Archive for July, 2010

Fools Ride?

Posted: July 18, 2010 in It's All Important Stuff

The winner of the stage today is revealed later in this story.  Don’t read, just yet, if you want to keep the mystery.

Team Astana punished the entire peloton to the base of the Port de Paliheres.  The average pace was 32 mph for 80 km – wow, that is fast.  Perhaps you have seen a local downtown criterium with pro riders.  They ride about 30-31 mph. Imagine doing that for 2 hours then climbing an HC (outside categorization) Tour de France climb, resting a bit and killing it up a category 1 to a mountain top finish.

I will admit that I do not understand Team Astana, Contador or Vinokourov at all.  They have so much talent, yet manage to continue to display no common sense about tactics.

Two days ago Contador chases down Vinokourov,  certain for a stage win, and gained no time on any one important.  Today they burn the entire team to the base of the first big climb, dropping no contenders as they go.  Up the climb, Contador’s own teammates set a pace that he cannot follow, so he calls a sort of truce with Andy Scheck.  This would make sense if Contador actually attacked on the Ax-3 Domaines, but no he does not.

Instead, Contador sits up, nearly needing to drop a foot, while France’s Christophe Riblon soloed to the Tour de France Stage 14 victory.  I think the answer is that Contador couldn’t pull it off on either climb today.  He is good, but Schleck is just as good or better.  I wonder if Andy Schleck called Contador a “girlie man” today.  What do they say to each other?

“On the second to last climb, his whole team surrounded him and I could see they wanted to give the impression that he wasn’t feeling good today,” said Schleck in a post-race press conference. “But I knew it wasn’t like that — they wanted me to attack.”

Schleck knew he was vulnerable to attack on the Ax-3 Domaines, and refused to be put in the wrong position, while Astana wasted their team to no real avail.

“I told him (Schleck), ‘If you go too deep today, it could be dangerous for tomorrow,’” said Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis.

Though neither picked up time on each other, their tête-à-tête had an unexpected, perhaps unwelcome, result. As the two dueled in the final kilometers, Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez and Rabobank’s Denis Menchov, the race’s third and fourth-placed riders, rode ahead and picked up 14 valuable seconds on the leaders. Sanchez is currently two minutes behind Contador.

Meanwhile, Levi drops another spot.  Denis Menchov will whip Sammy Sanchez in the final Time Trial on Saturday.

Below is a premonition about the podium in Paris:

Standing<!––> Rider<!––> Team<!––>

Time<!––>

Gaps<!––>
1. SCHLECK Andy TEAM SAXO BANK 68h 02′ 30″
2. CONTADOR Alberto ASTANA 68h 03′ 01″ + 00′ 31″
3. SANCHEZ Samuel EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI 68h 05′ 01″ + 02′ 31″
4. MENCHOV Denis RABOBANK 68h 05′ 14″ + 02′ 44″
5. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen OMEGA PHARMA – LOTTO 68h 06′ 01″ + 03′ 31″

Pronounced (X twa doh man).  You will want to watch Sunday.  This one is going to be good.

Four days of punishment begins Sunday.  This will decide who is wearing yellow and polka dots on July 25th in Paris.

The 115-mile ride from Revel to the ski station of Ax-3 Domaines goads the riders up two extreme climbs, first the Port de Pailheres — one of the toughest ascents in cycling — and the long uphill finish to the ski station at Ax-3 Domaines.

The Tour is celebrating 100 years of racing the Pyrenees by going LARGE.  They are serving up a four-day mountain fest. All of the equipment, training methods and scale have dramatically changed, but cycling is essentially the same.  One guy pedals his machine for 100+ miles up and down some of the most dramatic ascents and descents in the world.

Before that final climb, riders tackle the daunting Pailheres Pass, the climb Alberto Contador considers the toughest in the Pyrenees. “The air is always heavy there,” he said during a recent visit to the Pyrenees. “It’s long and very steep. The combination makes it just terrible. It’s a great climb.”

I predict that Alberto will win, but desperately hope that Schleck can smoke him to the top.  Andy needs to gain another 1:30 to have a chance to win.  Regardless, these two guys are the class of the field and should give us a GREAT show.

TODAY:

Returning to the Tour de France after a doping ban, Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan won the 13th stage Saturday while Andy Schleck of Luxembourg kept the yellow jersey.

