Lots of catching up to do. I may not get everything in the first draft...
- Polemica! The post race chatter from today's stage seems to center around the alleged alliance between Leonardo Piepoli and Denis Menchov. The latter maybe sorta gifted yesterday's win to the former, and today everyone seems to think the former's tactics played into the hands of the latter.
The story apparently stems from the headwinds that everyone is now complaining about. Uphill headwinds in the high mountains are a slight mystery to me (don't the peaks you're heading into usually provide some blockage?), but nonetheless to a man the top riders state that it was a hard day to attack on your own. Drafting, usually a minimal factor heading uphill, counted for more than usual. And apparently his rivals think Menchov got some awfully nice protection from Piepoli as they reeled in a handful of attacks from Sastre and Triki Beltrán. My favorite line from Sastre:
Nobody seems perturbed that Cadel Evans and Sammy Sánchez got the same protection, but that's to be expected. Menchov did get a nice leadout from Piepoli in the last km, but so did everyone. So while the alliance seems to be taken as a given, I'm not convinced all that much has changed.
- Nobody should be surprised by the sight of Oscar Freire packing it in at the Vuelta, given his need to stay fresh and sharp for the World Championships now three weeks away. It does, however, make a mess of the Vuelta's lesser jerseys. Paolo Bettini takes over the points jersey... though how long he sticks around is a question worth asking. Should he depart, or falter, Denis Menchov could conceivably hold all four jerseys; today he only lacks the points, and by a slim 5 point margin. There are a lot of minor climbs left, so look for Serafin Martinez to take back the climber's title (unless Piepoli challenges him), but Menchov will likely hang onto one of the sport's silliest prizes, the combined. Each day since stage 4, the combined leader has featured none other than the holder of the Maillot Oro. So what exactly does the combined jersey reward? Apparently the same set of skills that tend to win stage races.
- More Rabo news: Graeme Browne won today's stage of the Tour of Poland, seizing the overall lead in the process after the race jury nullified yesterday's 23-second deficit in the prologue team time trial. Rain has been the big story, with tales of riders sliding off the start ramp at yesterday's debacle. Hopefully things will dry out in time for decent racing at the Pro Tour's least beloved event.
- Rabo aren't actually winning everything in sight: at the Tour of Britain T-Mobile's Mark Cavendish has won the first two stages, a prologue and today's sprint finish.
- Though I have yet to receive my invitation, apparently WADA have scheduled a "doping summit" in Paris for late October.
- VN has Neal Rogers following and previewing the Tour of Missouri; expect them to give the best coverage outside of Clydesdale's work here.