Editor’s note: Dan Wuori is one of the funniest Twitter bards in the cycling world (follow him at @dwuori). This month, he will be expanding a bit beyond 140 characters to share periodic journals during the Tour de France. Today’s is the eighth.
Under pressure from sponsors accustomed to his now-aging squad’s dominating victories of the past, Radio Shack’s Johan Bruyneel adopted a novel approach to selecting the members of his 2011 TDF squad (average age: 53).
“I got to thinking, why come to the Tour with a single team leader?” Bruyneel explained. “That gives you – what – a one in nine chance of victory? And then it all clicked … bring nine team leaders and see who doesn’t break a hip.”
The approach seems to be paying off during week one. Despite crashes that have dimmed the hopes of Americans Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner and the exit of Slovenia’s Jani “Erin” Brajkovic (who suffered a concussion and a broken collarbone after slipping in a pool of Andre Greipel’s tears), the team continues to field six bald GC contenders — more than any other team.
Friday’s 218km stage 7 saw still more crashes and the abandonment of at least two popular riders. A devastating spill claimed Team Sky leader Bradley Wiggins with 37km to go. The delicate British champion – whose skeleton lacks the benefit of protective flesh and muscle – was reported to have broken his collarbone. Meanwhile, Tom Boonen — who earned his hard-man credentials for even starting stages 6 and 7 — was finally forced to abandon as a result of injuries sustained Wednesday.
RadioShack’s Horner, meanwhile, suffered a concussion and broken nose Friday — leaving his own continuation in doubt.
At the line it was HTC-Highroad sprinter Mark Cavendish narrowly edging Lampre-ISD’s Alessandro Petacchi and Omega-Pharma Lotto’s Andre Greipel to pick up his 17th TDF stage win (his second of 2011). Garmin-Cervelo’s Thor Hushovd finished with the bunch and will retain the maillot jaune.
Stage 8 will see the Tour’s first mountaintop finish of 2011 as the peloton travels 189km from Aigurande to Super Besse — the site of phlebotomy enthusiast Riccardo Ricco’s controversial 2008 stage win (later stripped). Look for the demanding finish to be hotly contested as the year’s first significant GC selection opportunity.
Dan’s Pick for stage 8: Already well behind his GC rivals, expect Contador to attack Super Besse with all he’s got … and still lose.