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2012 Tour de France-Stage 7

7 Jul

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Only 181 riders started the Tour de France this morning for Stage 7, that’s 14 fewer than started Stage 6. As expected yesterday, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) abandoned the race as did his teammate Robbie Hunter. Oscar Freire (Katusha) had to abandon with broken ribs and a punctured lung; somehow he managed to finish Stage 6. These guys are incredibly tough and courageous.

It was also reported that Andre Greipel (Lotto) suffered a dislocated shoulder yesterday but is continuing in the Tour.

Sky

Now for Stage 7 – there were no crashes, but between the brutal pace and the steepness of the last climb there was carnage amongst the peloton.

A 7 man breakaway formed just after the start with riders of teams with no hope for a high GC finish, except for possibly Quickstep who has Levi Leipheimer. There were 2 category 3 climbs with the sprint just before the first climb and then the monster last climb, a category 1.

The breakaway took the first 7 places of the sprint points, Peter Sagan (Liquigas) and Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) raced for the (peloton) sprint points with Sagan easily beating Goss and adding to his lead in the green jersey competition.

Initially teams BMC and Sky set the pace for the peloton and their respective leaders Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins.

Unexpectedly, and in my mind unexplainably, the decimated team Garmin-Sharp came to the front and set the pace for several miles with Dave Zabriskie, David Miller and Christian Vande Velde. Presumably it was for their remaining climber, Dan Martin. This is a team with 6 of 9 riders left, from a strategic standpoint it made absolutely no sense so I’m guessing it was for team morale.

When the peloton got to the base of the final climb with Sky driving a hard pace riders started coming off the back. Team Radio Shack’s Cancellara, Frank Schleck and Chris Horner lost touch as did Leipheimer, Robert Gesink, Sylvan Chavanel, and Evans’ lieutenant in the mountains, Tejay Van Garderen.

The plan for BMC was to keep Van Garderen with Evans in the mountains – he would be the last rider to support Evans before Evans had to go it alone. Van Garderen sat in 4th place at the start of the stage. Hopefully it was just a bad day because he will be key if Evans is to have a chance to win.

It could very well be that many of the riders that struggled today won’t tomorrow. The first stage in the mountains is always difficult. It’s hard for riders to go from flat, fast (accident prone) sprint stages to the mountains, and although this wasn’t the hardest mountain in the Tour it was very steep in places and before some of the riders have found their climbing legs.

One group of riders that had their climbing legs was team Sky. They looked like Lance Armstrong’s Postal train back in the day the way they drove the pace and stayed with Wiggins.

At 1.6 miles from the summit and finish there were a handful of riders besides Wiggins, Christopher Froome and Richie Porte (Sky) and Evans. Denis Menchov (Katusha), Pierre Rolland (Thomas Voeckler’s lieutenant last year, now captain of team Europcar), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) were hanging on.

When Froome went to the front for Team Sky, Rolland and Menchov were dropped. Evans made a move at about .5 miles from the finish and Froome quickly followed it and passed him like he was standing still. Froome quickly opened up a huge gap and took the win. Evans appeared to be giving it all he had to finish 2nd, Wiggins on his wheel finished 3rd, Nibali came in 4th and Taaramae 5th, 19 seconds back.

It was a perfect day for Team Sky taking the stage win and the yellow jersey. They are a strong team and that will make Wiggins hard to beat. Team BMC, other than Evans did not look good but let’s hope it was just an off day. Even Evans looked to be struggling more than expected. When Evans was out of the saddle doing everything he could to close the gap and his time loss, Wiggins sat on his wheel and seemed to pedal easily.

In addition to a change in the yellow jersey competition with Wiggins now leading, the polka-dot jersey is now worn by stage winner, Froome. The white jersey for best young rider had been held since the beginning Prologue by Van Garderen, is now in the hands of Taaramae. Super sprinter Sagan has a tight hold on the green.

