Today the race evolved into the dual we were all expecting: Astana vs. Saxo Bank. We knew the Schleck’s would mount the most serious threat to Astana’s race leadership, but we didn’t know that by the end of the stage Contador's rivals might now be his only allies. They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer; but what if you can't tell who's who?
It appears Saxo Bank has conceded the race to Contador—at least until Ventoux, when all bets might be off—more content today to try and take time from the riders they deem threats to Andy and Frank Schleck’s places on GC.
Contador seems to be getting a bit flustered (as he tends to do); his attack with 2km left to the summit of the Colombière did nothing more than drop his teammate Andreas Kloden. One can only wonder how many supporters Contador has left within his team; hopefully it won’t come back to bite him by the time the race gets to Paris.
At this point, Contador might have better support from his rivals, namely the Schleck’s, whom he was frequently seen talking to on the descent of the Colombière. And it makes sense: Lance Armstrong was clearly chasing Kloden who in turn was chasing Contador and the Schleck's. Can you blame the guy for being paranoid? Why put yourself at risk for later attacks from your own teammates?
The stage was a peace offering to the Schleck's; Contador knows he’ll gain time on them in tomorrow’s ITT, conceding the stage today might mean a bit less animosity on Ventoux—from them. What he can expect from his own teammates is anyone’s guess. Once again, I’d love to be a fly on the wall in Astana’s hotel tonight.
To me the stage’s most striking image was that of Armstrong, isolated over the top of the Colombière, chasing alone to protect his place on GC. When was the last time we saw that?
And you? What stood-out? What are your thoughts for tomorrow and the days beyond?
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