Jul 132012
 

I’m feeling quite a bit better though I’m not quite back to 100% just yet.

Well, today’s stage was easily the most boring of the race yet and I’m certainly not about to try and make it seem more interesting than it was. I got the impression that the racers today were not pleased with the Tour’s decision to place a big climb at the start of the stage and as a result, the peloton didn’t even try to chase down the 5-man break away.

Team Garmin’s David Millar would be awarded the stage victory today. It was nice to see team Garmin get a win after all the unfortunate events that they’ve had during the race.

David Millar wins Stage 12 of the TdF

Stage 13 Preview

Return of the sprinters

The sprinters will return tomorrow and you should expect a wild finish as the last 2k are just slightly downhill. Speeds will be high and that means that you can expect Cavendish, Goss, Sagan, and Farrar to be in the mix.

Jul 122012
 

I’ve got the flu so this will be very brief.

Cadel Evans lost his bid to win the 2012 TdF today when he ultimately failed to capitalize on an attack and later got dropped by Team Sky and Wiggins on the final climb. Team Sky now holds the first and second positions on the podium and I believe this TdF is officially over at this point.

Tomorrow’s stage has some mountains in the early part but flattens out and has a small uphill finish at the end. I like Peter Sagan or Philippe Gilbert to win the stage.

Back to bed for me.

Jul 112012
 

An astonishing 25 riders broke away early on stage 10. Included in that breakaway were:

  • Popovych
  • Voigt
  • Voeckler
  • Zabriskie
  • Sanchez
  • Morkov
  • Goss
  • Sagan

The first 6 are good climbers while the last two were only interested in earning sprint points. At the intermediate sprint, Sagan hit the gas way too soon and it was easy for Goss to earn maximum points and cut into Sagan’s lead.

These three earned the most points during the sprint today:

  1. Goss
  2. Hutarovich
  3. Sagan

One by one the riders would drop from the breakaway group so that only 4 remained — Voeckler, Scarponi and Devenyns, and Sanchez.

Though Sagan dropped off the breakaway group, he did not fall all the way back to the peloton. And once he had topped the massive Col du Grand Columbier, his team mate Nibali caught up to him and Sagan fearlessly lead him down the other side on an insane descent where Nibali would attempt to make up time on Wiggins.

Sagan would eventually crack on the next climb, the Col de Richemond but his job had been done. They had made up some time on Wiggins and now Nibali was on his own. Nibali had pulled back 1:20 on Wiggins with abut 17 miles to go.

Then, the GC group with Wiggins and Evans in it would crank up the pace and unfortunately for him, he would end up giving all that time back. It was a perfect plan that was just too difficult to execute.

Voeckler would take maximum points in the King of the Mountain race and as a result, inherit the polkadot jersey.

Somehow, the unthinkable happened when Jens Voigt rode across the gap and caught the 4 leaders with under 7 miles to go. He immediately attacked but was unable to hold off the others. There were multiple attacks by these 5 riders put in but in the end, it would be Thomas Voeckler that would win the stage. The French would be happy.

Thomas Voeckler wins stage 10 and takes the polkadot jersey

Stage 11 Preview:

Stage 11 Profile

That looks awfully difficult.

The riders that are within the top ten that are vying for a spot on the podium should be the favorites to win the stage.

  • Vincenzo Nibali
  • Denis Menchov
  • Haimar Zubeldia Agirre
  • Maxime Monfort
  • Jurgen Van Den Broeck
  • Nicolas Roche
  • Tejay Van Garderen

You can add pure climbers like Samuel Sanchez, Thomas Voeckler, Frank Schleck, and about a hand full of the other riders on Radio Shack.

Jul 102012
 

Things get serious this week with the first of the high mountain stages.

Stage 10 of the 2012 Tour de France

This is a perfect stage for a break away to succeed. The GC guys will all be together and will not be chasing down attacks. A rider such as Jeremy Roy who has attacked numerous times this year could potentially win the stage. You can certainly expect Cadel Evans to put in an attack at some point on the day, likely in the very last mile of the race as it finishes uphill.

Jul 092012
 

Bradley Wiggins increased his lead by winning the Stage 9 individual time trial.

