Monday, July 28, 2008

2008 Tour de France Recap:

That damn crash cost Christian Vande Velde (USA) (Garmin-Chipotle) a podium spot in the Tour de France.

Let’s rewind a bit so I can explain. Vande Velde, while always a strong domestique, was never a favorite for a podium spot going into the tour. I don’t think anybody (that matters) picked him for a podium spot. Some didn’t even have him on their radar. However, on stage 4, a 29.5km TT in Cholet, he proved he could time trial, 8th best, only 37 seconds behind Stefan Schumacher’s 35:44.

He proved he could hang with the favorites (and the dopers) in Stage 7: Brioude - Aurillac, moving up on GC to 4th, 44 seconds behind Kim Kirchen. He proved it again in Stage 9: Toulouse - Bagneres-de-Bigorre (224km), when he moved up to 3rd on GC, still only 44 seconds back. He was able to hold that placing during Stage 10: Pau - Hautacam (see above picture), sitting only 38 seconds behind Cadel Evans.

On Stage 15: Ebrum - Prato Nevoso (185km), Vande Velde, was leap frogged by Denis Menchov and Bernhard Kohl and dropped to 5th, but only 39 seconds behind leader Frank Schleck.

On Stage 16: Cuneo - Jausiers, Vande Velde was dropped on the days final climb. He was forced to descend like a mad-man. He was gaining on the GC group and was only 35 seconds behind when he crashed. He could not regain his rhythm and finished the day 4:04 behind the stage winner, and lost 2:36 to Carlos Sastre and Cadel Evans, 2:01 to Denis Menchov. At the end of the day, he was 6th on GC 3:15 behind F. Schleck, 3:07 behind Evans, and 2:26 behind Sastre.

Sastre rode into yellow on Stage 17: Embrum - L’Alpe d’Huez (210.5km), while CSC shut down the other GC contenders on L’Alpe d’Huez. Sastre put 2:15 into Vande Velde pushing him to 4:41 behind the eventual GC winner.

So, everything came down to the final TT, Stage 20: Cerilly - St. Amand-Montrond TT (53km). Schumacher powered to a stage victory, completing the course in 1:03:50 at 49.817 kph or 30.95 mph!! Vande Velde turned in an excellent time, finishing 4th, only 1:05 behind Schumacher and beating Menchov by 50 seconds, Evans by 1:00, and Sastre by 1:29. He moved up from 6th to 5th leapfrogging F. Schleck’s 54th place TT.

So in the end the top 5 was this:

1. Sastre
2. Evans (again....yawn) 0:58
3. Kohl 1:13
4. Menchov 2:10
5. Vande Velde 3:05

Had Vande Velde’s crash not happened, and he rejoined the GC guys on the descent in stage 16, which was about to happen, the top 5 would have looked like this:

1. Sastre
2. Vande Velde 0:29
3. Evans 0:58
4. Kohl 1:13
5. Menchov 2:10

Of course, if we played what if’s, then we have to remember that the returning champion and his super strong Astana team was banned this year. If Astana was not wrongfully disbarred from this year’s tour, the top 5 would have looked like this....

1. Contador
2. Leipheimer 1:15
3. Sastre 10:00
4. Vande Velde 10:29
5. Evans 10:58

On that note, I’m officially renaming this year’s winner: Carlos Sasterisk. We all know why.


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