Running In Circles
Wednesday, July 8th
Hey, it's a consecutive number day: 07-08-09!
I wasn't expecting the break to stay clear today. The stage seemed perfect for a big bunch sprint. Apparently, no one wanted to help Team Columbia chase, and they were content to let the break go.
Columbia rider and Green Jersey wearer Mark Cavendish was still the best of the rest, coming in third to collect more points for the Green Jersey race. Farrar finished fourth, so he's still in the running, too.
The victory was quite the coup for Thomas Voeckler. He attacked at the perfect moment, launching himself around a corner just as the rider in front sat up. One of the riders behind tried to follow, but was blocked by the slower riders.
Voeckler sprang clear and stayed ahead. Except for a Katusha rider, Mikhail Ignatiev, who was caught on the line, the rest of the six-man break was swept up by the peloton.
Earlier in the race, Fabian Cancellara, the Yellow Jersey wearer, moved to the front and took a massive pull into the crosswind. He shredded the peloton into three or four echelons. There was almost 60k to go, though, so the group eventually came back together.
Robert Gesink crashed into a ditch just before big move. He came up bloodied, and he kept pulling his left hand off the handlebars to shake it out or rest it on his leg. I suspected a broken wrist.
He managed to finish the stage 10 minutes off the back, but he later withdrew. A trip to the doctor revealed he had, indeed, fractured his wrist. Denis Menchov will miss him the mountains, that's for sure.
Tomorrow — Stage Six: Girona to Barcelona – 181.5km
This stage is a little but lumpy towards the end, and there is a punchy little climb about 2k from the finish. A bunch sprint looks doubtful. Conventional logic says this stage should go to a "sprinter who can climb." Since Alejandro Valverde isn't racing this year, that leaves Oscar Freire as the favorite.
I'm going to break with conventional wisdom, however, and pick Tony Martin to win the stage. He's proved he can survive in the hills by winning the King of the Mountains at the Tour de Suisse, and he's a strong time trialist who can hold off the group as he charges down the last kilometer of a stage.
I don't think, however, that the stage is near tough enough for him to make up the 52 seconds he needs to take the Yellow Jersey. Cancellara's not a great climber, but he can power up the hills when he needs to.