Today’s quote is a nonquote. As the racers neared the steep climb leading to the stage finish in a place called Super-Besse, two riders were about 15 seconds off the front. One was Christian Vande Velde, an American from Team Garmin-Chipotle, the other a rider from the French team Saunier Duval, Leonardo Piepoli. The last climb began with about 1.5 kilometers to go, and Liggett sung the praises of the American. “This could be a brilliant move by Christian Vande Velde, and it could have hit them at the right time.” Phil explained how the spectators had to walk to the upper reaches of the hill. “And they’re seeing one of only four Americans in the Tour de France turn on the style in the race for the next yellow jersey,” he said.
Meantime, what’s the camera showing the folks at home?
The front of the peloton was surging forward as several of the stage favorites, including the perpetually mispronounced Alejandro Valverde, made their bid for victory. The front of the group swirled past Vande Velde and instantly dropped him.
What did Phil have to say about that?
Well, nothing, actually. He opined that the wearer of the yellow jersey, Germany’s Stefan Schumacher, wasn’t reacting. The TV picture almost instantaneously contradicted him, as you could see the yellow jersey in the bunch surging past the spent Vande Velde. In fact, Phil never mentioned Vande Velde’s name again until a couple minutes after the finish, when he thought he might have recognized him crossing the line. (And in fact, he missed that call, too: Vande Velde had finished just 23 seconds after the stage winner, Riccardo Ricco of Saunier Duval.)
That’s it? That’s all that brilliant move came to?
[Later: Versus’s Paul Sherwen observed after the end of the stage that Piepoli’s attack, made along with Vande Velde, was probably meant to put pressure on the lead group and help Ricco. It wasn’t until Versus’s Robbie Ventura tracked down Vande Velde in the finishing area that Vande Velde explained that his surge, too, was meant to help a teammate: David Millar. But Millar never made a move–a fact that Liggett and Sherwen never remarked–and wound up finishing half a minute behind Vande Velde and 51 seconds behind the winner.
We should give Phil a break here. He’s an entertainer, not a reporter. He’s a fan, not an expert. He manages to convey the excitement of the moment even when he’s not quite sure what’s happening or why. There–we said something nice about him.]