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Archive for July, 2012

We have arrived!

Well, to be honest, it’s been a few days now, but the dust has only really settled enough to write anything as of today. We’re staying a little out of town, allowing us the opportunity to train without the stress of dealing with the traffic of London, the slog of battling other athletes for everything in the Village, and the chance for the boys to decompress, relax and recover after the Tour.

I’m pretty sure the Ye Olde Englishe translation for this area is “Quaint”

;

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Yes, that is a thatch roof, and yes, they are little thatch geese sculptures on top of the thatch roof. Like I said – Quaint.

Another example? The pub down the way predates European settlement of Australia by over 200 years. Good grief! It’s a beautiful part of the world.

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Quaint-a-thon!!

In “me” news, I’ve made it to the Village once, saw the apartments, checked out the recreation area, looked at the gym and pretended to be interested in lots of stuff, waiting for when I thought it would be considered socially appropriate to go to the food hall and open my Chicken Nuggets account for the Games. Suffice to say, the account is open, there’s a lot of food options in there, but Philistine that I am, I chose 6 nuggets & BBQ sauce. Sigh.

Elsewise, I saw a random gorilla sculpture in front of some great lawn mowing; Aussie girls doing the famous “Hello Boys” move under the Olympic rings sculpture, and a couple of Olympic legends.

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This morning back at our little cycling base we were visited by Official welcoming-type people and had a little ceremony. At one point we linked arms with John Eales and Lawrie Lawrence whilst singing songs. That is not a sentence I ever thought I would type.

As for the boys, they have gone from looking positively skeletal, coughing up their lungs every couple of minutes and groaning when they had to do any large movements (such as sit in a chair) to slowly dragging themselves back to humanity. It’s been best monitored with the cough frequency measure, which has shown a steady slowing of the rate of coughery all week. Very scientific. Trust me.

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We now have five blokes in unbelievably good shape, having ridden the Tour, who have recovered to the point that they are now going to be able to delve into their bodies and produce something pretty special. We’re all massively looking forward to it now!!

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The overall top 3 for the Tour is virtually locked in after the Pyrenees, with the likely result of the final time trial being to simply confirm the dominance of the two Sky boys, and shuffle a few of the lower places.  Prior to that, we have a 221km stage that nominally should be a sprint stage, but likely sprint teams will need to be motivated to control things  as it is a very tough day in the saddle.  Exhaustion for those who are already exhausted.

Firstly, such a long stage at such a late point is tough, and secondly, the profile (and knowing the area from races I’ve been to in previous years) is almost NEVER flat.  This is a total headwreck of a day – it is mentally exhausting to be constantly up and down little rollers, and in and out of corners.  Riders need to concentrate all day to avoid crashes and be in the right place at the right time

Translation: it wouldn’t be a surprise if the break stays away!  The responsibility will largely rest on the Orica GreenEdge boys as they haven’t been working on the front of the bunch for the past few days (unlike the Lotto, Liquigas and Sky lads, who have all been working hard for their various GC men).

I’m hoping they do the job, and Gossy delivers on the line.  He’s in good form, but hasn’t quite bopped a win yet.  Tonight is his night!  Followed by Cav then Greipel.

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Frodo And Sam - 800x534, 85kB

Froomey leading Wiggo uphill 1

Brad Wiggins and Chris Froome have shown that they are by far the best two riders in the Tour de France, being untouchable on both the mountains as well as on the time trials.  Liquigas and Vincenzo Nibali set the race up, giving it everything they could to make the race tough in the hope that the Sky boys would crack, but in the end, that just meant they had less work to do and could do more damage in the finale.

Alejandro Valverde streaked off the front with a well timed & orchestrated break early in the stage, but he wasn’t secure until the final km as Froomey and Wiggo were absolutely on the charge.

It was telling that at the 5km to go banner, Wiggo and Froomey were still comfortable enough to have a little chat and plan their final assault.  Basically, Wiggo completely head-wrecked every bloke still in the group.  He is the master of that sort of psychological warfare.

Who knows if Froomey could have bridged across to (and then outsprinted) Valverde, but he is now guaranteed to have achieved folkloric status in not making the attempt.  If there is one thing that both bike fans, and the British public love, it is the heroically selfless working man.  Froome is Sam Gamgee to Wiggo’s Frodo, which is mildly amusing, considering Wiggo was begged by the Garmin media person in 2009 to not call the tiny humans who are traditionally the best climbers hobbits.

Froome leading Wiggo uphill 2

Got to love it!  The two hobbits from Team Sky now have a couple of sprinter stages and a TT to survive, and they will stand on the top two steps of the podium on the Champs Elysees.  Brilliant stuff, and well done gents.

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Mountain passes & hills 2

5% average WITH a descent halfway up?? Eeeek!

