Today’s stage turned controversial. George Hincapie, an American, was in the yellow jersey on the road for much of the race. He got in a breakaway that got out to an 8:50 lead over the peloton putting him in the yellow jersey by 3:25 had the race finished at that moment. Astana started leading the peloton to bring that lead down to something more reasonable and, apparently wanting to let their friend George get the yellow jersey, stopped driving when the lead was back down to 5 or 6 minutes. AG2R, the current leader, tried but failed to push any harder to maintain the yellow jersey so it seemed clear that George would get the yellow jersey.
But in the final kilometers two teams pushed hard: Garmin and George’s own team, of all teams, Columbia. George ended up losing the yellow jersey by just 5 seconds. Immediately after the race, George blamed his long-time friends in Astana (Lance and Johan Bruyneel) and everyone else blamed Garmin. But why is it Garmin’s job to put someone else in the yellow jersey? I blame Columbia. They had no reason to push hard in the final kilometers. Their director, Ralf Aldag, said:
bq. We wanted to wait as long as possible, we don’t move to the front to pull hard. We went to the front and slowed it down.
That’s not true, they were clearly leading Cavendish out for the sprint finish at the end. They were trying to earn Cavendish sprint points more than they were trying to earn the yellow jersey. And they were successful, at first. Cavendish did beat Thor Hushovd at the line to earn points, but the officials took them away:
bq. After the race, officials relegated Cavendish to the back of the pack, saying he failed to hold his line in the finish. Thor Hushovd was given the points for 13th place, giving the Norwegian an 18-point lead in the green jersey competition.
So they didn’t get the yellow jersey or the points. HA ha.
And, frankly, George seemed to kick back in the final 10km letting three other riders attack without even an attempt to catch them. He may have been very tired by that point, but he even said it was the chance of a lifetime for him, so a little more effort could have made up the 5 seconds.
Garmin and Columbia already don’t like each other, apparently. And this is sure to create some bad blood between Garmin, Columbia and Astana.