Posted: Saturday July 15, 2006 2:59PM; Updated: Saturday July 15, 2006 2:59PM
That was Pereiro, you may recall, dueling with Discovery's George Hincapie of the Pla d'Adet at the end of Stage 15 in last year's Tour. Hincapie outsprinted him over the last 200 meters to take his first-ever Tour stage win. Pereiro griped afterward the George had sat on his wheel -- our cue to rub thumb and forefinger together while saying, Hey, Oscar, know what this is? The world's smallest violin.
For some odd reason, both men had zilch in their legs for the final climb in the Pyrenees on Thursday. After finding his legs and taking the race lead today, Pereiro's ambitions are reborn. "After the Pyrenees, I was feeling so bad," he said. "Of course now it's completely different." While you can't blame Pereiro for hoping -- and stating -- that he'll go much better in the Alps than the Pyrenees, nor can you blame almost everyone else at this race for thinking he'll sink like stone as soon as the road goes up.
"Of course they're confident they can take it back," Voigt said of Phonak after his win. "Pereiro was  minutes down" going into today, "and that's for a reason."
Shortly after Voigt and Pereiro dropped fellow breakaways Sylvain Chavanel and Manuel Quinziato, the German could be seen speaking with the Spaniard, giving him what turned out to be a sales pitch. "I'll go for the stage win," Voigt recalled telling Pereiro. "You go for the yellow jersey. Work with me a little bit, don't just sit on my wheel."
Voigt was particularly ebullient in victory, feeling vindicated after his last-place finish in the time trial a week ago. He'd explained, following that DFL performance, that he'd merely been saving his strength for later in the Tour. Still, he was stung by the amount of heat he took.
"Now I can say, 'See? I saved it for today,'" said Voigt, who jokingly implied that, with a stage win under stuffed safely in his shorts, he can take the rest of the Tour off: "Now, I'm going to have 10 official rest days."
Not so for Landis and Phonak, who, in their minds, have not lost the jersey to Pereiro so much as they have loaned it to him. By the end of his post-race interview, the new race leader seemed to agree. "There are still many mountain stages, and a long time trial," he said through a translator, "and it's not as if I have an advantage of 10 minutes. I think the day Floyd wants to take [the jersey] again, it will not be difficult for him to do it."
Memo to the Phonak bus driver: leave space in the window for more stuffed lions.