Running In Circles
Wednesday, July 23rd
Yesterday morning, I started to feel a little tickle in the back of my throat. By the afternoon, it was quite sore, and it pained me to swallow. I decided to skip my run and recuperate by watching five hours of Tour de France coverage. That night, I could barely sleep. I would wake up from the pain of swallowing. By my estimation, I got about two hours of sleep. I went to work this morning, but I was so miserable and it was so hard to concentrate that I went home early. At home, I looked around and found some cold medicine. I took it and finally felt well enough to sleep for about four hours.
Once I got up, I watched a few hours of the Alpe d'Huez stage before I decided I better put in some miles. Nothing clears out a stuffed up head better than a quick jog. Once I got going, I felt great—from the neck down, anyway. In fact, my legs felt so good, I ended up going six miles instead of four. I imagine that skipping both hard workouts this week is why I felt good. Although I'm nervous about how the missed training will affect my big race, it's nice to know that my legs feel thrashed because I've been working hard, not because I've grown weak.
Tuesday's stage did little to upset the GC, other than sending Christian Vande Velde down a few minutes. It looks like the podium has slipped from his grasp. George Hincapie just missed out on a good chance for a stage win when he tailed off the back of the day's winning breakaway.
Today's stage up the Alpe d'Huez was awesome. Although it moved the GC around a little bit, it's still a tight race. Carlos Sastre would have been my pick to win the stage if I hadn't gone to bed early because of a sore throat, but I guess it doesn't count since I didn't post it before I watched the stage. He did manage to get a little more time than I expected, but I don't know if it will be enough to hold of Cadel Evans. In 2006, however, Sastre rode a pretty good second time trial—he only lost 61 seconds to Evans and nine seconds to Menchov. He is just one of those guys who goes well in the third week. If Evans and Menchov are tired, Sastre could keep the Yellow Jersey all the way to Paris.
Vande Velde managed to stay with the group today, but sitting in the overall with 6th place at 4:41 back, I don't see him finishing any higher than fourth. Bernard Kohl and Frank Schleck are both over three minutes ahead of him, but they're the only riders really in reach. Unless Sastre, Menchov, or Evans blow up in the time trial or suffer some setback on the next two stages, I don't see Vande Velde standing on the podium.
Stage Eighteen: Bourg d'Oisans to Saint Étienne — 196.5 Kilometers
With a jagged profile that includes a Category 2 climb 33 kilometers from the finish and a steep Category 4 climb only 8 kilometers from the finish, tomorrow's stage screams breakaway. It's just about impossible to predict a winner on stage like this, as the riders allowed into a breakaway will by domestiques from teams with no highly-placed GC riders. Look for a lot of Bouygues Telecom, Agritubel, Credit Agricole, and Cofidis jerseys to go up the road. With no real clue, I'm going to pick Philippe Gilbert for the win. He's a real headbanger, and if he gets up the road with a small group, he should be able to ride away from them and cruise to victory.