Russian National Champion Serguei Ivanov of Team Katusha won the stage today with a burst of speed when he attacked out of a long breakaway that nobody could catch.
The story for the day, though, is that George Hincapie missed the Yellow Jersey today by just five seconds, and he's pretty upset about the missed opportunity.
Hincapie was part of a long 12 man breakaway for almost the entire stage today, working to keep the breakaway working together -- almost anyone in the breakaway would have a chance at a stage win today.
The peloton, meanwhile, kept just far enough back to "keep the gap manageable," says Lance Armstrong of Team Astana.
Hincapie - always the bridegroom, never the bride
George Hincapie was Lance Armstrong's perennial lieutenant to Lance Armstrong, assisting in all seven of Armstrong's Tour de France wins beginning in 1999. This skillful rider is legendary for his loyalty and leadership, and when it became clear over the final 50 km or so that Hincapie had a shot at the Yellow Jersey today, many riders within the peloton began cheering for "Big George" of Greenville, South Carolina.
"My vision was George would have Yellow Jersey by two minutes," says Lance Armstrong.
In the final ten kilometers, though -- with some effort, Agr2-La Mondiale knew they could protect Rinaldo Nocentini's Yellow Jersey, and together with Garmin Slipstream they picked up the pace and pulled Nocentini across the finish line.
Although Astana controls the tempo of the race, they're pointing a lot of fingers at Garmin today.
Astana team director Johan Bruyneel: "Bummed, really bummed about George Hincapie not getting yellow. Won't elaborate on the strategies but what Garmin did was just BS. Sorry!"
Lance Armstrong: "George Hincapie deserves to be yellow tonight. He deserves more than that. Look to who pulled the last 50k to see who to blame." That would be Garmin he's talking about.
Slipsteam: Mind the Gap
Many people question Garmin's aggressiveness in chasing the breakaway and denying George Hincapie's lead. Even some members of Team Slipstream are questioning the move, with Dave Zabriskie saying that they're "Pawns in the game" and Bradley Wiggins saying, "[I don't] quite understand what went on today. George Hincapie is a legend and deserves to be in yellow tonight!"
Garmin Slipstream Team Manager Jonathan Vaughters responds to the criticism of a rivalry between the two American teams, though: "That had nothing to do with George or Columbia. Wiggo almost lost 15 seconds the other day due to a split. We can't have that happen again."
Green Jersey and split objectives
Highroad's plan was to put sprinter Mark Cavendish in the Green Jersey today ahead of sprinting rival Thor Hushovd, so they didn't have anybody in the breakaway to help their teammate George Hincapie. When it came time for the team to make their attack to pull Cavendish to the front of the pack, though, Hincapie was within seconds of losing his chance at the Yellow Jersey. They held back just a little and it appeared they even boxed Thor Hushovd in against the barriers. Because of Highroad's hesitation, I believe, Cavendish missed the Green Jersey by just three points today.
Nice blog, glad you didn't jump to conclusions like a lot of so-called "knowledgeable" cycling fans did about Astana. Yeah, Ag2r took over at the 45k mark. The gap had grown to just over 8 min while Astana had been setting the pace. I think when George was told by radio that Astana was leading the peloton earlier, he assumed they had pulled all the way to the final few kilometers. I read some of the live text coverage to get the facts straight. While watching on Versus, I thought it was also odd that GH's own team Highroad was getting into the sprint pretty hard until the last 100 meters when Cav looked around and coasted while pushing Thor over to the edge. Overall, poor tactics by Highroad---they could have disrupted the pace when Ag2r jumped in at 45k to go.
...fully agree, mmurphy...too many "anti-lance"-sters blaming astana...bruyneel, armstrong, et al., have huge massive respect for george & are way too knowledgeable, experienced & in control of their own situation to need to screw up his opportunity...
...ag2r, in yellow understandably played one card & then the unfortunate pissing contest that is evolving between garmin & columbia seems to have played into it...
...lotta arrow slinging, mud throwing, denials & accusations going down between stapleton & vaughters, which is a bloody shame...i thought i respected what they've done w/ their programs but they're both pissant in their treatment of each other...
...& speaking of which, bernard hinault is so pissant these days regarding armstrong, i hope somebody throws his sorry ass off the podium...