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2013 Tour de France Recap

22 Jul

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The 100th Tour de France is in the books with Chris Froome (Sky) the winner.

The Tour route this year was well conceived. Starting on the island of Corsica led to an exciting and unpredictable first week. Besides spectacular scenery we had tougher stages than are typical in the first week. One thing we’re used to seeing in the first week was true this Tour too – chaos and crashes.

Chaos and crashes resulting from a first for the Tour, a team bus (Orica-GreenEdge) stuck at the finish line under the finishing gantry. Confusion ensued, as did a major pile-up just kilometers from the finish. Newest sprinting sensation, Marcel Kittel took his first Tour win in Stage 1.

Stage 2 was won by a newcomer to the Tour, Radio Shack’s Jan Bakelants; getting his first pro win and the yellow jersey when he finished just seconds ahead of the chasing peloton. One of the few times a rider in the break actually wins the stage.

Simon Gerrans got his first, and Orica-GreenEdge’s first, ever Tour win in Stage 3 and the yellow jersey when he managed to pip the sprinting green giant, Peter Sagan (Cannondale) at the finish. This was just the second Tour appearance for OGE. OGE continued to impress when they won Stage 4, the team time-trial, keeping the yellow jersey for a second day.

Stage 5 brought something we’ve seen 23 times before in the Tour de France – a Mark Cavendish win. Last year Cavendish had to share team Sky with the yellow jersey winner, this year he had a team of his own, Omega-Pharma QuickStep. A team dedicated to giving him a perfect leadout so he could deliver stage wins. Although OPQS was built around him, he managed to get only two Tour wins – his fewest wins in a Tour – Kittel was the main reason why. It’s nice to have other sprinters who can compete with Cav. Another of those sprinters, is the gorilla, Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) who managed to beat Cavendish and Sagan to take the win in Stage 6.

Although Stage 7 ended as expected in a bunch sprint, it was anything but predictable. It was the highlight of the first week of the 100th Tour for me.  Sagan, Cannondale’s sprinter had yet to get a win. In any given Tour, this one included, stages sprinters have a chance to win are relatively few. Cannondale’s plan for Stage 7 was obvious from the start: get Sagan the win. They executed their plan to perfection. They stayed at the front of the peloton dictating a high pace over what was a lumpy stage. Most sprinters can’t handle even mild climbs, but Sagan can. When Sagan sprinted for the finish, Greipel, Cavendish and Kittel were no longer in the main group – all had been dropped by the blistering pace set by Cannondale. Sagan in effect got a 190 kilometer leadout by his team, and delivered the win.

Stage 8 delivered the expected and feared: a win by Froome and most likely an insurmountable lead. That’s what I said in my post on Stage 8 and indeed it was. He never relinquished the yellow jersey, he simply padded his lead in the kind of dominating fashion we haven’t seen since Lance Armstrong. Truly, déjà vu.

Stage 9 was an opportunity lost for the other GC hopefuls. However, in the end it probably made no difference in the final outcome. It did give fans hope and exciting racing in what was a stage dominated by attacks. Garmin-Sharp came out with both barrels blazing. Movistar and Saxo-Tinkoff blasted away too, until Froome and his yellow jersey were all alone, without another Sky rider in sight. We got to see what a climbing phenomenon Movistar’s Nairo Quintana was. We also saw Garmin-Sharp’s well executed plan of attack pay off with a stage win by Dan Martin.

In another stage for the sprinters, Stage 10 showed us just how frustrated Cavendish was and how strong Kittel is. Cavendish’s leadout by OPQS simply wasn’t as good as either Kittel’s Argos-Shimano or Sagan’s Cannondale teams. Cav’s frustration was taken out on Kittel’s teammate and leadout, Tom Veelers. Despite the knockdown by Cavendish of Veelers, Kittel still managed to win.

Stage 11 was the first of two individual time-trial’s in the 2013 Tour de France. If you weren’t sure before, you were afterwards of just how strong Froome was. As I said in the post for Stage 11 , “the fat lady in France, the one dressed in yellow, she’s singing”. World champion time-trialest Tony Martin (OPQS), despite the horrendous road rash he got in the late crash in Stage 1, beat Froome to win the ITT.

