Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stage 19: Bourgoin-Jallieu > Aubenas


Well, I've done it now. I was all excited to watch Stage 20 today, as it culminates in the climb up the notorious Mont Ventoux. And I even started watching it. However, I kept finding myself wanting to write a post about yesterday's stage, Stage 19.

Apparently, I can't enjoy watching a stage until I've posted about the previous one. If this desire recurs next year, I may have to take my entire vacation during the Tour de France, just to give me time to write!

Though this stage was flat, the flatness helped a little to see all the riders. For the first time, I could see pretty much all of them, including the peloton. (The peloton is the biggest group of riders. Smaller groups behind the lead are called chases, like chase 1 and chase 2.)

Pretty much everybody, including the peloton.

They had a little segment called "rules of the peloton." It's considered bad form to attack while everyone is having a meal break (they eat while riding), or when the leaders are taking a leak (which they don't do while riding).

They normally don't show this. I always wondered how they could ride five hours straight.

Also, this area has a lot of scenery. Though the tour is no longer riding through the Alps, there was still a lot to see.

An abbey, built in 1984. It houses only fourteen monks. It looks a little too big for just fourteen guys; I'm guessing being a monk isn't as popular as it used to be. I wonder how they keep it running.

Barge on the Rhone. The tour has crossed this river many times.

Peloton crossing a dam

Anyway, the average speed at some points of this stage was almost thirty miles an hour. I was glad to see Team Rabobank out front for a good portion of the stage. They haven't achieved much over the tour. According to the announcers, it was largely due to bad luck. Regardless, there was talk of Rabobank dropping their sponsorship next year. Though they didn't win this stage, they were out front for much of it, and were part of what drove the fast pace. Perhaps this will keep their sponsor happy enough to roll the dice next year.

Rabobank's Denis Menchov (who has crashed three times), tempo-making for their sprinter, Oscar Freire. He's followed by the four overall frontrunners: Lance Armstrong(w/black helmet), Contador (in yellow), Andy Scheck, and Bradley Wiggins.

The guy wearing the winged helmet, and carrying the American flag: I swear I saw him at one of the Alpine stages. He must be travelling all over the country to follow this race.

Most of the end of the race, saw Allesandro Ballan, ITA, and Laurent Lefevre, FRA, out in front. However, the peloton was catching up quickly...

Peloton, with Rabobank's Oscar Freire, SPN, taking a shortcut through the grass. Apparently this is okay, as it's so risky: riders typically fall of their bikes when trying this..

However, it would be Mark Cavendish, (GBR, Columbia-HTC) who would pull off the stage win. It was his ninth stage victory, a new record for Great Britain.

Mark Cavendish. The first twelve riders, including Lance Armstrong, all had his time, as when bikes overlap one after another, they all get the same time. Oscar Friere was fifth, while one of only two Japanese riders in the race, Fumiyuki Neppu (Skil-Shimano), was seventh.

Interestingly enough, it was "shrewd" for Lance to be in the front group, as he lost no time to the other top riders. The others lost four seconds to him, as they were in the second group. Things like this make the difference between being on the podium in Paris, or not.

Lance is now third overall. With this finish, he is now 15 seconds ahead of 4th-place Bradley Wiggins.

Now, I can finally watch stage 20!

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