George Hincapie describing Armstrong's isolation yesterday:
"Yesterday we had a bad day. It was kind of a lapse in concentration when we were on the front of the final climb. It was really fast and we were sitting far back when Moreau attacked and it broke up. We just got caught behind. When we realised what happening, we couldn't really get across, so we just didn't worry about it."
Funny - "we just didn't worry about it." It must be nice having that sort of confidence in your leader. "Ah, Lance is up there alone, but I'm sure he can handle it. So what were you sayin? Yeah, so it turns out the Verbal Kint has the thick urine. Yeah, I know, blew my mind, too".
Five hours in the saddle IS a long time, after all.
Ok, Stage 9 just finished. No attack by Vino, but some interesting things happened along the way. First, Michael Rasmussen (a Dane from Rabobank, and a former World Mountain Bike Champion) was out in the front for 167km today, got the win and bolstered his lead in the KoM competition. He also moved into fourth on GC, just behind Armstrong. More importantly, Jens Voigt (Germany, CSC) and Christophe Moreau (France, Credit Agricole) moved into first and second overall.
I wouldn't say this was tactical for Armstrong, since losing the jersey now doesn't really help him. If he lost it a few days ago, then yes. But losing it today doesn't really help him since tomorrow is a rest day and Tuesday's finish at Courchevel is important to the overall. On the other hand, this doesn't hurt him much either.
Voigt finished 35th last year, 1:07:07 behind Armstrong. Moreau was 12th at 24:36. He's made GC noises before, but always seems to fold spectacularly at some point - maybe losing 20:00 in single stage. Rasmussen was 14th at 27:16. They are currently 1:50 and 2:18 ahead of Lance. Lance being that far behind isn't much to worry about, in my opinion. So I'm expecting fireworks on Courchevel. Voigt isn't really a man for the high mountains, either. And Rasmussen, who isn't very big, isn't much of a time trialist. So Armstrong has advantages over each of these riders. The real contenders (Ullrich, Vino, Basso, Heras, Mayo, etc.) all finished with Armstrong.