Stage 8: Pforzheim-Gerardmer

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(AP Photo/Christophe Ena/Alessandro Trovati/Ena)

Under Pressure. Big first mountain stage to break in the legs. The GC contenders mostly held together, but the final climb demonstrated that T-Mobile is ready to put the smackdown on Discovery. Vino soften up the yellow jersey by relentlessly attacking Armstrong up the final climb. Ullrich sat on Armstrong's wheel while Kloden launched an attack. Armstrong didn't respond to Kloden's move, and Kloden, catching up to a breakaway by Weening, was able to tag team his way to the finish and gain 0:27 on Armstrong.

photo finishWeening nicked the stage on the line by sitting in Kloden's slipstream for the final kilometer and doing no work. Kloden had more to gain because he would get time in the overall classification, so Weening could play that to his advantage. I would think it's a litle embarrassing for Weening to only win by a hair under those circumstances, but you wouldn't be able to tell with Weening jumping onto the stage to celebrate.

Armstrong probably won't be worrying too much about Kloden's 0:27 time gain as much as (1) T-Mobile has a stronger one-two-three punch than thought with Kloden suddenly on form and (2) his Discovery team disintegrated: after Vino's initial volley there were no teammates left.

Armstrong looked strong and responded as necessary to the attacks that mattered, but he will have to hope his team puts in a better performance in the coming stages or there are going to be some long, lonely climbs ahead. Armstrong is mentioning some "talking" that his team is going to have to do tonight; he also said that he wasn't strong today (coulda fooled me).

The overall standings were cleaned up by this stage. No major riders dropped, but the non-contenders moved down. Also, Discovery lost the white young rider's jersey as Popo gave it over to Karpets, who is a favorite in the competition.

1 Lance Armstrong
2 Jens Voigt 1.00
3 Alexandre Vinokourov 1.02
4 Bobby Julich 1.07
5 Ivan Basso 1.26
6 Jan Ullrich 1.36
7 Carlos Sastre
8 George Hincapie 1.47
9 Andreas Kl�den 1.50
10 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems

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Good morning. Awake early even on a weekend yawn

It's raining in France and Germany again, may make for some more nastiness.

144 miles = Reno to Sacremento

Prediction: with the German start, I'm going to go with Jens Voigt again. There is a Cat 2 climb near the finish, which suits someone with aggressive breakaway ability. I don't think Discovery will let him get away, so I'm mostly picking him b/c I want him to win. More practical picks being made by the OLN team include Flecha and Valverde. Phil and Paul are tied for their yellow jersey prediction contest -- Chef Philipe awarded the jersey to Phil.

It looks like my pick has been stirring things up. Rasmussen took the first climb and with it the King of the Mountains jersey, but Voigt was there in third. Hincapie took the first sprint, but Voigt was there in second. With a CSC and Discovery in the breakaaway, T-Mobile was forced to go to the front and chase down Hincapie and Voigt's breakaway.

Now Hushovd, Sorensen, and Casar are away. Hushovd will probably try to pick up some more sprint points since he can't seem to beat Boonen one-on-one.

Sorensen stays away but the rest are caught. Flecha, Commesso, Jalabert, Weening, and Vasseur manage to bridge their way from the peloton to Sorensen, and that break is now over five minutes ahead, making Sorensen the virtual race leder. Flecha is a dangerous presence up front -- he's made it on the break before. With Sorensen of CSC in the break my pick Voigt has little chance -- there's no way he's going to make a break and risk having his teammate caught.

Bunch of riders taking pee breaks.

Discovery has moved to the front.

Commesso wins the intermediate sprint.

Liquigas now takes over in the run into the final climb.

The peloton is finally making a real effort to bring back the breakaway.

The break is now at the start of the climb, 30k to the finish. The peloton is less than 3 minutes back.

The breakaway has split with Weening attacking and the rest of the break splitting in two.

The peloton has shattered on the climb. McEwen, Cancellara, and Wegmann are among the many dropping off the back. Someone is putting in a killer pace. It looks Illes Baleares is the team putting on the pressure.

Discovery is well-placed at the front. Illes Baleares has hammered the break down to below 2 minutes. Vassuer and Jalabert have been sweeped up. Weening, Commesso, Flecha, and Sorensen are still away, with Weening still soloing.

Vino is attacking! Il Falco and Armstrong are responding quickly. No go for Vino.

Moreau attacks. Now Vino bridges up to Moreau. Armstrong is responding with Ullrich just tagging along on Armstrong's wheel. Vino just got Armstrong to pull Ullrich up the mountain.

Valverde attacks! He gets away a bit before Vino responds again, and again Armstrong chases Vino down. This and the upcoming mountain stages are going to be a lot of fun.

Kloden attacks. T-Mopbile is trying to beat Armstrong down. Basso attacks Armstrong to get after Kloden. Who isn't attacking Armstrong now? Armstrong isn't responding to Kloden, who is flying up the hill. Can't spot any Disco riders to help out Armstrong.

Ullrich is riding is second position in a large chase group. Armstrong is further back.

Weening is rocking his way up the hill, about to be caught by Kloden, and he is as Kloden catches him right at the top of the climb. Kloden will go into the King of the Mountains jersey.

Despite all the attacking, Kloden is only 15 seconds ahead.

Landis, Vino, Armstrong, Basso, Julich, and Ullrich are together.

Weening and Kloden are working together to try and stay away, though the gap is small.

6k to go.

Despite the huge chase group, can't spot any Discovery riders other than Armstrong.

Voigt(?) tries to attack, but no one is going to let him go.

2km to go. The gap is now at 22 seconds, so it looks like Kloden and Weening are going to take it.

Weening is sitting on Kloden's wheel to go for the win. Kloden will get time in the GC, Weening will probably take the stage.

Weening tries to take it on the line, not sure if he took it.

Vino is going for the time bonus, but too many people coming through. Valverde takes the bonus, but who won the stage?

Starting to finally catch some signs of Armstrong's teammates in the groups rolling in.

Weening gets the stage win (barely).

Voigt gets fifth, it looks like all the main GC rivals (except Kloden) are in the Armstrong group (0:27 back).

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