Cavendish took out the field sprint and his slowly making his way toward the green jersey.

“It was a beautiful victory, a beautiful reward,” Vinokourov said after winning the fourth Tour stage of his career. “I heard fans shouting ‘Vino’ at the start … that gave me a lot of motivation.”

This time Lance crashed BEFORE the start line during the warm-up ride.

RadioShack spokesman Philippe Maertens said Armstrong believed he simply bumped a teammate and fell, scraping his left elbow. He returned to the race quickly.

Armstrong, in response to a Twitter posting suggesting that he might be planning “a big surprise” for Sunday, replied: “I like the sound of it.”

Stay tuned the next four days will be good.

I have had the wonderful pleasure to have attended Le Tour on Four occasions.  Lance treated us to four victories.

In 2002, we blew into Luxembourg City in time to see the Prologue Time Trial.  My French is suspect, but I swore that the L’Equipe Newspaper said that it started at noon.  We arrived around 9 am and scouted out the perfect spot to see the start and the finish.

My little guys (then 5 and 9) spent the entire day on a 3 x 6 section of asphalt along the barrier.  What was most amazing is that they were thoroughly entertained.  We watched the riders warm up, the organizers finish off the course preparations, and the the crazy “caravan”.  The race actually started at 4 pm.

Perhaps the most fun was that a reporter from Japanese TV came up and asked us questions in French, which we could not answer in French.  When she realized we were American, she switched to perfect English and asked my youngest who was going to win that day.  Jeremy replied very assuredly, “Lance!”  Jeremy was right.  Lance won the prologue.

Phil Liggett told us that, “Lance is coming down the finishing straight like a Grand Prix motor car.”

Watch Lance Win the 2002 Prologue

Lance being the winner in 2001, went down the ramp last.  He was clearly racing to win as he went by us in the first turn.  We watched him tear up the course on the jumbotron as we jumped the barriers toward the finish line.

All of us had the ideal spot right on the finish line as Lance came across for a 2 second victory.  Erik Zabel, Jan Ullrich and many others all had great days, but Lance won!

Jeremy sat high upon my shoulders as Lance donned the first maillot jaune of the race.

The Tour de France is special…Very special.

Almost everyone I know who follows the Tour De France records it during the day and watches it in the evening after work, or watches the evening coverage.  I certainly do.

The biggest challenge from this is avoiding discovery of the stage result, especially with Twitter, facebook, and websites all part of my normal routine.

There are a few “unwritten rules” that must be followed so that we can all enjoy Le Tour.

  1. Never EVER give away the current day stage results via conversation, blog, text, facebook, etc. before 10pm.
  2. You can NEVER discuss the current day stage in such a manner as to be overheard by others.
  3. ALWAYS ask the person with whom you are about to converse if it is OK to discuss the current day, prior to any mention.
  4. NO HINTS!  “ooh someone big crashed”, “I knew who was going to win” or “the break was caught just before the end” are all PROHIBIDO!

Don’t risk being ostracized or banished to the back of the pack.

On the morning of July 14th, 1789, a group of craftsmen and salesmen had had enough of the arrogance and tyranny of the French King Louis XVI and ransacked Les Invalides for weapons. The mob stole 28,000 rifles there; however, they could find no powder. The crowd knew about a stockpile in the Bastille, a prison that was a symbol of the King’s absolute and arbitrary power. So they decided to attack it.

These 80 “invalides”, veteran soldiers wounded in the field, and around 30 grenadiers from the Swiss mercenary regiments attacked a handful of well armed guards.

The Marquis de Launay, fearing a growing anger among the revolutionaries, glibly agreed to meet some of their representatives inside the prison. He hoped to buy time, as he was expecting a rescue team to arrive shortly and to help him secure his castle.

But the negotiations ended when a group of revolutionaries entered the Bastille. The guards were ordered to fire, killing hundreds of people.

The path of the revolt completely changed when the rescue team showed up and decided not to fight against, but rather with the mob. With their canons and their professional soldier skills, they brought victory to the people of France against Louis XVI’s guards in a few hours.

At 4pm, the Marquis de Launay surrendered and let the people enter the Bastille. The guards were violently killed and the Marquis de Launay was beheaded, with his head then put on a stake and carried all over Paris as a sign of victory.

That very night, the Bastille was destroyed.

