PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
From hero to zero and back again in the space of three days, Landis, unbelievably, seems poised to take victory at the Tour after all. An epic, extraordinary ride on Thursday's 17th stage from Saint Jean de Mourienne to Morzine, by way of the Cols des Saisies, des Aravis, de la Colombiere and the Cote de Chatillon sur Cluses, topped off with the Col de Joux Plane, has opened up the Tour to a potential eighth straight win by an American. Landis should take the time he needs from race leader Oscar Pereiro and second-placed Carlos Sastre in Saturday's 57km time trial. But no one should ignore Friday's flat stage between Morzine and Macon, normally the domain of those riders and teams who have failed to take a stage victory at this point in the race, which could now prove key with time bonuses to win in the two intermediate sprints and at the finish.
The 2004 Giro d'Italia champion, riding his first Tour de France, at last did enough to take the white jersey from the heroic shoulders of Gerolsteiner's Marcus Fothen. Only by five seconds, however, which the German should be able to get back on Saturday's time trial, although like the battle for the yellow jersey, Friday's relatively flat stage 18 could prove decisive with the time bonuses on offer. Cunego couldn't quite do enough to make up for second place on Alpe d'Huez on stage 15, but attacking, and getting away from, the Pereiro group on the Joux Plane to take fourth on Thursday's stage shows that perhaps the Italian has what it takes to return to France next year and put in a serious bid for victory.
Michael Boogerd and Christophe Moreau
"'Boogie' is de best" sang the Dutch fans on Alpe d'Huez on Tuesday, but he wasn't really. On Thursday, though, the veteran Rabobank rider was quite good. Fifth on what was a very tough stage would have had his fans delirious with joy, who haven't seen too many great performances from the Dutch national champion at the Tour in recent years. Maybe they just need to modify the song a little. An honourable mention for another veteran, Ag2r's Christophe Moreau, who showed the French fans that they shouldn't be too quick to switch allegiances to this year's French rent-a-hero, team-mate Cyril Dessel, by putting in a spirited effort to take third on the stage.
Difficult to criticise a team whose performance today took them to the top of the team rankings, but criticise them we will. The team's directeur sportif Valerio Piva said tonight that his team were counting on a Floyd Landis collapse on the final climb, the Col du Joux Plane, and that "all you can do is take your hat off to a rider who is that strong". True, perhaps, but the fact remains that in this Tour where individuals have looked so fallible, T-Mobile has failed to cash in with the most solid collective in the race.
The Aussie must be among the most complete and consistent of the GC men, but he showed once again today that his climbing lacks punch. If he'd been able to follow Sastre at La Toussuire and Morzine, Evans would probably be in yellow now; instead, he was eating Damiano Cunego and Christophe Moreau's dust on the Joux Plane and can no longer hope to finish higher than fifth in Paris. Robbie McEwen's confidence in his team-mate and compatriot (McEwen tipped Evans to win at the mid-Tour mark) is starting to look somewhat misplaced.