Stage 8: Saint-Meen-le-Grand - Lorient

A great win by Calzati on a solo breakaway. Calzati went with Zabriskie, Aerts, Kessler, Carlstrom, and Halgand. It was an interesting break, with both a Lotto and Credit Agricole rider, which meant that QuickStep would be on its own chasing the break down for a sprint finish. With a long week in the yellow jersey for QuickStep, that seemed to be the last thing QuickStep was going to do. The presence of Kessler and Zabriskie, though, made the break too dangerous for the overall positions, so Phonak and FD Jeux gave mild chase. Calzati decided to jump from the break and try his chances on his own, and it played out well. The peloton stopped giving chase and Calzati was actually able to expand his lead by the finish. Calstrom and Halgand attempted to follow Calzati, but went too late to catch onto his wheel. Calzati's win was a great for the French fans; too bad about the World Cup...

Zabriskie's presence in the break gave him the opportunity to rack up 10 seconds in time bonuses and move up in the overall classification. In his post-race interviews, though, there doesn't appear to have been an actual strategy to move Zabriskie into a break today. In his words, it was his turn to cover a break and it just happened that it stayed away. When Calzati jumped, Zabriskie was a little too tired to follow and let it go, thinking it wouldn't succeed and also having to watch Kessler (according to VeloNews, Zabriskie had a bee sting). Zabriskie's teammate Voigt had tried a breakaway earlier in the day -- CSC is now saying that Voigt intentionally threw the previous day's time trial to save strength -- but that breakaway wasn't able to stick.

McEwen won the field sprint to take the fourth place sprint points. Boonen continues to by mystifyingly bad in planning the sprints as he went too early and ended up sitting up.

Prediction check: * My prediction: Boonen first, McEwen second * Actual: Calzati wins from the breakaway, McEwen wins the field sprint for 4th

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(kwc.org is having DSL issues)

My predictions: I firmly believe that Boonen will win a stage this Tour, but my "Boonen first, McEwen second" picks have done me in every time. But I won't learn, I'll ride that horse until it pays off.

Sprint 1: Dumoulin, Garcia Acosta, Voigt

hmm, Voigt in a break. Still doesn't explain what happened to him in the time trial (last place), unless he was saving his energy in the worst possible way.

KOM 1: Calzati, Aerts, Kessler

KOM, Cote de Saint-Mayeux: Calzati, Carlstrom, Zabriskie

CSC is trying to rally in the breaks today, it appears. The time trial yesterday decimated their chances yesterday, but a successful break before the rest day might rally things a bit for them.

KOM, Cote de Gouarec: Calzati, Zabriskie, Aerts

Calzati (AG2R), Zabriskie (CSC), Aerts (Lotto), Kessler (T-Mobile), Halgand (CA) and Carlstrom (Liquigas) are in the break.

Phonak is chasing down the break, probably because of Kessler -- they know that Zabriskie will lose big time in the mountains. The break is 5:37 ahead with 80k to go. Lotto and Credit Agricole have riders in the break, so they won't chase.

Sprint 2: Zabriskie, Calzati, Aerts. Zabriskie is 2:03 down, so 6 seconds doesn't help that much, though it might bump him up to 9th overall. He is the virtual yellow jersey right now, but it doesn't seem like Phonak will let the break survive.

This was a smart move by T-Mobile to have Kessler in the break. T-Mobile won't have to spend today defending the yellow jersey, so they'll be even more rested for the next week of racing.

Phonak seems to have gotten FD Jeux to help out. During the Dauphine, Phonak couldn't get any teams to help with the chase, so he sent his team to the front and told them to set a grueling tempo. After the other riders in the peloton started showing strain, he asked again if any of the other teams wanted to help. Actually, I believe he said something more akin to, "How that's motherfuckers? Because we got plenty more of that."

Sprint 3: Aerts, Zabriskie.

Calzati has attacked the break and Halgand is chasing. The rest of the break seems disinterested. Carlstrom has come to help Halgand. The lead on the peloton is only 2:33 right now. With Zabriskie and Kessler not chasing, Calzati will have a better chance with the peloton not caring about his break.

20k to go and Calzati has pushed his lead to 2:45, so it seems that the peloton has been appeased.

Zabrikkie/Aerts/Kessler are barely pedalling and the peloton is hardly closing on them, which seems to indicate that Calzati should have his win today -- Calstrom and Halgand are the only riders that can spoil that, but they are far behind.

Quickstep and Liquigas are at the front but now Boonen is getting a wheel change, so that will slow the already slow chase.

5k to go and Calzati has a lead of over three minutes. This will be a great win by Calzati, the first long break to succeed in this Tour.

related articles: Tour de France 2006
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