Texas chainring massacre

Well, okay. He's still the daddy. Stunning.
Separation day in the Tour de France, with a mountaintop finish on Courchevel. It's not the steepest mountain in the Alps, but it's such a long climb that its slope seems to rise up every kilometer you ride. It's also long enough that, placed at a finish, such a mountain causes a decisive split between the pretenders and the contenders. Climbs like this put a magnifying glass to any disparities in power to weight ratio among the riders.
Who would have thought the list of contenders would contain names like Michael Rasmussen and Alejandro Valverde while the list of pretenders might just contain everyone else? Rasmussen is tall and lanky, and he looks like a white praying mantis with chicken pox in his king of the mountains jersey and bug-eyed sunglasses. The Tour checks riders for blood doping, but they might need to check Rasmussen for lack of blood he's so pale. How a guy can ride four to five hours in the blazing sun each day and still look like an albino is a mystery to me. Maybe Rasmussen is a descendant of Dracula. Whatever he is, he's a damn good climber.
It's occurred so many times in his six Tour wins, but the sight of Armstrong riding away from his opponents on the first mountain stage of the Tour is still an awesome spectacle. Team Discovery does resemble Apollo 13 on these monstrous climbs, each domestique exerting maximum effort before flaming out and falling away, ultimately leaving Lance to rocket ahead towards the finish line. The obscene pace of the race the first week manifested itself today in all the early explosions among the peloton.
I struggled up Courchevel once, a few years back, like a man crawling uphill on his stomach. Seeing Jens Voight riding up Courchevel as if pedaling in a vat of olive oil brought back those painful memories. Tomorrow is even tougher, with three mountains I remember with a wince: Madeleine and the linked pair of Telegraphe and Galibier. Madeleine is like Courchevel, moderate in slope but extremely long. The Telegraphe-Galibier combination is worse: longer and steeper. The day I rode the two, I felt strong, yet it still felt like the climb would never end. You have to be able to sit in the saddle and just pedal for an hour, not ideal for someone like Vino, not a pure climber. It's difficult to attack Armstrong on such a climb when Discovery Channel rides so hard you're gasping for air like an asthmatic smoker.
If Lance and his rivals feel the same tomorrow as they did today, the time gaps Lance could open up could effectively put the Tour out of reach to all but Valverde (I don't think Rasmussen's time trialing will allow him to threaten the yellow jersey). Chris Carmichael said he thought Lance would win the Tour by his largest margin ever this year, and that's starting to look prophetic. Lance has to be licking his chops at a chance to punish his opponents on the slopes of Telegraphe and Galibier, while his rivals have to be glad it's not another mountaintop finish.