Stage 7: Saint-Gregoire - Rennes, ITT

AP Photo/Christian HartmannTime-trial specialist Sergei Gontchar/Gonchar/Honchar dominated today's time trial and took the yellow jersey with a time of 1:01:43. This was the last chance for the time trial specialists to slip into the yellow jersey, and of that crowd -- Zabriskie, Rogers, Karpets, and Gontchar -- it was Gontchar who annihilated the rest of the field by a minute over the next best time. This was a T-Mobile day: 1st, 4th, 6th, and 8th. Who needs Ullrich? Or, rather, in the words of Johan Bruyneel, "It's lucky Jan Ullrich is not here, otherwise the Tour would be over."

Photo by AP Photo/Christian Hartmann

It was a surprisingly poor showing by the American riders, who were expected to dominate. Bobby J had it worst, crashing early on, sliding over a curb, and appearing to injure his arm. Levi had a terrible showing, losing a minute and a half by the first time check and six minutes overall with a time of 1:07:49. Hincapie did poorly as well with a time of 1:04:25, which was 30 seconds slower than Savoldelli -- we may see Savoldelli become Discovery's protected man in the mountains. My main pick, Zabriskie, had a respectable 1:03:40, but for those of us who thought he'd light the course of fire, it was a disappointment.

There was one bright light among the Americans: Landis is certainly the American to beat and has vaulted himself to the top of the overall contenders. Landis finished in second with a time of 1:02:44, which he did while apparently having to switch his bike on the course either due to a flat tire or to his bars slipping -- the UCI apparently ordered Landis to lower his bars just prior to the race. If Landis's mechanic can just get these mechanical issues under control, Landis should easily finish on the podium. Then again, his legs appeared to disappear in the mountains in the Dauphine, so I should wait until the first mountain stage.

Big Losers: Discovery (no riders in the top ten overall anymore), CSC (now have lost Basso and Julich, Zabriskie only managed 10th, O'Grady is still hurting, and Voigt isn't looking very strong after finishing in last place), Leipheimer

Big Winners: T-Mobile, which now has four riders in the top ten including Kloden; Cadel Evans and Denis Menchov, whose chances in the overall just got a whole lot better with strong top ten finishes today. Christophe Moreau also looks primed for a top five finish if he can hold in the mountains.

Prediction check:

  • My predictions: Zabriskie, Landis, Hincapie, Julich, Rogers, Levi
  • Actual: Landis was second, Rogers was fourth instead of fifth, scratch the rest of the picks.


TiVo-delayed stage log

Predictions: American sweep: Zabriskie, Landis, Hincapie, Julich. I should probably squeeze Rogers in there, but I'm too lazy, so I'll stick him 5th. Levi in 6th.

It's time trial day! A nice long 52km time trial.

Lang has set the best time of 1:02:47. I'm betting on Zabriskie and Landis breaking the hour barrier.

Jens Voigt had a terrible time of 1:11:something, which raises some warning flags. He won't be getting another yellow jersey this year.

Cunego is going through one of the time checks in 50th -- he's officially no longer an overall contender

Axel Merckx has these weird patches on his wrist and hamstring. Anyone know what they are?

Chris Horner's time was ~1:05, which is great considering his messed up hand.

Denis Menchov is on the course, which should start knocking that time down.

Levi is on the course

Iban Mayo is coming in at 1:07:20, which should eliminate his as a contender. He'd have to gain about 16 minutes in the mountains to hold everyone off through the second time trial.

Popovych is one the course. His teammate CheChu Rubiera isn't doing have bad for a climber -- 12th at the 36.5k check.

Carlos Sastre (CSC) just set the fastest time of 20:21 at the 16.5k check. Bobby J is on the course and will hopefully be going through faster than his teammate.

