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2012 Tour de France-Stage 16

18 Jul


Today was an exciting day of racing but not because of what transpired between those in the hunt for the final podium  – it was the breakaway that provided the exciting racing we are used to seeing in the Tour de France and which has been strangely absent this year – except for the riders in the breaks with no GC aspirations but determined to get a stage win.

The 2012 Tour de France will be remembered as the year of the breakaway as the star of the race. It certainly was today. You’re not surprised I see it that way, are you.

A huge break of 38 riders formed early on in the race, before the climb of the Col d’Aubisque started. They stayed together more or less until a selection took place on the climb of the big mountain – the Col du Tourmalet (French for big mountain). Full-throttle or nothing, Dan Martin (Garmin) went to the front and most of the 38 fell off the back. Voeckler, Kessiakoff in the polka-dot jersey, Feillu and Sorensen were together for a while, then the 3 – Martin, Voeckler and Feillu and then Martin popped. Jonathon Vaughters told him to ease off earlier on, but Martin is young and hasn’t learned to pace himself yet. I’m sure today’s stage was a great lesson in that.

So then there were two in the lead break – two Frenchman – Voeckler and Feillu – which meant we saw little of the main group with Wiggins, Nibali and Evans while the French TV cameras rejoiced in their luck.

The group of favorites ascended the Tourmalet all together with the pace of Sky not hard enough to really splinter the main field. There was no reason for Sky to do anything other than set tempo at the front, they had what they wanted – the lead.

On the climb of the Col d’Aspin Liquigas for their leader Nibali went to the front to toughen the pace. Evans was dropped but had a teammate (not Van Garedern, he was allowed to stay with the main group of Wiggins and Nibali) to help pace him back and reduce the gap. The Aspin was the “easiest” of the climbs but it was the cumulative effort of the Aubisque and Tourmalet that did him in. On the descent of the Col d’Aspin Evans was able to rejoin the main group with one climb left to tackle.

Voeckler and Feillu worked together to keep their lead all the way to the final climb, the Col de Peyresourde until Voeckler proceeded to attack and drop his compatriot.

You have to love the crafty Voeckler. As he made his way along the Peyresourde and descended toward the finish he pushed fans away and directed fans to get out of his way with hand gestures that looked like a priest performing mass – and of course all the usual facial expressions with maybe a few new ones.


voeckler face st 16

As much as I enjoyed watching Voeckler win Stage 16, his 2nd of this Tour, I hated what happened to Evans. On the climb of the Peyresourde he was dropped again, this time permanently, losing over 4 minutes to Wiggins, Froome and Nibali. Nibali did attack on the final climb as was expected  but was never able to shake Wiggins or Froome. The three finished the stage together 7 minutes after Voeckler’s winning time.

Voeckler’s win today was reminiscent of his Stage 15 win in 2010 and his fight last year to keep the yellow jersey in Stage 18 last year. His style of racing epitomizes what I love about the Tour – and him – Vive la Voeckler!

voeckler finish st 16


Stage results

  • 1. Thomas VOECKLER, Europcar, in 5:35:02
  • 2. Chris Anker SÖRENSEN, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, at 1:40
  • 3. Gorka IZAGUIRRE INSAUSTI, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 3:22
  • 4. Alexandr VINOKUROV, Astana, at 3:23
  • 5. Brice FEILLU, Saur-Sojasun, at 3:57
  • 6. Jens VOIGT, RadioShack-Nissan, at 4:17
  • 7. Daniel MARTIN, Garmin-Sharp, at 6:08
  • 8. Simone STORTONI, Lampre-ISD, at 6:08
  • 9. Giampaolo CARUSO, Katusha, at 6:08
  • 10. Laurens TEN DAM, Rabobank, at 6:08

General classification

  • 1. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky, in 74:15:32
  • 2. Christopher FROOME, Sky, at 2:05
  • 3. Vincenzo NIBALI, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 2:23
  • 4. Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol, at 5:46
  • 5. Haimar ZUBELDIA AGIRRE, RadioShack-Nissan, at 7:13
  • 6. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC Racing, at 7:55
  • 7. Cadel EVANS, BMC Racing, at 8:06
  • 8. Janez BRAJKOVIC, Astana, at 9:09
  • 9. Pierre ROLLAND, Europcar, at 10:10
  • 10. Thibaut PINOT, FDJ-BigMat, at 11:43

2012 Tour de France-Stage 14

15 Jul

What a long strange Tour it’s been. 