Tonight is the stage that I have been looking forward to the most since I had a proper look at the various stage profiles back in early June.  It is a genuine belter!    The back end of the race includes an Hors Categorie climb immediately followed by a First Categorie climb.  The profile from today is reminiscent of the stage where Wiggo lost his place on the podium to Lance back in 2009, without the descent to the finish (so it’s even harder).

To be honest, Wiggo and Froomey have looked in control at all times, and I can’t see how they could fail to control everything again today.  Sky have been dominant, and all kudos to them.  However, this is sport, and there’s always a chance!

If there were a universal karmic balance-type of being out there, then it would be fair for Vincenzo Nibali to finally crack the two Sky lads at least once and at least gain a little bit of time on them.  He won’t get the overall win out of anything he does tonight, but he has been a great addition to the headlines of the race.  Tonight is his final shot at pulling this off, and I can’t imagine him doing anything other than going down all guns blazing.

For the win tonight, I’m on Scarponi – he finished with the grupetto yesterday, meaning he’s either sick as a dog, or was saving himself for tonight.  My money’s on the latter.  For second, I’m thinking Nibali, and third Froomey.

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We have had the next big mountain stage, and for Wiggo, there is only one left.  Only one more day where he will be threatened, and only one more man who is a threat.

Sadly, Cadel Evans’ shot at back to back Tour victories is done and dusted, if it wasn’t already.  On a truly massive day, where an enormous break got away early in the stage, the defending champ was in trouble on the earliest climbs, and only worsened through the day.  He had great help from his team, and did everything he could to stay in touch, but there is no hiding on the big hills.  If you’re a little bit off, you’re all the way done.

Thomas Voeckler again danced up the mountains with the grace of Peter Garret, eventually shimmying and shaking his way up the hills and dropping all of his rivals one by one through the stage.   He now holds the mountain jersey, and will likely hold it through to Paris.  Couple that with his two stage victories, and he has had almost as good a Tour this year as last.

Wiggo showed why he is the team leader of Sky today, taking the job over from Froomey when Nibali unleashed his assaults to shut everything down, and Wiggo is now borderline untouchable for the podium.  Tomorow will show if today hurt the Sky boys enough, but on form, it looks like Wiggo is home

Chapeau.

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Ok.  We’ve had our rest day, complete with (seemingly) obligatory drug bust, and we’re ready to dive into the final, defining week.  More on Frank’s positive later.

Now we see if the hard racing that has been inflicted upon the peloton has had any effect on Team Sky.  It certainly showed with the break staying away and Fedrigo winning the stage over Christian “VDV” Vandevelde (DAMN I wanted to see him win one!) before the rest.  If there was a stage that had “sprinter” written all over it, that was it, but Sky were in energy conservation mode, Lotto had drilled themselves into a deep hole two stages earlier for Greipel’s third win and have to look aftter VDB tonight; leaving GreenEdge with a lot of work a long way out.  Unsurprisingly, they chose to not chase.

The last time Wiggo was in this situation (although racing for 3rd, not 1st) was in 2009 when he eventually lost a lot of time to the Schlecks and Contador, and a little time to Lance on a tough mountain stage.  He had VDV doing amazing work then, and Froomey to do the job now, and we shall see if he’s been softened up by Nibali, Cadel, et  al, or if he’s still got more in the tank.   Seeing how meticulous Sky have been, you can only assume that he will come through this stage with flying colours.

The hope from Nibali and Cadel is that it is too hard to maintain amazing form for three weeeks of racing, and so Wiggo will be on the wane while they are both on the improve.  They thus will hope to make today intensely hard, with the expectation that even if he defends well today, he will be that much deeper in the hole tomorrow on an even tougher stage, and they will get the time they need then.

The big question will be if they crack Wiggo early, does Froomey go with the leaders, or stick with Wiggo.  I think it’ll be a moot point as Wiggo is on song, but if it were to happen, I reckon Froomey would have to leave Wiggo behind.

That’s for tomorrow – today, I’m on Nibali from VDB from Evans.

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Upholstery tacks?  Seriously?  Clearly my “Ugly Fans” rant was two days too soon.  The Tour is such a great spectacle partly because of the amazing numbers of fans lining the road.  Sadly it is a statistical certainty that with enough people in a group, you will have a number of imbeciles shouting hatred for their own stupid reasons, and another group of vandals risking other peoples’ lives and livelihoods for whatever reason: ideology, dumb self gratification, whatever.

It was shaping up to be a cool stage too: the break was doing what breaks do (I can’t believe Sagan dragged himself over the wall in touch with them all trying to drop him) and LL Sanchez eventually won himself the day with a very smart move a long way out from the finish line.

The cool bit was waiting to see what would be happening with the big shots having a go at each other on such a treacherous hill.  Sadly the end result was a stage very sportingly neutralised by Wiggo and Team Sky.

Sigh…

Tonight’s stage will be a sprint, and I reckon it’ll be Cav from Gossy from Greipel, and hopefully there will be no idiots taking it upon themselves  to become part of the race.

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