What's Cool In Road Cycling

TDF’07 St.8: A Chicken Hero With A Little Mayo

Day two of the Alpine expedition for our Tour heroes this year, and it was a short sharp shocker. Six classified climbs including the vicious Cormet de Roseland and the final drag to Tignes. The serrated profile of the stage was the launch pad for a glorious yellow jersey coup by one of the ‘forgotten’ favorites for the overall.

Incredibly, the new Maillot Jaune is…Michael ‘Chicken’ Rasmussen, after a spell-binding performance through the Alps. The two-time mountain king gave the field another kicking, with a one-man race demolition. No help asked for by Rasmussen, and, quite honestly, none required.

Michael Rasmussen grinds the last little bit to the line for the stage, the dots, and yellow.

He left the main field midway through the stage – like a recalcitrant lover, he didn’t even turn to wave goodbye. The divorce took a little time to finalise, as a couple of pesky hangers-on did their best to stick with Rasmussen. He definitely got the best of the settlement though – a stage win, a shed load of points for the KOM, and a shiny new yellow jersey.

By the time the riders had crested the Col de l’Epine, after 25kms, we’d had as much action as we got in all the mountains of last year’s Tour. Stefan Schumacher had the points as the main field gave an early break no leeway in blistering temperatures.

The sprinters were in trouble from the word “Go!” – Cavendish opting to bail after 35kms of action, to save himself from burn-out. He got enough publicity out of the London depart to keep the paymasters happy, though, even if the sprints didn’t go to plan.

By climb number three (Col de Tamie) Thomas Voeckler had been busy, but caught by a big group including Mr G. Hincapie of North Carolina, Mick Rogers, Jens Voigt and David Millar.

The peloton was losing a bit of ground, but T-Mobile seemed unconcerned – they had Gerdemann in yellow and Rogers up front … so they looked around to see who’d step up to help out.

The answer was Rabobank, working for Rasmussen and Menchov.

The front group was hovering around 90 seconds clear, and the attacks were being launched by Bernard Kohl and Toni Colom. It wasn’t enough to hold off Rasmussen who jumped from the peloton and roared through the flailing breakaway survivors.

Over the top of the Cormet de Roselend, it was a magnificent, if sweaty, seven leading the way – Rasmussen (Rabobank), Kohl (Gerolsteiner), Rogers (T-Mobile), Le Mevel (Credit Agricole), Colom (Astana), Arroyo from Caisse d’ Epargne and Goubert (Ag2r).

Michael Rogers took his Tour destiny into his own hands today and put himself into the vital break…but his luck ran out after that when he went down…and his Tour ended soon after.

On the descent Rogers crashed heavily – he remounted to continue the helter-skelter trip down to the valley in Bourg St Maurice, but he was in trouble once the adrenaline started to wear off, and sadly abandoned after going backwards when Rasmussen hit the gas. O’Grady fell, too, and headed for hospital – looks like he wasn’t too badly hurt, though.

Rasmussen shelled everyone except Colom and Arroyo – that pair either didn’t want to contribute, or simply couldn’t contribute as they did precisely zero % of the work on the climb.

The gap to the main contenders was gaping like a big, ugly wound – Rasmussen on a serious mission, blazing up the gradients like a madman.

Onto the last climb to Tignes – fireworks going off. Rasmussen is possessed and has probably not considered that he is putting himself into the box seat to go for the overall. Moreau attacks the peloton just as Astana seem to be getting their super-domestique-laden act together.

Vinokourov struggled valiantly today, but lost more time.

Iban Mayo flies past Moreau and sets off after Rasmussen. Yes, you read correctly IBAN MAYO, the revived, Mayo of old! Savoldelli is driving for a seemingly revived Kloden and Vino. Valverde, Kashechkin, Evans, Popovych and Contador get up to Mayo. It’s glorious stuff – tomorrow is a rest day, so everyone is going to the abyss today.

Gerdemann rode tough today and still remains 2nd overall.

Rabobank upped the pace for Menchov, even though Rasmussen was flying to the stage win, having long since ditched Arroyo. He hits the line and celebrates another bravura performance of long-distance guts and class. Mayo gets second after escaping the chasers with Valverde leading home Moreau, Schleck and Evans.

He got the win, and his coveted Dots at the end of the day, but he got something else as well…

Big kudos to Linus Gerdemann for a brave and composed performance securing second overall going into the secons full week. Let’s see what he can do between now and the Pyrenees.

…the Maillot Jaune…and a healthy overall lead.

After the stage, Iban Mayo commented: ”To tell you the truth, I was hoping to be in the lead, because yesterday I felt fine. But the Tour is a treacherous race, and you can never be 100 percent sure. In the early kilometres I could see that I was OK, so I knew Iґd be fighting for a leading position. When Rasmussen broke clear and began to open a gap, I realised that winning the stage was going to be extremely difficult. Before the final climb, his advantage was so huge that victory was no longer a possibility to me.

“At the foot of the mountain, Moreau launched an attack and I jumped clear behind him with Valverde. Then there came Evans, Contador, Kashechkin, and Schleck, but they didnґt seem to be willing to cooperate. We were running into the wind, so drafting was the most comfortable option. This balanced forces, but Moreau was riding too easily.”

“Itґs a pity that we couldnґt hold off the Vinokourov group. With 500 metres to the top, I launched an attack to get the bonus points and seconds, and I succeeded. After having been through such a bad patch in the last editions of the Tour, being here, safe and sound, smells like victory to me. My only clear goal is scoring a stage win, as I said before coming here. Of course, the GC is tempting; stepping onto the final podium should be very nice. But the Tour is a very difficult race, so we should take it easy, step by step, living it by the day. The important thing is keeping this feeling, the sensations I felt today. And then, if a stage win or even something bigger comes, weґll all be very glad.”

A staggering day’s racing, and the promise of more to come on Tuesday – keep it PEZ for all the feedback.

Stage 8 Le Grand Bornand – Tignes 165km

1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 4hrs 49’ 40”
2 Iban Mayo (Spa) Saunier Duval + 2’ 47”
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’ Epargne + 3’ 12”
4 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Ag2r + 3’ 13”
5 Frank Schleck (Lux) CSC
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto
7 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana all same time
8 Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery Channel + 3’ 31”
9 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank + 3’ 35”
10 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC same time

General Classification After Stage 8

1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 35hrs 37’ 42”
2 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) T-Mobile + 43”
3 Iban Mayo Diez (Spa) Saunier Duval + 2’ 39”
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne + 2’ 51”
5 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana + 2’ 52”
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor – Lotto + 2’ 53”
7 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2r + 3’ 06”
8 Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery Channel + 3’ 10”
9 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC + 3’ 14”
10 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank + 3’ 19”

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