JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images
Vinokourov may have five Tour de France wins under his belt, but this is the most amazing that I've ever seen in his career. It's not his first comeback win -- Stage 10 in the 2005 Tour stands out in my mind -- but he can barely walk from what I've seen of his interviews and yesterday was downright disastrous (big time losses and a crash). I guess you don't need to walk when you can ride. Nancy Toby calls him Rasputin, Bobby Julich calls him The Bull.
A stage victory won't get Vino back on the podium, but there's little doubt in my mind that he would be winning this whole thing if it weren't for his crash. Vino was part of an early 20+ rider break that also contained Menchov and Hincapie. Vino knew his chances were good and his teammates did as well -- Ivanov burned himself through to bridge Vino back up when the breakaway split to keep Vino near the front. Vino's big attacks came as the Peyresourde approached. After bridging up to the leaders, he attacked the remnants repeatedly until he was all alone. He crossed the top of the Peyresourde solo and time-trialed down the descent to victory.
Contador and Rasmussen battled it out again today. The contenders seemed a bit tired today, sticking together in a large group on the slopes of the Peyresourde, six-seven minutes behind the break. Discovery decided to stir it up by sending Popovych up the road. Rabobank chased that back but lost Menchov as a result. Contador then decided to test Rasmussen... repeatedly. Contador attacked again, and again, and again, as the two twig riders got a bigger and bigger gap on the rest of the contenders. Contador caught Hincapie at the top of the climb and Hincapie drilled it at the front to give Contador and Rasmussen nearly a minute on their rivals at the finish.
Leipheimer had to sit content with the rest of the contenders as he watched his teammate up the road. The accelerations aren't his style and he couldn't help the others bridge back. Contador needed the time gaps on Evans to protect himself in the upcoming time trial. We'll see if Leipheimer gets a chance to put his own attacks on Evans after tomorrow's rest stage -- 1:25 on Evans separates Levi from the podium right now. Kloden is also nipping at Levi's heels, 9 seconds behind.
There wasn't much GC shakeup in the top five even if gaps were gained, but the overall top ten did get some juggling around due to Kim Kirchen's (T-Mobile) great second-place effort and Zubeldia's (Euskatel) third-place. Kirchen climbed five spots back to 9th while Zubeldia rocked into 7th to bump Kashechkin down a spot. Valverde dropped back out of the top ten to 11th and, for all his lieutenant efforts, Popovych sadly drops out of the top ten to 12th.
1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 2.23
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto 4.00
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 5.25
5 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 5.34
There were quite a few abandons and non-starters today: Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Philippe Gilbert (FDJ) were the non-starters, while Fast Freddie (Predictor-Lotto), Cyril Dessel (Ag2r) and Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole) abandoned -- Le Mevel due to a crash.
After a difficult time trial and then a hard mountain-top finish atop Plateau de Beille, stage 15 to Foix Loudenvielle to Le Louron is the Queen Stage of the 2007 Tour de France. The long, difficult traverses the heart of the Hautes-Pyrénées from Foix in the Ariege region, with the Col de Port as the opener after just 27.5 kilometres. Then stage 15 rolls through the beautiful countryside around Saint-Girons before assaulting the challenging second-half of the stage, with the steep Cat. 2 Col de Portet d'Aspet, then the steeper Cat. 1 Col de Menté, the new hors catégorie ascent of the Port de Balès, a 19.5-kilometre climb that averages a 6.2% grade, with the final 10 kilometres at 8.5% which should show who is the strongest in this year's Tour.
However, the terrible stage 15 isn't done yet, as the steep 10 kilometres Col de Peyresourde awaits before the technical descent to Loudenvielle Le Louron. Look for Ag2r Prévoyance's Christophe Moreau and Rabobank's Michael Rasmussen to battle for the Maillot Blanc à Pois Rouges of Best Climber across the five cols of stage 15.
My prediction: Two years ago George Hincapie took the queen stage that also featured the Col de Peyresourde and Col de Portet d'Aspet... but I don't expect a repeat. Back then Armstrong was a shoe-in in his final Tour and this year Discovery doesn't have its favorite card picked. If Valverde hadn't seemed to lose his legs I might pick him -- instead I'm going to pick Colom. He's Spanish, it's the Pyrenees, he was strong today, and Astana needs a pick-me-up.
Live coverage links
- Fritz/cyclelicio.us is running a Twitter-aggregator on his front page
- CyclingNews Live Coverage (latest)
- Steephill.tv has a great linked-up dashboard and links to live video options
- Yahoo Photo Feed
- My Twitter has a slightly different take, but is mostly the same. Might be easier for catching updates.
