Tag Archives: TDF 2010

TDF Stage 17

23 Jul

TDF Stage 17
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Today was a day of incredible bike racing between the two best riders in the Tour de France this year – Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Alberto Contador (Astana).

Schleck did everything he needed to do today, except take the yellow jersey back from Contador.

Despite attacking, changing his pedaling rhythm, changing speed, Schleck could not shake Contador off his wheel. The fact is, it is even more amazing Contador could not shake Schleck off his.

Last year when Contador attacked in the mountain stages, no one could stay with him. This year was different; Schleck is a much stronger rider than he was last year. If you look at all the mountain stages in this year’s Tour, Schleck has proven he is on equal footing with Contador. One stage Schleck gained 10 seconds on Contador, another mountain stage Contador gained 10 seconds on Schleck.

If you take away the mechanical incident in Stage 15, you have a different race – and perhaps a different outcome. If Schleck had the yellow jersey going into the time trial, it is possible he could eke out a good enough performance to keep it.

In the 2007 Tour de France, Alberto Contador was expected to lose the Tour to Cadel Evans because Evan’s was a superior time-trialest. Contador rode the time trial of his then young career, and hung on to his lead over Evans of 23 seconds to win his first Tour de France.

Contador went into that time trial with the yellow jersey. Something happens to riders when they have the yellow – “they ride like two men” (Phil Liggett) – they just refuse to lose.

Schleck has the climbing skills to challenge Contador for the win in future Tours de France, he just needs the time trialing skills. I believe he will develop them, and expect that he will ride a good time trial on Saturday. Most likely, not good enough to win, unless Contador has a puncture, falls of his bike, or in karmic fashion – his chain slips.

There are no miracles in cycling so his chances of winning are slim- but Schleck has nothing to feel badly about. His team, Saxo Bank, set a tortuous pace that eventually left Contador alone. When Schleck’s last teammate dropped off completely spent, Schleck attacked. Contador glued himself to Schleck’s wheel. They dropped everyone. They picked up the remains of the breakaway – and dropped them too. The only thing they could not shake were the crazy fans.

It was the two of them – mano a mano – for the last 10km of the race. Contador attacked with about 4km left, but Schleck responded quickly and without difficulty.

They rode the last 10km alone, alongside the craziest fans in all of sports, duking it out until the finish, when Contador sat up and Schleck took the win. Presumably, Contador did not challenge, because he did not need the win (no time bonuses) and because Schleck had done the work. Possibly too, because of the chain incident.

It was a good race on the toughest mountain stage of this year’s Tour – and it ended in a draw. It has been years and years since the Tour has seen two riders, the key rivals, so evenly matched. Armstrong and Jan Ullrich were not – Ullrich often was in poor form and had not trained enough to challenge Armstrong at his best.

The clouds, fog and rain added to the dramatic battle between Contador and Schleck. Fortunately, it did not rain heavily so accidents were few.

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) put in another very impressive ride today coming in 4th – he is exceeding all expectations. Chris Horner (Team Radio Shack) turned out to be the strongest rider for the team – and the highest place American rider. Who knows what he would have done if the team had ridden for him and not Armstrong or Levi Leipheimer. Great ride today by Horner – the first opportunity this Tour he had to ride for himself. His 8th place finish shows what he was capable of.

There was no change in the top five positions in the general classification – although there were changes in time differences. The race for 3rd place on the podium is still very much up for grabs with just 21 seconds separating current 3rd place rider, Sammy Sanchez (Euskaltel – Euskadi) and 4th placed, Denis Menchov (Rabobank).

Stage 18 is a stage for the sprinters, in fact it is a classic sprint stage – much like today’s stage was a classic mountain stage. The sprinters
are eager I’m sure; expect a lot of action tomorrow in spite of all the tired legs and bodies. If you are a betting person, put your money on Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) to win the stage.

I was not disappointed in the way the race unfolded between Schleck and Contador.

 

Schleck did all he could do, he rode a perfect race. Unfortunately for him, so did Contador.

*pictures are from Getty Images

“El Pistolero Is Strong, Huh?”

22 Jul

Stage 17 write-up to follow, first read Andy Schleck’s comments on Stage 17 – Love the guy!

From LeTour:  http://www.letour.fr/

Andy Schleck – “El Pistolero is strong, huh?”Only eight seconds separate first from second overall after 17 stages of the Tour de France. The climb up the col du Tourmalet was the platform for the best young rider to become the best in the Tour. Andy Schleck won the stage but Alberto Contador is winning the battle for the yellow jersey.

“I’m satisfied with the stage win but I also wanted to turn white into yellow but unfortunately it wasn’t possible. I really tried hard, you have to believe me about that. I changed rhythm and I tried everything but I think we’re on the same level on the climbs. Alberto attacked and I could go with him – it was a quick response – but in the end he didn’t sprint to win the stage because I did the most work. I have a lot of respect for that, it shows that he’s a great champion.

“I tried to find out how he was feeling. You need to look at someone to see how he was coping. I think you can find out a lot if you look someone in the eyes. He didn’t have the sunglasses on today so it was possible to see, that’s why I looked so many times. But he always looked good and that’s kind of what killed me.

