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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. 😉

Rest Day

17 Jul

Experiencing Tour blog post withdrawal so here I am.

I woke up this morning thinking about what could have been if Hesjedal, Sanchez, Andy Shleck (and without brother Frank starting tomorrow), Danielson – who am I forgetting – were still in the Tour. Such a shame that stupid crashes took them all out. Our loss and of course theirs for not getting to race the race they all look forward to each year.

Any of the 4 could have been in the hunt for the final podium, and all of them would have raced and provided excitement and drama that this Tour has been sorely lacking.

The drama of the positive test of a banned substance by Frank Schleck doesn’t count. I was somewhat surprised that he left the race; it wasn’t required since the B sample hasn’t been tested. Certainly RadioShack doesn’t need any more bad press and maybe that’s how they made the decision or maybe they know the B sample will be positive too. Damn doping.

I hate that once again professional cyclists are being put in an unfair and inaccurate light – the general public has the idea all Tour riders dope. If other professional athletes were tested half as much as cyclists they would fare far worse in testing for banned substances, in my opinion. No, I don’t want performance enhancing drugs used by any athlete, but we know they are and yet cycling is the only sport that makes a serious effort to detect athletes using banned substances. So instead of bashing the sport of cycling we should ask the professional football, basketball and baseball organizations why they don’t implement similar anti-doping measures.

In the meantime we have two pivotal stages to look forward to – here’s to tomorrow and a fiercely contested stage 16 in the Pyrenees – I hope.


stage 16 profile

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 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.

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