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2012 Tour de France-Stage 15

16 Jul

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Just when I thought the Tour couldn’t possibly get more boring Stage 15 happened.

The first part of the stage provided great racing as we saw break after break attempt to get away. The peloton refused to let anyone get away chasing them all back until the winning break got away after a very fast hour+ of racing. It was interesting to watch the riders try to get away. Uncharacteristically this year breaks have formed easily but not today. Boasson Hagan (Sky) tried to bring order to the breakaway train as did Eisel but until the peloton was spread across the road – white line to white line – the attacks didn’t stop and even then one rider attacked and got through – Sorensen. Until his race director threatened to send his other riders up front to bring the break back was Sorensen able to join the break. 

Once that happened it was nap time in the peloton and nap time for us viewers. Truly boring “racing”. A pace was set by Sky that was so slow it seemed they were practicing their processional for their presumably victorious march into Paris.

Seriously slow.

The fast pace in the beginning of the stage appeared to be too much for some because 7 riders abandoned the Tour today – one of them Sylvan Chavanel who is on my fantasy team. He’s the 4th rider I’ve lost (Gesink, Mollema, Hesjedal). I’m in slightly better shape than Rabobank who has only 4 riders left.

That’s a total of 42 riders so far in the 2012 Tour de France – way more than previous years. For 2011 – 31 abandoned, 27 in 2010, 24 in 2009 and 35 in 2008. Since they haven’t gone into the Pyrenees yet you would expect the number to go up. It’s especially unusual for riders to abandon on a relatively flat stage before a rest day.

Usually on a day like today the sprinters teams go hunting for a stage win and get it, but they seemed to have needed a pre-rest day before the actual rest day tomorrow.

Sagan was the only rider in the peloton to even race for the intermediate sprint points. Neither Greipel, Goss or Cavendish even sprinted for them – when is the last sprinters didn’t sprint for points? Probably the last time the green jersey race was sewn up this early.

stage 15 christophe ena-apSince the sprinters teams didn’t elect to race today the 6 riders in the break got to go for the win, with Fedrigo another French rider edging out Garmin’s Vande Velde to take his 4th Tour stage. If a Frenchman was to win, I, of course would have preferred Voeckler. It was Fedrigo who attacked though and got the jump on the others, only Vande Velde was able to bridge. Unfortunately he was no match for Fedrigo’s sprint to the line. It was still a good day for Vande Velde and Garmin to finish 2nd.

The peloton moseyed in about 12 minutes later.

We won’t see another stage like today for a while – Hallelujah! We are headed to the mountains!

There are just 2 stages left where Nibali and Evans can hope to crack Wiggins and Froome and gain time on them – Stages 16 and 17 – where we will surely see attacks by Nibali and Evans and aggressive racing by any and all trying to move up in the overall classification and contend for the polka-dot jersey.

I can’t wait!

Stage results

  • 1. Pierrick FEDRIGO, FDJ-BigMat, in 3:40:15
  • 2. Christian VANDEVELDE, Garmin-Sharp, at 0
  • 3. Thomas VOECKLER, Europcar, at :12
  • 4. Nicki SÖRENSEN, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, at :12
  • 5. Dries DEVENYNS, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at :21
  • 6. Samuel DUMOULIN, Cofidis, at 1:08
  • 7. André GREIPEL, Lotto-Belisol, at 11:50
  • 8. Tyler FARRAR, Garmin-Sharp, at 11:50
  • 9. Peter SAGAN, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 11:50
  • 10. Kris BOECKMANS, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 11:50

General classification

  • 1. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky, in 68:33:21
  • 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.


Stage 16 Profile:

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 13

14 Jul

Today offered up one of those tricky little stages that Tour organizers must love to draw up:  pancake flat so seemingly a stage for the sprinters. Not so fast though… there was a small little (1.6k in length) pimple of a climb (to quote Paul Sherwen) about 15k from the finish, plus there are always those nasty crosswinds along the coast to contend with. Remember the 2009 Tour when Lance Armstrong gained time on teammate/nemesis Alberto Contador due to splits in the peloton from the crosswind?

This was just the kind of stage that under the right (or wrong) conditions there could have been guys high placed in the GC caught out from the peloton and maybe just tighten the race for the yellow and 2nd and 3rd place on the final podium in Paris. If not that, at least make for an exciting stage.