“El Pistolero is strong, huh? I could no drop him. He was always there. I wanted to find out if he was getting weak but he didn’t succumb. He even attacked me to show, ‘Hey, listen young boy, I’m still here! You better stop playing these games with me.’

“I’m super happy to win this stage today – it’s the Queen stage of this year’s Tour. To win on the Tourmalet is like a win on Alpe d’Huez.

“When I turned to talk to him, I said: ‘You pass?’ And he didn’t. I would have done the same. Why should he pass me? In the end, he let me win the stage and I’m super happy.”

TDF Stage 17 D – Day

22 Jul

Stage 17 is the Queen stage of this year’s Tour, but it is the do or die stage for Andy Schleck.  To have any chance of winning in Paris, he has to take back the yellow jersey and the lead from rival Alberto Contador in Stage 17.

Consider this:  Tour de France riders have completed 16 stages, ridden over 3,000km, in 78 hours + and only 8 seconds separates the top to riders.  Amazing.

Stage 17 will have riders ascend the Col de Marie-Blanque, Col de Soulor, and the Col du Tourmalet. Although riders climbed the Col du Tourmalet just 2 days ago in Stage 16, Stage 17 marks the first ever summit finish on the Tourmalet.

The climb up the Tourmalet will decide everything for Schleck.  He must take back the yellow jersey on the Tourmalet to have any chance to win the Tour de France – unless something unforeseen (and unlikely) happens to Contador on or before Saturday’s time trial.

Tomorrow is truly D-Day.  Again, it is so unfortunate that Schleck had the mechanical when he did.  He appeared to be stronger than Contador in Stage 15 and without a doubt Schleck had the psychological advantage.  He had Contador on the ropes – and his chain slips!  I still can not believe it.  Contador’s quick decision to capitalize on Schleck’s misfortune was proof positive that he was not sure he could beat Schleck.

If only Schleck had that 31 seconds on Contador going into tomorrow.  It might seem like nothing in terms of time, but it would have changed everything in terms of the race.

I am hoping for a miracle tomorrow – or just a little Karma!

TDF Stage 16

22 Jul

I had high expectations for today, of the latest battle in Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador war that was supposed to happen in Stage 16 today – it didn’t. They watched each other and waited.

I woke up just before 5am, could not go back to sleep so I got up to watch the stage. There was excitement from the start. For starters, there was the heated debate between Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen about Contador’s decision to race on with Schleck unable to due to the mechanical. Bob Roll and Craig Hummer seemed sort of uncomfortable with the dissension, kind of like kids act when mom and dad argue.

Secondly, there was the racing – the racing definitely started out exciting. Riders started attacking as soon as the neutral zone was clear. Lance Armstrong was finally in a break –  which was exciting.

In addition, I just knew as I watched Schleck that he was going to ride up to Contador and rip the yellow jersey off him – not really but I thought there might be something. Of course nothing happened, in fact they rode along side each other and appeared to talk. Word has it that the feud is over; Schleck went so far as to ask fans to quit booing Contador. I have no doubt Schleck still feels Contador acted in an un-sportsman like way, but maybe has decided to let his racing do his talking. We can only hope he has his best legs on Thursday.

Despite the hype, today’s stage was not expected to be the stage that Schleck attacked Contador because of the long descent. If either rider obtained a gain, it could have easily been made up on the descent. I did have my hopes up that the breakaway would make it and that if Armstrong was still there at the end – and he was – he would find a way to cross the finish line first. He did not.

I didn’t understand Johan Bruynel’s tactics, unless what we saw wasn’t what he ordered – but was maybe all Armstrong could do. Quick Step had Carlos Barredo attack (although 40k out was too soon) and ride alone to about 1k from the finish, Chris Horner (Radio Shack) could have made a similar move for Radio Shack. In that case, Armstrong would not have had to work in the breakaway with his teammate up the road – he could have rested and waited.

Instead, Armstrong tried to out sprint a very fast Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox). He couldn’t and Fedrigo took the win. It was a great ride today by Armstrong; he raced well and looked strong, particularly in the early climbs.

No way to know if it would have worked for them to send Horner alone (like Quick Step did with Barredo), but it would have had a better chance for success than to try and win a bunch sprint against Fedrigo and Cunego. Armstrong made such a strong effort; it would have been nice if he could have been rewarded with a final stage win.

As difficult as Stage 16 was, with over 13,000 feet of climbing, somehow green jersey hunter, Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) managed to finish with the main group and regain the green jersey. Hushovd sprinted to the finish, coming in 10th and gaining six points toward the green jersey. Enough points to give him a four-point edge in the competition for the green over Allesandro Petacchi (Lampre).

The race tightened for the climber’s polka dot jersey as well with Christophe Moreau (Caisse d’Epargne) gaining ground on current jersey wearer, Anthony Charteau (Bbox).

Tomorrow is a “rest day”, with Thursday being D-Day. Do or Die for the Yellow Jersey.

*pictures are from Getty Images

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