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2013 TDF Stage 17–Froome Again

17 Jul

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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

2013 TDF Stage 16

16 Jul

Every stage is competitive in this year’s Tour. Not for the yellow jersey, but for all the other places in the top 10. Lucky for us, those spots are tight. Only seconds separate the 2nd – 5th placed riders and each one is looking to make up time or keep time.

Today’s stage had the expected large break get away and stay away. It took a while for a break to form, but once there were no riders that could threaten the top 10 the group was allowed to go. There were 26 riders in the break including several Frenchmen hoping to pick up France’s first stage win in the 100th Tour de France. It is their event after all, but alas, “pas aujourd’hui, désolé”. Oui.

The animators for Stage 16 were all expected to come from the break. Tomorrow’s stage is a hilly individual time-trial so it appeared the favorites/hopefuls would take it easy. Non.

Sky certainly had no desire to bring the break back or do anything other than stay at the front and protect their stronghold on the yellow jersey. And that’s pretty much the way things went until the last climb, the Category 2 Col de Manse. The riders in the break started attacking each other. First a couple of the French riders attacked and got away, Kadri (Ag2r) and Marino (Sojasun). Hansen (Lotto), Navarro (Cofidis) Costa (Movistar) and Roche (Saxo) quickly joined them, while others gave chase. Costa managed to get away, riding alone to the summit of Manse and then descending into Gap to take the stage win. The chase group finished :42 behind him.

Costa had been in 9th place in the GC prior to Stage 13 (crosswinds), but had to drop back from the main group to help Movistar team leader Valverde causing him to slip to 18th. Valverde fell from 2nd to 16th, only teammate Quintana has maintained his high spot overall. Point being that Movistar really wanted and needed this win and that was evident when Costa crossed the finish line. (photo from dailymail.uk.com)

Meanwhile back in the favorites group, Katusha attacked, upping the pace resulting in a split in the group; obviously for the benefit of their leader, Rodriguez. The move caused several favorites to drop off, including 5th placed Ten Dam (Belkin) and 7th placed Fuglsang (Astana).

Now the yellow jersey group was down to 8: Froome and Porte (Sky), Contador and Kreuziger (Saxo),  Valverde and Quintana (Movistar), Mollema (Belkin) and Rodriguez.

Contador launched 3 attacks on the ascent, momentarily dropping Porte, but Porte was able to get back. Contador attacked on the descent, once resulting in him overshooting a corner and going down, and Froome having to unclip along the road’s edge to avoid him. Both were able to remount and ride on, although Froome looked a bit peeved. I’m sure Contador couldn’t have cared less. The rest of us, at least those non-Brit fans, were happy to see Contador ride aggressively and Froome bothered.

There were changes in the GC top 10 after Stage 16: Quintana and Ten Dam swapped places – 5th and 6th respectively, as did Rodrigues and Fuglsang – 7th and 8th, and Daniel Martin moved up one spot to 10th. No changes in the top 4 spots or time gaps.

Not a bad day on the road.


Stage 17:

Stage profile

 

Could this time-trial shakeup the top of the GC? Possibly. Unlike the first individual time-trial this one is hilly, with technical descents and rain predicted. Time-trials are boring, but this one… maybe not.

2013 Stage 15-Unbelievable

15 Jul

I could end my post about Stage 15 with the title: Unbelievable.

What Chris Froome of Sky did on Mont Ventoux, after the peloton had ridden 220k at a record-breaking pace (1 hour faster than predicted), was beyond belief.

Yet, after all that he was able to climb the Ventoux with the 2nd best time (for the last 15.6 km) ever. Blowing away past Tour winners and the newest climbing sensation Columbian, Nairo Quintana.

There are more than a few names listed below that have confessed they were doped when they recorded their times on Mont Ventoux.

Yet he beat them?

On the longest stage ever that included ascending the Mont Ventoux?

MONT VENTOUX

Top 50 List

-1. Lance Armstrong ______ USA | 48:33 | 2002
             –2. Chris Froome _________ GBR | 48:35 | 2013
3. Andy Schleck _________ LUX | 48.57 | 2009
-4. Alberto Contador _____ ESP | 48:57 | 2009
-5. Lance Armstrong ______ USA | 49:00 | 2009
-6. Marco Pantani ________ ITA | 49:01 | 2000
-7. Lance Armstrong ______ USA | 49:01 | 2000
-8. Frank Schleck ________ LUX | 49:02 | 2009-
         9. Nairo Quintana _______ COL | 49:04 | 2013
10. Roman Kreuziger ______ CZE | 49:05 | 2009
11. Franco Pellizotti ____ ITA | 49:15 | 2009
12. Vincenzo Nibali ______ ITA | 49:17 | 2009
13. Bradley Wiggins ______ GBR | 49:22 | 2009
14. Joseba Beloki ________ ESP | 49:26 | 2000
15. Jan Ullrich __________ GER | 49:30 | 2000


A person would have to ignore past history and logic and science to believe that what Froome did, he did without performance enhancing drugs. If we’ve learned anything from the past decades of doping in cycling – it is that if it seems unbelievable – it is.


Stage 16:

Stage profile

Last Week of 2013 Tour de France

13 Jul

The last week in the Tour looks exciting. Although Froome is most likely strong, his team has been weakened. It’s hard to know if they’ve been sitting back and plan to attack tomorrow on Mont Ventoux like they did on Stage 8 or if they’ll ride more defensively and try to preserve their grip on yellow – my hunch is they will do the latter.

Froome still has a strong grip on the yellow jersey; 2:28 to Belkin’s Mollema, and just 2:45 to the cunning Contador. However, given the apparent vulnerability of Sky it is a lead that seems at least penetrable.

One thing that has been a surprise to me at least is the vulnerability of the team charged with protecting the yellow jersey. Froome doesn’t have near the team that Bradley Wiggins had last year when he wore yellow. Wiggins isn’t here to help Froome either, neither are strongmen Rigoberto Uran or  Sergio Henao who were both left off the Tour squad after competing in the Giro. Two of the riders expected to support Froome in the Alps were Edvald Boasson Hagen and  Vasil Kiryienka, both of whom are out of the Tour. There’s no doubt Froome is more exposed to attacks with the loss of those two; particularly by Saxo-Tinkoff and Contador.

If I were Froome and Sky I’d be more worried about Contador and his teammate Kreuziger then the Belkin duo.

Froome is solid physically, I don’t doubt that, but his team is not. I’m not so sure Froome is solid mentally. He can’t be as confident as he was when he strutted up the final climb of Stage 8 to take the win. Since losing his 2 teammates, being isolated in Stage 9 and losing 1:09 to his GC rivals in Stage 13, he certainly has to doubt the strength of his team.

The first sentence in my Understanding the Tour de France Guide is:  “Remember this simple fact – bike racing is a TEAM sport – not an individual sport”. We may all get another lesson in the importance of a strong team as we head to the Alps.



Stage 15:

PROFIL_thumb3

Tomorrow’s stage on Mont Ventoux, a long stage at 242 kilometers – the longest of this year’s Tour, should give us a glimpse of any weakness in Sky’s armor or that of any of the other GC contenders. 

Or, it may not be that subtle. We could see the race blow apart like we did yesterday.

We should be so lucky!

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