That was brutal to watch.
The Tour is often analogized to a chess match, with the leading teams building up their strategies against each other. But some days, those strategies aren't being built up, they're being radically torn down. This was one of those days.
So George takes off on a flier and it looks good. Everybody is happy at the thought of seeing the veteran helper end up in yellow at the end of the day. Hooray, what a great story!
Astana wants to see him there too, but not too far in the lead, so they work to limit the gap. And they screw up -- they cut it too close. With the typical blindness of the very, very arrogant, they believe that they and their interests are the only ones on the road, so that if they leave George in the yellow by a few seconds, then that's where it will stay.
Now it's coming to the finish and there's a real conundrum in the pack. Columbia has been running all the finishes so far, but they're stuck between a rock and a hard place: if they do their usual dominant lead in, then they'll erase George's gap and he'll lose the yellow, but if they don't, then Cav might lose sprint points to Thor, who, to Columbia's surprise, managed to regain the green jersey just yesterday.
Here's where Garmin comes in. Jonathan Vaughters and Matty White are some smart dudes, and they realize that Astana has unwittingly moved Columbia into a checkmate position. If Garmin takes over the finish, then it's a triple win for them: 1) it protects Wiggo and CVV, their GC guys, since an uncontrolled finish is a danger, 2) they get to pay back Columbia for all the crap Cav and co. said about them in the Giro, and 3) by paying back Columbia, they send a message to the peloton that even though Garmin is a young team, you don't fuck with them.
And they're sick too. The don't quite erase the gap. Instead, they leave Columbia to do the last kilo, driving the knife into themselves. Columbia is in the weird position of trying to win the sprint as slowly as possible. And Cav, the rookie, blows it spectacularly. He wants to beat Thor by just a tiny bit, but either intentionally or not -- he may have just lost sight of Thor and was weaving because he was looking for him -- he illegally blocks Thor against the barriers and gets relegated.
Now Columbia has lost George's yellow and likely lost Cav's green for the duration, as the relegation leaves Cav way down.
Moral of the story: don't trust Astana, and don't fuck with Garmin.
Losers: Columbia (big) and Astana
But flat stages are boring.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
That was brutal to watch.