And it's not without surprises. Who would have guessed that after only one week Alejandro Valverde and Damiano Cunego would be out of the race for the yellow jersey? Sorry to ruin the fans' morale, but these two guys are pretty much out for the rest of the Tour and it's obviously Cadel Evans and the CSC team who really took advantage of this stage.
I knew this stage was crucial and Cadel knew it too. After a serious crash yesterday, he was here in the peloton and in pretty much all the attacks to cross the finish line and steal the yellow jersey from Kim Kirchen. Today has shown us that Cadel Evans has great mental strength to get the job done. I'm sure he is quite happy right now as he knows that tomorrow is the first rest day, and that the next three stages shouldn't be too tough to control. It will surely boost his morale and help him heal faster.
The only thing I'm a little worried about with Evans is that I feel like he is sort of alone on his team when it gets to mountain stages. Even if he has done a wonderful stage today, I'm afraid that his team won't be able to back him up in the Alps. Unfortunately, this is where he could lose the Tour to some guys like the Schleck brothers or Carlos Sastre, who run for CSC.
The second great news of the day is the CSC Saxo Bank team and how they structured their race today to take Valverde and Cunego out of the race so soon. It's real teamwork, believe me. They started really strong up Tourmalet and then they managed the race all the way to Hautacam by keeping a high pace and controlling the lead.
CSC has great individuals, as I said earlier, and I think that the yellow jersey could come from this team because of what they have shown today. The only question is: Even though they have lots of talent on this team, will they be able to cooperate when they get to the money time? I'm sure they all want to wear the jersey, but did their manager make things clear before the Tour started? We shall see...
Finally, we have had some good surprises with Christian Vande Velde and the Austrian Bernard Kohl today. These two guys are pretty much coming out of nowhere and they have done the job during this tough stage. It's a true pleasure to see new talents and new names on top of the rankings at each stage. It really gives some freshness to this Tour. Pay attention to these guys in the Alps. Who knows, they could have some influence on the rankings...
Great day, great stage, lost of actions in the Pyrénées--ladies and gentlemen, the Tour is launched!
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Ronan Pensec participated in 8 Tours, and wore the yellow jersey in 1990 while racing for Greg Lemond's Z team. He now operates Ronan Pensec Events, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.