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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 20

22 Jul

Stage 20, the last stage of the 2012 Tour was part processional and part bike race. The last stage always is.

The first 50k or so is for pictures, offers of congratulations, conversation, and to give the guys time to soak up the final moments of this epic bike race. Just finishing the Tour is a remarkable feat, especially this year. Of the 198 riders who started the race this year, only 153 finished, the lowest number in many years. Most of them abandoned due to injuries suffered in the many crashes this Tour.

Today was a day for all the remaining riders to celebrate not just those that won 1 of the 4 jerseys or finished in one of the top 3 places on the podium.

In the Tour de France – to finish is to win.


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The 4 jersey winners: Van Garderen, Wiggins, Sagan & Voeckler.

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Champagne is always present on the last stage of ever Tour, hard to tell if Wiggins had any. 

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Winner Bradley Wiggins, 2nd place Christopher Froome and Sky teammates.

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The peloton making their way to Paris.

george goodbye ansel

George Hincapie riding in his last, a record-setting 17th Tour de France.

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Jens Voight doing what he does – fighting for a stage win in a breakaway.

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All the winning jerseys and the world champ, Cavendish.

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Cavendish wins, Sagan 2nd, Goss 3rd

The last part of the race is all-out racing. This year the team of the yellow jersey was also racing to win the stage so  they had to stay at the front of the peloton more than is typical for the…. Sky also had to do most of the work initially to chase down the break, but eventually got Liquigas and Saxobank to pull. I never thought the break would make it even when it was getting down to the wire. It rarely happens on the Champs-Elysées and it certainly wasn’t going to happen this year – not with Cavendish going for a record-setting 4th win here.

With a lead-out of Tour winner Bradley Wiggins, then teammate Edvald Boasson-Hagen, Cavendish got the win he seemed destined for. Green jersey wearer Peter Sagan came from the pack to pass Matthew Goss from the winless GreenEdge team who got 3rd.


cav wins

Cavendish is the first to win 4 times on the Champs-Elysées

Everything today worked as planned for Sky just as the whole Tour has.

George Hincapie raced in his 17th and final Tour de France. He will be sorely missed, there aren’t many like him: loyal and devoted to his team and a leader to his younger teammates. Having Hincapie on the road is like having a director sportif on the road. I hope he stays involved with professional cycling. This was not a close Tour – the time gaps were the largest I can remember. More about that later.

Check back later this week when I post my thoughts on this year’s Tour – its winners and losers.

Final General Classification:

1. WIGGINS, Bradley (SKY PROCYCLING) 87:34:42
2. FROOME, Christopher (SKY PROCYCLING) + 3:21
5. VAN GARDEREN, Tejay (BMC RACING) + 11:04
7. EVANS, Cadel (BMC RACING) + 15:51
8. ROLLAND, Pierre (EUROPCAR) + 16:31
9. BRAJKOVIC, Janez (ASTANA) + 16:38
10. PINOT, Thibaut (FDJ-BIG MAT) + 17:17
11. KLÖDEN, Andreas (RADIOSHACK-NISSAN) + 17:54
12. ROCHE, Nicolas (AG2R LA MONDIALE) + 19:33
13. HORNER, Christopher (RADIOSHACK-NISSAN) + 19:55
14. SÖRENSEN, Chris Anker (SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK) + 25:27
15. MENCHOV, Denis (KATUSHA) + 27:22
18. COSTA, Rui Alberto (MOVISTAR) + 37:03
19. VORGANOV, Eduard (KATUSHA) + 38:16
20. VALVERDE, Alejandro (MOVISTAR) + 42:26


Stage 20 Results:

1. Mark CAVENDISH, Sky, in 3:08:07

2. Peter SAGAN, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 0
3. Matthew Harley GOSS, Orica-GreenEdge, at 0
4. Juan José HAEDO, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, at 0
5. Kris BOECKMANS, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 0
6. Greg HENDERSON, Lotto-Belisol, at 0
7. Borut BOZIC, Astana, at 0
8. André GREIPEL, Lotto-Belisol, at 0
9. Edvald BOASSON HAGEN, Sky, at 0
10. Jimmy ENGOULVENT, Saur-Sojasun, at 0
11. Tyler FARRAR, Garmin-Sharp, at 0

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 8

8 Jul

Attack then attack again was the rallying cry of the day. All that attacking made Stage 8 the most competitive stage of the Tour thus far.

From the gun, riders attacked to get in what they hoped would be a winning breakaway. It was a good plan, if a breakaway without a threat to overall GC was to get in front, the yellow jersey wearer’s team would have no reason to chase them down. Team Sky and the leader of the Tour, Bradley Wiggins had what they wanted – the race lead – and could benefit from other teams doing the work at the front to chase down a break.

