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Archive for July, 2011

Cav & The Winners

The final stage of the 2011 Tour has been run and won, with the expected wins for Mark Cavendish in the sprint, and Cadel Evans in the overall coming to fruition.  

A victory on the Champs Elysees is one of the great achievements for a sprint cyclist, and Cav’s ability to produce on the big stages with such consistency will already have him posted as a strong favourite to win the World Championships this September.  Now that he has finally snared the Green Jersey from the Tour, the world champion’s Rainbow Jersey is one of the few remaining prizes to have eluded the HTC jet. It would be a brave tipster to back against him!

Sammy Sanchez took the mountain climber’s King Of The Mountains Polka-Dot Jersey on the back of consistently high finishes in the high mountain stages of the Pyrenees and Alps, including the win up the Luz-Ardiden, and second on Plateau de Beille. It has been a new set of rules for the Maillot Grimpeur (polka dot jersey) this year, which I believe has been a hugely positive change. One of the very best bike riders in the world won this jersey this year, and with all due respect to Anthony Charteau (last year’s winner), that has not always been the case in recent years.

The White (young rider) Jersey was won by Pierre Rolland, France’s next big thing. This boy can climb! He rode as Thomas Voeckler’s wingman on the big climbs, and being able to last that long when virtually every other rider in the race was dropped shows the boy has a big future. I disagreed with the decision to not ride Rolland on front to defend Voeckler’s yellow when Andy Schleck was up the road, but that would show why I’m the Physio who blogs, and they’re the cyclists. Voeckler retained yellow, Rolland won the White by less than a minute, and my rants were wrong if you believe the end justifies the means.

And the Teams Prize was won by bloody Garmin Cervelo! I am that happy for the boys, but can’t believe they went and won it all without me there!! Hahaha! It was an excellent team performance by the boys, with all 9 men contributing. The life-sized cut out of Zab was a little over the top for mine, but hopefully the boys have photos of the cutout in many a compromising position!

This has been brilliant. Eleven months to go!

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Desperate Procession

Today the final stage of the 2011 Tour gets underway, which is devastatingly disappointing for me, but also extremely exciting considering it is Cadel Evans who will cross the line the champion today, calamitous misadventure notwithstanding. (brief pause while author touches wood) I can’t believe it’s nearly over, and conversely can’t believe that Gilbert’s win on Stage One was only three weeks ago.

For those who don’t know, the final day of the Tour is not contested by the main contenders for the overall win. There are multiple reasons for this – tradition plays a role, but also, the futility of any effort bringing you a result  must be acknowledged. 

The sprinters have not been able to contest for days (and finished outside of time cut for the big two Alpine days) and all of them and their teams will be absolutely hanging for one more shot at getting the win. So the likelihood of some skinny little mountain climber zipping off the front of a flying peloton are virtually zero.

All of the teams will have their big sponsors on the Champs Élysées, as well as potential sponsors for forthcoming years, and so there is a genuinely desperate edge to the procession that is rolling along. Do a good job on this day, and often the team is set up for a great season 2012.

The boys do multiple laps of the Champs, so they get a good opportunity to look at the corners and try to work out how they can get over the top of the Cav-HTC train. Couple that with most sprinters having already contested there in previous years, and the final lap will be absolute dynamite. Last year Cav was impeccable, with an acceleration and too sped that was astonishing to watch. Julian Dean was also spot on, but unfortunately Tyler Farrar, who would normally shoot off JD’s wheel to go for the win had left the Tour with a broken hand.

All of the smart money is on Cav for yet another win today, but the same smart money was on a Schleck-Contador duel for the Tour win. Thus magical upsets happen, and so I’m on Ty Farrar!

1. Ty
2. Cav
3. Greipel

A man can dream!

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A Grand Victory

Cadel Evans is going to win the Tour de France in 2011. Hahahaha! I’m going to say that again, just because I can. Cadel Evans is going to win the Tour de France in 2011. What a nice sentence to read and write!

The time trial last night was expected to be a shootout between the world’s best time triallist, Fabian Cancellara, and the next big thing, Tony Martin. Behind these two big hitters doing their thing, the question everyone was interested in was if Cadel could take 57″ out of Andy Schleck. 

Fabian opened the day’s proceedings with a great ride, setting a typically high standard performance despite the course not being ideally suited to his big frame. Young Australian talent Richie Porte took a few seconds out of Fabs, and I took that tone a good sign of things to come, that an Aussie could beat a Leopard. A few other blokes took time out of Fabs, and it looked like the Leopards had perhaps left their best work in the Alps.

Tony Martin eventually laid down an incredibly quick time, even quicker than that which he set to win the TT at the Criterium du Dauphine last month on the same course. And then it came down to the big hitters. Contador was most impressive, again beating Fabian in a TT at the end of a Grand Tour. Cadel then rolled out, looking smooth and powerful. The vision of Andy Schleck prior to him starting didn’t look promising – it appeared touch-and-go as to if he would throw up or not.

As soon as time comparisons came up on screen it became apparent that Cadel was on a good one – he had taken more than half of his deficit away from Andy before the official first time check. It was then a procession, with the Australian coming to within 7s of Tony Martin in a truly brilliant ride. All talk of Cadel’s inability to overhaul Sastre in the TT at the end of the Tour in  ’08 was relegated to empty air, as he caught Andy, and then sailed away from him.

It was a brilliant ride, and has been a sensational Tour. Huge congratulations go to Cadel Evans, one of the giants of the sport of cycling. I’ll sign off with my favorite sentence. Cadel Evans is going to win the Tour de France in 2011. 

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Down To Two

Two nights ago there four men still in contention, then Contador was out of the race. Yesterday saw the end of Frank Schleck’s chances, and tonight will see the demise of the final contender for the Tour.