- Polar Cycling: Live heart rate, speed, and altitude monitoring
- TwitTour (twitter)
- TdfBlog (twitter)
- Ubilabs Tour Tracker
- Cyclelicio.us tells you how to pretend to be in another country (for live video
- Bob: Schleck
- Phil: Kloden
- Al: Contador
- Paul: Valverde
kwc.org (delayed) stage log
Inanov is pushing a 24-rider break that includes his former-captain Vinokourov. Kirchen is the highest-placed in the break. Hincapie is there for Discovery, perhaps trying to repeat his queen-stage victory on a similar route 2 years ago. CSC has Vande Velde and Arvesen,, Euskatel has Landaluze, Perez, Zubeldia. Cobo (S-D) and Garate (Q-S) are there as is Menchov (Rabobank). Kirchen is 13 minutes behind, which will set the length of the leash on this break.
Dessel and Le Mevel abandoned on the stage today. Pozzato and Gilbert did not start.
Rabobank has the duty of controlling the peloton
Ivanov, Landaluze, Arroyo, Kohl, and Tschopp have attacked the break. Menchov has bridged up. The break is coming apart even more on the Port de Bales. Ivanov dropped back to bridge Vino back up. They're making contact again as Cobo and Zubeldia hang on their wheels. Ivanov has completely popped giving it all for Vino. Tschopp has attacked the leaders.
Kashechkin is attacking the peloton -- Astana is racing on two fronts.
The peloton is exploding as it whittles down to a yellow jersey group of about 20 at the front. Boogerd is leading Rasmussen. Pereiro and Moreau have been shelled. They are about 8 minutes behind the front of the break.
Kirchen is trying to bridge to Tschopp. He's catching and passing Tschopp. Tschopp refuses to be dropped. Arroyo is now attempting to bridge.
The Kashechkin carrot is slowly being reached by Rasmussen's group. Popo is dropping from that group. Kash is caught. The break is dropping to seven minutes.
Kirchen attacks Tschopp near the summit and takes the KOM. Arroyo actually catches Kirchen first on the descent. The fog is making for some great scenery. The Vino/Menchov chase group is going through the KOM and could make contact on the descent.
Popo has caught back on the Rasmussen group but is being dropped as they accelerate for the summit. He gets back in. Rast is trying to stay in contact for Astana.
Menchov has dropped back to help Rasmussen.
Cobo attacks Vino's group which drops Garate and Zubeldia. They are catching Arroyo and Kirchen. Vino bridges to them. Tschopp must be up the road. Vino isn't bothering staying with them -- he's shooting on past as they catch his wheel. Cobo bridges up.
The Rasmussen group has really swelled on the Peyresourde. Moreau has even caught back on. The break is gaining time.
Popovych attacks! He was talking with Contador just a minute ago. Menchov and Boogerd are trying to pull it back. Somewhere up the road he should find Hincapie.
Vino attacks and drops Kirchen. Vino slows up and Kirchen catches back on.
Moreau is being re-shelled from the Rasmussen group under the pressure of Popo's attack and Rabobank's pace-making. Mayo is shelled as well. Soler is cracked. Popo is being caught but his attack has whittled things down to about 12 riders.
Zubeldia attacks Vino's group. Cobo counterattacks -- now Vino counters and gets a gap.
Schleck has been dropped and Arvesen back to help him.
Vino cuts through the thick crowds like butter. He takes the KOM. Its tme for him to descend like a madman. Kirchen and Zubeldia aren't too far behind.
Contador attacks Rasmussen. Rasmussen moves to chase. He's caught him. They look back to decide whether or not to continue.
Boogerd is being dropped by the chase group. It looks like Sastre and Levi chasing.
Contador attacks again as Rasmussen is able to stay on his wheel. They slow up side-by-side.
Contador attacks the third time! He's starting to lose Contador's wheel! He's got the gap!
Contador accelerates again and passes Tschopp -- Rasmussen is slowly clawing his way back. Rasmussen pulls alongside.
Contador attacks again! Contador's attack is being held up by the Mavic car. Contador has caught Hincapie. Hincapie picks it back up. Advantage Discovery.
The rest of the contenders cross the KOM and they're just looking at each other for organization -- Levi isn't going to chase.
Vino has 3k to go to victory.
Hincapie and Contador are giving it their all with Rasmussen on their wheel.
Vino passes the 1k banner.
Vino takes the stage win, the most amazing of his career. (5th career win)
Kirchen takes second and will move back up the standings.
Hincapie is descending too fast for Contador and Rasmussen. 2k left for them.
Contador attacks again but sees Rasmussen on his wheels. He's still putting it to Rasmussen but can't drop him.
Contador charges to the line with Rasmussen on his wheel. 5:31 behind Vino
Evans brings the others across the line. 6:27 back so they lose almost a minute.