Stage 14 of the Tour was incredible to watch - well, the last 20k, which I caught after coffee and muffins - and provides plenty of fodder for us armchair jerks. Everybody's favorite hardworking nice guy pro, George Hincapie, was the virtual yellow jersey being the best-placed rider in a break of 12. He needed to finish a little over five minutes ahead of the peloton to grab the yellow. The break of 12, with a big gap on the peloton, started attacking each other around 14k to go, and Sergie Ivanov counterattacked the son of Stephen Roche (who provides one of my favorite Tour stories) and opened a gap on the other members of the break, who looked at each other wondering who would chase. Ivanov won after a spectacular ride, and Hincapie rolled in several seconds afterward.
Garmin, the team that Hincapie's teammate Cavendish has repeatedly badmouthed, took over pacemaking at the front from a tired yellow-defending AG2R. There was the fuss during the Giro d'Italia about how Cav thought Garmin's focus on the TTT was disrespectful to the race. Interesting, coming from somebody who's a part of a team that doesn't have GC contenders for major stage races and instead seeks to just win individual stages. Isn't that the same thing?
So, with Garmin at the front driving a pace, the peloton is brought under the red kite and after a messy little low-speed sprint, with Cavendish trying to win but trying to do so as late as possible, Hincapie winds up five seconds outside of the yellow jersey. Cavendish, meanwhile, is relegated for his sprint tactics against Thor Hushovd. From the video, he half puts Thor into the barrier; the barrier line also moves inward and Cavendish doesn't really chop over very far.
Practically before any reporter can jam a microphone into anybody's face, Twitter lights up about all of this. The most interesting was from Robbie McEwen, who said that sprinting tactically walks a very fine line, and "if Cav hadn't [looked over his shoulder at Thor], he wouldn't been DQ'd." He also points out that it's easy to armchair quarterback like this, but I'd lean toward saying that he knows what he's talking about, having won the Green jersey a few times as well as lost it due to a relegation.
Meanwhile on Twitter, Lance says that Astana didn't close the gap, Vaughters says his team wasn't denying Hinc the yellow in retaliation for this feud between two American cycling teams (with Columbia usually coming out on top; Garmins wins in this years Grand Tours have been limited), Bruyneel raises his eyebrows at Vaughter's defense, and Vaughters' rider Wiggins feels sorry for Hincapie while defending himself, saying that he doesn't make the decisions on the road.
Both buzz-inducing moves - Garmin taking the necessary seconds from Hinc and denying him the yellow and Cavendish's half-chop of Hushovd - could go either way, in my opinion. Cavendish's move was far from flagrant, and yeah, Garmin's nibbling at the seconds is all part of racing, petty as it may appear to be.
But the real question is, when the hell did Twitter become the gossip-y medium of choice for the pro peloton?
And now it's time for the mountains.