The 2006 Tour de France: a still-murky picture

News & Results

07/13/2006| 0 comments
by David Cohen
Juan Miguel Mercado takes the stage win. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Juan Miguel Mercado takes the stage win. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.

The 2006 Tour de France: a still-murky picture

In other times, especially the most recent reign of Lance Armstrong, such a finish would not have been possible ? especially not on a mountain stage.

In other times, especially the most recent reign of Lance Armstrong, such a finish would not have been possible ? especially not on a mountain stage.


But it happened today. Two rank outsiders finished more than seven minutes in front of the peloton in Stage 10 (Cambo-les-Bains-Pau) after taking the lead after 50 km in the 193-km race over three climbs -- the Col d?Osquich, the Col du Soudet (the most difficult, 14.7 km at 7.3%), and the Col de Marie Blanc.

 


Spaniard Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel) took the honours and his breakaway partner, France?s Cyril Dessel (AG2R-Prevoyance), became the wearer of yellow going into tomorrow?s Stage 11 (Tarbes-Val d?Aran/Pla-de-Beret) , a much greater challenge than Stage10 with five challenging climbs, beginning with the famous Col du Tourmalet ( 18.4 km , 7.7%).


Meanwhile, the General Classification got a pretty good shuffling. Serguei Gonchar (T-Mobile), the wearer of the yellow jersey going into Stage 10, is now third, 3.45 down and Floyd Landis (Phonak), second to Gonchar after Stage 8, slid to fifth position at 4.45.


Gonchar clearly wasn?t up to holding on to the yellow jersey. He began to seriously suffer on the Col du Soudet and wasn?t able to keep up with the T-Mobile train at the front of the peloton. Later he was relegated to a domestique, running water to his more competitive teammates.

 


Landis, who announced on Monday?s rest day that he will undergo hip replacement surgery after the Tour, remains the leading ?contender? in the GC. The quotes are needed because the term contender in the 2006 has become less and less meaningful.


At this point, no rider has put his stamp on the 2006 Tour; perhaps none will, at least not until well into the second phase of mountain stages next week in the
Alps.


Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), sixth in the GC after Landis at 4.53, Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile), ninth at 5.35, Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto), at 5.37, Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel), 15th at 5.55, Denis Menchov (Rabobank) 16th at 5.58, Carlos Sastre (CSC) 18th at 6.12, and George Hincapie (Discovery Channel 19th at 6.15 -- these are the ?contenders? list at this time in the GC.

 

Iban Mayo, based on past performance, was regarded as a contender, given his climbing abilities; but these deserted him today as he struggled early on Col de Soudet and finished153rd in a group that was clocked at 24.24 behind Mercado.


Team T-Mobile clearly dominated the peloton in today?s race as it did in Stage 8?s ITT. It has succeeded Discovery Channel as the Tour?s strongest team. But does T-Mobile have the strongest man in this year?s Tour?


Rogers and Kloden continue to be in the top 10 of the GC, but neither has stepped up to be his team?s main standard-bearer.


Phonak has stayed near the front of the peloton throughout. But can Landis, who we know is in considerable pain due to his injured hip, prevail in what is turning out to be a tough Tour de France? For this team, it is Landis

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