Here’s what stands out for me after watching Stage 14:

  • Sprinter Mark Cavendish at the front of the peloton setting the pace on the beginning of the most difficult climb of the day, escorting a huge peloton. How is it that they are going so slow that a sprinter can not only be with the group on the climb but at the front setting the pace?

  • The most exciting part of the stage was the atTACK at the summit. Either a hoodlum or a fan bored with the racing – I almost put racing in quotes because it’s a stretch to call much of what we’ve seen lately racing (other than the guys in breaks) – put tacks along the summit causing numerous flats. Cadel Evans had more flats on today’s stage than I’ve had in my 22 years of riding.

  • Peter Sagan is the most exciting rider to come along in… forever and thank goodness he’s here providing some excitement. Call me crazy but I think this guy could be a GC contender in a few years (3-5) if he loses a few kilos and learns to TT. He has amazing talent and the type of personality to maximize it.

  • Tip of the helmet to Wiggins and Sky for slowing down the pace to allow puncture-prone Evans to catch up and ride in with the main group. Lotto and Liquigas continued to race – to pursue Rolland who didn’t wait but once Rolland was caught the race was neutralized.

  • Tip of the helmet to Tejay Van Garderen for telling the truth when he easily could have lied about knowing that Evans had punctured and not waiting (he thought there might be another teammate nearby to help Evans-which is how it looked to me from the video) and admitting he should have. I like Van Garderen a lot, he has huge potential.

  • Great effort and win for LL Sanchez and team Rabobank. With only 4 guys (of 9) left in the race they won the stage.

  • The biggest difference in this Tour is not Wiggins, but his team. If you didn’t realize how true it is that teams not riders win jersey’s you should certainly understand it now. Lotto illustrated it perfectly yesterday when they picked up Greipel who was 2nd to last getting up the climb and escorted him to the finish for the win. We get to see how true it is with Sky everyday. What would the race be like if Nibali and Evans had similar teams. We would see them race more aggressively for one thing and we would see a tighter race.

  • What would Garmin-Sharp have been able to do if they had their two GC hopefuls – Hesjedal and Danielson.

  • What would the race look like if RadioShack had Andy Schleck – and money?

PIC296413860Stage results

  • 1. Luis Leon SANCHEZ GIL, Rabobank, in 4:50:29
  • 2. Peter SAGAN, Liquigas-Cannondale, at :47
  • 3. Sandy CASAR, FDJ-BigMat, at :47
  • 4. Philippe GILBERT, BMC Racing, at :47
  • 5. Gorka IZAGUIRRE INSAUSTI, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at :47
  • 6. Sergio Miguel MOREIRA PAULINHO, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, at 2:51
  • 7. Sébastien MINARD, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 2:51
  • 8. Martin VELITS, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 3:49
  • 9. Eduard VORGANOV, Katusha, at 4:51
  • 10. Steven KRUIJSWIJK, Rabobank, at 4:53

General classification

  • 1. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky, in 64:41:16
  • 2. Christopher FROOME, Sky, at 2:05
  • 3. Vincenzo NIBALI, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 2:23
  • 4. Cadel EVANS, BMC Racing, at 3:19
  • 5. Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol, at 4:48
  • 6. Haimar ZUBELDIA AGIRRE, RadioShack-Nissan, at 6:15
  • 7. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC Racing, at 6:57
  • 8. Janez BRAJKOVIC, Astana, at 7:30
  • 9. Pierre ROLLAND, Europcar, at 8:31
  • 10. Thibaut PINOT, FDJ-BigMat, at 8:51

No change in the yellow, green, polka-dot or white jersey competitions.

2012 Tour de France-Stage 11

12 Jul

stage 11 rolland gettyAnother win for the French team, Europcar. The small team (continental team) that could and did.

Stage 11 was a tough stage albeit short, at least by Tour standards – 92 miles long, but 40 of those miles were uphill – 15,000 feet of climbing on the 2 HC (beyond category- most difficult) climbs, a category 2 and a category 1. Just another day at the office for most of these guys.

There were attacks and counter-attacks from the start. A break of 26 riders had formed at 30 kilometers out on the first climb, the Col de la Madeleine . Several of the teams had more than 1 rider in the break, there were big names there like yesterday – Gesink, Valverde, Horner, Leipheimer and BMC riders, Burghart and Gilbert. It was good to see Garmin-Sharp’s climber, Martin also there.

