Today on Mont Ventoux, Lance Armstrong was able to hold on to his 3rd place finish.
Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador were clearly the best two riders of the tour, but Lance was very much the third best guy on the road.
The real fun, though, was listening to today’s broadcast because Bradley Wiggins of the UK was trying to desperately hold on to fourth.
Phil Liggett was practically jumping up and down cheering for Wiggins. Telling him to stay in there, push harder, and came up with the best phrase:
He’s holding on to 4th by the skin of his bike shorts!
Wiggins benefited from the fact that Frank Schleck didn’t have the legs, whereas Frank benefited from the fact that his brother was too far behind Alberto Contador to be able to mount a realistic challenge for the overall lead. So with Alberto and Andy stuck in first and second, it was a battle for the 3-4-5 positions of the overall lead. Andy tried to create attacks that Frank would follow but the magical legs that Frank had two days ago had disappeared. Instead after every attack Andy would have to stop and wait for his brother.
Furthermore, Frank was not going to benefit from the tactical screw up of the other day on stage 17 that lead to a surprising stage win:
What had happened was that Lance was following Wiggins all day. On the climb to the Col de Romme, Andy attacked and Alberto and Kloden followed. Lance realizing that he wasn’t going to challenge for the overall GC and that Alberto had a team mate let that attack go. A few seconds later when the attack had not yet consolidated, the group behind the leaders more or less stopped. Lance looked behind him, watching both Wiggins and Frank. He didn’t want to be pacing his challengers for the podium. When Frank attacked, Lance was at too much of a dead stop to catch up. Making the tactical decision that he could limit the damage Frank could create on his overall lead, and believing in his performance in the time-trial, Lance let Frank go, deciding to keep his eyes on Wiggins. Lance, correctly, surmised, that the multi-minute gap was simply too big for Frank.
But today with only 30 or so seconds separating Lance and Frank, there was to be no such screw up. And indeed there was not.
At the end of the tour, when Versus finally caught up with the Texan, he looked pleased with himself. Like anyone who comes in third, and realizes there was no chance for first, he was happy with his accomplishment, and said:
Not bad for an old fart like me.