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Bastille Day

July 15, 2011

Of course, while I rode 103km today, the Tour de France covered 211km and climbed the Tourmalet before finishing at Luz Ardiden. Pas mal, as the French might say. To boot, it was Bastille Day. The day started with a Frenchman in jaune, and finished just the same way. Thomas Voeckler had dismissed his chances of keeping the yellow jersey ahead of today’s stage. He’s not a pure climber, and he expected some of the favorites to put some real distance on him. One of the great images from today’s stage was watching his teammate Pierre Rolland help him to the line, only 50 seconds down on the day’s winner. Keeping the jersey for another day. There was a touching moment as Voeckler and Rolland crossed the line together. Voeckler put out his hand to thank and acknowledge his teammate. Rolland rolled in closer for an embrace. Both men looked shattered.

Tomorrow’s stage might have been made for Voeckler were he not already in yellow (would anyone let him join a breakaway?) and if today’s stage hasn’t taken too much out of him already. But it’s been great to see him defend the jersey and surprise even himself.

Going forward, what to expect? The Schleck brothers looked strong today. They were useless at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in towing Philippe Gilbert to the finish, but they seemed to more creative today, taking turns attacking the contenders who had separated themselves from the pack, and stretching them—especially Contador—to their limit. Older brother Fränk won some crucial seconds today, but he’s been prone to losing time in the final week of the Tour, so it’s a bit early to conclude that Team Leopard-Trek will be working for him in the coming mountain stages. I also don’t think we’ve seen the best of Contador just yet; he may well be able to put some serious time into the other contenders, perhaps in the Alps next week.

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