Not much to report about the Phillies aside from the fact that the second half opens up tomorrow when defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals come to town. The fact also remains that the Phillies need to add some pitching if they are going to make a push after the Mets, but they are in a very large club in that regard.
Everyone needs pitching.
It also seems that there could be a shortage of ash bats as well. According to a story in The New York Times a scourge of Asian beetles – called the ash borer – has wreaked havoc on trees in the northeast and could, as some scientists predict, wipe out the ash tree used to make baseball bats from the region.
Speaking of wiping out bats, the web site Steroid Nation reports that the “mainstream” media missed a story in which MLB commissioner Bud Selig “quietly” endorses a growth hormone test. Currently there is no such test to detect whether one is using HGH and it’s quite conceivable that a large number of professional athletes are using the performance-enhancing drug.
Needless to say, this is an important development. If Selig is successful in spearheading the research for an HGH test it could define the legacy of the man who presided over baseball during its so-called Steroid Era.
Speaking of creating a legacy, it was quite an eventful day on the road from Chablis to Autun in Stage 5 of the Tour de France. Italian Filippo Pozzato won the 113-mile stage which featured the first major climbs of the Tour, but that was an afterthought in light of what shook down in wine country today.
What everyone is talking about now is that the pre-race favorite, Alexandre Vinokourov “hit the floor,” in the words of Phil Liggett, with approximately 15 miles to go in the stage. According to reports, Vinokourov says the chain on his bike popped off and then he was cleaning himself off the floor.
Then it got interesting. As Vino dusted himself off and got back on his bike, the TV cameras zoomed in on his shorts where some big-time road rash showed through on his right hip/buttock. Also evident were some nasty cuts and bleeding on both knees that required a trip to the hospital where he got stitched up for some wounds that went all the way down to the muscle.
Nevertheless, Vino’s Astana teammates all dropped back – except for overall second-place rider Andreas Klöden, who was left to fight for himself in the peloton – to help the team leader rally from a more than two-minute deficit to close to within 75 seconds in the end. Despite that, the damage had been done. Vino fell to 81st place and 2-minutes, 10 seconds behind, while nursing some soreness and sporting some stitches as the mountain stages loom. Next comes Stage 6, a flat ride from the medieval Semur-en-Auxois on the Armancon to the suburban Bourg-en-Bresse at the base of the Alps. This one will be the last flat stage until late next week.
Still, perhaps the road isn’t so daunting for Vinokourov. Known as rider without fear and unafraid to take risks, Vino comes from Kazakhstan, which when it was part of the USSR was the place where the government tested nuclear bombs. According to Daniel Coyle’s entrancing Lance Armstrong’s War, Vino’s parents were chicken farmers in Petropavlovsk, but it was never something the cyclist ever talked about. In fact, when he first arrived on the professional riding scene Vino never talked at all except to say:
“I will ride hard today. The hill is not steep. I will attack.”
And that’s exactly what he did. Jonathan Vaughters, the former pro cyclist turned leader of the American Slipstream team said in Coyle’s book, “It’s very understood in the peloton – [he] doesn’t have anything to go home to. Sprints, climbs, descents – [he is] never going to give up, and will go all the way to the edge because [he] just doesn’t care.”
So he has that going for him, which is nice.
But if that’s not enough for Astana, Klöden’s status in the race is up in the air after it was revealed that the second-place rider hit the floor and has a hairline fracture in his tailbone.
An injury like that makes it very difficult to ride a bike.
Stage 5 Final
Top 20 (all same time):
1.) Filippo Pozzato, Liquigas, Italy
2.) Oscar Freire, Rabobank, Spain
3.) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, Italy
4.) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg
5.) Erik Zabel, Milram, Germany
6.) George Hincapie, Discovery Channel, USA
7.) Christian Moreni, Cofidis, Italy
8.) Stefan Schumacher, Gerolsteiner, Germany
9.) Bram Tankink, Quick Step, Netherlands
10.) Jérôme Pineau, Bouygues Telecom, France
11.) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia
12.) Fabian Cancellara, CSC, Switzerland
13.) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d’Epargne, Spain
14.) Chris Horner, Predictor-Lotto, USA
15.) Fränk Schleck, CSC, Luxembourg
16.) Martin Elmiger, AG2R, Switzerland
17.) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, Germany
18.) Inigo Landaluze, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain
19.) Michael Rogers, T-Mobile, Australia, T-Mobile, Australia
20.) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, France
1.) Fabian Cancellara, CSC, Switzerland, in 28:56
2.) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, @ :33
3.) Filippo Pozzato, Liquigas, Italy, @ :35
4.) David Millar, Saunier Duval, Great Britain, @ :41
5.) George Hincapie, Discovery Channel, USA, @ :43
6.) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel, Russia, @ :45
7.) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d’Epargne, Russia, @ :46
8.) Mikel Atarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ :49
9.) Thomas Dekker, Rabobank, Netherlands, @ :51
10.) Benoît Vaugrenard, Française des Jeux, France, @ :52
The other interesting development in Stage 5 is the hard-riding je ne sais quoi of overall leader, Fabian Cancellara. Some close observers of the Tour suggested that Cancellara’s days in the Yellow Jersey were coming to an end after Stage 4 as the sprint specialist met the first ahrd climbs of the race. But when the action got hot in the final kilometers of Stage 5, Cancellara was right there battling it out with the rest of the peloton.
“The maillot jaune gives a rider the strength of two men,” Phil Liggett offered.
Bonnie DeSimone, the cycling writer for The Boston Globe and ESPN.com, has a blog called “A Feast on Wheels.” It’s very good.