i've been following the Tour since Lemond's '86 win. i've seen the Lemond reign, the Indurain reign, the Armstrong reign. i've seen legitimate one time winners in Roche '87. I've seen sullied 1-time winners in Delgado'88 (Probenicide), Ullrich '97 (Operacion Puerto), and Pantani ('98- too many problems to mention). i also watched the Riis'96 win from a rider that really didn't do much else (save the '97 Amstel Gold) . Oscar Pereiro, present maillot jaune wearer, reminds me most of the latter. Not a King, but a lieutenant. This, in fact, is a Tour of Lieutenants. Valverde becomes Pereiro. Basso becomes Sastre. Ullrich becomes Kloden. Vinokourov becomes...well, his team isn't in the race. Moreau becomes Dessel. It's the most amazing Tour i've seen from that perspective. There is no real strongman, no one (or few) rider to dictate the race. It is a true freeforall. I said just a few days ago that Pereiro was good enough to cause trouble. now, after today's epic stage over the 4 big cols, the Tour is yet again on its head. when i said it, though, i didn't really expect him to give Floyd the trouble that Floyd experienced today. now, if Kloden, Sastre, or Evans (and maybe Menchov) don't take some time out of Pereiro tomorrow on the last Alpine stage, Pereiro will win the '06 Tour. Pereiro finished about 1 minute down of the 'favorites' in the first TT. they cannot expect to take more out; he seems inspired.
as for Floyd, what can you say? total collapse. it hurt to watch it. after 7 years of watching Lance either dominate, or at worst in '03 pull it out, this is more reality. i was impressed that Levi was willing to show some pluck today. didn't work, but a noble effort. oooh, and Disco had a top-20 finisher! Phonak finished only 11th on the Team classification today. seems another teammate or two up there could've stemmed the tide. Wow!
in mentally reviewing 20 yrs of Tours, i can't think of another legitimate Tour winner defalting so badly as Landis did today on the Touissure climb. i challenge my (1 or 2 actual) readers to come up with a comparison from a 'modern' Tour.