We all wondered how the sprint would go in Stage 12 after the takedown by Cavendish of Veelers. How it went was nothing short of incredible. Cavendish was in front and most of us thought he had the win. As Phil Liggett said, no one can come from behind Cavendish and beat him. Someone forgot to tell Kittel. He used Cavendish perfectly to get the win, sitting on his wheel until just the right moment and beating him by half a wheel. I couldn’t believe it – Liggett couldn’t believe it – Cavendish couldn’t believe it! What a sprint, what a win! Justice.

Stage 13 was the best stage of racing in this Tour. All thanks go to the crosswinds and heads up racing by a few teams. The route was flat and thus expected to end in a bunch sprint. Consequently the sprinters teams Lotto-Belisol, OPQS and Argos-Shimano shared the work at the front. When the crosswind occurred OPQS formed an echelon and upped the pace. Those that were paying attention got on, those that didn’t or weren’t positioned closely enough to the front got dropped and quickly gapped. All the contenders for GC made the cut, but Valverde had a mechanical and soon was dropped. All of his teammates except Quintana dropped back to help. Smart move by Movistar director that had a huge impact on their success in the Tour – as did Valverde’s mechanical, most likely. In another shrewd move Alberto Contador marshaled his guys to the front to put the hammer down, quickly dropping Froome. A select few made the cut, as Saxo-Tinkoff rode as hard as they could to get as much time as possible on Froome. Great tactical racing by Contador, as he called that play on the road. They managed to get 1:09 on Froome, but it wasn’t enough. Still, it was brilliant and exciting racing.

Stage 14 was a transition stage, the type of stage where someone in the break would likely win. BMC’s Tejay Van Garderen got in the break, I hoped he might be able to salvage his Tour with a stage win. Coming into the Tour he had GC aspirations, not for a podium position but for a high placement. He won the Tour of California this year. Unfortunately he had a very disappointing Tour, although from my perspective at least I consider him somewhat of a hero. He raced aggressively, getting in breaks when he could, and came very close to winning the Stage on Alp d’Huez. Van Garderen is one of the young racers who wants to do things the right way, or that’s how it seems to me. I have a lot of respect for him and the way he races. Stage 14 was won by someone in the break, Matteo Trentin of OPQS.

Stage 15 – Mont Ventoux. Froome did an unbelievable ride up Mont Ventoux, literally, unbelievable. While seated he spun away from Contador, making Contador look like he was standing still as Froome zoomed past. This “not normal” ascent of Ventoux was the 2nd best time ever – in the history of the Tour. The only person with a better time was Lance Armstrong who was three seconds faster.  Froome’s time beat the time of many riders known to have doped in the past. Froome annihilated everyone on the climb, and consequently the race  for yellow. After Stage 15 Froome had over a four minute lead over his closest competitor. The only race left was for the podium and top 10 in GC.

The favorites continued to attack Froome and Sky in Stage 16. They also attacked each other too since only seconds separated the top five places. Contador attacked Froome repeatedly, all to no avail in terms of effecting his lead. He did irritate Froome when he overshot a corner causing Froome to nearly crash. Froome complained to Contador via Twitter about his aggressive racing. Personally I wondered why Froome was chasing him so aggressively with such a large lead. There was some shuffling in the top 10 spots in GC, with more to come.

Stage 17 was an individual time-trial over a hilly and technical course. Van Garderen rode a very good TT, holding the lead for awhile. Contador laid it all on the line, probably seeing it as his best chance for a stage victory. It almost was, but Froome narrowly beat him by 9 seconds. Froome captured his 4th stage win and extended his lead by 20 seconds. Contador’s effort moved him to 2nd overall.

In the most mountainous Tour in its 100 year history, Stage 18 had another first. Two ascents of Alp d’Huez on the same day. France was still looking for their first stage win of their Tour, Van Garderen and others were looking to redeem their Tour with a win on the infamous Alp. Van Garderen likely would have got the win if his bike hadn’t failed him, causing him to use precious resources catching back up to the small break. He ran out of gas near the finish and Christophe Riblon overtook him to get France their first stage win. Froome also ran out of gas near the end but decided to break the rules and get gel – his 2nd time to break the “food” rule in the Tour. His penalty for doing so this stage was a joke – 20 seconds for him and Porte. We’ll never know what might have happened if he had followed the rules, and bonked.

