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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tour-watch: Lanceification 

Well, can I call it or what? Tuesday's stage was an awe-inspiring display of power. In short: Lance put the yellow jersey back on today, and all but destroyed the hopes of most of the theoretical challengers. It was an amazing thing to see Armstrong just open up, and then watch names like Ullrich, Vinokourov, Heras, and many more just drop away like they were in some other race.

Credit must go to those who stayed with him, and in the end there were three who lasted most of the way, and only one who went to the finish line with the Texan. Rasmussen, Valverde, and Mancebo: they rode with Lance. Rasmussen is well on his way to earning the King of the Mountains title; Valverde got an amazing stage win, and Mancebo helped his teammate Valverde to get there, but still stayed around to collect fourth place.

It's not game over yet. There's many more hard days. There's many more chances for Armstrong to falter or suffer a mishap or just turn out to be old. But so far, all of his challengers look much older than he does.

Wednesday's stage will be even tougher on the riders, with more hard hills, but the lack of a mountaintop finish should make for a less decisive event. Dropped riders can catch up on descents, and packs of riders can draft each other and make time on solo escape artists.

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