Defending Tour champion Cadel Evans, currently in 4th place 3:12 behind Tour leader Bradley Wiggins, did what probably many thought he would do – he attacked on that nasty little climb. Jurgen Vanden Broeck, 5th place overall, attacked too but the yellow jersey with that steady but deadly cadence pulled them all back.

It is starting to seem impossible to put Wiggins or Froome into trouble.

Not only did Wiggins take care of Evans and Vanden Broeck, but he also led out one of his worker bees, Boasson Hagen for the sprint finish. Wiggins may have decided he was safer doing that than being in the pack, but whatever the motivation it was a nice effort on his part to to try and help one of his dedicated teammates get a win.

stage 13It was actually a very good lead out by Wiggins but just a little early for Boasson Hagen to have a chance with Lotto drilling it at the front for their sprinter, Greipel. Sagan, my predicted stage winner, sat on Greipel’s wheel ready to pounce when Greipel started his sprint. Sagan pounced but Greipel threw his bike and narrowly edged Sagan out for the stage win.Cavendish and Goss were caught out and weren’t there to contest the sprint. It was a great sprint and win for Greipel, his third. Sagan took 2nd and Boasson Hagen third.

In one way it was good to see Evans try and get time on Wiggins and Froome, but in another way it wasn’t. Tomorrow they head to the almost-Pyrenees and while Stage 14 isn’t one of the tougher stages there are two category 1 climbs. Evans might have been better off saving that effort for tomorrow. Last year his timing and strategy was near perfect, this year he can’t get a break. Obviously that has something to do with the impenetrable Wiggins and Sky.

What has stood out for me the most in this Tour is the dominance of Sky. Not just of Wiggins (and Froome) but of the team. Unless something bizarre happens this team is going to continue their march into Paris and the top two spots on the podium.

Stage results

  • 1. André GREIPEL, Lotto-Belisol, in 4:57:59
  • 2. Peter SAGAN, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 0
  • 3. Edvald BOASSON HAGEN, Sky, at 0
  • 4. Sébastien HINAULT, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 0
  • 5. Daryl IMPEY, Orica-GreenEdge, at 0
  • 6. Julien SIMON, Saur-Sojasun, at 0
  • 7. Marco MARCATO, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 0
  • 8. Philippe GILBERT, BMC Racing, at 0
  • 9. Peter VELITS, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 0
  • 10. Danilo HONDO, Lampre-ISD, at 0

 

General classification

  • 1. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky, in 59:32:32
  • 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 14 Preview:

stage 14 profile

Not particularly long or difficult, Stage 14 looks like something for an all-arounder like Sylvan Chavanel, or god help me, Thomas Voeckler.

2012 Tour de France-Stage 10

11 Jul

I closed yesterday’s blog by saying I hoped there would be good racing today – and boy was there ever!

There was no change in the first five places in the General Classification – nor in time gaps but there was still plenty of exciting racing.

Almost from the drop of the flag a break of 3 riders formed followed with counter-attacks. A 25 man breakaway ended up forming with 15 teams represented. They were going hunting for points (Peter Sagan and Matthew Goss) and a stage win. In the break were riders who had previously won a stage at the Tour: Burghart (BMC), Popovych and Voight (RadioShack) Miller and Zabriskie (Garmin), Voeckler (Europcar), Casar (FDJ) and Sanchez (Rabobank). The highest ranked rider in the break was Scarponi (Lampe) at 10 minutes back. As the break started the first climb they had built up a gap of just under 7 minutes over the main field. The pace of the stage was the fastest of the Tour so far.

At the sprint Sagan, Goss and Hutarovich raced for points with Goss taking maximum, Hutarovich taking 2nd and Sagan 3rd. Sagan’s lead over Goss in the green jersey competition is now 27 points.

The lead group started the climb of Colombier with Europcar at the front. The gap to the peloton was 6:29. Almost immediately riders started falling off the back as the road kicked up on the long climb (17.4k). The lead group was reduced to just five riders: Voeckler, Scarponi, Sanchez, Peraud and Devenyns (Quickstep), then a second group of a handful of riders.

Voeckler did most of the work at the front of the small lead group. He seemed content to do it – and of course the others were happy to let him. To reward him for his efforts no one contested his race to the summit and the 25 points for the polka-dot jersey – which he got. The lead breakaway’s gap at this point was about 5 minutes over the peloton.

Once the peloton summited the climb, Vanden Broeck went off the front, and Evans and Nibali moved to the front, ahead of Wiggins. Team Sky was in control and Evans sat on letting them do the work. I thought he might go with Nibali but for whatever reason he didn’t.

