Skip navigation

Currently Being Moderated

An Episode of 24

Posted by MDugard on Jul 8, 2006 7:40:08 PM

A palpable sense of disbelief hangs over Rennes...On a day when rumors were spreading that Floyd Landis will shift to Discovery Team next year, the whole Tour seemed to go a little crazy. One top American crashed out of the race, another rode as if he was dragging a tire behind his bike, and the world's best time-trialists were beaten by a Ukrainian in need of dental work. The Ukrainian was Serhiy Honchar (Russian: Serguei Gonchar) of Team T-Mobile. The 36-year-old time-trialing specialist was world champion in 2000, but his career was thought to be waning. Today, however, was outstanding. He hammered the course on a windy afternoon, finishing the 32 miles in 1:01:43. Floyd Landis, who made a bike change early in the race, finished a minute back. That all-American podium suddenly looks very far away from becoming a reality. Landis was the only American who really came through today, and now stands second overall in the standings, exactly one minute behind Honchar. But George Hincapie's performance was sub-par, Levi Leipheimer's was abysmal, and Bobby Julich is out of the race after a horrendous high-speed crash. That's the bad news. The good news is that Honchar, who also led the Giro d'Italia just before the mountain stages began, is not a climber. He won't stay in yellow very long. So Landis is in the driver's seat, with Hincapie just 90 seconds back. That gap could close with a little creative cycling. But Levi ... man, I hope he's got a back-up plan. The guy who looked so stellar winning the Dauphine Libere a month ago is now 6:17 out of first place. His only hope, obviously, is prayer. Beyond that, he needs to go ballistic in the mountains, attaching himself to breakaways and even launching a few surprise attacks of his own.And make no mistake about, the mountains will be crazy. The race is wide open, and it looks more and more like it's going to stay that way for awhile. The contenders who had a good day -- Michael Rogers, Andreas Kloden, Cadel Evans, Denis Menchov, and even Christophe Moreau, who rode as if all France was whispering in his ear -- are all within a minute of Landis. Poor Rogers. The three-time world time-trialing champion definitely has the talent to win this bike race. But he's an Australian rider on a German team. When push comes to shove, T-Mobile will work to help their top German rider, Andreas Kloden, before they'll work for Rogers. In response to a reader's request, I yelled very loudly for Floyd today. In the name of spreading it around, I also cheered for Cadel Evans, Michael Rogers, David Millar, George Hincapie, and Levi Leipheimer. I'm not much on that journalistic thing about not cheering in the press box. Sport is one of those rare avenues in life to express emotions honestly, powerfully and immediately in an emotionally satisfying way. How could anyone not want to cheer?Amber Landis, Floyd's wife, is a feisty woman who is fiercely proud (and protective) of her husband. One of her favorite pastimes is checking cycling sites and chat rooms anonymously to see what people are saying about Floyd. For all I know, she's behind that request. A bit of confusion doubling as irony during today's stage. Race radio was reporting that Landis had punctured a half-hour into his ride. The press criticism of Landis's preparation began immediately. Remember, Landis was late for the start at last week's prologue because he noticed a cut in his tire, a bit of prudence for which he was roundly criticized. Then the race radio was saying Landis hadn't flatted, and that it had all been a mistake, which had everyone kind of chuckling at how absurd it was that we all thought that fate was conspiring against him. Then, once the stage was over, we find out that Floyd really did change bikes. Something to do with his handlebars. I would have rooted for Bobby Julich if he hadn't crashed. He's a good guy and a solid rider who looked like he wore the cloak of team leader heavily. He was taken from the course in an ambulance, holding his wrist. Tomorrow's stage from Saint-Meen-le-Grand to Lorient is the last we'll see of France's northern half until the finish in Paris. From here on out, all the action will take place in the south and the Alps. The Tour has chartered two planes to fly the teams to Bordeaux for the rest day. It's going to be a tight connection: the stage ends a few minutes after 5 pm and the plane leaves at 6:15. Anyway, tomorrow's stage is rugged, with four rated climbs. But the last half of the course is largely downhill, which might give the sprinters a chance to claim the day. Robbie McEwen will be looking for his fourth stage victory of this year's Tour, while world road racing champion Tom Boonen is still looking for his first. Man, my head hurts. Too much thinking. Nothing went like it was supposed to today. But I have to say that it's interesting. There's little drama in one guy winning the time trial and then controlling the race all the way to Paris. This year's Tour reminds of an episode of "24", where just when you relax a little because you think you know what's about to happen, something out of left field happens that has you sitting on the edge of your seat. I love "24."And for the record, Floyd Landis says he's not signing with Discovery.  Talk to you tomorrow.

Comments (3)