Stage 13 - Ka-BOOM.

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Hurricane Lance came to town today, leaving destruction in its wake. Surely, this is the stage we'll look back on as the day of reckoning in this year's Tour.

Other than Lance痴 dominating climb today, all of us who made a host of pre-tour predictions are scrambling to get reoriented, because everything just changed. Sure, Lance won his first stage of this year痴 Tour (if you don稚 count the team time trial win) and is only :22 out of yellow now, but what happened to all the other riders, no one could have predicted. The favorites are no longer Ullrich, Mayo, and Hamilton. They致e been usurped by Ivan Basso, Toschnig, and Kloden.

Granted this was a stage of Herculean proportions. No less than seven cols. With 15,000 feet of vertical climbing. (You know that little climb up Mt. Everest from base camp? These guys did that much just this afternoon.) We expected a shakeup. But not one like this. In the words of Jason Lee from the OLN 鼎yclysm� commercials, 釘ehold:�

First, Haimar Zubeldia abandons early in the race with 188km to go. This guy got 6th in the Tour last year.

Then預nd I still don稚 really believe it葉he before-today unconquerable Tyler Hamilton abandons the Tour, unable to put up with his back pain any longer. If there痴 any guy who can suffer, it痴 Tyler. So this must have been truly unbearable. I still don稚 know the full story, but just looking at his position on the bike yesterday one could tell his body was not cooperating. But with his few early crashes and the death of his beloved dog, he壇 been dealt a few more bad cards than he could handle. And when this is your third straight year of dealing with tragedies (broken collarbone last year, broken shoulder in the Giro the year before), sooner or later you reach your limit. But God bless you for coming this far, Tyler. We know you fought as hard as you could, and look forward to your inevitable comeback.

And then, since bad things always happen in threes悠ban Mayo first falls over twelve minutes off the leading group, then ABANDONS. This was the guy who ruled the slopes of Ventoux with an iron fist only five weeks ago. And now he痴 dropped out of the Tour like an exhausted domestique. A few minutes down, sure, but dropped out?! Abandoned? It can稚 be true. He痴 got his Alpe d辿uez title to defend, doesn稚 he? It just goes to show how absolutely far you can fall in this sport once your luck turns. Still don稚 know the real reason he痴 out, but it simply appears like mere discouragement at this point. Perhaps he fell and we didn稚 see it (the race only finished an hour ago, so more info is forthcoming), but we池e all disappointed.

And, in perhaps a fourth installment of bad luck, Roberto Heras crashes. He rejoins the group, but would eventually finish 51st. Over 21 minutes in arrears of Lance. So much for leaving Postal for finer pastures. Better luck in the GC next year, Heras.

Meanwhile, up the slopes of the cruel and unusual Plateau de Beille, US Postal lit up the afterburners and ripped the peloton to shreds. They were truly weapons of mass destruction, leaving guys like Jan Ullrich to peel off the back like someone was towing him in the opposite direction. Chechu and Azevedo were truly earning their salaries today.

In the end, after all the breakaways were pulled back in, in the final 10k it was a complete replay of yesterday痴 stage. There they were, Lance and Basso, fighting it out for supremacy of the Pyerenees. But today, Basso was actually doing some work, unlike yesterday where he coasted along in Lance痴 draft. But we all knew what would happen in the end; no way was Lance going to give up this stage. He wanted confirmation of his dominance. And with about 800m to go, he sat up and zipped up his jersey. Now there痴 only one reason you do this: you intend to win the stage and want your sponsors� logos to be perfectly clear to the TV cameras when you cross the line. Less seasoned pros often fail to consider this when they win atop of a mountain. But not Lance. So when he zipped it up, we all knew the stage was his. Because if he zipped it up, he KNEW he was going to have no problem coming around Basso. And the four of us watching the TV in our hotel room simultaneously raised our beers in celebration when said zipper was zipped. And 20 seconds later, the stage was his.

As it should have been.

So unless there are any unique developments (like Lance crashing or getting acute appendicitis in the next week) this Tour is his. His main rivals are so far back they can稚 even see the podium. (if I were Jan, I'd line up a good therapist right now. He's gonna need it after watching yet another Tour slip away.) And the new threats (Basso & Kloden) while strong, aren稚 really expected to make much more progress. Hard to believe it痴 over already, but Lance is just that dominant right now. After he got that 2nd in the prologue葉he way he was standing and sprinting the whole way through悠 think we all knew he was back. And out for vengeance. I won稚 be surprised if he wins this year痴 tour by his largest margin yet.

But there are 7 more stages to go. A lot can happen. And I hope it will.

As for my fellow friends, JJ spent the day still waiting for his bike to arrive from British Airlines (I can稚 believe he痴 not in front of their office picketing by now), while my roommate Todd and I got in a beautiful 60 mile ride all along the south end of Lac Leman in Switzerland, ending up in Geneva, right on the border of France. Actually, the whole south side of the lake is essentially France, so technically we biked so far we ended up in a different country today. Sort of.

It was a beautiful ride, as these pics should explain. Tomorrow we head into the Alpes for a good climb, while the Tour enjoys a flat stage (only 900 ft of climbing) and then a rest day after that. Apologies for those of you who couldn稚 access the site for a day. We had some technical difficulties, but all seems fixed now. Keep tuning in. It should be good for the duration.

The fountain in Lac Leman.

View from our hotel room.

My roommate, Todd, soaking up the views.

Halfway around Lac Leman.
That's no WalMart...

Cheers and stay tuned.

1 Comment

Great report! I felt as though I was right there without having to endure the agony of conquering mountains on the bike. I was so sorry to hear that Tyler dropped out after all that he went through to finish last year. Brent will be crushed! Do some riding for me! Love, M

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