Nibali caught up to teammate Peter Sagan who had been dropped by the breakaway and used Sagan to pace him through the descent until Sagan could no longer stay with him on the final climb of the day. It was a great effort by Sagan, helping himself to more points in the green jersey sprint and providing support to his team leader. Nibali increased his gap on the peloton to almost a minute before it started coming down.

voeckler polkaWith Sky driving a hard pace they caught Nibali on the final climb (guess that’s why Evans didn’t go). The 4 man lead group summits the last climb, Voeckler picks up a few more points giving him the “king of the mountains” jersey.

Once the peloton started the descent, Vanden Broeck and Voeckler’s teammate, Rolland took off the front and opened a gap. Van Garderen, in the white jersey, used the descent to catch up to the peloton, including the rider next in line for the white jersey, Taaramae, thus protecting his hold on the white for at least another day.

Meanwhile on the front the lead group of 4 becomes the lead group of 5 when somehow the old man of the Tour, Jens Voight, caught and then passed them. Voeckler chased him down, then Devenyns who had been conserving his energy at the back took off. No one wanted to chase but Voight finally does, then Voeckler. The gaps were about even and it looked like Devenyns would get himself the win. About that time he ran out of gas, and Voight closed in.

But lo and behold Voeckler, who didn’t panic with Devenyns attack, dug deep and quickly closed the gap to Voight and Devenyns and then passed them.  About that time it looks like Voeckler had the win, but the road kicked up and he started to slow and Scarponi started to close in.

At that point just meters from the finish – everyone loses gas and Voeckler managed to hang on for the win.  It truly was a brave and brilliant ride today by Voeckler. As you all know I’m a big Voeckler fan and seeing him take this stage and the polka dot jersey was thrilling!

Voeckler - letour

As the peloton neared the finish Evans and Nibali attacked but Wiggins and Sky quickly shut it down. No gains today for Nibali or Evans but Vanden Broeck did reduce his deficit slightly.

Stage 10 Results:

  • 1. Thomas VOECKLER, Europcar, in 4:46:26
  • 2. Michele SCARPONI, Lampre-ISD, at :3
  • 3. Jens VOIGT, RadioShack-Nissan, at :7
  • 4. Luis Leon SANCHEZ GIL, Rabobank, at :23
  • 5. Dries DEVENYNS, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at :30
  • 6. Sandy CASAR, FDJ-BigMat, at 2:44
  • 7. Egoi MARTINEZ DE ESTEBAN, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 2:44
  • 8. Pierre ROLLAND, Europcar, at 2:44
  • 9. Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol, at 2:44
  • 10. Dmitriy FOFONOV, Astana, at 2:52

GC after Stage 10:

  • 1. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky, in 43:59:02
  • 2. Cadel EVANS, BMC Racing, at 1:53
  • 3. Christopher FROOME, Sky, at 2:07
  • 4. Vincenzo NIBALI, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 2:23
  • 5. Denis MENCHOV, Katusha, at 3:02
  • 6. Haimar ZUBELDIA AGIRRE, RadioShack-Nissan, at 3:19
  • 7. Maxime MONFORT, RadioShack-Nissan, at 4:23
  • 8. Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol, at 4:48
  • 9. Nicolas ROCHE, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 5:29
  • 10. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC Racing, at 5:31

Stage 11 Preview:

Queen Stage of the Alps

 

stage 11

Regarding Stage 11, a picture is worth a lot of words. Tomorrow offers riders no time to warm-up the legs and then will punish them the rest of the stage. It will be difficult for a break to get the kind of time on the Sky driven peloton like it did today. If any one in the break is a risk to GC, Sky will reel them in, which means only low GC placed riders who are also strong climbers will be able to stay away. Pierre Rolland, another Europcar rider comes to mind. He won Alpe d’huez last year so he’s capable.

Those riders protecting their spot on the podium (Wiggins) or looking to move up (Evans, Nibali, Menchov, Vanden Broeck, Zubeldia) probably will ride together more or less until the two HC climbs are behind them. I expect most of the fireworks between the contenders to be on the last climb, if there even are any. It could very well go like today with no changes in the top 5. If Wiggins gets isolated – which based on what we’ve saw today and Stage 8 is highly unlikely – sparks will fly. Otherwise, we’ll have to look for someone(s) in the break to make the race interesting.

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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.