Stage 8 profileStage 8 was a day of up and down racing. There were 7 climbs in total with an average gradient of about 6% – except for the last climb which was short but steep.

voigt-attacks-stage 8 velo newsJens Voight, the old man of the Tour at 41 years of age, raced like he was 22 when he took off and managed to stay in front taking the first two climbs. Others joined him eventually culminating in a breakaway of about 20 riders – give or take a few at any one time. It was hard to keep track, partly due to the poor race coverage by NBC initially and also due to riders taking off at the front and falling off the back.

It wasn’t the smooth breakaway of 3-6 riders we’ve seen every other day, where they work together to give themselves the best chance to stay away and get a win. This breakaway was too large to form a cohesive unit taking turns pulling. Today’s was a highly disorganized breakaway all looking to break from the breakaway.

Eventually a few riders did just that. Frederk Kessiakoff (Astana) managed to catch then drop Jeremy Roy with FDJ and take the 5th climb with the peloton 3:08 back. Vincenzo Nibali and his Liquigas squad – including the sprinter that can climb – Peter Sagan went to the front to try and reduce the lead. As the chase began the peloton started picking up riders that had been dropped from the breakaway.

Team Lotto, Jurgen Vanden Broeck and teammate Vanendert came to the front of the peloton next and continued to pick up discarded riders one by one from the breaks. Kessiakoff continued to build his lead up front.

The first chase group contained Roy’s teammate – the youngest rider in the Tour – Thibaut Pinot a Frenchman who had to talk his manager into putting him in the Tour despite the fact he is young and inexperienced.  Pinot proceeded to chase down Kessiakoff, catching him with 14k to the finish then dropping him on the final climb. The one-two punch of FDJ’s was perfect with Roy doing his part earlier and Pinot bringing home the win. Kessiakoff had run out of gas having spent so much time out front on his own.

It wasn’t an easy win for Pinot. He had Kessiakoff pursuing of course, but that wasn’t his main problem. He also had the “heads of state” as Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen (the voices of cycling) like to call them – bearing down on him.

It was something to see – Evans, Wiggins, Froome, Nibali, Vanden Broeck, Menchov and Schleck, Horner, Zubelia and Gallopin from Radio Shack in hot pursuit, working together to try and catch Pinot.

Pinot’s manager in the FDJ team car was hanging out the back window screaming encouragement to Pinot to keep going. A couple of miles out, his lead was down to :38 over the elite peloton when first Vanden Broeck then Schleck attacked – hoping to gain precious seconds on Wiggins. Pinot didn’t care – he took the win – the first for the French in this year’s Tour.

stage 8 evansDespite the fact that Evans was caught he pushed again at the line and managed to snag second place, no time on Wiggins, but it might have been a small moral victory for the reigning TDF champion. Something else that might give him hope was his teammate Tejay Van Garderen finishing in the 2nd group just 1:25 back.

The old man of the Tour, Voight, started the stage off attacking and the youngest man in the Tour finished the stage with a brilliant ride that gave him his first win in his first Tour de France. Many riders finish their careers without ever having won a stage. Pinot looks to be something special, the French must be thrilled.

Stage 8 pinot velonews


Stage 9 – Individual Time-Trial Preview:


Tomorrow is the “race of truth” – the individual time trial. Indeed it will be a race of truth for anyone that hopes to win the Tor or place on the final podium. It is the 2nd of 3 time trials in the Tour this year and is a long one at 41.5 kilometers.

Who needs to win?

Wiggins needs to do well to maintain control of the yellow jersey; Evans needs to do well to narrow the time gap to Wiggins and the yellow jersey, same goes for Menchov. Tony Martin would like to salvage something from this Tour and a win here would be huge. Fabian Cancellara would like to win to show he truly is the king of the TT even those that are long. Dave Zabriskie and David Miller both of Garmin-Sharp, would love to win to bring a stage win to a team that has had nothing but bad luck in the first week of the Tour.

Those that don’t win, but want to win the yellow must stay close to Wiggins’ time and limit their losses to keep their hopes alive. To really keep them alive they need to gain time on Wiggins by beating his TT time. It won’t be easy, Wiggins is one of the best and most people would put their money on him to win tomorrow. I’m not so sure he will or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part because I want the race to stay close and competitive.

If Wiggins wins tomorrow and gains significant time on Evans, this Tour will be over for GC except to see who gets third. I for one am not ready for the drama to be over. Speaking of drama, Wiggins teammate, Christopher Froome beats his time tomorrow (he’s a great TT winner) that would provide us with a lot of drama!

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