Tales from the peloton, July 16, 2007
Crashes, music, Hollywood look-a-like stars, a devil, a hornet and dignitaries. With action that hot on Stage 8, it's little wonder le Tour de France is taking a rest day today to cool off. While El Diablo was dancing down the road, Australian cycling fans were sharing the pain of their countrymen contesting the Tour following one of the most devastating days in recent history to its competitors.
What looked to be Australian glory as Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) went down the road, soon turned to turmoil for the general classification rider. Rogers crashed out on the same bend where Johan Bruyneel found himself hanging over the cliff, holding on to a tree branch, in the early 90s. The 27 year-old was the virtual yellow jersey at the time of his fall, which has reportedly left the rider with hand, knee and shoulder injuries.
Shortly after Rogers' tumble, South Australian Stuart O'Grady hit the tarmac hard and impacted with a guard rail after sliding out on a bend. O'Grady, who experienced glory in France after becoming the first Australian Paris-Roubaix victor in April, is out of the Tour with fractures to five of his front ribs, three in his back lower ribs, a punctured lung and a fracture shoulder.
While the Tour de France felt a touch of Hollywood when Astana's leader Alexandre Vinokourov was escorted to the start by a Vinnie Jones look-a-like body guard, and riders got a glimpse of Borat along the stage, it was no star finish for Predictor-Lotto's Robbie McEwen. The second mountains stage proved too much for the Belgium-residing sprinter, with McEwen not able to make the time cut off.
The trio's loss from the field places Down Under's Tour hopes on McEwen's teammate Cadel Evans. The former mountainbiker who currently holds sixth on general classification is assured the full dedication of his remaining Predictor-Lotto teammates now that the squad's star sprinter has been sidelined. Evans and AG2r Prévoyance's Simon Gerrens, who holds 70th on GC, are the only remaining Australians in this year's field.
While the riders take a day to themselves, here's some of the colourful action from the second mountain's stage.