If only Denis "The Monosyllable" Menchov was as stingy with his time on descents as he is with his answers in press conferences.
Yesterday, at the Rabobank rest-day press conference in Pianfei, I made it that Menchov's 17 answers ranged from one second to 33 and averaged 17.3 seconds in length. Don't ask me whether what he said was interesting - I was too busy looking at my stopwatch. Anyway, past experience teaches me that Menchov's interviews are marginally less interesting than Sunday afternoon repeats of Little House on the Prairie.
If Menchov had given away 17.3 seconds on the descent of the Col de la Bonette this evening, he might still be in contention to win the Tour tonight. As it is, I reckon the Russian has blown it. In the space of 23 kilometres, he not only lost 31 seconds to Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre and Frank Schleck, but conceded a massive psychological advantage.
Schleck and Sastre are both regarded as sub-par descenders. Schleck is also a nervous type of rider who, CSC's motivational guru BS Christensen told me yesterday, tends to "over-analyze and see pitfalls sooner than possibilities". Christensen said that he, CSC boss Bjarne Riis and Schleck's team-mates are constantly trying to coax greater self-confidence out of the Tour's current leader, but he admitted that the Luxembourger needs constant reminders.
This afternoon, it was Menchov who looked like racked with self-doubt. On the 17th of June, the Russian visited the Bonette on his tour of pre-race reccees. Menchov rode the climb, took mental notes, smiled for the camera then piled into his Rabobank team-car for the descent. Menchov said he was too cold to ride down to Jausiers by bike.
Now it just so happened that Evans was on the Bonette the same day. He missed Menchov by a couple of minutes. But the pair also had very different ideas about what they'd come to the Bonette to see. Evans was interested in the climb, sure, but his bike remained in the boot of Roberto Damiani's team car until they reached the summit, where he duly unpacked and started the descent. He knew that, in a month's time, those 23 kilometres could be the difference between winning and losing the Grande Boucle.
Tonight we knew Evans was right, as was whoever coined the maxim of the seven Ps: Prior Planning and Preparation Prevent Piss Poor Performance.
Anyone know what that is in Russian?