Team Europcar had 3 riders in the break and immediately went to the front to set the pace, presumably for the guy most likely to win the stage – Rolland. Once they went to the front and turned up the pace, riders started dropping off the back – among them Gesink, Rabobank’s leader and Gilbert, BMC’s disappointment.

Meanwhile back in the peloton, Boasson Hagen was at the front driving the Sky train. By the looks of the size of the main group the pace wasn’t too high. Sprinter extraordinaire, Sagan was also there to soldier on for his Liquigas leader, Nibali. If a sprinter can hang on a HC climb, even Sagan, the pace isn’t blistering fast.

It was too fast however, for the polka-dot jersey wearer, Voeckler, who was struggling to maintain contact with the main field.

At the summit of the Madeleine, Astana’s Kessiakoff, previous mountain jersey holder, raced Peter Velits to the top for the points – Velits crossed 1st (25pts), Kessiakoff 2nd (20), and Kern 3rd (16). On the descent Kessiakoff and Velits opened a small gap but a small chasing break including Rolland, Valverde, and Scarponi quickly caught them and then they were all caught by the remainder of the break (minus a few riders).

Then it was on to the next climb, the Col de la Croix de Fer, another HC category. The race was taking its toll, three riders abandoned – Westra (Vacansoleil), Mollema (Rabobank) and sprinter, Renshaw. As predicted, Cancellara did abandon prior to the start.

At the front of the leading group Europcar was driving a hard pace. If you didn’t know it before it was certainly clear now – they were setting Rolland up to win the stage. I mentioned Rolland in my predictions for Stage 11 yesterday.

The main group descended the Madeleine with Tour leader Bradley Wiggins and teammates in front, there was no attack by Evans or Nibali. As they started the 2nd climb, Wiggins had 4 teammates protecting him. Cadel Evans (BMC) 2nd overall, must have been happy with 3 teammates along side of him.

With 64k to go, Evans and teammate Van Garderen attacked Wiggins. Van Garderen went first and Evans followed. Neither Nibali nor Sky pursued but Sky turned up the pace causing riders to drop off the back – and the peloton got smaller.

It was a great plan and execution, but Evans didn’t have the legs to follow through. He had difficulty staying on Van Garderen’s wheel and it became obvious, they were going nowhere except back under control of the Wiggins group.

Evans rejoined Wiggins, et al, with perhaps the thought that  he would save any remaining matches he had for an attack on the last climb of the day. Van Garderen appeared to be in no difficulty on the attack, but he stayed alongside Evans (as he should) as they continued up the Col de la Croix with the Wiggins group.

While all the excitement was occurring with the heads of state, there was a tightening of the screws by Europcar’s Kern as he was just relentless setting a high pace where only a few riders in the break could stay with them (among them Horner and Martin) – further selection occurring both in the break and the peloton. That is the nature of a day like today.

Rolland and Kessiakoff sprinted to the summit, Kessiakoff narrowly edged Rolland for the first points and the bonus of 5000 euros for the highest finish. Initially Rolland was awarded first because referees felt Kessiakoff interfered with Rolland but they reversed their decision and Kessiakoff received first.

On the descent Rolland went down in a turn, but quickly remounted and with moves that would have scared his mother to death, caught the two leaders (Kiserlovski and Kiryienka) near the start of the last climb.

Rolland and Kiserlovski were caught by Sorensen and Velits, the gap to the main field of Wiggins and company was coming down – under 3 minutes at that point.

Worried that they would be caught by the peloton Rolland made a hard attack quickly getting a gap on the remaining riders about 14k from the finish.

Back in the Wiggins group, Vanden Broeck, Brajkovic and Pinot attacked and got a gap. Nibali soon followed and put several seconds into Wiggins before they caught him and pulled him back.

Nibali attacked again, Froome and Wiggins pursued, Evans and Van Garderen stayed with them.  Momentarily it was too much for Froome, he dropped off which left Wiggins to take care of himself. Finally! Wiggins was isolated, or so it seemed.

Wiggins pursued Nibali on his own with Evans and Van Garderen in tow, but quickly Froome managed to get back to the front, relieving Wiggins of having to do his own work pursuing Nibali. With Froome at the front Evans couldn’t hold the pace. As he dropped off the back, Van Garderen fell back to pace his leader back. Evans was gone though, he just couldn’t pace back to the group.

About that time Wiggins told Froome (at least that’s how it looked, I haven’t heard any interviews) Evans was dropped and to pick it up. They quickly caught Nibali, et al, and then the regenerated Froome took off – without his leader – and quickly got a gap. stage 11 froome breakThere was however the minor problem that his teammate and yellow jersey wearer couldn’t follow and was caught out. Oops.

