SURPRISE, SURPRISE. Oh, my! A day that was supposed to be routine turned into disaster for Christophe Moreau, but glory for Robbie Hunter of the Republic of South Africa.
SAY IT AIN'T SO, MOREAU. Moreau crashed early in the race and then got caught off guard when the Astana team-driven peloton suddenly surged. Before Moreau, riding at the back of the peloton, realized what had occured, he was playing big-time catch up. Moreau's group tried hard to chase, but ultimately finished 3'20" after the stage winner crossed the line in Montpelliar. Some will say Moreau's hopes for a podium finish are fading. But Moreau is capable of wiping out such a deficit with a one-day romp in the Pyrenees. Let's go Moreau!
ROBBIE HUNTER'S DAY TO SHINE. The winner of this flat stage was none other than the only South African in the Tour de France. Robbie Hunter, a sprint specialist from the South African-sponsored team Barloworld, outgunned his rivals--minus those who were caught up in a last-turn crash--on a twisting final kilometer to claim a victory. It was the second stage win for Barloworld in this Tour; Colombian Mauricio Soler won a mountain stage four days ago. It was the first stage win for a South African in the history of the Tour de France. With the win, Hunter also moves up to 2nd place in the sprint points; he could challenge for the Green Jersey!
LEIPHEIMER MOVES UP. Moreau's bad luck translated into a move-up in the standings for American Levi Leipheimer. Moreau falls from 6th to 12th place in the overall standings. Leipheimer, riding for Discovery Channel, moves from 9th to 8th place. Attrition is certainly an allowable way to improve your chances. Howver, Levi is no closer in time to race-leader Michael Rasmussen and the contenders placed 2nd thru 7th.
VINO RALLIES; LOOK OUT! Pre-Tour favorite Alexandre Vinokourov showed signs of ferocity today. Injured in an early-stage crash, Vino has seemed to be barely hanging on...until this stage. The Kazakh put his Astana team on the front of the peloton and pushed the pace to a painful rate. He even tried an escape within the last 3 kilometers. Vino was caught by the sprinters, but it was a show of tenacity, saying: "Don't count me out, boys! I'm back!"