Stage 19, another tough day in the Alps, had a lot of racing action that ended in a stalemate. A large break got away and the tactically-wise, Rui Costa of Movistar used the break to get his 2nd stage win this Tour. There were no changes in the top positions of the GC. Riders were focused on maintaining their positions in the overall or moving up. Also focused no doubt, on the last day in the Alps, Stage 20 and its summit finish on the HC Annecy-Semnoz. This last week in the Tour was brutal; difficult for past Tour winners and contenders alike – except the ultra-dominant Froome. Earlier in the Tour people were somewhat reluctant to voice their suspicions of Froome. By now nearly everyone, but the true believers were. Coming off the Armstrong doping debacle, fans are understandably suspicious of performances that are too good to be true. Froome’s certainly fits that criteria, especially when you look at him prior to 2011.

Stage 20 was do or die day for those hoping to get a stage win, move up in the overall or maintain a GC or podium spot. There was still the polka dot jersey up for grabs too. The last day before the processional into Paris was the day to go for it all – if you had the legs to do so. Not many did by the time they got to the 6th climb of the day – the Annecy-Semnoz. When it was all said and done, only Quintana, Froome and Katusha’s Rodriguez had the legs. Quintana won the stage, jumping from the 3rd spot on the podium to 2nd, Rodriguez took over the 3rd spot. Contador fell to 4th and off the podium. Quintana also secured the polka-dot jersey as well as the white jersey for best young rider. Quintana will be a force to contend with in any of the grand tours he races. I read that Contador was competing about 20% below what he had in previous Tours (including when he tested positive for doping and forfeited his title). It is often reported that doping improves a rider’s performance by 20%, so maybe what we were seeing was a clean Contador.

Stage 21 was the usual processional into Paris, culminating in a no-holds barred sprint. Typically a stage won by Cavendish, as he had on the previous four rides onto the Champs Elyse. Not this year. Kittel took the win, his 4th of this Tour. Kittel got a great jump on Cavendish and Greipel, but Cavendish battled his way back making the finish closer than it appeared it would be. Close but no cigar for Cavendish.


The 100th Tour de France is in the record books with Chris Froome as its winner.

With everything fans of professional cycling have had to contend with regarding the rampant doping in the sport and the spoken desire to clean it up, we deserved more than we got in this year’s Tour in my opinion. I did not expect to see another individual and team, Froome and Sky, dominate in the same fashion as Armstrong and Postal/Discovery did for 7 years. Nor for the other riders, teams, commentators and journalists to have the same “there’s nothing to see here” code of denial and silence that we’ve been fed year after year, win after win. Enough.

More positives from the 1998 Tour will be announced this week, with more excuses and more apologies to come. And no doubt, more of the “that’s in the past” and “we’re clean now” mantra we hear after every time a period of rampant doping is discovered (read: made public). How many times do we have to (re)learn that the culture of doping continues despite the fact that we were assured it has stopped. None for me. What are your feelings?



Thanks to all who followed my posts on the Tour, and although you wouldn’t know it by looking at the (lack of) comments, many do according to the data. It’s rewarding to know hundreds visited and that I wasn’t just talking to myself. :)  ~Susan

2013 TDF Stage 19 – Stalemate

19 Jul

Stage 19 was another hard day in the Alps for what has to be a very tired peloton. The last week of the 100th Tour de France is more reminiscent of the third week of a Giro d’italia with all of the tough mountain stages we’ve seen.

And we aren’t done with the Alps yet. Stage 20, the last stage of the Tour before finishing in Paris on Sunday, will be another tough day ending with a summit finish on the HC (so difficult we don’t even classify it except to say – beyond category – or Hors catégorie) Annecy-Semnoz.

Today’s stage started with a couple of HC climbs, then a couple of Category 1 climbs ending with a rainy descent into the beautiful town of Le Grand-Bornand. The entire route was beautiful, starting in Bourg-d’Oisans. I made note because next fall we’re going to France.

A huge break of about 44 riders got away on the first HC climb. Rui Costa (Movistar) the winner of today’s stage was in the break, waiting until the time was right to attack and ride solo to the win – the same strategy he used when he won on Stage 16.

I had hoped (but doubted) that Ryder Hesjedal who attacked the break early might win, but really felt like Pierre Rolland (Europcar) had an excellent chance to win when he attacked the group and joined Hesjedal on the climb of the Col de la Madeleine.

The two worked well together until Hesjedal ran out of gas leaving Rolland to continue alone. Rolland maintained a lead of just over a minute on the chase groups until the very last climb of the day when the rain started and Costa who had attacked earlier caught and dropped him.

Besides trying to win the stage Rolland was after points for the climber’s polka dot jersey. He managed to get within one point of Froome, maybe if Rolland has any legs left he can pick up enough points tomorrow to secure that jersey.

