Who wasn’t excited when Lance took off after Franco Pellizotti (Liguigas)? Who didn’t get that Tour De France feeling all over again? Who didn’t have visions of Lance on Alpe d’Huez, Ventoux and Hautacam ready to destroy all rivals? And who didn’t groan when Lance dropped back unable to reach Pellizotti’s wheel? For a few kilometers we had the Lance of old, not an old Lance. All too soon on the climb up to Blockhaus, Di Luca (LPR Brakes), Menchov (Rabobank), Basso (Liguigas) left him behind.
DI Luca did everything possible to break Menchov but to no avail. “The Killer” gritted his teeth, almost possessed, continually out of the saddle while Menchov simply sat behind. Only in the final 100 meters was Di Luca able to sprint for a gain of 5 seconds. Menchov rides a Giant bike and he truly was a giant again today. With one mountaintop stage to go, he leads Di Luca by 26 seconds.
The big loser today was Carlos Sastre whose tank appeared empty after his massive effort yesterday. He fell back two places on GC behind the Liguigas duo of Pellizotti (3rd) and Basso (4th). Sastre did he best to regain contact with Di Luca and Menchov but even with help from Armstrong, he lacked the power in his legs. A solid but unspectacular ride by Levi Leipheimer puts him in 6th with almost no hope of a podium spot.
However, Armstrong showed his great form and, freed from the domestique chores, we’re sure he’ll attack again. The team continues to miss Chris Horner– it would have been interesting to see what Horner could do when he was free to ride for himself and not look after Leipheimer. But is Lance back? He looks about 95% there and closing fast. And who wasn’t excited about that? Tour de France anyone?