Welcome to the first of three days in the high mountains of the Alps! Today brings us many firsts, bests, and other superlatives. Both Enbrun and Prato Nevoso are hosting the Tour for the first time ever...today's first mountain climb, the hors categorie Col Agnol, at 2744m, is the highest international pass in the Alps (it connects France and Italy), and the third-highest paved road pass in the Alps overall...the Tour goes over this pass for the first time ever in 2008!
The Category 3 climb of the Collo del Morte sounds scary but I'm sure will pale in comparison with the 11km Category 1 climb to the finish at the ski town of Prato Nevoso. Any riders with any energy left might care to check out the town's Snowboard Museum...
Team CSC dominated the tactics in the fight for the yellow jersey today, with strong pace making that left Cadel Evans jersey-less at the end of the stage. Not only has CSC gotten their man, Frank Schleck, into yellow, Carlos Sastre 'rode himself back into the race' (to borrow a Phil and Paulism) - at 6th place overall but less than a minute behind his teammate, Sastre is still one to watch! Today's stage blew the Tour wide open, with no less than five riders less than a minute behind Schleck.
Even though Cadel's no longer in yellow, Australians still have something to celebrate with Simon Gerrans winning his first stage in four Tours de France. He was part of a four man breakaway early on, was briefly dropped by the breakaway, and - despite being pitted against better-acknowledged mountain climbing specialists - managed a great attack just at one of the final bends on the summit finish to snatch the stage win. And boy did he look happy crossing that finish line!
The standings after Stage 15:
Yellow: Frank Schleck (CSC)
Green: Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Polka Dot: Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner)
White: Vincenzo Nibale (Liquigas)
Team: Team CSC
And a reminder - you have just 24 hours to enter the 2nd intermediate sprint!
Well, we're excited! Go Oscar Freire - woot!! (And from the Aussies on this team: Cadel, we know you can do it - you can get the yellow back again!)
Alli's excited - she is just back from a remote fishing trip/knitting retreat, and says she is "this close" to finishing - bring it on! Erika has been experimenting with new recipes to catch something of the flavour of the Tour - timing her risotto perfectly to match the Tour's entry into Italy. Bells has been spreading the love of all things food and fibre unto the next generation (go and reassure her that all 7yr olds are like that). Bethgirl (Rav) has nearly finished the heel of her second Baudelaire - and you know it is all about la descente after that! Our glorious leader Sarah should be back from knitting camp very soon, and we're all dying to see what she did while she was there, and Maria has been finding some entertaining ways to escape the pressure of it all. I've got plans to crochet pretty edges around my Ondulation Tunique (wish me luck), but yesterday these were delayed by a bit of Calorimetric action last night, resulting in me modelling it in front of the Tour-on-tele at midnight (look if you dare).
Sunday is approaching with ever-increasing swiftness - may your needles fly, your wheels spin, and may you avoid the ghastly tangles of outrageous fortune as we set our sights on Paris!