Disappointingly Saxo-Tinkoff had to do the majority of the pace making today for the main group allowing Froome and his Sky boys to rest. Saxo and Contador rode a defensive race just trying to protect his 2nd place in the GC and Kreuziger’s 4th place. Movistar’s Quintana is breathing down Contador’s neck with just 21 seconds separating them. In what must have been a move to make sure Quintana couldn’t attack Saxo-Tinkoff upped the pace on the last climb.

The pace wasn’t enough to deter Rodriguez (Katusha) because he attacked on the climb, followed quickly by Quintana and Contador with Froome following – his lackey, Porte did not.

The move basically ended in a stalemate, all ended up finishing with the same time of 8:40. Valverde (Movistar) used it to eek out enough time to move him up into the top 10 overall. There was no change in the top 7 places in GC, but Navarro (Cofidis) took the 8th spot from Rodgers (Saxo-Tinkoff), and Valverde in 9th. Saxo-Tinkoff was able to maintain their lead in the team competition.

    • 1. Christopher FROOME, Sky, in 77:10:00
    • 2. Alberto CONTADOR VELASCO, Saxo-Tinkoff, at 5:11
    • 3. Nairo Alexander QUINTANA ROJAS, Movistar, at 5:32
    • 4. Roman KREUZIGER, Saxo-Tinkoff, at 5:44
    • 5. Joaquin RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Katusha, at 5:58
    • 6. Bauke MOLLEMA, Belkin, at 8:58
    • 7. Jakob FUGLSANG, Astana, at 9:33
    • 8. Daniel NAVARRO GARCIA, Cofidis, at 12:33
    • 9. Alejandro VALVERDE BELMONTE, Movistar, at 14:56
    • 10. Michal KWIATKOWSKI, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 16:08

Stage 20:

 

Stage profile

We can expect aggressive racing tomorrow among the top placed riders as they try to move up – or hang on. We’ll also see all-out racing from those looking for a stage win and those looking to grab the Polka dot jersey from Froome. Tomorrow is it, no other chances except for the sprinters on Sunday. Should be exciting!

2013 TDF Stage 18-Let Froome Bonk

18 Jul

“I ‘m winning the Tour and you can’t prove sh*t”

(photo from velonews, my caption 😉




My time to blog about the Tour, even watch the Tour is about to get limited but I’ll write a short one while I can.

As you know, I’m no fan of Froome’s, but my dislike for him grows it seems with each passing stage.


Today (again) he took food within the last 6 km where it isn’t allowed. He called for his teammate Porte to get him gel from the team car. Porte did, wihile the race referees shouted at him. Froome was in danger of bonking, admitting after the stage he was out of sugar. The effect of that if he had not received the gel could have resulted in a bonk and possibly time loss. It has before (Landis in 2006 comes to mind), but instead Froome/Porte/Sky made their own rules and did what they felt they had to do. Their penalty? A 20 second time loss for Froome and Porte.

Froome, being the whiner he is whined, “If you look at it technically, Richie actually took the feed from the car, not me. Maybe that’s something that should be taken into consideration”. Ugh.

What a stand-up guy. Sky breaks the rules when they need to, yet we’re not supposed to believe despite Froome’s off-the-charts performances day after day (after day) that Froome uses performance enhancing drugs.

Right…

Enough about him.

NBC showed the entirety of the stage so we got to see early attacks and the break form. One more thing about Froome, it says a lot about the guy that when Contador’s support riders attacked early on, Froome chased them down isolating himself! Everything came back together, but still, a bone-headed move by Froome. It seems he can’t stand when his rivals attack – regardless of the size of his lead. Not a smart racing strategy.

Tejay Van Garderen rode a perfect race; the only problem was his bike didn’t. On the descent of the Col de Sarenne Van Garderen hit a bump which caused his gearing to lock up, or so it appeared. He had to get a bike change, which he had to wait on, but even so he managed to catch back up to his two other break-mates, Riblon and Moser before ascending Alp d’huez again. Van Garderen dropped them on the climb, but as he got closer and closer to the finish he got slower and slower.

He was so close to finishing it off and getting a much deserved victory – and maybe he would have if a teammate had got him a gel or two – but it wasn’t to be.

Instead Riblon got the French their first victory of the 100th Tour de France.

