side of today's stage, what can you say about the ride of Will Frischkorn? His is his first ever ride in the Tour and many questioned the selection of the 27-year old for the team. If you remember this spring's Milan-San Remo, Will is no stranger to long breakaways in the biggest races in cycling, but to attack initiate an attack and go off the front on day three in your first ever Tour takes some pretty big stones. And the Tour officials agreed, awarding the Boulderite the 'most combatitve' rider award for the stage.
It has been a long road for Will to the Tour. I remember him in 2001 as a 19-year old pro on the short-lived Mercury-Viatel team and then his transfer onto the TIAA-Cref development squad a few years later. Will was still in his early 20's, but he had been a pro for so long, that he was considered one of the team's veterans. In 2005 he almost made the big jump to Europe when he was offered a contract on Team CSC. But, as frequently happens in the pro ranks, his place on the team was given to another rider and Will remained stateside.
Honing his skills, he took a more senior position on the TIAA-Cref team which made a few forays to France in 2005, 2006 and 2007 to contest some races such as Criterium International. The learning curve was incredibly steep, and there were many days when just finishing and not giving up was the most optimal outcome.
On the negative side of today's stage, there were more crashes, the most serious and important occurred just when the peloton was in full flight trying to bring back Will's breakaway. Ricardo Ricco and Denis Menchov both missed the split and lost a bit over a minute to the likes of Valverde and Evans. As we all know, crashes are a part of bike racing, but it still makes it hard to swallow when mishaps shape the outcome. Hopefully, Menchov and Ricco can rebound and maybe this will make the mountain stages a bit more exciting as the two try to take backtime.
But, the day belongs to Will Frischkorn and even though one of his breakaway companions won the stage and another one got the yellow jersey, Will's ride might just be the breakthrough his career needs to ratchet it up into high gear. I hope I don't sound too much like a homer but, for me he was the real winner today.
What do you think about Will's ride?
ps - today France not only got the stage win, but also the yellow jersey. The Frenchies have been all over the front for the past three days trying to restore some French pride to their home race. Unfortunately, it will have to be stages and short stints in yellow as they have absolutely no hope for the overall win.