Not Dead Yet

After writing an obituary for this year’s Tour de France, the race has been completely turned on its ear. First, on Tuesday, favorite Floyd Landis cracked in a most spectacular fashion, losing nearly nine minutes to his competitors. How spectacular was it? Nearly everyone in the peleton was shocked at the result. Oscar Pereiro (he of the 30 minute let-him-he’s-not-a-factor breakaway) reclaimed the yellow jersey, and suddenly Carlos Sastre of Team CSC and Andreas Kloden of T-Mobile were in the hunt as well. Commentators everywhere were writing eulogies for Landis and his chances to even make the podium.

What a difference a day makes.

While many other riders might be crushed by such a performance, Landis came back and rode the sort of stage he should ridden on L’Alpe D’Huez. With 128km left in the stage, Landis left his rivals, and never looked back. While CSC and T-Mobile were surprised, they were (rightfully) slow to react, expecting that Landis might burn the wick too early, and crack yet again before the day’s last, most difficult climb, the Col de Joux-Plane (which has the distinction of breaking a certain Texan a few years ago). The gamble by Sastre, Kloden, and Pereiro did not pay off, as they could only manage to limit Landis’ gains to five minutes, which, thanks to time bonuses, vaulted Landis into third overall, only 30 seconds adrift of Pereiro.

While it is tempting to write the storyline for tomorrow’s transitional stage to include a big break by Landis or Kloden or Sastre, look for Discovery to perhaps leave a final mark on the race by looking to get Hincapie or Popovych away in an early break. CSC’s Jens Voight will also likely be active, and Sastre will not need him. The race will come down to Saturday’s individual time trial, and it is hard not to like Landis’ chances. He finished over a minute ahead of Pereiro and Sastre in the race’s first TT, so he merely needs a solid ride, where Sastre or Pereiro need the ride of their lives to pull out a win.