2011 Tour de France-Stage 9

10 Jul

I didn’t watch the stage until this evening.

Will write more tomorrow, but must say chapeau to current Tour leader and of course, yellow jersey wearer, Thomas Voeckler!

I’m a fan, and had the good fortune to meet him last September in Quebec City when he raced in, and won, the Grand Prix de Quebec.

P1000787

Today’s stage was an exciting stage, but for many bad reasons – crashes. The first crash was incidental and no one was seriously hurt. The 2nd crash was very serious, knocking out of the race: Vinokourov, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Frederik Willems and Dave Zabriskie. Andreas Kloden the “by default” leader of Team Radio Shack, was also injured (lower back) and could hardly walk after finishing the stage.  It is unknown whether he will continue.

The 3rd crash was completely insane. A French TV car, after being told not to pass the riders in the breakaway group passed them anyway, hitting Juan Antonio Flecha and causing Johnny Hoogerland to crash into a barbed wire fence. Flecha was knocked off of his bike onto the road and Hooglerland’s skin was shredded by the barbed wire. Amazingly but still the norm for the riders of the Tour de France, both men got back on their bikes and finished the race. Both men may co-own that television station in the not too distant future. The driver knowingly acted against the instruction of race radio and the whole thing was caught on live television – their television cameras no doubt.

Johan Bruyneel , race director for Team Radio Shack, stated after the race that there are just too many vehicles on the road this year and that it is putting riders at risk. It does appear there are more television cameras just based on the quantity and quality of race coverage. It has changed a lot just in the past 3 years or so. Prior to that the race action was often covered mainly by helicopter (think of all the picture break up we used to have to put up with when there was dense tree coverage) with one or two, maybe 3 motorbike cameramen. It also seems there are more cars with so-called dignitaries –  more accurately known as fat-cats.

Tour officials will probably be “encouraged” by the riders and teams to revisit these issues during the off-season.

Last, but certainly not least was another smart and savvy ride by new Tour Leader, Thomas Voeckler. Voeckler is a smart and opportunistic racer. He has been since bursting onto the Tour scene in 2004 when he made a name for himself  wearing the yellow jersey for 10 days.

Those of us who have watched him race for a while know his style and knew that Stage 9 was the type of stage he could win. It was similar to Stage 15 in last year’s Tour, which he won. He has that reputation in the peloton and the riders like and respect him. He didn’t win Stage 9, Luis Leon Sanchez did (Voeckler did too much work in the breakaway to have enough left to sprint for the finish), but he took the yellow jersey from the equally terrific bike racer Thor Hushovd. Both Voeckler and Hushovd are tough and aggressive bike racers, Voeckler will bring honor to the yellow jersey just at Hushovd did.

Voeckler yellow by Europcar

Voeckler has serious time on Tour favorites:

2:26 on Cadel Evans

2:29 on Frank Schleck

2:37 on Andy Schleck

4:07 on Alberto Contador

When I selected Voeckler as the first rider on my Tour de France Fantasy Cycling Challenge team I did so with the thought that he was a serious contender to win the Tour de France. He is the team leader on Europcar and has had a great year of racing – 10 victories at my last count, his best year ever. We saw him win the 2010 Grand de Quebec where Canadian Ryder Hesjedal was heavily favored to win.

Voeckler’s great form may be peaking at just the right moment.

His team is not the quality of the Schlecks’ or Contador’s no doubt about it. But Voeckler himself, can fight and win against the best of them. I truly believe he can keep the yellow jersey. Is it likely, of course not. But this has been an “unlikely” Tour thus far. I’ll be pulling for him that’s for sure.


Tour de France Fantasy Cycling Challenge

For the Love of Bikes team (4loveofbikes) scored 240 points in Stage 9 thanks to Thomas Voeckler ( 141) and Phillippe Gilbert (99).

The bad news is that the team was further decimated by injury resulting from the endless crashes occurring in the Tour. Today we lost Alexandre Vinokourov and Juan Manuel Garate, we are now down to 10 riders. Stay safe guys and watch out for those stupid cars – just like we have to!

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