Suffering sprinters

Tour de France - July 14, 2005

There were some fireworks today in Dignes-le-Bains on Stage 12. So far, this 2005 Tour, perhaps more than ever before, is proving hard on the sprinters. The first week was nearly ideal for the fast men; instead of long breaks going away and staying away, we were treated to some great full speed dashing and bashing (except the rain soaked run in on Stage 5). The Boonen/McEwen sprinter's show was superb, with both riders showing why they are simply the best at what they do.

But then, along came the mountains and a virtual firestorm has ensued on each and every rise, wreaking havoc on many of the already tiring legs. While it is a general rule that sprinters can hold back on the hardest days and ride in to the finish in the autobus, in this year's super fast Tour De France, that rule is changing too.

Now we see riders like Stuart O'Grady and Thor Hushovd hanging on to the lead group, suffering the climbs and picking up any points for the green jersey along the way. While this is a different dynamic in the competition for the vaunted Maillot Vert points jersey, it certainly makes the race no less exciting. And thus it was somewhat fitting that on today's stage to Dignes-le-Bains, after a thwarted breakaway attempt yesterday out of Courchevel and the abandon by Boonen, Hushovd would pull on the green jersey after a long hot breakaway ride from Briancon.

The big dissapointment of course was Boonen's non-start after his last of too many falls yesterday. Best comment came from a conversation between Robbie Hunter and Matt White I overheard yesterday at the start line village in Courchevel, when Hunter pondered out loud if they might be in for a more relaxed start. "Are you kidding?" Whitey exclaimed, "you gotta be sure some freaking idiot is gonna attack straight away!" And of course, Whitey was right. Vive Le Tour.

As for me, I'm joining the race finally after running two of our Bike Camp groups, one in the Dolomites in Italy and one in the Italian/French Alps. Many of you have written asking after my health. And I can tell you it's good. I've been riding more this year and feeling better on the bike than for the last several years.

In fact, last week I rode the Colle della Finestre, a fantastic 20km climb in the Piemonte region of Italy, a wickedly steep road that features 8km of dirt. The Finestre was used for the first time during the penultimate stage of this year's Giro and word is, the Tour is looking to put it into their routing as soon as next year. And unlike last year where I struggled so much up hills, I went well up the 10-12 grades, despite rain turning to snow by the top. Practically a Gavia day. Yes!

Thanks for reading,
Davis Phinney


Check out photos of Davis in our 'Phinney Photo Files'

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