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  Stage 16 Photo  
  © 2010 A.S.O. Amaury Sport Organisation - All rights reserved.  
  Stage 14 Montelimar-Gap 181km July 16, 2006
by David Balkin

pixelFirst an update before we get to the gory details of this action packed stage. No change in GC or the green jersey competition. In the KOM competition defending mountain king Michael Rasmussen picked up 12 points and moved into 2nd behind a valiant David De La Fuente who still holds a tenuous 7 point lead. With the Alps just around the corner Rasmussen is looking good to repeat except he isn't riding nearly as well as last year when he was a force. De La Fuente looks tired and maybe someone else will emerge in the Alps.
pixelNow for the GC action. Another stage, another breakaway, this time there were 6 men out front and the peleton was in no mood to let them get very far away. The new yellow jersey team of Oscar Pereiro, Illes Balear, (government of the Balearic Islands) was determined to keep their man in yellow for another day and worked the front for a while before they got help not ordinarily given to the yellow jersey team.
pixelBefore we get to that, Pereiro is a very good climber and a better time trialist. This year his riding has been off form but wearing the yellow jersey changes men and if a miraculous transformation should occur it could make Landis rue the day he gave his friend a few moments of glory and a lifetime of bragging rights.
pixelNobody knows better than Landis how good a rider Pereiro is when he's on form. They were teammates last season. But he also knows he took huge time out of him on the climbs and 1:40 out of Pereiro in stage 7's 52km time trial. It's why Pereiro said Floyd will take the jersey back anytime he wants it.
pixelBack to the race where on this hot day the peleton was in a mood to help the yellow jersey because two teams had strong men going for green. Teams with sprinters who can also climb, namely Oscar Freire and Tom Boonen joined the chase in the quest for points that most certainly would see that pesky Robbie McEwen missing in action. The stage contour with a hard 3 mile climb just before the run in to the finish was not for Robbie.
pixelNot one to pass up a chance for unanswered points, Tom Boonen sent his Quick Step team to the front but try as they might they could not make up significant time on the break that was holding at 5 minutes. After a few kilometers when they still weren't making headway Boonen called them off and resigned himself to a lost opportunity and no points. He rolled in 8 minutes down.
pixelAlso at 8 minutes was yesterday's stage winner Jens Voigt who began his previously announced "vacation" after yesterday's brutally hard stage. Robbie McEwen was at 8 minutes too; only it was hard work for him.
pixelMore chasing help came from Discovery that was targeting a stage win for George Hincapie. They got on the front riding for him and towards the end pulled out all the stops to get the break reeled in so Big George could be in the final sprint. Hincapie was strong and finished 9th out of the 31 riders in the front group a mere 7 seconds back.
pixelThe last minute heroics of coming within seconds of the break and stealing the stage played out only because the breakaway of 6, that was holding its own against a very motivated peleton, got split in half by a downhill crash with 25 miles to go. It sent 3 riders flying and 2 out of the race with broken bones.
pixelGoing downhill riders give each other space and maybe there was 50 meters from the first to sixth rider. Rik Verbrugghe was second wheel and up the road doing maybe 30mph, maybe more, when out of a sweeping turn he was too fast and ran himself out of road. He almost saved it but in the attempt he broadsided the guardrail tumbled over it and down into a ditch. He broke his left femur.
pixelAbout 30 meters behind in what almost looked to be an unrelated, almost simultaneous crash; David Canada was also going too fast and hit a patch of sand as he braked. The front wheel locked and he was over the bars, hit the tarmac and broke his collarbone.
pixelMatthias Kessler trying to avoid him rode into the guardrail and then had some serious air time flying over the handlebars and the guard rail into the brush. His luck was a little less black and he was able to get back in the race. He was absorbed into the chasing peleton but the crash took its toll and he wasn't able to stay with them, finishing 12:04 back.
pixelThe 3 survivors were made into 2 when the eventual stage winner Pierrick Fedrigo attacked and Mario Aerts got dropped with 10 miles to go. After all his hard work Aerts was picked up by the peleton and spit out the back finishing 64th 5 minutes back.
pixelThat left two and working together they just barely managed to hold off the hard charging field. Fedrigo won by a length over a despondent Salvatore Commesso who said afterwards in tears that he wanted so desperately to win a race just to prove to himself that he can. He's a good rider who hasn't won a race in 2 years. This is a hard sport.
pixelAmerican rider Christian Vandevelde who's riding the tour of his life came within 3 seconds of the winner. Another 200 meters and the last remnants of the break would have been swallowed alive but Vandevelde made the most of what was left jumping away from the bunch to finish 3rd 4 seconds clear.
pixelTomorrow is a rest day where they'll all get on a bike and ride for an hour or 3. The side benefit of racing is it makes just going for a ride really easy.


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