Some historians found the diary of the King. Of that day he wrote simply the word “Nothing”, which was the result of his day’s hunting. When the Duc de Liancourt informed Louis XVI of what happened at the Bastille, the King asked his adviser, “is this a revolt?” and he was answered, “No Your Majesty, this is a revolution”.

This story really helps to explain the French people and the importance of symbolism.  There is no greater French symbol than the Tour de France.  Le Tour is a rolling metaphor, encircling France every July, as a reminder to all what it means to be French and what it means to be free.

Happy Bastille Day!

Cadel Evans was spectacular today – spectacular in the way he exploded on the hors catégorie Col de la Madeleine.  As the reigning World Champion and winner of Flèche Wallonne, perhaps it is time for Cadel to focus on the classics and shorter stage races. To be fair, Cadel did fracture his elbow on Sunday.  He is clearly a very tough SOB.

Sandy Casar takes out a cagey stage win.  Casar outlasted his break companions and spanked Contador and Schleck, who joined them just before the line.

“The last 5km nobody was riding and it wasn’t exactly what I expecting,” said Casar. “We knew some riders were coming from behind but we didn’t know who it was. I was a little surprised there were no attacks 3-4km from the finish. When the Schleck group caught us and Andy took the lead it was a surprise for us.”

Schleck, now in yellow, said he believed that he and Contador were both riding “at about the same level.  With a narrow 41 seconds in front of Contador, he added, “It’s now up to him (Contador) to attack in the Pyrenees.”

Contador said, “It was a really epic stage, and the very hard climb to the Madeleine left a lot of people struggling.  I know what my aim is now, and which wheel I have to follow — Andy Schleck’s. I think he’s the most dangerous.”

JENS VOIGT IS THE MAN !!  Voigt drilled it up the Madeleine on behalf of Schleck and Team Saxo Bank.  He finally shattered, 300m to the top, practically coming to a dead stop on the final steeps of the Madeleine, as Contador and Schleck forged ahead.  My count was that it took him nearly 2 minutes to go 300m.

Now What?

It looks like Andy Schleck is the becoming the guy to beat.  If he and Contador stay close to the Pyrenees, I really like his odds of taking out the win.  Perhaps that is just my optimism that someone will beat Contador.  Third spot on the podium is wide open; however, I am going with Denis Menchov.

1. SCHLECK Andy 11 TEAM SAXO BANK 43h 35′ 41″
2. CONTADOR Alberto 1 ASTANA 43h 36′ 22″ + 00′ 41″
3. SANCHEZ Samuel 181 EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI 43h 38′ 26″ + 02′ 45″
4. MENCHOV Denis 191 RABOBANK 43h 38′ 39″ + 02′ 58″
5. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen 101 OMEGA PHARMA – LOTTO 43h 39′ 12″ + 03′ 31″
6. LEIPHEIMER Levi 25 TEAM RADIOSHACK 43h 39′ 40″ + 03′ 59″
7. GESINK Robert 195 RABOBANK 43h 40′ 03″ + 04′ 22″

Lance hits the deck twice on the lumpy path to Morzine-Avoriaz.  Everyone watching could see him staring at his bike entangled on the ground, and for just that fraction of a moment, he was quitting.  For most of us this moment of truth happens in pure anonymity.  Lance had France 2,3 & 4 marking his every moment.

Clearly he was hurt, had little reason to press on, except that the entire world would have been witness.

Maria Mazzillo faced a similar situation on the run up the final hill of The Triangle Triathlon this weekend.  She joked that my camera is what kept her from walking.  Maria is not a quitter. Lance is not a quitter and I am equally proud of both.

The world will long comment about Lance’s “bad day”, but I say it was one of his best days.  Shit happens, Lance truly prevailed, and he is turning his focus to putting Levi on the podium.  Maria will remember her most excellent day forever.  She took twelve minutes off of her time from last year.  Others won’t forget either.  Nicely done!

And the tour continues….

Contador is a favorite, but not THE favorite.  Andy Schleck was impressive on the Avoriaz.  He looked ready to pounce all day and did.  He smoked Contador to the line.   To be clear, I do not personally like Contador.  I admire him exactly as I do a handful of athletes in the area who irritate the hell out of me and whom I cannot beat.  I just so would love to kick his ass up Lystra or on the county line sprint.