The overall classification after Stage 7:

1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) in 34:21:20
2. Cadel Evans (BMC) at 0:10
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) at 0:16
4. Rein Taaramae  (Cofidis) at 0:32
5. Denis Menchov (Katusha) at 0:54
6. Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack) at 0:59
7. Maxime Monfort  (RadioShack) at 1:09
8. Nicolas Roche (Ag2r) at 1:22
9. Christopher Froome (Sky) at 1:32
10. Michael Rogers (Sky) at 1:40

I was completely surprised at the damage done by the pace that Sky set. Usually the peloton isn’t shattered on the first day in the mountains. Maybe it’s due to the toll the crash infested first week took, certainly that’s true for Garmin, but a lot of riders went down – some multiple times – plus the related stress caused by the crashes had an impact. I don’t know, but I didn’t expect to see so many of the climbers and GC hopefuls getting dropped so soon in the first mountainous stage.

One thing is for sure, the biggest factor is Team Sky and the way they took control of not just the stage but the race. In the last several years the first stage in the mountains was about checking out your main rivals, testing the legs some, but not putting the hammer down. Sky’s tactic is the same tactic employed by Johan Bruyneel in the years Postal decimated the field, Team Sky appears to be that kind of strong.

It will be interesting to see how things unfold in the next several mountains stages (and the next TT on Monday). Right now, it looks to me that Wiggins will win unless something unforeseen occurs.

Stage 8 Preview:

There are 7 climbs tomorrow, a category 1, 4 category 2, and a 3 and 4 category. There is no summit finish nor reportedly anything as steep as today. I said this yesterday about today, but I’ll stick my neck out again, Stage 8 seems like a stage for the likes of Sylvan Chavanel, Alejandro Valverde, Sammy Sanchez or maybe even Vinokourov. Gesink and Jurgen van den Broeck will hope to make up time too. I keep wondering about Super-Sagan…

And Radio Shack-Nissan – let Horner ride for himself!

 

Stage 8 profile

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2012 Tour de France-Stage 6

6 Jul

All hell broke loose at the Tour de France today. The last flat stage for awhile before the race goes into the mountains and just like last year the final sprint stage of the opening week – there were crashes. Horrible crashes.

Crashes that cost several favorites, such as one of my favorites Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), the chance to be a contender for the podium. It also took another favorite, Robert Gesink (Rabobank) off from a potential spot on the podium or the top 5. And Frank Schleck (Radio Shack-Nissan) lost too much time to contend for a top spot as he was caught in the same crash.

The crash that was the straw that finally took Tom Danielson (Garmin) out of the Tour – he was already riding with a separated shoulder. The crash that caused Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and David Vigano (Lampre) to have to abandon the race due to injuries.

The crash appeared to have occurred towards the upper middle of the peloton with about 25 k to go (no video available). It was a massive crash, riders off in ditches on both sides of the road. Riders that couldn’t get up and riders that did but couldn’t get through the carnage to remount and ride.

Two earlier crashes involving Rabobank and Lotto riders, including Gesink and Andre Greipel were unexplainable. The roads were wide and except for a brief shower, dry. The pace of the peloton although faster than previous days wasn’t inordinately high. They were just those stupid crashes that happen in the first week.

This one damaged the hopes of riders like Hesjedal, Gesink and Schleck at a possible spot on the podium. It did away with Team Garmin’s hopes of a spot on the podium – now what will they race for?

Such a sad day for so many of the riders with aspirations for overall top 10 or top 5 finishes. Riders don’t have to be injured to lose the Tour, if they are caught in or behind the crash they can lose enough time alone to take them out of contention. Case in point: Schleck, and Hesjedal and Gesink assuming their injuries aren’t serious.

The peloton didn’t slow for the fallen riders, since it didn’t involve the top favorites, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) or Cadel Evans (BMC). In recent times pelotons have done that with Tour favorites (to win) that have been caught out. I don’t think the peloton should have been expected to wait but I’m sure there will be discussion of that by some.

As far as the racing outcome of Stage 6, the 4 man breakaway stayed away until a few kilometers from the finish. When they were about to be caught David Zebreski (Garmin-Sharp) took off which I fully expected. By then Jonathon Vaughters would have told him about Hesjedal and Danielson (and Van Summeren who was also injured) and to go for the win.

