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2011 Tour de France-Stage 16

19 Jul


Lots of excitement today, possibly the most exciting stage yet in terms of racing among the favorites.

Defending champion, Alberto Contador, decided to use the stage to gain time on Andy and Frank Schleck. It worked, he gained 1:06 on Andy Schleck and :18 on Frank (currently in 3rd at 1:49) and the Yellow Jersey wearer, Thomas Voeckler.

When Contador attacked Cadel Evans, currently in 2nd place, 1:45 behind Voeckler, Evans followed as did Sammy Sanchez (currently in 5th at 3:26). Evans overtook Contador and Sanchez in a nail-biting descent. He also showed his bike handling skill and nerves of steel when he bombed down towards the finish. He finished 3 seconds ahead of Contador and Sanchez.

When Voeckler crossed the finish line in the group with Frank Schleck you could see him look around for Andy. Andy Schleck wouldn’t come in for awhile, finishing 35th in the stage.

If you’ve been reading my posts, and I’m not sure anyone actually does, then you know I’ve had Andy pegged as not in good enough form to win the Tour this year. Further, his attacks are high in quantity and low in quality to separate him from the GC favorites. Or, at least that’s what we saw on Plateau de Beille.

Voeckler couldn’t keep up with Evans, Contador and Schleck but he minimized his losses to the two and maintained his time on the others. He raced within himself, knowing the toughest days are ahead. Just exactly what a smart bike rider does, especially when they are in Yellow.

Every stage my admiration and fondness for Voeckler grows. There is no one tougher in this year’s Tour. I will be a sad fan if and when he loses the Yellow, but I expect it will happen. My goal is to see him on the podium. I imagine it’s his goal too.

Last, but certainly not least, Thor Hushovd, truly the God of Thunder, won the stage!  His second this Tour! Excellent Tour for Garmin-Cervelo this year!

Can’t wait to see what unfolds in Stage 17. Vive le Tour!

Tour de France Fantasy Cycling Challenge

For the Love of Bikes team (4loveofbikes) had a decent day and scored 148 points in Stage 16 thanks to Ryder Hesjedal (82), Thomas Voeckler (50) and Phillippe Gilbert (16).

2011 Tour de France-Stage 15

18 Jul

Mark Cavendish won stage 15 in a close sprint finish. Afterwards the usually mellow Tyler Farrar accused Cavendish in not-so-many words that he had help getting to the finish in Stage 14.  Farrar wasn’t the only sprinter to accuse Cav of getting a tow to the finish, interestingly he was accused of the same in this year’s Giro. No proof at this point but I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t watched closer.

Today was a rest day, but the Tour starts back up with a moderate mountain stage – one rated climb, a category 2. It looks like a perfect stage for one Phillippe Gilbert. Shouldn’t be any shake up with the favorites barring accident or injury – or sneakiness.

Edit:  8:36am/Getting ready to watch the Tour but wanted to add a thought I had this morning about Stage 16. Thomas Voeckler is a good descender, he could pick up time on the Schlecks and Evans. Stage 16 climbs up to Gap but then descends to the finish.

For the Love of Bikes fantasy cycling challenge team scored 109 points in Stage 15.

2011 Tour de France-Stage 14

16 Jul

If you expected to see the favorites come out and race aggressively today you’re probably disappointed.

On the other hand, if you like to see the underdogs, the riders that ride below the radar for most fans, race and challenge the favorites, you probably thought today was an exciting stage.

I’m in the 2nd camp, and I’m a fan of Thomas Voeckler, still the leader of the Tour de France, after one of the two toughest mountain stages in this year’s Tour.

If you like to watch riders lay it on the line, you were disappointed in the tactics of Frank and Andy Schleck and impressed with the tactics of say, Stage 14 winner Jelle Vanendert, Voeckler, his teammate, Pierre Rolland, Sammy Sanchez, Rigoberto Uran and others.

Cadel Evans attacked once and was quickly followed, Ivan Basso attacked a couple of times with the same results. I don’t question either. Andy Schleck however, attacked 5-7 times. Each time (except at the finish) he checked to see what damage if any he had done to the others and then allowed them to catch up – then wait for 2-3 minutes and attacked again…. turn around – check others – wait… etc.

