Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Valverde Takes Stage 10

Originally uploaded by terpkristin.
Today's stage at the Tour de France brought with it what most analysts and enthusiasts expected: a charge by Lance Armstrong and the Discovery team to show their dominance in the mountains and put some time between Lance and his main competitors.

What wasn't expected was the performance of some of the younger riders, including stage winner Alejandro Valverde. I personally didn't expect Lance's main competitors to fall out as they did, either, but that's a testament to how hard Lance was pushing.

The stage started fairly typically--a few guys tried to build a lead for themselves, while Lance et. al. stayed with the peloton. Soon enough, though, before the last climb of the day (a category 1 climb), the peloton caught the leaders, and from there, the Discovery Team took over. They lead the pack, setting a fairly quick pace. One by one, riders started dropping off the back of the peloton, and eventually Lance had the front of the peloton, along with Popyvich, Hincapie, and some of his main rivals.

Cranking along, Lance eventually broke out into a lead with Alejandro Valverde, Mikael Rasmussen, and Francisco Mancebo. Towards the end of the climb, though, it became just Lance and Alejandro, and Valverde was able to out-sprint Lance at the top for the stage win. Lance got the same time as Valverde, and Rasmussen and Mancebo (from Valverde's team) came across the line 9 seconds later.

Of course, the same could not be said for Lance's main competitors including Ivan Basso, Alexandre Vinokourov, and Jan Ullrich. Basso finished the stage 1 minute and 2 seconds behind Lance, having been a part of the main lead group for most of the final climb. Ullrich took over a minute more, crossing the finish 2 minutes and 14 seconds behind Lance, while Vino didn't cross for more than 5 minutes after Lance did.

Top 3 Finishers, Stage 10
1. Alejandro Valverde (ESP), Illes Balears, 4:50:35
2. Lance Armstrong (USA), Discovery Channel, +00:00
3. Mickael Rasmussen (DEN), Rabobank, +00:09

The large lead that Armstrong's pack gave themselves lead to quite a bit of a shake-up in the general classification.

GC Top 5 After Stage 10
1. Lance Armstrong (USA), Discovery Channel, 37:11:04
2. Mickael Rasmussen (DEN), Rabobank, +00:38
3. Ivan Basso (ITA), CSC, +02:40
4. Christophe Moreau (FRA), Credit Agricole, +02:42
5. Alejandro Valverde (ESP), Illes Balears +03:16

Of note, Jan Ullrich is 8th, 4:02 behind Lance. Vinokourov is 16th, 6:32 off of Lance. Finally, Beloki is 21st, 8 minutes and 31 seconds behind Lance. Things are looking good so far, early in the 2nd week of this year's Tour.

(Image from http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/other_sports/cycling/photo_galleries/3106908.stm)

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