Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for June, 2011

The Dotty Jumper

Or the polka dot (climbers) jersey, or the king of the mountains.

This is the jersey that is currently the least predictable of those up for grabs in the Tour, and also currently the least closely followed (this is perhaps untrue in non-Anglophone countries, but comparing the amount of coverage that Cav gets in his green jersey battles, as opposed to Anthony Charteau in his dotty battles, I don’t think so).  Basically riders receive points for crossing the tops of climbs first, and the bigger the climb, the higher the points received.  Climbs are categorised from 4th (easiest) to hors (ridiculousest) throughout the race.

Why they don’t just go from 5th category to 1st I don’t know, but I’m sure there is a tradition in there somewhere.  Considering that Octave Lapize famously called the organisers assassins (which is French for murderers I’m told) for making them ride the Col du Tourmalet in 1910, that the Tourmalet is an hors category climb, and that the Tour at that stage was a grand total of 7 years old, I’m unsure as to when the tradition of hors cat. rather than 1st cat. started, but it’s there, and I’ll just shut up about it.

Anyhoo, there have been issues with this jersey of late – the main ones being that it has either gone to breakaway specialists who aren’t gun cyclists like the winners of the green and yellow jerseys; or to drug cheats.  A rider who is no threat to the boys gunning for the overall can win this jersey by getting into the break on a couple of lumpy stages and cleaning up all of the points for all of those climbs.  They may not even win a single stage, and invariably can’t stay with the big hitters when the race for the overall is on, and so sort of limp their way to the jersey.  Otherwise, a look at the past five winners of the jersey is a bit of a cycling hall of shame, with at least three having been accused of, or actually caught using performance enhancing drugs.  Not ideal.

For the racing, Cat. 4 climbs can usually be covered pretty quickly by any of the pros, with the sprinters and bigger lads being able to power up them only slightly slower than the whippets who can  climb.  If things are very late in a stage, they will cause a lot of stress and speculation as we all worry if our man will be able to get up a hill still at the front of the bunch or not, which makes for super exciting racing as the really strong guys who can climb a bit fancy their chances against the super quick blokes that struggle on the bergs.

Cat. 3 climbs are even less likely to include the fast men, and are weighted even more towards the punchy power men, Cat.2 climbs start to lean more to the climbing specialists, and then Cat. 1 & Hors Cat. climbs are for the pure climbers, with everyone else gasping in their wake unless they go a long way up the road in breakaways.

I do remember one hilarious day where Tyler Farrar, not normally known for his awesome skills on the uphills took out climbing points on a stage of the Giro back in ’09.  It was a super long stage that started in Innsbruck, Austria, went through St Moritz, Switzerland, through the Maloja Pass to end up in Chiavenna just back across the Italian border.  The one categorised climb for the day was an on paper impressive 1.3km vertical climb, however it had taken them about 200km to cover that climb as the race meandered along the one valley without any steep hills whatsoever.

Ty said he saw the signs saying 1km to go and mistook them to mean for the intermediate sprint, and figured since he was there and points were available, he may as well contest for them.  As he bullishly made his way through the peloton he said he thought it was a little tame compared to the normal seat of your pants hair raising stuff that happens prior to big sprints, but let it slide.  Watching on TV, it was so funny to see all these waif-like climbers battling each other to get to the line to bolster their chances of having the climbers jersey, and then having Tyler go past them like a man amongst boys.  The best part was seeing Ty hit the line, and simultaneously realise what’s just happen and sheepishly move to the side to let them get on with the rest of the stage.  Classic.

As for my tips for winners of this jersey?  I honestly have no clue.  The Tour organisers have attempted to make it a jersey that good bike riders can win and still actually race for the gc by changing the points structure, and so on the basis of that, I’ll plump for

1.  Frank Schleck

2.  Andy Schleck

3.  Alberto Contador

Who knows?  If you disagree, prove you know better on one of my fantasy leagues –

LEAGUE ONE

http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/home/fantasy

League name: TdF Dreaming

Password: TdF

LEAGUE TWO

http://www.velogames.com/tdf11index.php

League name: Switchback Fixation

League Code: 27012917

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Talking About The Green

We’re into the final couple of days prior to the big show starting, and I reckon it’s time to throw my two cents into the prediction ring.

