Saturday, September 15, 2007

La Vuelta today

Today's stage of the Tour of Spain is an interesting one, long and hilly with a few small mountains. Rabobank has been fortunate over the past few days. The stages have been mostly flat; challenges coming from the weather (rain and winds) but not the terrain. They've been able to hold on to the overall lead partly because other teams have been motivated to help them chase down the inevitable escapes from the main pack. The other teams to this in order to give their sprinters a chance for victory.

This stage is different not just because of the hills, but because Rabobank has had to control the break all by itself. I expect this is because the hills make it doubtful that a bunch sprint can be set up at the end. Keeping the break in check isn't easy. The stage is almost 130 miles long. So far its being taken at a fast pace, close to 25mph on average.

Rabobank's problem is to keep riders in the break from gaining enough time to threaten the position of Rabo's leader, Denis Menchov. In doing this they can't affor to overextend Joost and the other support riders. There's still a full week left in the race - 7 stages including a second individual time trial.

The stage has been underway for more than 5 hours now and the Rabos are succeeding. They've given the break an 8 minute lead, but since the highest placed racer in the break is 34 minutes behind Menchov, that's not a problem.

Update:The Rabo team delivered Menchov to the finish line in good order. An American on the Discovery Team won the stage: Jason McCartney. The peloton arrived 10 minutes later with Menchov close to but not at the front -- best position for the leader of the race. Joost and the other Rabos did their jobs well.

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