Andy Schleck will hope to defend his 57sec lead over Cadel Evans tonight, and will certainly fancy his chances. The last time he was in this position, Cadel just didn’t have enough in the tank to overhaul Carlos Sastre back in 2008. The difference this year (or so Cadel and his team hope) is that Cadel has ridden a much more controlled race, only seeing the wind when it has been vital for his chances.

Atop Cadel racing more intelligently, Andy has had two VERY tough days in the saddle, and so may perform a little worse than he normally would. Either way, this is going to be yet another fantastic stage in what has been one of the most exciting Tours in a decade.

For tonight, Cancellara will win the stage from Tony Martin, with Dave Millar third.  And I reckon Cadel will have enough to get over the top of Andy to win the Tour for 2011. Biased? Moi? Heheheh.

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One More

One more time over some incredible hills. One more chance for the Schlecks to take seconds away from Cadel. One more opportunity for them to sap the power from his legs to minimize the damage he does to them in tomorrow’s TT.

100km, three categorized climbs, 2851m vertical ascent. This stage is not as huge as last night’s, but being so short and sharp, there is still enormous potential for damage to be done. 

As it stands, no one would be fully satisfied with where they are sitting on gc.  Andy is obviously happiest, and is sitting int the best position, but he would still be thinking that he might be able to hold Cadel off over a TT, not that he would definitely hold him off.

  Cadel would think that her might be able to overhaul Andy, but would prefer to take some time back, and knows he can’t lose any time at all to Andy. Frank needs to smash both Cadel and Voeckler to ensure he makes it onto the podium, particularly as he time trials poorly.

Voeckler? Will continue to suck wheels and bleed seconds. He has been incredible in his defense of the jersey, but the end is certainly nigh.

For mine tonight will be
1. Frank
2. Gesink
3. Andy

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One For The History Books

If you were lucky enough to watch Stage 18 last night, you saw one of the best days of bike racing  in years.  The Schlecks finally attacked and got it right, using their double-threat to maximum advantage, and as a result achieved another stage win, jumped in the GC to now be in a dominant position, and Andy has ridden a stage that will be talked about for years.

To quickly get the bit players of the day out of the equation, Voeckler holds on to his lead still, and Contador and Sammy Sanchez are out of contention for the overall win, with both cracking under the cruel tempo Cadel set in trying to minimise his losses to Andy up the final ascent of the day.

So what went down?  With about 60km remaining in the stage, on the second of three massive mountain climbs, Andy Schleck attacked the peloton, and after all the other leaders looked at each other to say “I’m not chasing him.  You do it” he started to take some serious time out of everyone.  His sole useful man up the road, Maxime Monfort, awaited Andy on the descent off the Izoard, and towed him swiftly and safely down it.  This was Monfort’s first key job – Andy is not a great descender (as he showed two stages ago) and did well to not lose the time he’d worked so hard to gain over the top of the climb.  His second was turning himself inside out to get Andy to the final climb as quickly as possible.  Job very well done!

The chase group faffed around, as chase groups tend to do, and lost 4min by the time they started the final climb.  Cadel waited for anyone else in the race to go with him to do some work on the front, which  Contador threatened to do briefly, and eventually the Australian realised he would have to do it himself.  It was then a straight shoot-out, with Cadel slowly gaining time on Andy, and dropping most of the other blokes in the race.  The first big moment was how early Sanchez was dropped, the second that Contador went out the back door too. 

Voeckler miraculously stayed with Cadel until the final kilometre, and greedily had a team mate with him but didn’t get him to ride tempo at any point.  I say greedily because Team Europcar relied on Cadel to get them close to both defend Voeckler’s jersey, and put their man Pierre Rolland close to winning the white young rider’s jersey.  It was a successful tactic, but not one that showed any class.  As heroic as Voeckler’s riding has been, when the yellow jersey is under threat and you have a team mate with you but don’t use him to defend it, questions should be asked.  Waxing lyrical about how well he has defended is not enough.  But I digress.

So now Cadel can not lose any more time to Andy and still be even a remote chance to win the TT.  Tonight will again be epic!

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4 Stages, 4 Contenders

We have finally made it to the first of two stages that have loomed large over this whole race, and will play a huge role in determining who is the 2011 Tour de France champion.

The Profile of Stage 18. Savage.

Today is officially a filthy stage on the bike.  200km, three hors categorie climbs, approximately 470om vertical gain through the stage, including a single climb from 335m above sea level to 2744m!!!  Holy smokes.

The way I see things, the Schlecks and Contador both need to take about two minutes out of Cadel by the time they hit the time trial on Saturday.  Cadel and Alberto are about the same over a TT (Alberto probably a little better) and Cadel has 1’57” start on him.  Cadel is markedly better than Frank in a TT, and has 4″ start on him; and Cadel is quite a bit better than Andy in the TT, with a 1’18” buffer at the moment.  If they all took 2min, we would see Cadel needing 3″ over Contador, 42″ over Andy, and 1’56” over Frank.  All just at the edge of possible I reckon!

Sammy Sanchez is a bit of a wild card, being a little better than Andy at the TT.  Maybe.  And having been granted leave to skip off the front twice already this Tour, methinks he’ll be shut down henceforth.  Contador would not be too displeased with the state of things if Cadel wasn’t in front of him – he is likely good enough over a TT to cover both Schlecks as things currently stand.  If he takes time out of them, then they are toast.

So I reckon Cadel needs to not lose more than 2min to anyone.

Contador needs to find 2min on Cadel, and not lose anything on the Schlecks.

The Schlecks need 2min on Cadel and 30-60s on Contador.

And Sanchez needs to make up time on everyone!

Who knows what way it’s going to pan out?  I am champing at the bit to see it all go down tonight!

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