After stage 8, the tour has taken on some new flavor. We are done with the first skirmishes and have gone on to true contest. Up until stage 8 we had no clear contestant. Nobody was named as a true favorite and nobody had shown something special that would warrant talk of: can he take yellow to Paris. But since stage 8 we can.
The charming thing is, we have a contestant who had not been mentioned anywhere among favorites before: Danish rider Mikael Rasmussen. He earned this honor by supremely winning stage 8 a heavy alp mountain stage. For the first time the question comes up: can he take yellow to Paris. And before I dig into that question, I have returned to looking for tour podcasts
I have tried two. One is from Bike Radar and the other from ITV. Both deliver a podcast of around 15 minutes recapping the stages as they come along. They comment on the events and make some analysis of what is to come. ITV also throws in some live sound clips from the race or from interviews with riders. Fine podcasts, better than the ones I found last year.
Now as to Rasmussen; can he win the tour? The short answer is: no. The long answer is: We have not seen a good climber but mediocre time trialer (like Rasmussen) win the tour since Pantani won in 1998. That was the tour dopage, with so many contestants thrown out and the only tour before that, I can think of, with a climber winning the tour was 1976 with Lucien van Impe. Other than on those occasions, the tour is won by the best time trialer or in any case, the time trialer who has kept his losses in the mountains at a minimum. The chance for a true climber is to take huge leads in the mountains, something in the order of 15 to 30 minutes so that the time trials cannot pose a threat any longer.
Rasmussen has no more than 3 to 10 minutes on the time trialers. Unless he makes more attacks tomorrow and also in the Pyrenees widens the gap, he is no contender. He is the main contender for the polka dot jersey though.