Phil Liggett just looked at a picture of a T-Mobile rider struggling off the back of the peloton on today’s (the 10th stage’s) final climb. “That’s Ullrich!” he gasped, meaning Jan Ullrich, the great racer known more as a perennial Tour also-ran. But it wasn’t Ullrich — it was one of the T-Mobile domestiques who was done with his turn in the peloton for the day.
But that’s just a small botched detail in today’s race. The truly impenetrable mystery for Liggett and OLN announcing partner Paul Sherwen is why Lance Armstrong’s team has been riding so hard at the front during the latter parts of the stage. The guys have been utterly mystified about it, guessing that perhaps it has to do with Lance’s fear of one of the riders in a breakaway that, coming off the second-to-last climb of the day was 4 or 5 minutes ahead of the main field.
But as the charge up the long last climb has developed, it’s apparent that Discovery has something else in mind: They’re applying as much pressure as possible to the rest of Lance’s rivals — all riding behind Discovery in the same group — to prevent any of them from making an attack. It’s like sucking the air right out of their lungs — they just don’t have much left to launch their own moves. And right now, inside 12 kilometers to the finish, it looks like the tactic has worked — most of the front group has blown up and dropped back.
Long way to go to the finish, though ….