I understand the strategy, but I don’t agree with it. If you’ve got the legs ATTACK and GO!  Don’t look back, don’t check on your brother or the others just GO!  Andy wasted a lot of effort on those multiple attacks. Wouldn’t he have been better off to use it in one serious attack?

His first attack was his best. Catching the others off guard, he quickly got a lead, but then instead of continuing the attacking pace, he slowed up.

The Schlecks and perhaps team management, strategize too much. They race too cautiously. Psychologically at least, they’re not as strong as they were. Other teams have to be questioning and thinking that if they had the legs they would have gone. The team and the Schleck brothers have allowed chinks in their amour and it could cost them.

If they want to win and have the legs to win they must come out on the next tough mountain stage and race lights out.

I don’t mind about the Schlecks however, because it played out well for my favorite, Voeckler and his teammate Rolland. I was happy to see Vanendert win too and for the Sky rider to be up there with the big guns.

When sport, whatever the type of sport, is dominated by one or two elite competitors the competition, the sport, suffers. It’s fun and refreshing to see new riders or the likes of Voeckler mix it up with the established favorites and it’s good for bike racing.

Thomas-Voeckler-stage 14

I am so impressed with Voeckler! He has the heart of a champion and he can suffer with the best of them. In the Tour de France talent only takes you so far, you have to be willing to put it all on the line and you have to be willing to suffer like you’ve never suffered before.

Voeckler would collapse from exhaustion before he would ever sit up and quit.  It remains to be seen if that is true of any of the favorites.

2011 Tour de France-Stage 13

15 Jul

The favorites rested up and maintained their positions in the GC while a few went stage win hunting.

Another courageous effort by Frenchman, Jeremy Roy! How he found the energy and wherewithal to take off and stay away today too – after yesterday’s enormous effort to win and falling short – is beyond me. Roy has been the most aggressive rider of the Tour, getting in numerous breakaways throughout the Tour this year only to lose. He seemed heart broken when he crossed the finish line in third.

roy ap

Another aggressive man in this year’s Tour rode a PERFECT race today. No one would have picked him to win Stage 13, he’s not even a climber (at least by reputation), he’s a sprinter.  The fact is that he has said recently that since he is no longer able to compete and win sprint stages, he’s spent a lot of time training in the mountains near his home in Monaco.

It shows.


Thor Hushovd has arguably had the best 2011 Tour of anyone. Wearing the yellow jersey for 7 days and then today, winning the stage. Not just any stage, but a stage in the brutal Pyrenees mountains. A stage that a climber was expected to win.

It has to be the biggest stage win of his career.

I hope Roy gets a stage win before the Tour ends in a couple of weeks.

Thomas Voeckler and his team took care of business today keeping him in the yellow jersey going into the beyond category Stage 14 tomorrow. 

14 profile 

Beyond category in difficulty: 6 categorized climbs (2 cat 1’s, 2 cat 2’s, cat 3 and HC) culminating in a mountain top finish on the HC (beyond category) the Plateau de Beille.

Stage 14 is arguably the Queen Stage (toughest stage)of this year’s Tour although I haven’t heard it referred to as that. Stage 18 with 3 HC climbs may be just as brutal if not more so.

The GC will look a lot different after Stage 14 and as much as I hate to say it, unless something unforeseen happens we’ll have a new yellow jersey wearer.

Not going out on a limb I realize, but it will most likely be Frank Schleck, Cadel Evans or Ivan Basso who takes yellow tomorrow.


Enjoy it while you have it Thomas!

voeckler stage 13 yellow

Tour de France Fantasy Cycling Challenge

For the Love of Bikes team (4loveofbikes) had a decent day and scored 176 points in Stage 13 thanks to David Moncoutie (91) Thomas Voeckler (50) and Phillippe Gilbert (35).

Stage 12 90 points thanks to Thomas Voeckler, and we lost another rider, now down to 10. Must keep 9 to play. Come on guys!

Stage 11 – 109 points thanks to Romain Feillu (59) and Thomas Voeckler (50).

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