By Kevin Livingston, Team Telekom Rider
Both Tuesday (stage 15, Pau-Lavaur, 232.5km) and Wednesday (stage 16, Castelsarrasin-Sarran, 227.5km) were really hard from the start because they were both just up and down the whole way. Yesterday, there were only 2 or 3 climbs that were categorized (ed. note, there were four), but there were at least 10 or 12 climbs that should have been. I got away in one group, but Botero was in there, so ONCE chased it down. Another we were in, Gonzalez Galdeano was also there, and it got chased right down, too. You have to watch out with those breaks, because guys high on GC. try to slip in unnoticed. We can’t afford to relax, in case a high up guy is in it and they get 25 minutes, and you can only give them 20 minutes, and then you have to chase like crazy later.
Finally 25 guys away, and we were just riding tempo the rest of the way. Still, it got out of hand, because Boogerd got all the way up to 8th. Can a team really control it? It’s too hard to calculate where everybody is. I mean, is a whole team watching out for their guy in 10th place? I guess it’s up to the directeur sportifs to calculate all of that.
The peloton is out of control. It’s crazy. There are just so many attacks! Everyone says they are tired, but I don’t know. How can there be so many attacks, so much aggression?
And then Kelme, I don’t know what they were doing. They attacked a couple of guys at the end yesterday. I think it was for team GC but everybody gets so excited. Nobody knows what’s going on, so everybody jumps just in case. The whole time, it just never relaxes. It’s kind of like that the whole Tour. You’ve got the guys in the top 15 trying to stay up there, plus all of their teammates trying to be up there with them, plus all of the guys trying to attack. You can imagine the start. It’s just a big battle.
As for Wednesday, I’ll just mention the crash. I was on the outside and they crashed in front of me. There was just wave after wave of guys falling toward me and across in front of me. There has a house there on the outside of the turn with a gravel parking area in front. I just slammed on the brakes and slid along in the gravel in front of the house. I just came to a stop in front of a pile of guys, and then somebody ran into me from behind, but I was stopped by then. I had skidded so far that there was no tread left on my tire – it was burned right down to the tube. I mean, we were going 70-80 kph when it happened! It was just so scary. Montgomery was really hurt bad. I couldn’t see him down off the road, but I heard the Kelme mechanic go over there and then start yelling for a medic, so I knew somebody was hurt badly under there. My teammate, Heppner, broke his collarbone. It was really bad. It’s just the worst thing, to crash at that speed with so many riders. It just takes one guy, too.
We dodged a bullet the other day with Jan’s crash (on stage 13, Foix-St. Lary Soulan Pla d’ Adet). I was away on that climb (the Col de Peyresourde) and Jan came up with Lance at the top. I’ve ridden it a lot, and I know it’s a pretty straightforward descent, so I just pedaled hard straight down it. With the draft, Jan came by me, kind of a slingshot effect. I looked up and saw the turn, and I saw the way Jan reacted and everybody hit the brakes. He made the right choice to go straight. It would have been bad if he had hit the guardrail. He kind of jumped a hole and flipped over. His bike was okay. I was there to give him mine if he needed it, but he didn’t, fortunately.
Between the crashes and the constant attacks and fighting for position, there just is never any times where it is relaxed. I keep expecting that there will be some times where it is tranquil, but it hasn’t happened yet.