Today’s coverage is complicated somewhat by the fact that your humble scribe is en route from Maryland back to Oakland, with a rather longer than optimal layover in the city of my birth, Philadelphia (or as the natives call it, Filuffya). The Philly airport is a relic from the 60s plastered over with Starbucks and Sbarro; I had to ride a shuttle bus – an honest-to-Shiva internal combustion bus, if you please – between terminals in the eyeball-melting heat as it dodged between jumbo jets and baggage trucks. On the return plus side, though, the airport has free wifi, surprise of surprises, and so here we are.
Today the Tour finally crossed over into France, appropriately enough with a Frenchman, yesterday’s champion Sylvain Chavenel, in the yellow jersey. Yes, that’s right, do not adjust your sets: a Frenchman in the maillot jaune; will wonders never cease? It was said that Chavanel was the only rider to cross yesterday’s finish line with a smile on his face. This was by all accounts a miserable day in the saddle, with dozens of riders crashing, some more than once. Poor Christian Vande Velde got some more broken ribs to add to his already broken ribs from a crash in the Tour of Switzerland, and after crashing out of the Giro d’Italia, he seems to have completed a historic Grand Slam of Crashes.
But that’s of little importance to the overall race; of more significance is that Frank Schleck seems to have abandoned after crashing again today. Frank came in 5th in last year’s Tour and is a key helper for his brother Andy, who was angling to improve on last year’s runner-up finish. Andy, meanwhile, somehow leapfrogged both Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, ending up in 6th, 1:09 behind new yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara. Wait, Cancellara back in yellow? I am piecing this whole thing together from fragmentary reports and it is all very confusing. Apparently Lance had a flat tire at a key juncture that cost him some time; the cobblestones on today’s stage were likely a factor. He dropped to 18th place while Contador jumped to 9th. So many exciting developments, and me stuck in Philadelphia!