Wow! What a great Tour this has been and what a wild tour stage 9 today! It featured more incredibly steep mountain climbs, fast descents, numerous attacks, the crash of Joseba Beloki (sadly is out of the Tour) and a wild off-road adventure for Lance Armstrong.
I was listening to the stage today live while working and heard the call, with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen just about going crazy when Beloki went down in melted blacktop, followed by Lance immediately jumping off-road to avoid running over the injured Beloki. So far I've not been able to round up a video off the crash and off road jaunt, but even the pictures seem amazing.
"I decided to do a bit of cyclo cross!" said Armstrong. "I was really scared. It was the reflexes of a survivor."
Lance must have been working completely on instinct as he veered onto the grass and cut the corner backward. He actually had to pop his feet off the pedals and jump off the grass median, which was a few feet higher than road level, then remounted his bike. He caught the rest of the field and eventually pulled in close enough to the lead riders to stay in the yellow jersey by 21 seconds, ahead of Alexandre Vinokourov, who won the stage. All of the mountain biking he does in the off-season paid of today!
Armstrong also commented on the loss of fellow rider Joseba Beloki:
"He was racing the race, and racing aggressively. It's a shame to see a guy who's out there, who's a real threat to the race, going down like that."
I'm also still amazed that Tyler Hamilton, who is riding these mountains with a fractured collar bone while other riders who have much fewer problems are dropping out. Amazing. I'm incredibly impressed at Hamilton's drive and resolve to continue even in pain and on top of that, attack Armstrong on the mountains. I have no idea how he does it.
On a personal cycling note, I was privileged to enjoy a great road ride on Saturday with a few friends Southwest of Milwaukee on some very pretty country roads. I've been feeling better and better, and my power climbing hills seems to be coming back.
My road bike is now with a mechanic friend of mine, being tuned up a bit, so I'm riding my mountain bike. All I can say is, I really appreciate how much difference narrow road tires and lighter frame can make when climbing a long hill. I like my mountain bike, but I can't wait for my road bike to return, that's for sure. :-)
(Photo: Joel Saget/Agence France-Presse)