Somehow Greipel fought his way back into the peloton and had the Lotto train in front charging for the finish. Teams BMC and Sky were both at the front protecting their main men, Evans and Wiggins. Team Orica-GreenEdge’s train had sprinter Matthew Goss and was also charging for the front.

The youngster, Peter Sagan (Liquigas) was turbocharging toward the finish. He came from behind Greipel and just blew passed him to take the win. An unbelievable show of power. It was an amazing sprint.

And one deserving of yet another great victory Sagan-salute – this time the Hulk.

Sagan nbc sports stage 6

Stage 6 results:

    • 1. Peter SAGAN, Liquigas-Cannondale, in 4:37:00
    • 2. André GREIPEL, Lotto-Belisol, at 0
    • 3. Matthew Harley GOSS, Orica-GreenEdge, at 0
    • 4. Kenny Robert VAN HUMMEL, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 0
    • 5. Juan José HAEDO, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, at 0
    • 6. Greg HENDERSON, Lotto-Belisol, at 0
    • 7. Alessandro PETACCHI, Lampre-ISD, at 0
    • 8. Luca PAOLINI, Katusha, at 0
    • 9. Daryl IMPEY, Orica-GreenEdge, at 0
    • 10. Brett LANCASTER, Orica-GreenEdge, at :4

 

GC  after Stage Six
1. F. Cancellara
2. B. Wiggins at 0.07"
3. S. Chavanel 0’07"
4. T. Van Garderen 0.10"
5. D. Rusmenchov 0.13"
6. C. Evans 0.17"
7. V. Itanibali 0.18"
8. P. Sagan 0.19"
9. A. Kloden 0.22"
10. M. Monfort 0.22

There was no change in the jersey competitions: Cancellara in yellow, Sagan in green (extending his hold with the win) and Michael Morkov in the polka-dot. The yellow jersey could change hands tomorrow and for sure the polka-dot jersey will with this year’s first foray into the mountains.

TDF Fantasy Cycling Challenge:

Stage 6 results aren’t in yet, but 4loveofbikes team collected 191 points in Stage 5 (and left none on the bench – very irritating when one of the bench riders ends up getting points). I’ll post points for Stage 6 when they’re up. We should have a high number since our team captain, Peter Sagan won the stage! *Update – 232 points for the team .

Stage 7 Preview:

I’m having a hard time focusing on tomorrow’s stage and not the mess of today’s stage. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the crash pictures of Garmin’s Ryder Hesjedal, Tom Danielson or Van Summeren but they are awful. Such a rotten end to a promising Tour. I hope they can salvage something with Zabriskie or Daniel Martin, or maybe David Millar. Best of luck to the argyle squad.

 

stage 7The race for the GC begins tomorrow. Stage 7 is the first stage in the mountains, not the high mountains, but a very steep summit finish that could shake things up a bit. Wiggins, Evans are in good shape, Denis Menchov (Katusha) could be the quiet assassin. He is taking care of business and keeping a low profile. He currently sits in 5th place. I can’t see Wiggins or Evans going for it tomorrow, they will simply ride defensively and check each other out I believe. It’s possible Frank Schleck, Alejandro Valverde or possibly Gesink could try for the win tomorrow. If Thomas Voeckler’s knee was okay I would pick him. Tomorrow is the kind of stage he loved to attack on. Levi Leipheimer could give it a try but I think it’s more likely to be someone more under the radar. 

Tomorrow is the kind of stage for a guy that is a good climber but not in contention for a top GC finish. I think Sylvan Chavanel will give it a go but I’m not sure he can handle the steepness of the last few kilometers. I’ve also got a feeling that the fabulous Fabian Cancellara may still be in yellow tomorrow evening.

2011 Tour de France-Stage 7

8 Jul

Bradley-Wiggins-and-Mark--007

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.  

A Tour de France Guide

30 Jun

A guide to help you follow and understand the Tour de France race.


Remember this simple fact:

Bike racing is a TEAM sport – not an individual one.

Knowing that one fact will help you understand and enjoy the spectacle that is the Tour de France – the world’s most grueling sporting event.  Bike racing may look like a bunch of guys riding for themselves, all trying to win, but that’s not the case in a race like the Tour.  I’ll explain more about that later.

