Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tour heats up

Tour de France specialists had imagined that today's stage from Toulouse to Bagnères-de-Bigorre would be relatively uneventful, because riders would be saving their energy for the Bastille Day ascension, tomorrow, of the terrible Tourmalet. But there was a lot of significant action today, both negative and positive. On the sad side, it was hard to understand how a talented rider such as Australia's Cadel Evans, favorite for the final victory in this year's Tour, could crash on an ordinary wide bend in the road.

Maybe he slid on loose gravel. Evans (shown here receiving treatment from the race doctor Gérard Porte) had superficial wounds all over the left side of his body, but no broken bones.

The greatest surprise of the day was the spectacular performance of a lightweight Italian youngster with a nice-sounding name, Riccardo Ricco, who won a stage for the second time in the present Tour.

In an aerial style that reminded onlookers of the late Marco Pantini, Ricco seemed to fly over any riders he encountered on his dash up and over the final mountain in today's stage. Pantini, who was once a hero for Riccardo, was nicknamed Elefantino (little elephant) because of his large ears and frail body. Ricco has a more biting nickname, Cobra. Will he strike for the third time, tomorrow, on the heights of the legendary Tourmalet?

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