Levi is riding with the California Flag (LO*CAL) decal on his helmet

Bobby Julich has crashed! He's not back on it yet. He went down going into a curb and then went sliding over the curb on his hip and hand. His Tour appears is done, which is sad as I think he could have done something special. He's walking to the ambulance holding the arm that he went down on. This is the second time Bobby J has crashed out of the Tour in an ITT. Zabriskie is going on the course and will probably be wondering about Bobby.

Millar is now on the course, presumably here to show us the clean rider pace

Chechu Rubiera put in a good Spanish climber time of 1:04:49

Levi went through a 1:32 slower through the first 16k check. I don't think he will be making my 6th place prediction. Hopefully it was just an equipment issue.

Moreau and Kl�den are on the course. Kl�den actually had to start ahead of his teammate Kessler, last-minute breakaway man of the opening week.

Landis is on the course.

Menchov and Kl�den are lighting up the course. Menchov is putting in the best time at the 36.5k check, 44:53. Kl�den is going through the 16.5k check with a time of 19:59.

Savoldelli is on the course and Michael Rogers is gel-ling up.

Zabriskie's first check is 15 seconds slower than Kl�den. Others have lost lots of time on the second half of the course, so hopefully Zabriskie is just warming up.

And here's Hincapie on the course. Robbie McEwen gets to start third-to-last, which will make the day last quite a bit longer :). Boonen is last on the course -- I'm sure he'll benefit from all the time checks set before him ;).

Levi Leipheimer is having an awful day. Vande Velde passed him. Levi is in 84th. He's already lost 3:27 on the fastest time. It would appear that Levi is no longer an overall contender.

Landis has a flat! There's no camera footage to confirm, though. For a day that was supposed to be owned by the Americans....

Menchov got a lot slower towards the finish: 1:03, 3rd place.

Landis only lost 17 seconds at the first check, so I'm not sure I believe the flat tire report. It's a funny report, given the mess changing his tire before the prologue.

Zabriskie is going through the second time check in 9th (45:16). Hincapie went through the first check in 15th. Rogers was in 13th. Hincapie is passing Thor Hushovd.

Christian Vande Velde came in 16th -- he passed Levi on the course. Levi is now coming in with a time worse than Iban Mayo. Levi's time: 1:07:49. Levi was saying he didn't think he was going to win, just try to limit his losses instead, but 77th doesn't quite do that.

Popo is coming in at 1:05:00, 18th place. I don't think will mark him as the team leader.

Honchar is the man on the course setting the big time: 1st through the second time check by a minute. Zabriskie is 8th through the same check.

Kl�den has a respectible time of 1:03:26, 4th place so far. That keeps him a contender.

Landis is 2nd through the second time check, about 50 seconds behind Honchar.

Zabriskie is coming in at 1:03:40, 7th place so far, not the time many (including me) expected. That now makes three Americans hopefuls down: Zabriskie, Levi, and Julich. It's up to Hincapie and Landis to show off the American dominance in time trialing.

Hincapie is coming through in 25th through the second check. Well, it's up to Landis now.

Millar finished 1:05:17, 28th so far

Moreau is doing a good enough ride to keep him in contention: 1:03:47, 9th so far

Boonen has passed McEwen! (Just kidding about the ! mark)

Rogers is seventh through the check.

Cadel Evans finished 1:03:32, 8th place, good enough for the GC

Honchar/Gontchar/Gonchar has come in with the best time on the day, 1:01:43. No one's going to break that hour barrier.

McEwen is holding Boonen's wheel. Without the leadout man I don't now if McEwen will be able to sprint around Boonen at the end, maybe if he wheelies...

Karpets has a good time of 1:03:35

Landis is coming in with the second best time, 1:02:44

Savo finished with a time of 1:03:55

Hincapie is rolling across the line with a poor 1:04:25

1:03:08 for Michael Rogers

McEwen finished in 1:08, which makes Mayo's time and Levi's time look all the worse.

Current leader: Honchar

Photo by AP Photo/Chriatian Hartmann

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