It's always pleasant to poke a bit of fun at CSC-Saxo Bank, with its Outward Bound-like team-building exercises, mandated by director
Phinney mentioned it to CSC's
Having driven the pace throughout today's Queen Stage (read: gnarliest), the strongest team in the world had an ungodly six riders in the lead group at the base of today's third and final beyond-category climb, the fabled Alpe d'Huez. And then, bedlam. With his teammate
Sastre is a Spanish climbing specialist with five Top 10 Tour de France finishes. He's the guy who won a Tour stage five years ago with a pacifier in his mouth -- to celebrate the recent birth of his baby girl. He's also the guy who's looked more comfortable in the mountains than anyone else so far in this Tour.
In the moments after Sastre launched, you could see the other members of the yellow jersey group turn their eyes to
Over one 200-meter stretch, Sastre put a football field between himself and Schleck's yellow jersey group. So spent was Menchov from his vain chase that the Russian (pushing a giant, Ullrich-like gear -- was he even in his small ring up front?), lost touch with that elite fraternity for nearly half the climb.
Menchov was able to catch back on because of the strange cards being played in front of him. From their frequent surges and apparently effortless counter-attacks; from their composed, un-anguished faces, one got the impression that the Schlecks -- especially Andy -- had the strength to mount a sustained attack. Yet they were content to kind bottle up the GC group, allowing Sastre to get further and further up the road.
Why aren't they chasing harder? I wondered aloud. Phinney, having just returned from his morning ride, tendered this opinion between bites of cereal:
"I just think it's the beauty of this year's Tour. This is what a dope-free ride looks like. In the past you'd see Pantani and these other guys with 50-plus hematocrit levels put in these superhuman accelerations, riding this thing as if it was flat.
"This is real guys feeling the true effects of 2 ½ weeks of riding, suffering deeply from 20,000 feet of climbing so far today. It's a beautiful thing."
Davis, by the way,
He was especially proud of Garmin-Chipotle's
For his supremely gutsy effort, Sastre was rewarded with a stage win and the yellow jersey (He's the seventh rider to wear it in this wide-open, most excellent Tour) What remains unclear to me is whether Sastre tore the yellow jersey off his mate, or if, under the orders of Riis, Frank Shcleck folded it up nicely and handed it to him.
What it all boils down to is that the 95th Tour will be decided in Saturday's flat, twisting 53km time trial through the Cher region in the midsection of France. Can Carlos hang on? He now holds a 1:34 lead over Evans. He's 2:39 ahead of Menchov. Both those riders, along with Vandevelde (now 4:41 in arrears) are much more powerful time trailers than is Sastre, who has historically been a bit soft in the Race of Truth. Despite his trips in recent years to the wind tunnel at MIT, he's historically been a bit soft in The Race of Truth. But as Schleck noted during the rest day, "They say [the yellow jersey] gives you wings."
Will Sastre find those wings? How delightful that when
It's a beautiful thing.