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By Fred Rodriguez, Domo-Farm Frites rider
Going into Saturday’s stage to Colmar, I didn’t know how I was feeling after all of the hard stages. I stayed at the front not because I was trying to attack, but as a tactic for survival.
Again, guys were just attacking from the gun. Finally, on the first climb, it was at full speed, we were flying up that. After a while, though, I was feeling pretty comfortable at the front. When I saw the 1km to go, I kind of shut it down and let a lot of guys go by and rolled down the descent back to the front. I did pretty much the same on all of the climbs.
Romans (Vainsteins) tried letting the guys go a bit on the climbs and let a gap open up by the top. He thought he could catch back up on the descents, but he was wrong. Today, there was not letup. You’d go straight down and then straight back up again — there was no chance to catch back up.
I survived until the second to last climb when Telekom put the hammer down, for what reason they did that, I don’t know. I talked to Kevin (Livingston), and he didn’t even know why they were hammering. I stayed with Zabel thinking that if I were with him maybe we would get back up, since maybe Telekom would try to set something up for him. But they didn’t. We ended up 11 minutes down. Not a bad day, all in all.
I was surprised when I was down on the massage table at how good I felt. Yesterday, I was saying, “Ow, that hurts,” all of the time, but today I was comfortable on the table. You’d think it would be worse after another day of suffering, but somehow your body recovers.
The crowds were incredible today. This is my second Tour, and it was like that when we went into Germany last year. Whenever the Tour comes close to Germany, the crowds are huge. It was pretty heavy today, especially for not being a big mountain stage. It’s like it was in Belgium, where there were also giant crowds.
Today, it seemed like Postal had a lot of guys in the second group. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. They were working hard today. It seems like they have been taking the brunt of doing the work when no one else does it. Protecting Lance, I suppose.
I felt pretty safe on the descents today. The roads were pretty rough, so you didn’t tend to slide out. But if you crashed, it would really hurt on that surface. I didn’t see any corners that were really bad — only if you misjudged them. That’s what I think happened with Christian (Van de Velde). I was right behind him when he crashed. It was just a sharp corner, and it looked like he just took it too fast and went straight off the road.
This isn’t like a criterium where you see the course over and over. In the Tour de France, we’re always going into these corners blind. We don’t know if there’s a cliff on the other side or what. If you’re in a breakaway or trying to catch back on, you might take more of a chance.
We got lucky because there was no real rain today, but weather played a big part in the stage. The course was constantly up and down and it was cold and hot back and forth.
It’s good to see Credit Agricole doing so well. Jens Voight is a workhorse; he’s a tough guy. As a team, they have been riding really well. Bobby (Julich) looks really comfortable to me on the climbs. It’s still an open race. It seems to me that the Telekom and Postal teams are pretty equal, and ONCE is looking good. You’ll have some surprises from the Spanish riders in the mountains.
This year, it seems like the big teams have less control over the race. They let big riders go, like Jalabert today. Everybody knows that most of their races are over after L’Alpe d’Huez and most people are not sprinters, so they are going for it now, trying to get into breaks.
My new stars-and-stripes socks came in today! Now I have almost the whole stars-and-stripes thing going. The shorts are still missing, but that’s it.