Saturday, July 28, 2007

STAGE 19 - LEVI WINS...AND SO CLOSE TO YELLOW

ERASE ALL DOUBTS. He rode the time trial of his life. Erase all doubts that Levi Leipheimer (in photo) was never a real contender for the Yellow Jersey. Stop all talk about him not having a killer instinct. Strike the word "mild" from your association with "Leipheimer." Stand down all you doubters. Behold the unheralded, quiet American who just rode the 4th fastest time trial in the history of the Tour de France.

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN'. Going into this penultimate stage, I was thinking primarily about how Cadel Evans would likely overtake Alberto Contador for the Yellow Jersey by just a few seconds. I was not thinking that Levi Leipheimer would ride a significantly faster time trial than the Australian. I was not thinking he could erase a 2-minute 49-second gap between himself and Contador. But the Californian stole the show. What an inspired 55.5-kilometer ride clocked at an average of 32.99 mph.

1-2-3 FINISH. Result? Levi wins his first stage of the Tour de France and solidifies an honored place on the podium in Paris tomorrow. Contador (in photo) lost time to both Evans and Leipheimer, but holds on to a 23-second lead over Evans and a 31-second edge over Leipheimer. With this ride, Leipheimer came within 8 seconds of moving into second place and just over half a minute from the Yellow Jersey. Incredible!


CLOSEST EVER TdF FINISH. If neither Evans (in photo) nor Leipheimer pull a fast one tomorrow, it will be the closest 1-2-3 finish in the history of the Tour de France. If the Australian or American decide to contest for the tour championship in Stage 20, the final times could be even closer. Levi won't challenge, for sure; he won't try to upstage his 24-year old Discovery Channel teammate. But if I were in Cadel Evans' shoes, just 23 seconds out of the championship... it may not be just the sprinters who are jockeying for points on the Champs-Elysees.

PARIS ON THE HORIZON. For all the disappointment due to doping and deception in this edition of the Tour de France, today did not disappoint. All 141 cyclists rode themselves that much closer to Paris. Some, like Leipheimer, left everything they had on the road--a complete kenosis. Leipheimer may not stand at the pinacle of the podium in Paris, but he proved today that he belongs on the podium--no doubt about it.

4 comments:

emma said...

such a shame about those 10 seconds he was penalized. they cost him second place!

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm just a biscuithead American, but I'm a bit puzzled by the fact that the day starts with Contador ahead by fewer than 30 seconds and everyone sort of looks at this as a done deal. I mean, the last day is 146 km! It seems possible to pick up that amount of time over that much distance. I suspect that there's something here to do with this "bonus time" system and teams like Discovery making sure that a guy like Cadel Evans doesn't pick up any of these bonuses. Am I right? More important, how does this work.

I think it's kind of lame that the last day is a victory lap. This is a race! So let's see racing!

Ron said...

Re. stages 19 & 20:
Go Levi, Contador & Discovery,
To all who doubted them (incl. bike-hiker & verses broadcasters) just remember Levi's and Bruneels strategy next time; save the best for last, even if it means less headlines (and glory) on the early stages.
Afterall, isn't this the only strategy to have on any ultra-endurance endeavor?
Yea, Levi is not traditionally great at TT, (and was handicapped as such) but with the chips on the table, watch out!
I wittnessed this personally at the Solvang TT last Feb., Where Levi and Jens Voit stole the show, only two to finish in under 30 min., and cementing their 1 - 2 Tour de California finish.
Re. stage 20, Disco probably could have powered Levi to 2nd place over Evans, but it was a show of class to call a truce and play it safe, let the standings stand pat into Paris.
And, even though the first 17 stages got ugly at times with controversy, Levi, Contador, Discovery & Cadel Evans helped perk it up a bunch the last 3 stages, making the '07 Tour very memorable for more than just dopeing scandals.

Thanks bike-hiker for enhanceing the race "for the rest of us", I look forward to the next classic bike race.

bikehiker said...

Good observation. Peak at the right time. Levi kept saying he was hoping to ride into peak form later in the race; said he had peaked too early in previous endeavors. So, you're right on.