This year the 97th Tour de France begins Saturday, July 3rd in Rotterdam and ends in Paris (as it always does) Sunday, July 25th. This year’s Tour will cover 2,263 miles and consist of 21 stages (think of a stage as a one day race – 21 stages = 21 one day races) and 2 rest days. There are 22 teams that will start the 2010 Tour de France.

The Basics:

Each year every team starts the race with a squad of 9 riders, making 198 riders who will begin the Tour.  Not all will finish –  and you can take that to the bank. Riders drop out of each Tour because of injury, illness, doping, even death, but mostly because the race is just so grueling some riders simply cannot finish.

There is always plenty of excitement and high drama in the Tour de France.  And as with most team sports, strategy plays a big role as teams work to get their top rider up in the general classification (the overall race classification), or in competition for the green, polka dot or white jersey.

The Tour will commence with the Prologue, an individual time trial which kicks off the three week race and serves to introduce the riders and teams – before the more grueling racing begins. The rider that wins the Prologue will wear the Malliot Jaune or Yellow Jersey. In each of the race stages the overall race leader rides in the yellow jersey. 

Perhaps most important to remember about the jerseys: the Yellow Jersey is worn by the overall leader of the Tour – the rider with the lowest accumulated time for the race (fastest wins). By the end of the Tour the total time for the winning rider will be somewhere around 90 hours. Amazingly, the winner will probably win by just a few minutes over the closest competitor. It is not unusual for the winner to beat the 2nd place rider by less than 1 minute. Incredible when you consider how long they ride and the distance they cover. The smallest margin of time between the winner and the second place cyclist was in 1989 when American Greg Lemond won by a mere 8 seconds.

 

Leader Jerseys of the Tour de France
 
  • Yellow Jersey/Malliot Jaune – Overall race leader
  • Green Jersey – Sprinter’s jersey – sprint points leader*
  • Polka Dot Jersey (red/white) – King of the Mountains – climbing points leader*
  • White Jersey – Best young rider – overall time leader for racers under the age of 26

*During each stage, points for sprinting and/or climbing are awarded at fixed locations on the route. The rider that accumulates the most sprint points, climbing points or young rider points wins the Green, Polka Dot or White  jersey, respectively.

 


Bike Racing Lingo 

  • Peloton – The main group of riders.

  • Break/Breakaway – a single rider or group of riders who escape the peloton in an attempt to win the state. 

  • Chase – a single rider or group that tries to catch up to the leader or breakaway group. 

  • Domestique – worker bees – the riders on the team that sacrifice personal performance to help the lead rider(s) of the team. 

  • Drafting – Riding closely behind another rider, saving energy. This occurs in the peloton. It is estimated a rider conserves 30% of their energy by drafting. 

  • General Classification (GC) – Overall standing for the Tour. 

  • Time Trial – A race against the clock. Each rider rides individually. 

  • Team Time Trial – A team race against the clock. 

  • Prologue – A short time trial that opens the Tour. 

  • Flat stages – Minimal climbs, typically feature a bunched sprint finish. 

  • Mountain stages – Big climbs, this is where the contenders will fight it out. Climbs are classified in terms of difficulty, Categories range from 4 (easiest) to 1 and *HC* (hors categorie) – beyond category – the most difficult. 

  • Paceline – group of riders working together, each rider takes a pull (turn) at the front of the group and when not pulling, drafts with the rest of group. 

  • Feed zone – the area where riders pick up a mussette (bag) of food and water. Riders don’t stop to eat. They barely stop to *relieve* themselves.


    Understanding the Tour de France:

Each of the 21 stages of the Tour de France in actuality is an individual race and for each of the 21 stages there will be a winner. In fact, there could be 21 different winners. Only one rider will win the Tour however, and become  the Tour de France champion, capturing the maillot jaune – yellow jersey . Each day of the Tour (minus the two rest days) will feature a stage race that riders will compete fiercely to win, but the competition for the overall race (GC or general classification) is what the serious contenders compete for.

