Sunday, July 18, 2010


There were plenty of fireworks on the first two major climbs in the Pyrenees mountains.  But no shake-up of the Tour de France leaders, as many had expected.

Instead, a 29-year-old Frenchman named Christophe Riblon made the most of his participation in a day-long breakaway and attacked his rivals on the steeps of the highest-category Port de Pailheres.  Riblon cleared the peak first, flew down the mountain and held on to his lead during the steep climb to Axe3-Domaines.

Riblon solidified the impression the French riders are making on this Tour de France.  Thus far, the French have won more stages than in any Tour in recent history.

Riblon stayed ahead of the cat-and-mouse game that was taking place between Yellow Jersey wearer Andy Schleck and second-placed Alberto Contador.  Contador repeatedly attacked Schleck, who stuck to his wheel like glue. Ultimately, the two had to call a truce because fourth-place Denis Menchov took advantage of their epic duel to charge ahead and cut into their lead. At the end of the climb, Menchov and third-place Samuel Sanchez cut only a few seconds into the leaders' times.

USA's Levi Leipheimer's chances of a podium finish took a bit of hit, as he lost more precious seconds to Schleck and fell further behind Menchov and Sanchez.  Nothing that can't be overcome, but Levi, currently in 7th place, is going to have to have a breakout stage to move up the standings.

I'm still anticipating, also, that Lance Armstrong will try to claim a stage in his last competitive ride through the fabled Pyrenees.

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