Today's kinda boring ruminations on an intense stage: Anyone who doubts the value of strategy -- especially strategy with a team that has the deep bench of CSC -- would be wise to rewind today's stage up the ADH.
While I was rooting for Christian Vande Velde to attack on his own, and stop marking Evans and Menchov for God's sake, it was pretty clear that no single rider had a dominating or decisive advantage. But the preponderance of power was CSC's to exploit. With the Schleck brothers acting as sacrificial lambs to put Sastre up the road, the gameplan was played to perfection: Cover all moves, throw in a few brutal attacks, and generally sow chaos in the chase group to make sure Sastre got --and kept --the hole shot. This was no Hinault-Lemond internecine battle. (Well, according to Hinault, there never was an internecine battle: he was merely softening the field for the promise of a Lemond win.)
True enough, Sastre hasn't been the world's most electrifying attacker, but he showed a lot of class today, and his attack/counter-counter-attack at the base of the climb proved to be irreversible. Evans and Vande Velde were idiots to let him go, but at least they dropped Menchov. Right?
Wrong. Letting the Schlecks stir up the chase like an omelette du fromage eventually made morons of the rest, for the Russian clawed his way back.
I don't know if there has ever been a team with more weapons of this caliber used this smartly: at least two, maybe three strong GC contenders, one of whom can play decoy while the other one cooks the goose. It may augur what cycling will look like with fewer dopers and a more even playing ground -- even if that playing ground kicks up to 8 percent for 20K.
Oh, and the last act of the CSC plan for Alpe d' Huez? Make sure Frank looks sad and exhausted when the cameras come around. Frosting on the cake!
An Amusement & Diversion for The Genteel Cyclist. Daily.