Next thing the cameras showed was Froome getting a call from the team car telling him to “cease and desist” which he did. It was funny, but it showed that the guy with the yellow just might not be the strongest rider on the team. Froome in that move exposed Wiggins’ vulnerability more than any one else has at any other point in the Tour. I would love to have been on the Sky bus after the stage.

Rolland pushed on to the finish in what was a brilliant effort and took another stage win for team Europcar -  back to back stage wins for this small but mighty team.

The yellow jersey group of Wiggins, Froome, Pinot, Vanden Broeck and Nibali finished next, Pinot narrowly edged Froome for 2nd place. When Wiggins finished he patted Nibali on the back, Nibali reciprocated. It appeared Wiggins said something to him – perhaps apologizing for being a jerk yesterday at the finish line. Evans finished 11th on the stage, currently in 4th place overall at 3:19. Hindsight is of course 20/20, if Evans hadn’t attacked you have to wonder would he still hold 2nd? Perhaps not, but he would probably be in 3rd. Nibali who now sits in 3rd is :56 ahead of Evans. There’s still time for Evans to recapture 3rd if he has the legs and mindset to do it. And what about Froome, will he stay the faithful lieutenant to Wiggins or make another move like he made today… now that would make for a really exciting Tour. Stay tuned, Stage 12 preview will be posted a bit later today.

Stage results

  • 1. Pierre ROLLAND, Europcar in 4:43:54
  • 2. Thibaut PINOT, FDJ-BigMat +55
  • 3. Christopher FROOME, Sky +55
  • 4. Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol +57
  • 5. Vincenzo NIBALI, Liquigas-Cannondale +57
  • 6. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky +57
  • 7. Chris Anker SÖRENSEN, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank +1:08
  • 8. Janez BRAJKOVIC, Astana +1:58
  • 9. Vasil KIRYIENKA, Movistar +2:13
  • 10. Frank SCHLECK, RadioShack-Nissan +2:23
  • 11. Cadel EVANS, BMC Racing +2:23


General classification

  • 1. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky in 48:43:53
  • 2. Christopher FROOME, Sky +2:05
  • 3. Vincenzo NIBALI, Liquigas-Cannondale +2:23
  • 4. Cadel EVANS, BMC Racing +3:19
  • 5. Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol +4:48
  • 6. Haimar ZUBELDIA AGIRRE, RadioShack-Nissan +6:15
  • 7. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC Racing +6:57
  • 8. Janez BRAJKOVIC, Astana +7:30
  • 9. Pierre ROLLAND, Europcar +8:31
  • 10. Thibaut PINOT, FDJ-BigMat +8:51

2012 Tour de France-Stage 10

11 Jul

I closed yesterday’s blog by saying I hoped there would be good racing today – and boy was there ever!

There was no change in the first five places in the General Classification – nor in time gaps but there was still plenty of exciting racing.

Almost from the drop of the flag a break of 3 riders formed followed with counter-attacks. A 25 man breakaway ended up forming with 15 teams represented. They were going hunting for points (Peter Sagan and Matthew Goss) and a stage win. In the break were riders who had previously won a stage at the Tour: Burghart (BMC), Popovych and Voight (RadioShack) Miller and Zabriskie (Garmin), Voeckler (Europcar), Casar (FDJ) and Sanchez (Rabobank). The highest ranked rider in the break was Scarponi (Lampe) at 10 minutes back. As the break started the first climb they had built up a gap of just under 7 minutes over the main field. The pace of the stage was the fastest of the Tour so far.

At the sprint Sagan, Goss and Hutarovich raced for points with Goss taking maximum, Hutarovich taking 2nd and Sagan 3rd. Sagan’s lead over Goss in the green jersey competition is now 27 points.

The lead group started the climb of Colombier with Europcar at the front. The gap to the peloton was 6:29. Almost immediately riders started falling off the back as the road kicked up on the long climb (17.4k). The lead group was reduced to just five riders: Voeckler, Scarponi, Sanchez, Peraud and Devenyns (Quickstep), then a second group of a handful of riders.

Voeckler did most of the work at the front of the small lead group. He seemed content to do it – and of course the others were happy to let him. To reward him for his efforts no one contested his race to the summit and the 25 points for the polka-dot jersey – which he got. The lead breakaway’s gap at this point was about 5 minutes over the peloton.

