TdF and Rally Argentina

Despite Lance Armstrong’s best efforts (including a win in the toughest stage in the Pyrennes), Thomas Voeckler, the young Frenchman, still holds the malliot jaune for another day. Armstrong crushed the other contenders today, leaving behind everyone but Ivan Basso, but it was Voekler who was the day’s hero. Repeatedly dropped off the back of peleton on the toughest climbs, Voeckler managed to minimize the damage, losing all but 22 seconds of his lead over Armstrong. Even Armstrong commended Voeckler for his strength and courage. And Voeckler will keep doubtless keep the yellow jersey for at least one more day — Sunday’s stage is pancake flat, favoring the sprinters and keeping the contenders safely in the pack. Remeber Voeckler’s name — he is young (he’s leading the white jersey standings — for the Tour’s best young rider), so he has plenty of years ahead of him.

By the way, do your think this Basque fellow had some kind words of encourage for Lance on the slopes of the Plateau de Beille?

Also, Tyler Hamilton dropped out of the Tour today, citing back injuries sustained during a week one crash. Seems a bad back is far worse than a broken collarbone…

On to the Rally Argentina. Quite a bit has happened over first two days, but here’s the leaderboard at the moment:

1. Carlos Sainz
2. Sebastien Loeb
3. Francios Duval
4. Mikko Hirvonen

Note the lack of title contenders in that list. A quick rundown of the retirements:

* Markko Martin had a wild, sixth gear, 170kph shunt on day one, sending both Martin and his co-driver to the hospital. Fortunately, both are ok.
* Petter Solberg had several bouts of engine trouble, then rolled his Subaru, ending his rally. He did opt to continue (using the new SupeRally system) and managed to set a scratch time on day two.
* Marcus Gronholm lost a wheel on the final stage of day two, retiring while holding the rally lead. How far the mighty have fallen.

Sainz has a comfortable lead over Loeb, so unless trouble strikes, King Carlos should win. The maximum points Citroen gains in the manufacturer’s race should all but give them the championship this year. And Loeb moves closer to winning the driver’s championship. Solberg (the only driver who really has a shot at this point) has got to win Finland next month, and pray for rain during the tarmac rallies. If conditions are favorable, Loeb has a good chance to sweep the tarmac rounds this season, which would easily give him the championship.