SOLER SOLOS. Relatively unknown and unheralded and riding in his first Tour de France, Mauricio Soler of Colombia (in photo) challenged the best on Mt. Galibier to finished 38 seconds ahead of an elite group of mountain specialists and Tour favorites on the last and most difficult stage in the French Alps. It was glory for Colombia and a dream for Soler's team, Barloworld, a South African squad featuring Robbie Hunter that made it into the Tour de France as a wild card.
THE CONTENDERS TOGETHER. Behind Soler was a small group of the main contenders for the Tour de France, minus Alexandre Vinokourov, who fell over 8 minutes behind the race leader. Of note: Alejandro Valverde finished second and showed he is in great form for a top three finish in Paris. Levi Leipheimer finished in the top ten, moved up to 9th place in the overall standings, and demonstrated he's truly a contender. My sentimental favorite from France, Christophe Moreau finished well, too, climbing to 6th place in the GC.
DISCOVERY CHANNEL TEAM ROCKS. Team Discovery was, by far, the best team on the day. The American-based squad featured Yaroslav Popovych and Alberto Contador (in photo) in a great breakaway and Leipheimer in the group of contenders. Contador finished 4th today and is in 5th place overall. He's proving to be the best climber on Discovery, so far. Leipheimer, however, carefully marked his main rivals. He indicates he'll make his move in the Pyrenees and in the individual time trials in the week to come.
GALIBIER VISTAS. I love to watch the fans! Hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic fans turned out, as usual, for the climb up to Mt. Galibier. Many camped out overnight or rode their bicycles up the grand mountain to take in the vistas and to cheer on the Tour de France participants as they struggled up the hairpin turns and steep grades. Among today's observers of the Tour was new French President Sarkozy, riding along in the Tour Director's car. There is no sport that provides such immediate and intense fan access like this. I've got to do this...sometime in the next twenty years or so.