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2012 Tour de France Wrap-up

29 Jul


    alljerseys win letour cropWaiting to write the final post on the 2012 Tour de France was wise. A few days to reflect and to view the Tour as a whole and in parts – individual stages – has improved the view.

    The Tour de France is more than just the fight for the yellow jersey. Every day there are multiple races occurring. Besides the race for overall GC, there is the race to win the stage, the race for sprint points for the green jersey, the race for points on climbs for the polka-dot jersey, racing for the best young rider’s white jersey, and the team classification – all occurring every day in every stage for three weeks.

    So, when comments are made that the 2012 Tour was boring – what most of us are complaining about is the race for yellow and the supremacy of Bradley Wiggins and team Sky.

    The race for yellow was completely dominated by Wiggins and his teammates. Once Wiggins captured the yellow jersey in the 7th stage it was never relinquished. Capturing it in the first week of the Tour set the tone for weeks two and three – controlled racing by Sky. No wasted effort, no reactive racing, just a methodical execution of their plan to win the Tour.

    Wearing the yellow jersey with the expectation of keeping it isn’t just about being the strongest, it also requires riding defensively, preserving energy, taking calculated chances with the biggest chance of payoff, and not taking any unnecessary risks – Wiggins and Sky did that better than anyone else.

    The biggest difference between Wiggins, Evans and even Vincenzo Nibali although to a lesser extent than Evans – was the difference between their teams. BMC brought a team designed for the spring classics more than a grand tour and it hurt him.

    Did it cost Evans the Tour – no, but it might have cost him a place on the podium. Evans is a guy that needs his team around him, as much for moral support as anything else. Although Tejay Van Garderen was there and supported him, he was also concerned with keeping his white jersey and high overall GC place.

    As far as Nibali, he seemed happy to have a spot on the podium. For all the talking and dissing of Wiggins he did in the first week, he really didn’t do much to show he was capable of winning the Tour.

    It might not have been the most exciting Tour in terms of surprises and changes in the general classification but it was a Tour filled with many remarkable moments.

    The Highs:

    • For starters, the yellow jersey contest wasn’t the only lopsided jersey competition – so was the green jersey thanks to Peter Sagan. Sagan was a highlight of the Tour winning the green jersey by the widest margin in almost 30 years. He is the real deal, immensely talented, and fun to watch, especially with the victory salutes. He isn’t “just” a sprinter, the guy can climb – and he’s only 22. Sagan has what looks to be a brilliant future ahead of him, imagine him in the spring classic races.

    • The daily breakaways – for a change we had breakaways succeed. Some of the best moments of the Tour came from breakaways – Europcar’s wins, David Millar for Garmin winning and salvaging their Tour, LL Sanchez doing the same for Rabobank. The action in the breaks made for much of the excitement in this year’s Tour. Chris Anker Sorensen winner of the most combative rider was in numerous breakaways as was Fredrik Kessiakoff who battled Voeckler for the climber’s jersey.

    • The little team that could – Europcar. In the current climate of the super-teams like RadioShack-Nissan, Sky, and others it’s nice to see a continental caliber team do so much with seemingly so little. Big heart = big payoff for the team and Tour fans.

    • The old guys, George Hincapie, Jens Voigt, Chris Horner all had great Tours. Jens Voigt was an animal, getting in numerous breaks throughout the Tour and setting the pace at the front for the first week of the race while his teammate Fabian Cancellara had the yellow jersey. Chris Horner finished a very respectable 13th overall in the Tour and George Hincapie was just Big George. He protected his team leader Cadel Evans in the flats and shepherded him to the finish when the Tour was unofficially over for Evans. Sky provided Hincapie with a great show of respect as they had him ride at the front as the peloton rode onto the Champs.

    • The young guys – Van Garderen, Thibaut Pinot, Pierre Rolland, Sagan, all provide us with much hope for the future of cycling and Tours to come.

    • The true grit and extraordinary toughness shown by many riders in this Tour: Tom Danielson rode for days with a separated shoulder, only dropping out of the Tour when he got a 2nd shoulder separation in the worst crash of this Tour on Stage 6; Giro winner and Tour GC contender Ryder Hesjedal finished stage 6 after injuring his hip and leg then having to be helped off his bike – he had to abandon; Johan van Summeren crashed in stage 6 and finished not only the stage but the Tour – as did Tyler Farrar who crashed 4 times yet fought through it and finished the Tour.

    The Lows:

    • The parcours – too many time-trials not enough high mountains.

    • Lack of attacks within GC – but given the circumstances understandable – but still disappointing.

    • The carnage of the first week, so many crashes with serious results to the GC.

    • Frank Shleck’s positive test for a banned substance but also his lackluster performance this year.

    • Evans difficulties, not only in the Tour but the year as a whole. He just never had the form he had last year, but he continued to battle hard throughout and stay positive – which he has had trouble doing in the past. Evans handled himself like a champ and I believe we will see him compete again.

    • Denis Menchov, great form but still the disappearing assassin of recent Tours, Philippe Gilbert.

    • Horner horning in on Big George’s moment on the Champs. Horner has been asked why he did it, but has yet to answer. BMC didn’t ask him too, I think he just did it to get in the spotlight. Poor judgment by Horner.

    What we witnessed in the 2012 Tour de France was a systematic undoing of all other GC hopefuls by Wiggins and Sky. It may not have had the fireworks of previous Tours, but the way Wiggins and Sky pulled it off was masterful and impressive.

