I have to feel sorry for Christophe Moreau. His Credit Agricole teammates, and team manager, must have been out to lunch when Oscar Pereiro, right, charged up the road in a 4-man breakaway in Friday's 95-mile stage from Issoire to Le Puy.
How else could you explain their inattention, which allowed the Spanish rider from Phonak to gain 4 minutes and 19 seconds, moving from 13th to 10th place and overtaking Moreau.
Another member of the breakaway, Giuseppe Guerini (left) of T-Mobile, won the stage, jumping ahead of the group that had led since early in the stage. Guerini's position also helped solidify T-Mobile's leading position in the team competition.
None of this really mattered to Lance Armstrong, who comfortably sits in 1st place. He's saving his strength for Saturday's individual time trial in St. Etienne, where he'll attempt to win his first stage in a Tour de France that will mark his unprecedented 7th overall victory.
Pereiro has been on a tear in the past week. The blogger at Tour de France 2005 says, “He's like Vinokourov, if Vinokourov could keep his eyes on the prize.”
The 28-year-old Pereiro — a pro since 2000 — was that cyclist American George Hincapie passed at the finish line in Stage 15th in the Pyrenees. Although he lost the stage, and lashed out bitterly at Hincapie, he moved from 24th to 17th that day.
The next stage, he moved to 15th place when he won the last Pyrenees stage into Pau; then to 14th place in the 17th stage, and to 13th in Thursday's stage.
He was in the Friday morning breakaway that at one point had nearly a 9 minute lead on the peloton. If that had held, Pereiro could have moved way up the overall classification and threatened 5th place Francisco Mancebo.
Mancebo's Illes Balears team appeared to be the first to recognize the threat that Pereiro posed, and picked up the pace-making at the front of the peloton with about 33 miles to go. Eventually Credit Agricole, Gerolsteiner and Davitamon.Lotto joined in the pace-making, but it was too late to save 10th for Credit Agricole's Moreau.
Race photos by Emeric Bisbee
Bert Grabsch glances over his shoulder on approach to finish in Le Puy. Kurt-Asle Arvesen (behind him) won the sprint for 6th.
The top 10 after Friday's stage:
Lance Armstrong (1, Discovery);
Ivan Basso (2, CSC) 2:46 behind;
Mickael Rasmussen (3, Rabobank) 3:46 behind;
Jan Ullrich (4, T-Mobile) 5:58 behind;
Francisco Mancebo (5, Illes Balears) 7:08 behind;
Levi Leipheimer (6, Gerolsteiner) 8:12 behind;
Cadel Evans (7, Davitamon.Lotto) 9:49 behind;
Alexandre Vinokourov (8, T-Mobile) 10:11 behind;
Floyd Landis (9, Phonak) 10:42 behind, and;
Oscar Pereiro (10, Phonak) 12:39 behind.