When the first stage in the Alps began after rest day, it was hard to get used to the racing rhythm. On the final mountaintop finish to Courchevel, we went up the mountain and Discovery just drove it and drove it and they just rode everybody out of the break. I came out with about twenty guys left and I just set my own tempo and rode into the finish. That was the first real mountain stage and by the time Lance finally went, there were just four or five guys left on his wheel and shortly after that, Levi and Basso dropped off and then Valverde ended up winning the sprint. It was an unbelievably hard day on the final climb of Courchevel; I was riding a 39x25 up some of that climb and I ended up finishing 20th (3'59 behind Valverde). It's not like I had bad form that day.
The next day, I got in a break on the Madeleine with a lot of climbers. I was probably over my head there with guys like Heras, who went 100% and then blew, Sevilla, who went 100% to set up Vino's move and Pereiro, who was working really hard for Botero.
So I decided to sit up near the top of the Madeleine and went back to Armstrong's group. Discovery was riding really hard along the valley before the Telegraphe/Galibier climb and lots of guys were hurting, including me. I got over the Telegraphe OK, then on the Galibier, I came off about 5km from the top. Those last 9km up to the summit are really hard.
The mistake I made there is I kept going hard on the climb after I was dropped because I hoped I could get back on the descent. I don't know the climbs or the descents in the Tour, if it was really technical and I was only a minute and a half down, I could probably get back on. But the descent down the Col du Lautaret after the Galibier is really not that technical. There are eight or ten tight turns and after that, it's 80km /h all the way to the finish. So once the front group got on the road to Briançon, there was no way I was going to catch them. I finished in the second group of five riders (Joly, Goubert, Garzelli, Pereiro, Horner) that stage. (33rd at 7'32).
On Bastille Day, it was cool because so many French people were out along the road, but it was a hot day with terrain that reminded me a lot of southern California where Trent Klasna and I used to do epic training rides. The peloton pretty much cruised along and we went up the Category 2 climb. I decided to drop off the back to save my legs, because I was switching more to a stage win mode. Discovery went up the climb pretty easy after all, but I didn't know that then and caught back on with the gruppetto, who ended up catching up with the main peloton. Originally I was planning just to ride that stage in super-easy to save my legs for Saturday and Sunday.