It feels like a lot longer than a week has passed since the Tour started. I still can't believe I try to fit each day into an under 3 min recording; there is just too much going on every day. This first week had some disappointment and some surprises out on the course. For starters the first few days were extremely windy and it provided an opportunity for echelons and some exciting racing, it never materialized. Without a strong favorite, or a powerhouse team, the riders were timid, they were afraid to test themselves so early in the Tour. The result was a break that made it to the finish in the first week of the Tour, unheard of. At the same time the sprinters have been getting ripped off, hills at the end of the stages during the first week, unheard of. I guess I could comment on the French rider winning a stage but it only shows the lack of effort by the peloton in the first week.
What did become evident were the objectives of certain teams for the Tour de France. The French teams were out to get exposure and make the race exciting and to motivate the breaks. Voeckler rode a great first week getting in the breaks and having the mtn. jersey for a few days. The climbers, who normally hide for ten days, also showed their form early with Valverde and Ricco taking stage wins. At the same time we saw Evans put in a good time trial, have a good finish at the first summit finish, and he paid attention during Stage 7 when the peloton was ripped apart. We also saw from Evans that he is the strongest member of his team; perhaps the only member from his team that can go uphill fast. This will surely haunt him in the later mountain stages. No..Popovoch won't be able to help him.
As for the sprinters, they took what they could when they could. Cavendish was amazingly fast and Thor took the pressure off Credit Agricole with his early stage win. Now Thor's fight will be for the green jersey and this could be the first year we see the green jersey go to a non sprinter because of the way the stages are laid out. Normally my top pick, McEwen, so far is having a horrible Tour. I've never seen McEwen do so poorly in any race much less nine days in a row. The fact that his team has deserted him for the general classification has ripped him apart and I wouldn't be surprised to see him leave to a different team next year.
I can't forget to mention Garmin, they have been doing a super job. Riding in the front, and paying attention each day, is harder then it sounds. They have been very good at it. They have had Frishkorn in the break and get 2nd on a stage, Millar 3rd in the TT, Pate with a good TT, and VandeVelde right there in 4th on the G.C. before we hit the big mountains. VandeVelde will be hard pressed to maintain that position but I like his attitude of leaving it out on the road.
Then there is Columbia, who has had the most successful first week of any team here at the Tour but possibly of any team recently in past Tours. Who takes home 2 stage wins, multiple days in the Yellow jersey, along with the Green, and White jersey? Pretty good stack of podium appearances for them. To obtain all those goals Columbia has had to put out a lot of effort and there is good chance this will set them back during the third week. To use as much energy as Columbia has, during the first week, is dangerous if you have your sights set on Paris. Team CSC has been quite and they have their eyes on Paris. Probably the strongest team so far is Caisse d'Epargne, very dangerous in the mountains and for the overall if Valverde can get a three minute time trial cushion.
This next week we hit the Peyreenes and then some transition days as we head to the Alps. Hautacam will be critical as the new climb when we enter Italy.
The Tour is far from where it started but it's also far from over.