The young boy and the dinosaur.
At 22 years, the youngest rider in the race, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat), sprinted past the large dinosaur at the entrance to the finish town of Porrentruy and took a fabulous solo win in the second mountain stage of the Tour de France.
Pinot was overjoyed but that was nothing compared to the manic jubilation of his team manager Marc Madiot who yelled encouragement out the car window for the final ten kilometers. He practically had a coronary of joy as he shouted and gestured wildly. If you wanted to know the true magnitude of a stage win in Le Grand Shindig for a Frenchman, Madiot was the living proof.
The young Frenchman — even younger than Peter Sagan — monsieur Pinot jumped clear from a group of chasers to catch and pass then race leader Frederik Kessiakoff (Astana) on the 3.7 km-long Col de la Croix. He built a ten, then twenty second gap over Kessiakoff — and with Madiot screaming “Allez, Allez,” he won by 26 seconds.
While not exploding as many fireworks as yesterdays’ climb up Planche des Belles FIlles, the 157 kilometer stage featured seven categories climbs and plenty of action. It also confirmed that the men who would contest the 2012 Tour de France are Wiggins, Evans, Nibali and the wily Russian Denis Menchov. They all finished in the same time so Wiggins will begin tomorrow’s time trial with 10 seconds over the Australian and 16 seconds over Nibali.
Meanwhile Menchov, the Silent Assassin, was as quiet as ever. He was also in the Evans-Wiggins group but nobody could recall his presence. We doubt he ever said anything in that chase group and tried to breathe really, really softly so as not to alert anyone of his presence. Shhhh …. Don’t let anybody know I’m here.
RadioShack -Nissan Trek, or Team Implosion for short, had an impressive day out. While Fabian Cancellara has been out of yellow for two days, the team put three riders in the top ten for stage eight. It was a blast from the past to see the veteran Haimar Zubeldia finish in fifth and Captain Maxime Monfort in seventh overall. Lance Armstrong has probably already tweeted congrats to his old domestique.
RadioShack’s young Tony Gallopin wasn’t as impressive as Pinot but came in third today. The exciting question is whether 40 year old Chris Horner can pull off another top ten overall. The bald guy has his climbing legs back with 10th today and 14th on GC. A great story and a nice counter-point to sourpuss Andreas Kloden and his bitter twitter. Management didn’t like Fuglsang mouthing off and they must be sick of Kloden, too.
Chapeauz du jour: Nicolas Roche (AG 2R La Mondiale) is crawling and pedaling his way up the GC. The Irishman holds the 9th spot and has been looking strong. Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) cracked the top ten on GC. He was 11th overall in last years’ Grand Boucle and appears to have the form to match that and perhaps go higher. That’s more good news for the French home teams although Taaramae is from Estonia — French Estonia, maybe.
So far this Tour de France has been a Tour pour less Juenes. 22 year old Peter Sagan (Liquigas) has won three stages and now Pinot has taken the second mountain stage. That’s half the stages won by riders barely out of their twenties. Dinosaurs like Jens Voigt and Chris Horner are still riding hard but the game is changing — and fast.