The top 5 finishers for Stage 18:

  • 1. Christophe RIBLON, Ag2r La Mondiale, in 4:51:32
  • 2. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC Racing, at :59
  • 3. Moreno MOSER, Cannondale, at 1:27
  • 4. Nairo Alexander QUINTANA ROJAS, Movistar, at 2:12
  • 5. Joaquin RODRIGUEZ OLIVER

The top 10 places in the general classification now:

    • 1. Christopher FROOME, Sky, in 71:02:19
    • 2. Alberto CONTADOR VELASCO, Saxo-Tinkoff, at 5:11
    • 3. Nairo Alexander QUINTANA ROJAS, Movistar, at 5:32
    • 4. Roman KREUZIGER, Saxo-Tinkoff, at 5:44
    • 5. Joaquin RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Katusha, at 5:58
    • 6. Bauke MOLLEMA, Belkin, at 8:58
    • 7. Jakob FUGLSANG, Astana, at 9:33
    • 8. Michael ROGERS, Saxo-Tinkoff, at 14:26
    • 9. Michal KWIATKOWSKI, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 14:38
    • 10. Laurens TEN DAM, Belkin, at 14:39

Stage 19:

Tomorrow’s stage profile looks like a beast. We certainly could see more movement in the top 10-20 places in the GC.

Stage profile

2013 TDF Stage 17–Froome Again

17 Jul

Sky’s Froome managed to pad his lead by 20 seconds and get his third stage win today when he narrowly beat Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) by 9 seconds in the individual time-trial. Contador had a slight edge on the first part of the 32 km hilly and technical course – complicated further by rain, but Froome made that up and then some in the latter part of the course. Froome, unlike Contador, elected to change bikes after the 2nd climb to a TT bike with bigger gearing. He was able to descend faster as a result. Contador chose to go with a traditional road bike, with full disc wheel in back and clip-on aero bars for the entire course.

There were numerous impressive performances today, probably the most impressive was Frenchman Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r). Peraud crashed during a practice run on the course and suffered a broken clavicle. He elected to start the stage and managed to get through the tough ascents and all but 2 km of the course. At that point he crashed again, falling hard on the same shoulder.  His parents and wife were watching him on that section of the course – how horrible for them. Peraud made a yeoman’s effort to compete and almost complete a difficult time-trial course.

That corner was tricky for other riders too, Belkin rider Bauke Mollema crashed into the barrier there, but managed to stay upright. He unfortunately fell from 2nd place overall to 4th place.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) rode an incredible time-trial finishing just :30 back off the winning time. He stayed with the same bike during the entire course too. His teammate Nairo Quintana not only rode a great TT finishing in 6th place, but he had the fastest bike change of anyone. He’s impressive and a future contender in the Tour and other grand tours.

I had hoped if the rain held, so might Tejay Van Garderen’s leading time, but no such luck. The rain stopped and the roads dried allowing the riders to race aggressively beating his time. Van Garderen finished in the 10th spot – a good ride for a guy that has had a difficult Tour.

Another impressive ride was by none other than Andy Schleck. Schleck shocked everyone, finishing 15th for the stage and moving up in the overall GC to 16th. Good for him, he’s caught a lot of flack this year so it was nice to see him do well. Maybe he’ll try for something before Paris.

Speaking of the general classification, Contador moved up to 2nd (4:34 behind Froome), teammate Kreuziger moved up to 3rd,  Joaquin Rodríguez (Katusha) moved up to 6th with the 3rd best time in the TT.

The rain certainly was a factor in today’s stage and could be a big factor tomorrow if it rains as predicted on what many are calling the Queen Stage (most difficult) when the peloton climbs the most infamous Alp, Alp d’huez. It’s the descent off the Category 2 Col de Sarenne that has many worried, particularly Froome. He has asked in the event of rain that the stage end with just a single ascent of Alp d’huez.

Froome is being viewed as a bit of a crybaby after sending the following tweet to Contador yesterday:

 

chrisfroome Chris FroomeAlmost went over your head @albertocontador.. Little more care next time? About one day ago via Twitter for iPhone  Favorite  Retweet Reply

 

Pretty stupid of Froome, if he felt Contador was racing too fast, he should have slowed down and not followed Contador’s wheel. It’s called racing, Froome.

One Tour official was quoted as saying regardless of the rain tomorrow the stage will go as planned.

Should be an exciting one, and hopefully a safe one.

By the way, the last Tour de France “champion” to take as many stage wins as Froome was none other than doper, Lance Armstrong.


Stage 18:

 

Stage profile

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For the Love of Bikes Blog by Susan Lash (2009 - 2014) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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