Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Graham Watson Checks In......


I’ll take back part of what I said yesterday – Alberto Contador might yet win this Tour de France! The Spanish rider from Team Discovery Channel almost turned the Tour on its head this afternoon in a cleverly planned, brilliantly-executed series of moves that had race leader Michael Rasmussen struggling to stay in control. Only Johan Bruyneel could concoct such superb tactics and (almost) get away with it, but in the end it is his riders that must take great credit for racing the way they did. Right from the point when Popovych escaped on the Col d’Iseran, Discovery were on the rampage – and there was little anyone else could do about it. Gusev joined Popovych after the Iseran to force Rabobank to chase hard, tiring out all their riders except for Rasmussen. And when Contador launched his dynamic series of moves on the Galibier, it looked as if the Yellow Jersey was heading Discovery’s way…

Ironically, in hindsight, Contador went too hard – his compatriot Valverde was unable to get across to him, meaning another Caisse d’Epargne rider, Ivan Gutierrez, used his pursuiting skills to chase Contador and Popovych down on the 35-kilometre descent before the finish. Had Valverde managed to get away with Contador on the Galibier, I think we’d now be drinking a few glasses of champagne in Gap – and looking at a potential Tour victory for Discovery Channel. Certainly, Rasmussen should have lost his lead today, for it was only thanks to Gutierrez that the Discovery move failed, well that and the nasty headwind that sapped Contador and Popovych’s strength. But instead of being disappointed, Contador and his mates can now see further possibilities in the Pyrenees, where two summit finishes should play well into Discovery’s hands. Today had a feel of Paris-Nice about it – remember it took three stages and three attacks before Contador won that race. I bet the little guy cannot wait to get to next Sunday, and launch another attack or two!

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