Cadel Evans winds up in yellow, has a decent team, can climb and can time trial.  He can reach the podium, as can Andy Schleck.  Two intriguing guys to watch are Denis Menchov of Rabobank – only 1:10 back of Evans, and Ryder Hesjedal just 1 click behind Menchov.  Denis is riding quite anonymously and has stayed completely out of trouble, while Ryder has been on the attack daily.

My personal favorite is now Andy Schleck.  You have my full support.  Now go kick Contador’s ass.

1. EVANS Cadel 121 BMC RACING TEAM 37h 57′ 09″
2. SCHLECK Andy 11 TEAM SAXO BANK 37h 57′ 29″ + 00′ 20″
3. CONTADOR Alberto 1 ASTANA 37h 58′ 10″ + 01′ 01″
4. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen 101 OMEGA PHARMA – LOTTO 37h 58′ 12″ + 01′ 03″
5. MENCHOV Denis 191 RABOBANK 37h 58′ 19″ + 01′ 10″
6. HESJEDAL Ryder 54 GARMIN – TRANSITIONS 37h 58′ 20″ + 01′ 11″
7. KREUZIGER Roman 44 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 37h 58′ 54″ + 01′ 45″
8. LEIPHEIMER Levi 25 TEAM RADIOSHACK 37h 59′ 23″ + 02′ 14″
9. SANCHEZ Samuel 181 EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI 37h 59′ 24″ + 02′ 15″
10. ROGERS Michael 118 TEAM HTC – COLUMBIA 37h 59′ 40″ + 02′ 31″
11. GESINK Robert 195 RABOBANK 37h 59′ 46″ + 02′ 37″
12. SASTRE Carlos 91 CERVELO TEST TEAM 37h 59′ 49″ + 02′ 40″
13. BASSO Ivan 41 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 37h 59′ 50″ + 02′ 41″
14. WIGGINS Bradley 31 SKY PRO CYCLING 37h 59′ 54″ + 02′ 45″

Montargis is a beautiful village.  A perfect host to the finale of a tour stage, The Venice of the Gâtinais is noted for embracing all things modern, while paying homage to it’s medieval history.  Montargis even had a hand in the Chinese Revolution.  In 1949 dozens of Chinese young people called this village home and eagerly supported change in their homeland.

Back to Le Tour…

Mark Renshaw and Tyler Farrar gave a good go today.  Farrar can barely hold on to his bars given a cracked elbow.  Garmin – Transitions should be very proud.

Mark Cavendish pulled it out in the end, although the HTC lead out train was, at best, mediocre.  Cav had over a bike length to spare.  Perhaps he went more than 80% today?  This brings Cavendish his 11th career Tour Stage win.

Next up, the boys ride to Gueugnon.  This will be the slightly bumpy and longest stage of the tour.  227K will make for a L O N G day in the saddle.

Ok, they are really pissing me off now.  Why the heck can Versus not get their programming schedule right such that I do not keep missing the end of each stage.  This seems like a programming problem, not a Time Warner Cable problem.

Question:

How do I adjust the recording start and stop times for a scheduled DVR recording with the Navigator? (Time Warner Cable Customers)

Answer:

  1. Press the LIST button on the remote to access the SHOW LIST screen.
  2. Highlight and SELECT the show you want to change.
  3. Choose ADJUST START TIME or ADJUST END TIME.
  4. Choose the number of minutes before and after the show starts and ends and press SELECT.
  5. OR, go to the SCHEDULED RECORDINGS area (for changes to individual shows or episodes) or the SERIES MANAGER section (for changes that apply to the entire series) and then follow steps two (2) through four (4) above.

( O + ) The big winners today are Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck, while Cancellara is back in yellow. Oh, and the God of Thunder, Thor Hushovd, takes out a great stage win.

Let’s recount the GC carnage from today:

( O – ) Christian Vande Velde did not start.  Frank Schleck crashed out.  My long-shot call, Robert Gesink, loses big and is effectively out of contention. Carlos Sastre and Ivan Basso are finito.

(B – ) The big story is that Lance loses a minute to Contador and a few seconds more to Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck.

Bradley Wiggins and Denis Menchov quietly hold their own.

So this leaves Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans and Lance as the biggest contenders.  Ironically, this is my original podium prediction.  We cannot completely rule Wiggins or Menchov out at moment.

Stage 4 into Reims will be busiest for the Tour Doctor and medical staff.  Anyone able to make a blood or medical supply donation, please visit www.letour.com.