By Graham Jones
and Barry Boyce

CyclingRevealed Historians




Tour de France Champions Living and Dead







CyclingRevealed's First Impressions '07

Stage 8 - July 15th, Le Grand-Bornand to Tignes, 165 km

From the Eagle to the Chicken

With respect to all of the much touted pre-race favorites one word sums up their performance thus far – cautious. If the next great champion is truly amongst them then today is the day for them to begin to take the race by the scruff and assert their authority. In the first 46kms there are three climbs; Cat 4, Cat 3 and Cat 2 in that order for aggressive riders to create some chaos and soften up the legs of many riders in the bunch. The real battle ground however lies ahead where three Cat 1 climbs provide ample opportunity with 55kms of serious climbing. Adding to the agony and opportunity is the fact that the finish is on the climb of the Cat 1 Montée de Tignes.

Many of the weary riders would like to hop a lift on this up to Tignes.
One seat can hold an entire Tour team and their manager!

Fireworks immediately exploded as soon as the race got under way. A small group was riding flat out as an “angry” bunch pursued them with considerable effort. After the ascent of the Cat 2 Col de Tamié 18 riders had 43 seconds on the peloton. Amongst the leaders was Michael Rogers, T-Mobile, who was amongst the names greatly favored to win this Tour.

Consternation within the peloton set in as the road headed up the Cat 1 Cormet de Roselend but only one man made the decisive effort to do something about it. Michael ‘Chicken Legs' Rasmussen, Rabobank, who has twice won the KOM jersey. He joined the break before the summit and together with Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner), Antonio Colom (Astana), Christophe Le Mével (Crédit Agricole), David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne), Stéphane Goubert (Ag2r)and Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) set about consolidating their lead.

This group was being chased by Christophe Le Mével (Crédit Agricole), Christian Moreni (Cofidis), Amets Txurruka and Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne), Jens Voigt (Team CSC) and Sergio Paulinho and George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) at 1m 15s with the main peloton now at 4m 30s.

Two potential Tour winners were now up front. Sadly on the descent of the mountain Rogers crashed along with Arroyo into a barrier on a sharp curve. Arroyo disappeared down a steep slope but managed to scramble back up and quickly rejoin the race. At first Rogers looked to have escaped lightly but a facial injury and other injuries completely destroyed his momentum. He got back on his bike, was soon caught and dropped by the chase group, then caught and dropped by the peloton to finally abandon tearfully by the side of the road.

Michael Rogers finally abandoned tearfully by the side of the road [ Image ©: ]

Rasmussen in complete contrast was having a very different day. On the Cat 1 Montée d'Hauteville he rode away from the break with only Arroyo and Colom able to hang on to his wheel. Leading all the way, Rasmussen drove the break to a lead of 4m 55s over a small chase group and 6m 14s on the peloton containing most of the race favorites.

Early on the final 18km climb to Tignes, Rasmussen spread his ‘chicken' wings and flew the coop. Majestically, in the true tradition of the great climbers, he forged his way to a brilliant win in Tignes. Behind him all hell broke loose as panic, desperation and tactical games created a fabulous race. French road race champion Christophe Moreau drove the chase as others, unwilling or incapable, refused to cooperate. About half way up the mountain Moreau put in attack after attack only to be reeled in each time. Bad blood was being created as the erratic pace did nothing to shut down Rasmussen. Behind them Vinokourov and the Astana boys were forcing the pace with other favorites hanging back. Even so they were steadily gaining ground on the Moreau group who were now in danger of losing all that they had gained. In the end a resurgent Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, rode away to claim second behind Rasmussen and a less than impressive Valverde was third. Considering his injuries Vinokourov rode brilliantly to come in just 4m 30s down while yesterday's young hero Linus Gerdemann came in just behind him and was fairly close to retaining his Yellow Jersey.

Stage Winner Rasmussen

Rasmussen takes the Yellow Jersey [ Images ©: ]

As the new race leader, Rasmussen evokes memories of Federico Bahamontes who many think of as the greatest climber of all time. Known as the ‘Eagle of Toledo', Bahamontes won the Tour in 1959 when the time advantages gained in the mountains were enough to see him through the flat lands and time trials. ‘Chicken Legs' Rasmussen has stated that a third KOM title does not interest him. He wants to win this Tour. To achieve this he will have to do a ‘Bahamontes' in the mountains because as we saw in a recent Tour time trial does not soar like an eagle but rather scratches like a chicken.

If Rasmussen arrives in Paris in Yellow then for climbing fans it will have been a long time ‘from the Eagle to the Chicken'!

Federico 'the Eagle of Toledo' Bahamontes

Michael 'Chicken Legs' Rasmussen


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