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Posts Tagged ‘Race’

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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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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Mountain passes & hills 2

It’s not called a wall for nothing!

Cadel Evans’ aggressive riding late in Stage 13, and the subsequent carnage and one day style “balls to the wall” racing has assured us of one thing this Tour: we don’t know what’s next!  Today is a day with two large climbs a long way out from the finish, the second including ramps up to 18%, and peaking some 40km from the finish.  The descent ends about 20km from the line, and the whole stage is right by the southern coastline again, bringing wind into the equation.  Interestingly, about 30 of the final 40km will likely have a good tailwind, then the final loop around the finish town of Foix is likely to have 6km of cross-tailwind followed by 6km of cross-headwind.  Weather like that puts 36km of less disadvantage to those in the break (if that makes sense) followed by a very tough final 6km, with advantage to the peloton.  That alone means tonight will see unpredictable racing, and undoubtedly Cadel will look to – at the very least – put the pressure on Wiggo, and at best pinch a bit of time.

This is a stage made for a successful break, but the way that BMC are racing at the moment, who knows what will happen.  Undoubtedly a couple of blokes will get up the road, but the chances of them staying there are less than would normally be the case thanks to the aggression of the Evans-led team.  But who knows??  The beauty of sport is encapsulated in those three words I reckon!

Gerrans from Pineau (not Pinot) from Scarponi

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So if you looked at the result of last night and saw Greipel from Sagan from Boassen Hagen, you’d likely think “Aaah just another bunchie” – it was certainly the finale that I was expecting!  And was far from the finale that actually happened.

BMC took advantage of the stiff crosswinds and tough little wall 25km from the finish to send Cadel shooting off the front of the bunch.  Clearly they are still sniffing around to do some damage and hopefully get Cadel back into the race!  The result was no change for Evans, although he did blow the peloton to smithereens and made Sky work a lot harder than they otherwise would have

Atop  the climb there were only twenty or thirty riders still in contention, and when Alexandre Vinokourov attacked with Michael Albasini, the pressure was kept high, making it very difficult for any riders who were attempting to bridge up to the front bunch from closing the gap.  One group who did were the boys from Lotto Belisol, with the big fella (Greipel) in tow.

It then became a drag race between two very strong lads in front, and the Lotto train behind.  While the inevitable happened and they were caught a couple of km from the finish, the damage had been done, and the race was between the few who remained. Greipelh ad used all of his soldiers in shutting down the break, so had no train, and no one else was interested in delivering the few fast men there to the line.

And then the unheard of happened.

The Yellow Jersey lead out the sprint.  There are always anomalous times when the bloke who happens to be in yellow isn’t the leader of the team, so does some work for whoever it is that is the boss: Hushovd helping out Farrar last year for Garmin is an example, as is  Victor Pena riding for Lance back in 2003.  Neither man was any chance of winning the race at the end of the Tour.  That the Yellow Jersey rode for Boassen Hagen yesterday speaks volumes for the respect Wiggo has for him, and had he have set the Norwegian up for the win, would have paid back a lot of the work done throughout the race.

Greipel eventually won out over Sagan, with the latter consolodating his lead in the Green Jersey as Gossy didn’t get over the climb in touch with the lead bunch.  What a cracking finale to a stage that many would have penned in as a “boring” bunch sprint.

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