Once the peloton summited the climb, Vanden Broeck went off the front, and Evans and Nibali moved to the front, ahead of Wiggins. Team Sky was in control and Evans sat on letting them do the work. I thought he might go with Nibali but for whatever reason he didn’t.

Nibali caught up to teammate Peter Sagan who had been dropped by the breakaway and used Sagan to pace him through the descent until Sagan could no longer stay with him on the final climb of the day. It was a great effort by Sagan, helping himself to more points in the green jersey sprint and providing support to his team leader. Nibali increased his gap on the peloton to almost a minute before it started coming down.

voeckler polkaWith Sky driving a hard pace they caught Nibali on the final climb (guess that’s why Evans didn’t go). The 4 man lead group summits the last climb, Voeckler picks up a few more points giving him the “king of the mountains” jersey.

Once the peloton started the descent, Vanden Broeck and Voeckler’s teammate, Rolland took off the front and opened a gap. Van Garderen, in the white jersey, used the descent to catch up to the peloton, including the rider next in line for the white jersey, Taaramae, thus protecting his hold on the white for at least another day.

Meanwhile on the front the lead group of 4 becomes the lead group of 5 when somehow the old man of the Tour, Jens Voight, caught and then passed them. Voeckler chased him down, then Devenyns who had been conserving his energy at the back took off. No one wanted to chase but Voight finally does, then Voeckler. The gaps were about even and it looked like Devenyns would get himself the win. About that time he ran out of gas, and Voight closed in.

But lo and behold Voeckler, who didn’t panic with Devenyns attack, dug deep and quickly closed the gap to Voight and Devenyns and then passed them.  About that time it looks like Voeckler had the win, but the road kicked up and he started to slow and Scarponi started to close in.

At that point just meters from the finish – everyone loses gas and Voeckler managed to hang on for the win.  It truly was a brave and brilliant ride today by Voeckler. As you all know I’m a big Voeckler fan and seeing him take this stage and the polka dot jersey was thrilling!

Voeckler - letour

As the peloton neared the finish Evans and Nibali attacked but Wiggins and Sky quickly shut it down. No gains today for Nibali or Evans but Vanden Broeck did reduce his deficit slightly.

Stage 10 Results:

  • 1. Thomas VOECKLER, Europcar, in 4:46:26
  • 2. Michele SCARPONI, Lampre-ISD, at :3
  • 3. Jens VOIGT, RadioShack-Nissan, at :7
  • 4. Luis Leon SANCHEZ GIL, Rabobank, at :23
  • 5. Dries DEVENYNS, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at :30
  • 6. Sandy CASAR, FDJ-BigMat, at 2:44
  • 7. Egoi MARTINEZ DE ESTEBAN, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 2:44
  • 8. Pierre ROLLAND, Europcar, at 2:44
  • 9. Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol, at 2:44
  • 10. Dmitriy FOFONOV, Astana, at 2:52

GC after Stage 10:

  • 1. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky, in 43:59:02
  • 2. Cadel EVANS, BMC Racing, at 1:53
  • 3. Christopher FROOME, Sky, at 2:07
  • 4. Vincenzo NIBALI, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 2:23
  • 5. Denis MENCHOV, Katusha, at 3:02
  • 6. Haimar ZUBELDIA AGIRRE, RadioShack-Nissan, at 3:19
  • 7. Maxime MONFORT, RadioShack-Nissan, at 4:23
  • 8. Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol, at 4:48
  • 9. Nicolas ROCHE, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 5:29
  • 10. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC Racing, at 5:31

Stage 11 Preview:

Queen Stage of the Alps


stage 11

Regarding Stage 11, a picture is worth a lot of words. Tomorrow offers riders no time to warm-up the legs and then will punish them the rest of the stage. It will be difficult for a break to get the kind of time on the Sky driven peloton like it did today. If any one in the break is a risk to GC, Sky will reel them in, which means only low GC placed riders who are also strong climbers will be able to stay away. Pierre Rolland, another Europcar rider comes to mind. He won Alpe d’huez last year so he’s capable.

Those riders protecting their spot on the podium (Wiggins) or looking to move up (Evans, Nibali, Menchov, Vanden Broeck, Zubeldia) probably will ride together more or less until the two HC climbs are behind them. I expect most of the fireworks between the contenders to be on the last climb, if there even are any. It could very well go like today with no changes in the top 5. If Wiggins gets isolated – which based on what we’ve saw today and Stage 8 is highly unlikely – sparks will fly. Otherwise, we’ll have to look for someone(s) in the break to make the race interesting.

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