To give you a better idea of how this all plays out in the actual Tour, let’s look at a rider and his team.  You may have heard of a rider by the name of Lance Armstrong.  Lance rides on Team Radio Shack this year. He is their lead rider, the captain if you will, the rider that team management feels has the best chance of winning the Tour – no surprise there.

As the leader, every resource of Team Radio Shack is there to support Armstrong and give him the best chance to win or place high in the GC. During the flat stages (sprint stages) teammates will ride around him to shelter him from wind and accidents. They will also get him food, water or anything else he needs. During the flat stages, the goal of the team is to protect him in terms of accidents and weather as well as to make sure at the stage finish he is in the lead peloton (and thus gets the same finish time as the other contenders that are safely tucked away in the peloton with him).

The Tour isn’t won on the flat stages, but as Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen (Phil and Paul are the voices of cycling – the Howard Cosell’s of the professional cycling world) like to point out – it can be lost on the flats due to crashes and silly mistakes.

Armstrong will never take a pull at the front or work for another rider as long as he is in contention for the overall race – it’s not his job.  The domestiques on the team do that work, as well as get him water or food from the team car that follows behind the peloton. As we move into the mountain stages a different group of teammates (climbers) will support him by setting the pace and allowing him to draft and conserve energy plus protecting him from accidents, etc. Again, a teammate in this group makes sure he has what he needs – water/food. Typically in the tough mountain stages (with the HC or beyond category climbs) Armstrong will end up at some point on the climb alone (with no teammates) competing against the other team’s top climber and contender –  mano a mano.

The Tour will be decided either in the high mountains or the individual time trial. To win the Tour de France a rider has to be able to climb and time trial well. Some riders can do one of those well, only a few do both well.  Those few are the riders that have a chance to win the Tour de France.

It will be exciting to see how the Tour plays out this year. Barring accidents, drug test failures or other calamities, the winner of the Tour will be decided between 3, maybe 4 riders. Of course, one of those guys crashing, losing a significant chunk of time, or sustaining a significant injury changes everything. And those things happen, so who knows.

Possible Winners:

The favorite has to be the pistol saluting Alberto Contador; the young Spaniard and winner of the 2009 and 2007 Tours. Contador was Armstrong’s teammate last year (and I use the word teammate loosely – they did not like each other). Contador climbs effortlessly, time trials well and is young. Armstrong could also win. Obviously he climbs well, time trials well, but for a professional cyclists he’s pushing the calendar at age 38. But he is such a competitor, I wouldn’t count him out.

Then there are the Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank. Andy finished 2nd in last year’s Tour and he just keeps improving. There is also Cadel Evans, a complete rider who has had a good year, and a new team, so he could be up there – so could Americans Christian Vande Velde and Levi Leipheimer.  There are other riders, Bradley Wiggins for one, that have the talent and skill to win the Tour.  The odds are it will be Alberto Contador (his team reportedly isn’t that strong but with his youth and skill it may not matter), but Armstrong looked awfully strong in the Tour de Suisse coming in 2nd to Frank Schleck.  With a strong team behind the Schleck brothers you can’t count them out either.  By the time we get to the difficult mountain stages we should have a good idea of who is in contention to win it all. 

To watch more Tour de France coverage than you can imagine tune in to Versus NBC Sports each day where you can catch Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin commentating and providing the play by play of each stage, as well as Bob Roll on back-up and color (and he does *color* like no one else), and Craig Hummer serves as the ringmaster.  These guys are at times as entertaining as the race.

The best way to understand the Tour de France is just to watch the daily coverage. There are plenty of resources online for Tour coverage as well. The more you come to understand the sport of bike racing the more you will find an appreciation for what is a beautiful sport.

 

*Update 7/4/2016 – Although much of this post/guide is dated as far as the riders and commentators, the information about the Tour and bike racing in general is still true and still applies. Hope it helps you to enjoy the Tour ~Susan


For good information about the Tour and current standings:

www.steephill.tv 

www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/

www.velonews.com

www.cyclingnews.com

www.dailypeloton.com

And of course check back here for daily updates and race analysis here on For the Love of Bikes.

Vive le Tour!

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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.
Based on a work at www.loveofbikes.com.