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Editor’s note: Dan Wuori is one of the funniest Twitter bards in the cycling world (follow him at @dwuori). This month, he will be expanding a bit beyond 140 characters to share periodic journals during the Tour de France. Today’s is the ninth.
The competing interests of Philippe Gilbert and his Omega Pharma-Lotto teammates appear to be splintering the Belgian squad. Though not considered a pure sprinter, Gilbert has nonetheless traded the green jersey with Movistar’s Jose Joaquin Rojas throughout week one and his tenacious pursuit of the points classification has clearly put him at odds with teammates — including GC hopeful Jurgen Van Den Broeck (whose own attack Gilbert appeared to chase down during Tuesday’s stage to Mûr-de-Bretagne).
While Ven Den Broeck has remained largely silent on the topic, others have been less restrained. “All I hear all day long is how great Marsha is at this and how wonderful Marsha is at that…Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!” explained Omega Pharma’s German sprinter Jan Brady.
Meanwhile, the doctor who tended to RadioShack’s Chris Horner — who appeared to lay unconscious in a field Friday before inexplicably being permitted to finish the stage — has himself been relegated to pre-med by race officials. Horner abandoned the race Saturday after arriving at the finish concussed and disoriented. The doctor, an internist from Aix-en-Provence, was considered a pre-race favorite in the Tour’s white coat points competition.
Saturday’s 189km stage 8 to the summit of Super Besse (named in honor of Clark Kent’s prized dairy cow) promised — on paper — to be the year’s first significant GC selection opportunity. In reality, a series of high-profile crashes have ensured otherwise with multiple GC favorites (including Contador, Leiphemer and Vande Velde) currently well off pace and others (Wiggins, Horner, and Brajkovic) having since abandoned due to injury.
HTC-Highroad’s Tejay Van Garderen was the star of the day. The American clung to leadership of a small breakaway lasting until just before the summit of Super Besse. Though eventually swallowed up by stage winner Rui Costa (Movistar), Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) and a surging peloton, the 22-year old was awarded with both the polka dot jersey and Saturday’s most aggressive rider designation for his efforts.
As for the anticipated GC selection, Super Besse was rendered anti-climactic. Alberto Contador — expected to attack at will — had his every pedal turn marked by Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans, while Garmin-Cervelo’s Thor Hushovd outpaced even his own predictions by finishing yet another day in yellow.
Sunday’s stage 9 from Issoire to St. Flour is both lengthy (208km) and difficult – with five substantial climbs within 55km of one another. Don’t look for any high-profile GC changes to occur, however, as Contador, Schleck and Evans have again agreed to complete the stage on a three-seat tandem bike.
Dan’s Pick for stage 9: Expect Astana’s Alexander Vinokourov to attack with ferocity as he again seeks an appropriate podium from which to announce he will not be retiring after all.