I’ll start with the green (or points) jersey – a jersey that two of the boys from Garmin have worn in the past two seasons, but which neither actually held.  Wiggo and Millar both rode in the green jersey the day after the Prologue, yet neither was leading the points competition, which was lead by Fabian Cancellara, who happened to also be holding the yellow jersey, and so of course wore that on the day.  Couple that with Tyler Farrar being a genuine contender for the green for the last few years, and of course I’ve had a lot of interest in the points jersey.

This year sees a big change in the weighting of the points earned in each stage, essentially ensuring that if a rider is as dominant as Mark Cavendish has been with stage wins, then he will win the green jersey. The other change is that the value of the intermediate bonus points have increased immensely, which may change the way the stages are ridden by the sprinter teams. Thor Hushovd’s famous mountain escapes to collect green jersey points (and make up for his inability to match Cav in sprint stage finales) may be covered more vigorously this year.

The great expectation for this year with the points change is that Cav will finally (and deservedly) pop his green jersey cherry. Cav famously has stated that he rides for stage wins and will win the green jersey if he wins enough stages, but won’t chase points on intermediate sprints. His main rivals for the green come from Garmin Cervelo in Tyler Farrar and Thor Hushovd.  Ty is one of the only blokes in the world who can beat Cav in a sprint, and Thor has the speed to score some points in sprints, as well as the strength to get over the intermediate hill stages in touch with the leaders to win stages that other sprinters are not able to physically contest.  He also is able to put himself into breaks and take points in intermediates, accruing points that way.  Thor has said he’ll support Ty in the sprints at the Tour, although if the opportunity arises for a stage win, of course he’ll take it!

Here comes the tough part: as great a bloke as Ty is, and as much as I love the way he races and sprints, I just can’t see him beating Cav for the green jersey.  The main reason for this is that I can’t imagine Ty chasing intermediate points either: I can actually hear Ty saying “It’s kinda lame to win it without beating him.”  Atop that, Garmin don’t appear to have picked any domestiques.  They have an amazing lead-out train (Millar to JD to Thor to Ty) and a good triple climber threat (VDV, Hesje & TommyD), but Zab and Navardauskas are clearly not going to be able to control the race alone.  It’s an interesting scenario, and we shall see what tricks JV has up his sleeve to make things work for the team.  Get Ryder and TommyD to ride on the front?  Or if VDV isn’t on form, have him do the work?  We shall see soon!

Going on past form, Ty will push Cav, and may (WILL!!!) beat him in a stage (OR TWO!!!), but Cav will get more out of Ty than Ty will get from him.  There are three definite bunch sprints and two Classics-style kickers in the 1st week, two lumpy potential sprints in the second week and two bunchies in the third week.  The Ty vs Cav show will have a subplot of Thor vs Gossy with those kicker finishes in the first week where the out-and-out speed demons could score zero points, and their two lieutenants come close to maxing out (and thus giving Thor a sniff at jumping off the front of the bunch to chase intermediate points).

My tips are (and I hope I’m wrong!) –

1st Cav

2nd Thor

3rd Ty

If you think you know better, show your knowledge off in one of the fantasy leagues I’m playing –

LEAGUE ONE

http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/home/fantasy

League name: TdF Dreaming

Password: TdF

LEAGUE TWO

http://www.velogames.com/tdf11index.php

League name: Switchback Fixation

League Code: 27012917

Read Full Post »

Take A Shot At The Title…

So we’re a couple of days away from the start of the sporting highlight of the year.

I for one am rather worried as I have a full time job, live in Australia, and don’t really function all that well on minimal sleep for weeks in a row.  The Tour will cause many a late night/early morning combination (similar to the past two years when I was working there) come July, but the excitement of seeing what happens next, coupled with cheering for a couple of blokes I personally like should see me through the dark times…

And if that’s not enough, I also have a couple of TdF fantasy leagues that I have invested at least ten full minutes of concentration into.  The results are two of the great dream teams (within the scopes of the rules of the leagues that I am running in), which I challenge all and sundry to even try to defeat.  Obviously my previous two posts have spoken of some of the aspects that go into the decision making process for choosing a team (and yes, based on how I thought teams were chosen, I’m amazed that Tommy D got a start with Garmin – particularly as the first rider announced by Jivvers).  I have used virtually none of the same rules in selecting my two teams to start this awesome race.  It’s about winning after all…  And to come clean, when I ran the team Garmin competition last year, I didn’t actually win.  That glory went to team chiropractor Matt Rabin (@mattrabin) who I am determined to defeat this year.  I swear it’s gonna happen!!