    In years past, we had become used to seeing beyond-human feats – tireless climbing and relentless attacking – this Tour didn’t offer that. What generated many of those memorable performances of the past whether we want to admit it or not were banned substances – and although I’m not naïve enough to believe this was a clean Tour, I do believe it was a cleaner Tour. Future Tours may look similar to this year’s Tour only with an improved parcours. 😉

2012 Tour de France-Stage 12

13 Jul

The team of Garmin-Sharp has had nothing but bad luck in the 2012 Tour de France. They came to the Tour with high aspirations for a final podium spot for Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal or Tom Danielson only to lose them to crashes in the first week of the Tour.

stage 12 millar wins photo rte

That luck changed today when David Millar won Stage 12. Actually luck had nothing to do with it – Millar got in the break early on in the stage, before the two category 1 climbs and then attacked on the descent of the 2nd climb paring down the break to a manageable 5 riders. They built up a 12 minute gap on a peloton of tired legs that was more than happy to let the break go so they could have a somewhat relaxing day after two harrowing days in the Alps.

Millar outfoxed the other 4 riders in the breakaway and outsprinted French rider, Christophe Peraud (AG2R) to the line claiming the first win for Garmin in the 2012 Tour de France and the 4th win for a British rider – 4 separate British riders (Wiggins, Froome, Cavendish and Miller). France is next with 3 wins thus far. For awhile it looked like Europcar might capture their 3rd consecutive win and 4th for France but their rider, Gautier played the cat and mouse game a little too long with Martinez and Kiserlovski while Millar and Peraud raced each other for the finish.

In what was a boring stage for the fans with the GC hopefuls content to ride tempo and rest as they head to toward the Pyrenees, ended with an exciting finish and well-deserved win for Millar and Garmin-Sharp.

The sprint by green jersey leader, Peter Sagan and the 2nd place Matthew Goss for the remaining sprint points led Goss to cut off Sagan stealing 6th place in a very unsporting and dangerous manner. The referees relegated Goss to the back which since there was a gap of one second between Sagan and Goss to the next finisher, Goss was actually only relegated back to 7th place from 6th. It did result in one more point for Sagan.

Yes, points (and seconds) are that important. The green, white and polka-dot jersey competitions sometimes come down to 1 or 2 points and Tour championships are won by seconds or a minute or two.

Phenomenal fact when you consider that the Tour lasts for 3 weeks – covers more than 2 thousand miles – and culminates in around 90 hours of total racing time for the winner.

Now do you see why I find it so damn exciting!


Stage results

  • 1. David MILLAR, Garmin-Sharp, in 5:42:46
  • 2. Jean-Christophe PERAUD, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 0
  • 3. Egoi MARTINEZ DE ESTEBAN, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at :5
  • 4. Cyril GAUTIER, Europcar, at :5
  • 5. Robert KISERLOVSKI, Astana, at :5
  • 6. Peter SAGAN, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 7:53
  • 7. Matthew Harley GOSS, Orica-GreenEdge, at 7:53
  • 8. Sébastien HINAULT, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 7:54
  • 9. Cadel EVANS, BMC Racing, at 7:54
  • 10. Luca PAOLINI, Katusha, at 7:54

General classification

  • 1. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky, in 54:34:33
  • 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

Stage 13 Preview:

stage 13 profile

Fast and flat, except for the category 3 bump near the finish. I’m thinking my man Sagan could take this one or maybe Sky’s Cavendish if their teams don’t mind burning a match or two in support. The only thing besides crashes that could shakeup the GC is wind and perhaps heat as the stage takes riders toward the coast of the Mediterranean.

2011 Tour de France-Stage 7

8 Jul


I hate days in the Tour like this.  Days where a favorite or serious GC contender gets knocked out of the race because of injury or illness. Actually I hate it when it happens to any rider.

Today we lost Bradley Wiggins, Team Sky, the British hopeful for the overall championship.  Wiggins was caught up in a crash and suffered a fracture of his collarbone.

Particularly sad for Wiggins, after winning the Tour of Switzerland just a few weeks ago, he appeared to be peaking at the right time and was in 6th place overall.  Team Sky was riding high after their first Tour de France victory yesterday in Stage 6 when sprinter, Edvald Boasson Hagen took it at the line.

Making matters worse, Hagen was caught in the crash although he did return, but several Sky riders waited minutes for Wiggins (as any team would if the team favorite/leader goes down) which made their time gaps even greater. Geraint Thomas fell from 3rd to 38th place… suffice to say – a very bad day for Team Sky.

We saw Tom Boonen, Quick Step sprinter, withdraw from the race today too due to injuries sustained in a crash two days ago.

Besides losing Wiggins and Boonen, several riders in the top 10 were also either involved or caught out by the crash. Roughly half of the peloton was caught by the accident, while teams HTC and Leopard-Trek drove the pace the rest of the peloton was left to sort through the carnage and get back on and try and continue.  Team Radio Shack’s Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner went down; Leipheimer’s second straight stage to hit the pavement and lose big chunks of time – Leipheimer now is in 50th place and Horner in 119th.

As expected Mark Cavendish sprinted to the line first to claim his 16th Tour victory (amazing) and his 2nd in Chateauroux – also the site of his very 1st stage win in 2008. Also, Tour leader, Thor Hushovd, Garmin-Cervelo, kept the yellow jersey for another day.

Just a horrible day in the Tour, and a stage that looked anything but problematic.  No hills, no narrow roads, no rain… nothing but the crashes happened anyway. It is said often, but obviously not overstated, riders are always nervous the first week of the Tour and the week is crash prone. Few years rival this one’s impact on the overall GC though.

Tour de France Fantasy Cycling Challenge

For the Love of Bikes team (4loveofbikes) scored 109 points in Stage 7. Riders Phillippe Gilbert, Romain Feillu and Nicholas Roche scored 19, 74 and 16 points respectively. We lost GC contender Bradley Wiggins.  

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