Saturday, July 22, 2006


Today's stage is the next-to-last of the Tour, another individual time trial -- the event in which Joost specializes -- and right now, this moment, he is third overall in that event, having finished only 22 seconds behind the first-placed rider. However, there are still a couple dozen riders on the course or yet to depart and he's certain to be beat out by quite a few of them by the time the race is over.

[Update: It's over. Joost came in 12th out of the 140 finishers, just a bit more than four minutes off the winning time. The winner's average speed over the 57 kilometers of the stage was 50.479 kph. That translates to 31.37 mph -- mind boggling! -- so Joost did very well in my view, averaging better than 30 mph himself and beating quite a few big-name racers. He was the highest placed Rabo rider, half a minute ahead of the next one, Denis Menchov. Floyd Landis came in third, taking enough time off his rivals for the yellow jersey to give him overall victory after tomorrow's largely ceremonial stage into Paris.]

This week, the three stages of Tour de France in the Swiss Alps were as dramatic as professional cycling offers. Floyd Landis, one of my improbable sports heroes, excelled in the first stage, bombed really badly in the second, and came back in the third to so dominate his opponents as to leave them flabbergasted. The Rabo team did well as Michael Rasmussen took this second Alps stage, the hardest one of the Tour. He did it in commanding fashion, leading a break over all four of its cols and earned thereby a commanding lead in the King of the Mountains competition and a huge bonus for being the first to cross the highest peak in this years route. Through it all, Rabo's Denis Menchov managed to keep himself in the top six riders in overall classification. There was even some family news on the team as Oscar Freire received permission to visit his wife and newborn son (of one day!) on this week's rest day. He came back to participate in the first two Alps stages and then an illness forced him to leave Tour (though highly placed in the sprinters' competition at the time). Joost meanwhile took off in a couple of early escapes on days one and two, but then simply struggled to hang on. (At one point, he actually got a nose bleed from the altitude and intensity of his exertion).

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