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Tue, Jul.06.2004:09:31 PM

Stage 3: Waterloo-Wasquehal

07-06-04.stage3 profile

07-06-04.cobblestones.jpgEven with the cobblestones, I didn't expect this relatively flat stage to figure much into the overall results. Of course, I was wrong.

Perhaps in an attempt to give last year's crash-filled Tour a run for its money, the crashes continued today, and this time they hit a race favorite hard. Iban Mayo was involved a crash that split apart the peloton. Although Mayo was relatively uninjured, the split in the peloton, expanded by the two sections of cobblestones, really put Mayo in a big deficit very early in the Tour. Mayo lost four minutes, and with the team time trial next, that deficit is surely to be expanded. Mayo's Euskatel team rode across the finish line with faces of defeat rather than determination. Marco Velo was also involved in a crash, and will likely be out of the Tour.

McEwen continued to show his presence in the final sprint, though like Stage 1 he was edged out on the line (this time going too early rather than too late). The time bonuses he's been racking up on the line put the Australian in first overall, though, so he will get to switch jerseys from green to yellow (his first ever). Petacchi's continues to be a non-presence, as his Fassa Bortolo team seems unable to effect the good lead out that he needs in order to win. Jens Voigt made a play for the yellow jersey, but his early time bonuses were not enough to beat out the sprinters.

Armstrong/USPS rode smartly across the cobblestones, with Hincapie, Ekimov, and Armstrong forming a three-man team that surged across the cobblestones in front of the falling riders behind them.

There is some 'controversy' brewing over US Postal's efforts at the front of the race after Mayo went down. US Postal, along with Phonak and Telekom clearly pushed the pace of the race that put such big time on Mayo after his crash, though it's a hard call. Mayo's team did a terrible job of getting back to help him; it seemed to be several minutes before there were any riders pacing Mayo back. Also, it would have taken the effort of the entire peloton to wait up for Mayo, and none of this takes into account the cobblestones. I'm not really sure how race etiquette comes into play on a stage like this, but it's clear that US Postal's three-man surge across the cobblestones had been in the plan from the beginning.


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Ok, if I'm not mistaken, it is the patron's duty to ensure that the unwritten code of cycling conduct is enforced on the road. Lance demonstrated that he is unworthy of this title, "El Patron" today because he failed to do so. I will not deny the posties their duty to deliver their money interest through the cobbles unscathed. That is noble. I will even turn a blind eye to the fact that when they cleared the cobbles that they had a split on Roberto Heras and pushed the pace even further to try and take advantage of that fact. HOWEVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
When Roberto Heras caught on, there was no valid reason to continue to push the pace. The proper, noble, and dignified thing to do, would be to take the pressure off and allow Mayo to catch as well. He crashed out from the front of the race (the posties NEW guy was in the crash and it probably isn't a stretch of the imagination to think that he MIGHT have caused the crash in the first place) and not the back. If he was sucking wheel and taking his chances at the back, then maybe he would have deserved it. He wasn't, he was doing what all the contenders teams were doing - insuring that their man made it into the cobble section ahead of potential trouble. He had a break of bad luck, just like Lance did last year. By beating the pants off of Lance in the Dauphine, Iban has earned the status of a real contender for this years overall tour title. The group should have waited for him. Instead, Postal and the rest of the hounds continued to push the pace as they know that Mayo is going to hand them ALL their asses when they get to the mountains. I'm sure that behind closed doors, they will justify their actions by saying that the tour organizers are plotting against them by adding the rule that no team can lose more than 2:30 in the team time trial and that they are just reclaiming the time that is due them. THIS IS POOR SPORTSMANSHIP!! The rules are the rules and that does not short circuit proper decorum. You are in yellow and have to take a piss - no one attacks. You are a tour favorite and you crash - no one attacks. I mean, come on, if Lance had been in Iban Mayo's shoes, EVERYONE WOULD HAVE WAITED. If they didn't, Lance would have raised holy hell after the stage. Look at what happened last year. He road too close to the crowd and hooked his bars on some booger eatin twelve year olds mussett bag and took a digger. Everyone saw it and everyone slowed down. In a moment in which Tyler forget he wasn't still riding for Lance, he road to the front and insisted that they almost put a foot down until Lance was back. I've met Tyler and know he is a goood guy, so I won't drag him through the dirt, but he pisses me off when he won't cut the apron strings to his old boss. Because Tyler did this, Lance went back and talked all this trash about how no one waited for him and boo hoo hoo. Whatever, how noble is it to attack everyone who waited for you after you totally buggered up all on your lonesome? and took someone with you to boot (how ironic is it that Iban Mayo was the one that crashed straight into Lance when he hooked the mussett bag!?!?!?!). I'm over that, but I'm not over today's debacle.

Posted by: David at July 6, 2004 06:38 PM

Rewatch the race. After the first set of cobblestones it was not US Postal pushing the pace. You need to add to your rant Phonak, Fassa, Telekom, and every other team taking turns at the front.

The example you cite from last year's tour is different. That was a mountain stage, every man for himself. In previous instances (e.g. Ullrich going over the side) Armstrong has waited.

This was a flat stage. I can't think of any race where the entire peloton has waited after a crash to reform, and there have certainly be plenty of crashes. Can you think of any examples? You don't see Fassa Bortolo slowing down so that Petacchi can sprint against Cipo and O'Grady, do you?

Mayo had his entire team to pace him back into the peloton, and they did bridge him back into the second large group. There were multiple teams in that back group, and Euskatel and Credit Agricole should have pushed the pace on the second group to bridge back to the peloton. They didn't. Mayo should have a stronger team if he expects to win the tour, but he doesn't.

Posted by: Ken at July 7, 2004 10:43 AM