Friday, July 10, 2009


Slip Slidin’ Away

Mick Rogers (Columbia-HTC) can’t catch a break at the Tour de France, can he? Two years ago, Rogers, riding for T-Mobile, was leader on the road, and riding strongly in the key break of the day on the big mountain trip from Le Grand Bornand to Tignes. But when fellow breakaway David Arroyo (Caisse d’ Epargne) overcooked a turn and went over the guardrail on the high-speed descent of the Cormet de Roselend, Rogers followed, hitting the rail that Arroyo managed to avoid. Though he initially rejoined the lead group, he later abandoned from the pain of a dislocated shoulder.

The loss of Rogers that day was just one element in a disastrous day for the new-look T-Mobile squad that would morph into Columbia the next year. On the road to Tignes, the team also lost then-budding sprinter Mark Cavendish, as well as strongman Marcus Burghardt, completing a striking three-man reduction of forces in a single day. Adding insult to injury, the team’s young German hope Linus Gerdemann surrendered his yellow jersey to Michael Rassmussen (then Rabobank), who also took the stage win in Tignes.

Yesterday, riding his first grand tour since that day, Rogers again hit the deck, ending his GC chances as he finished some 13:14 down on the lead group containing all the major GC contenders. Rogers’ fall this year was certainly less spectacular, coming in a pileup on a greasy roundabout 30 kilometers from the Stage 6 finish in Barcelona.

Though it likely won’t be much consolation to Rogers right now, compared to that day in 2007, things are looking far better, if a little sore, for Bob Stapleton’s team. First and foremost, Rogers completed the stage, and took the start of the stage to Andorra Arcalis this morning. If he can ride out the Pyrenees and heal up a bit, Rogers could still manage to do something for himself later in the race, perhaps in a break on a transitional day.

More likely, however, he’ll be put back to work helping Cavendish preserve his green jersey to Paris. After Thor Hushovd’s (Cervelo) win in yesterday’s uphill sprint on the Montjuic climb, where Cavendish finished 16th, the Norwegian now sits just one point behind the Manxman in the points competition. While Cavendish undoubtedly has the quicker kick in pure fast finishes, Hushovd has experience on his side, having won green in 2005. He's diligent in picking up intermediate points, and also proved he has the resilience to win on the far side of the Tour’s mountains by winning the Champs Elysees stage in 2006. Cavendish may well have that ability as well – it’s just unproven at this point. Either way, though, Cavendish will need the help of his team to either win or eat up intermediate points and keep them out of the hands of the savvy Hushovd.

To that end, compared to the Stage 8 meltdown in 2007, the team has done well to survive a dangerous day with all nine of its men in the race. That’s important for Cavendish’s chances at green in Paris. However, it’s also important to note that, of those nine, there’s not a one of them who isn’t capable of winning a stage, particularly after the GC battle shakes out a little bit more after the first few days in the mountains.

Until Stage 6, it had been a dream Tour for Columbia-HTC, with two stage wins, a good lead in the green jersey competition, the white jersey on Tony Martin, and a stunning show of strength on Stage 3. Now, with their first remotely bad day behind them, it will be interesting to see where they go from here.

Race Radio

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