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Posts Tagged ‘Vincenzo Nibali’

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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The first big mountain stage of the Tour has exposed the form of the riders who have intentions of finishing on the podium in the race.  The best five in the race to date have been Wiggins, Evans, Nibali, Froome and Van Den Broeck (VDB).

Bizarrely, Chris Froome is probably the best in the race right now: he completely cracked Cadel Evans AND (briefly) dropped his own team leader.  He finished off his unbelievable day by riding Wiggo and the other stars off his wheeel in the final 500m.

Vincenzo Nibali & VDB both had a little bit of leeway granted them with aggressive attacks early in the final climb, but they had their moves neutralised by (you guessed it) Froomey. Nibali showed he is climbing brilliantly, but similar to the Schlecks last year with Evans, he frankly can’t put any time into the stronger time triallist.

Sadly for Cadel Evans, today was a bad day.  He did as he needed to and attacked early in the stage, but didn’t look super convincing even then.  On the final climb with a couple of km to go he eventually popped under the strain of the amazing tempo ridden by Chris Froome.  He lost another 90-odd seconds on Wiggo, and will battle to recover from this to win the race.

Wiggins has, however, shown signs of potentially being cracked, so Nibali will retain his hopes of breaking clear of Wiggo in the Pyrenees.  The Italian’s hope will be that Chris Froome stays with Wiggo when (if) that happens so he can get some more time out of the best on ground!!

Pierre Rolland won the day, by the way, and looks a good show as a contender in years to come, but the big news is Cadel cracking.

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Stage 11 Profile: Love an ECG trace!

Today is the first “High” mountaintop finish.  Stage 7 was considered “Medium”, and looking at the pictures of the stage today, one can see why!  This is a short, mountainous stage that may well see fireworks from the big hitters.  When considering the terrain, there isn’t really any respite throughout the stage, and it is a virtual guarantee that Vincenzo Nibali, Jurgen van den Broeck and Cadel Evans will equally attempting to make things difficult for the SKY super team.

The big hope from all three will be to shed all but Froome from Wiggo’s side as quickly as possible, which means they’ll equally be dropping their own helpers (Richie Porte would be riding for gc if he was in any other team, and is the number three man for Sky!!)  The shortness of the stage, and the ease with which support staff will be able to feed and water them at the tops of climbs means that this won’t be a huge issue.  I am looking forward to seeing if Evans’ head to the side, pain face on, gruelling tempo comes out to play today (a la 2011 Stage 18) and if Wiggo can go with that pace for a long period of time.

What will also be interesting is seeing if the break has any real chance of getting away with so much at play for the big boys, and so high a chance that they will attack relatively early in the stage.  If I were Fred Kessiakoff going for the Polka-Dot Jersey, I’d sit on Voeckler’s wheel as he is all but guaranteed to attempt to collect the maximum points over the first climb, fully expecting to be gobbled up and spat out later in the race.  Go with him into the break, then attack him up the climb…  But that is just a minor subplot today – it’s all about Nibali & Evans vs Wiggo & Froomey.  Definitely one to stay up for, Antipodeans!!

My tips are VDB from Cadel from Froomey.

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The stage today would have been earmarked as one for the break, and this it has turned out to be.    Two of the popular heroes of the Tour battled it out for the stage win: Thomas Voeckler and Jens Voigt took each other, and three other escapees on, with Voeckler using his cunning and power to take the stage in a very funny looking slow motion sprint.

In the race for the overall honours, Vincenzo Nibali and his team, Liquigas threw a well coordinated attack at Team Sky and Brad Wiggins on the descent after the first big climb of the Tour.  The net result for the big boys was no change as far as time is concerned, with the attack neutralised with aplomb by Richie Porte for Wiggo, but Nibali (and Cadel) will be hoping that they are sapping the strength from the Sky boys, and particularly Wiggo.

Cadel was content to allow Nibali and Wiggo to fight it out today, and hopefully (from the point of view of the race) he will have more to give tomorrow, laying the hurt down on tomorrow’s humdinger of a stage.  Has the slow burn started?  We shall see.

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