DreamTeam 1 is from the website http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/home/fantasy and is potentially more in-depth as there are options for trades throughout the race depending on who has raced well and who has crashed throughout the race.  It’s a different, totally artificial, take on the race, but no less interesting.  Go to http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/home/fantasy and register yourself.  Then get on the mini-league “TdF Dreaming” with the password “TdF” to have a shot at the title.

Dream Team option number two is at http://http://www.velogames.com/tdf11index.php– this is a simple league, where you enter your team at the start of the race, and then watch the points accrue.  No changes once the race starts, just like in the real show.  Obviously, as opposed to the real race, all of the effort that you need to put in to your team once the race starts is sitting on your bum watching events unfold and cheering for your boys as they do their thing.  But other than that, it’s really similar.  Promise.

So go to http://www.velogames.com/tdf11index.php then once you’ve registered, look for the Mini-League entry part, and put in the code 27012917 and then the Name Switchback Fixation – you’ll be in the game, and taking on people tenuously involved in the pro scene (like me) who also love the sport and care about the racing.

I challenge all and sundry to take me on here.  Bring it!

LEAGUE ONE

http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/home/fantasy

League name: TdF Dreaming

Password: TdF

LEAGUE TWO

http://www.velogames.com/tdf11index.php

League name: Switchback Fixation

League Code: 27012917

Get on board, put on your thinking caps, and see how you go!

Read Full Post »

Two Weeks Out

If the energy was up a week ago, things have gotten even more hyped for all of the teams headed to le Tour now.

Cyclists will have ridden themselves into or out of spots as the final places are essentially solidified based on a combination of form, usefulness to team goals and personality. If the form and function of two riders is essentially akin, then other considerations enter the equation. A key aspect is knowing which rider is easier to get along with.

When with close mates it is difficult to handle three weeks of exhausting racing under huge pressure from both within and without the team.  Add this to long bus transfers and sharing the dining table and hotel rooms and things are inevitably tense for all involved.  (2* Kyriad &/or Campanille hotels on the Tour are two of the few things I WON’T be missing by being on the sidelines for this year’s Tour!)  So if you’re saddled with a social twit, stress levels within the team may be unnecessarily high. Thus of course personality is part of the selection battery.

Other selection factors can be related to the wishes of the sponsors. The nationality of the rider can be another point that tips the scales more or less in their favour. The nationality of the team itself, as well as team sponsors will dictate these decisions to some extent.

Thus foreign riders who are social doofuses (or is it doofi?) need to be bloody good on their bike, or they won’t get a ride at le Tour!!

Read Full Post »

THREE WEEKS TO GO

We’re approaching mid-June, and the cycling world in Europe is building to a frenzy of anticipation: three weeks ’til the Tour! Most teams will have had five or six of their riders locked in as starters since before the season began, with only a badly-timed injury preventing big hitters like Thor Hushovd, Ryder Hesjedal and Christian Vande Velde from Garmin from starting. The next couple of riders will have been selected on form, the potential roles that they can fill for their team, and their experience and past performances in Grand Tours.

There are then usually one or two spots still open that three or four riders will be striving to take. Who is the team’s priority rider? How can the team achieve their best results? These are the first two factors defining which decisions will be made – teams that are built around a sprinter obviously have little to confuse matters, but teams with GC contenders are another story. There are only so many climbers talented enough to help at the pointy end of the big mountain stages of the Tour, and most of these men are potential leaders for their team. So when looking at filling the 8th and 9th spots, the dilemma may be – do we take another strong domestique to ensure our leader has as much cover as is possible for as long as it is flat, or take someone who is a good climber on his day, but not consistent/experienced/team focused enough to be picked on their merits in the “definite starters” list.

It’s all very interesting, and so there are a few blokes from many of the teams who will be riding their hearts out through the Dauphine and Tour de Suisse this month trying to stake their claim for a spot in the biggest show there is for bike riders. I’m thinking of getting involved in a tipping competition myself, but haven’t selected my starters either as yet! Either way, the anticipation in pre-Tour month is always awesome.

Read Full Post »