Friday, July 27, 2007

Bennati Outsprints Breakaway Companions

With the news of Michael Rasmussen's shock departure from the Tour de France still sinking in, the peloton was in no mood to race during yesterday's transitional stage 17 of the Tour de France.  The day after the queen stage of the Tour meant a lot of riders were too exhausted to participate in a full-on chase to catch the day's breakaway.  As a result, the 8 riders who were lucky enough to get into the breakaway battled out the stage while the rest of the peloton came in over 9'30 behind.

With 18km to go, the breakaway split in half as four riders, Jens Voigt (Team CSC), Martin Elmiger (AG2R), Daniele Bennati (Lampre), and Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) got away.  As Bennati was clearly the fastest finisher of the group, given that he is normally a bunch sprinter, the other three riders had to work to figure out how to drop the Italian.  All 3 riders launched attacks at one point or another, but Bennati managed to cover each one fairly easily.  In the final sprint, he managed to counter an acceleration by Fothen to outsprint the other riders and win the stage. Riding in his second ever Tour de France, it was his first stage win.

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel), the new leader of the race, finished comfortably in the main pack.  He is now 1st overall in GC, 1'53 ahead of Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto).  Even though Rasmussen's explusion meant that Contador was already the leader, the Tour decided to have no one wear the maillot jaune yesterday, meaning that instead Contador rode in the white jersey as best young rider.

Crash/Abandon Notes Stage 17: No major crashes to report.  The only rider to start the stage and not finish was Denis Menchov (Rabobank), no doubt unable to find the motivation to continue riding.  In addition to Rasmussen's non-start today, the 6 remaining Cofidis riders, Bradley Wiggins, Rik Verbrugghe, Staf Scheirlinckx, Nick Nuyens, Stephane Auge, and Sylvain Chavanel, all dropped out in response to Cristian Moreni's positive drugs test.


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