Bradley Wiggins wins Stage 9

Stage results:

  1. Bradley Wiggins, 51:24
  2. Christopher Froome, :35
  3. Fabian Cancellara, :57
  4. Tejay Van Garderen, 1:06
  5. Sylvain Chavanel, 1:24
  6. Cadel Evans, 1:43
  7. Peter Velits, 1:59
  8. Vincenzo Nibali, 2:07
  9. Denis Menchov, 2:08
  10. Andreas Kloden, 2:09

And with that, this is how the General Classification competition looks now:

  1. Bradley Wiggins
  2. Cadel Evans, 1:53
  3. Christopher Froome, 2:07
  4. Vincenzo Nibali, 2:23
  5. Denis Menchov, 3:02
  6. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre, 3:19
  7. Maxime Monfort, 4:23
  8. Tejay Van Garderen, 5:14
  9. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, 5:20
  10. Nicolas Roche, 5:29

It looks like Bradley Wiggins will win his first Tour de France if he’s able to avoid crashing.

Tejay Van Garderen took back the white jersey on today’s stage.

Tomorrow is a rest day prior to spending a few days in the high mountains.

Jul 082012
 

2011 Tour de France King of the Mountains winner Samuel Sanchez crashed hard around the midpoint of stage 7. Two other riders were also caught up in it and landed on top of him. The way the medical staff was tending to him, it looked like he may have injured his collarbone. He was last shown abandoning the race with his arm being placed in a sling and then placed on a stretcher.

As I mentioned yesterday, predicting a winner of today’s stage was impossible. The stage profile would encourage opportunists to attack early and often in an attempt to win the day’s stage.

With about 60 miles left to go, attacks came in one after the other by riders trying to break away by themselves and other riders would chase them down. It’s a good stage for this tactic but none of the early attacks survived because they didn’t have anyone to support them.

All of the sprint points were taken by opportunists on breakaways so there was not a bunch sprint today and it didn’t change anything in the point standings for the green jersey.

Team Liquigas organized and began pacing Peter Sagan up the hills in an effort to deliver him to the finish line where he could again sprint and get another stage win but that wasn’t in the cards today as the final hill was just too much for them.

For awhile, it looked like Fredrik Kessiakoff would be able to win the stage when he hit the final climb of the day with a one minute lead over 2 chasing riders — Thibaut Pinot and Tony Gallopin but that Category 1 climb was just too difficult and Pinot was able to drop Gallopin and pass Kessiakoff on the hill. At the point of the catch, Pinot had a 2 minute lead over the peloton with 10 miles to go, most of which were downhill. It could prove to be difficult for the peloton to catch him today.

One by one the GC guys would move to the front and the favorites would begin to pull away from the peloton. These men would attempt to chase down Pinot and Kessiakoff but they would only be able to catch one of them as French rider Thibaut Pinot would go on to get the stage win by 26 seconds. In the last mile, Cadel Evans again attacked and the others were forced to answer. The remaining top 5 today were Cadel Evans, Tony Gallopin, Bradley Wiggins, and Vincenzo Nibali.

France’s Thibaut Pinot wins stage 8.

General Classification Standings:

  1. Bradley Wiggins
  2. Cadel Evans, :10
  3. Vincenzo Nibali, :16
  4. Denis Menchov, :54
  5. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre :59

Jersey Races:

  • Peter Sagan maintains his hold of the sprinter’s jersey.
  • Rein Taaramae took over the best young rider jersey.
  • Frederik Kessiakoff took the lead in the king of the mountains contest.

Stage 9 Preview

Stage 9: 27 mile individual time trial

Tomorrow’s individual time trial will shake up the results. Specialists Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin are the favorites to win the stage but the real competition will be between 1st and 2nd place riders Bradley Wiggins and Cadel Evans. We could have a new man wearing the leader’s jersey after stage 9.

Jul 072012
 

While the mountain stages frequently produce unpredictable results, one thing is for sure — they change the race and today’s mountain finish would be no different.

Peter Sagan took the mid-point sprint uncontested when Matthew Goss’ bike gave him trouble. It was as anticlimactic as it sounds.

One good thing about a hilly stage is that it significantly decreases the likelihood of crashes and that was the case today. Today’s stage wasn’t without crashes but all of the crashes were pretty minor. Jurgen Vanden Brook, leader of the Lotto team, had an issue about 7 miles from the finish where he either crashed or had a mechanical issue. He started the day just 28 seconds off of the lead.

All of the sprinters fell to the back of the race because their fast twitch muscles do not like the hills while the climbers and the remaining GC guys moved to the front and slowly increased the speeds as the hills got steeper. This is a tactical effort intended to get the other riders to crack and lose time.

8 riders separated themselves from the peloton on the final hill including 2011 TdF winner Cadel Evans and 2012 favorite Bradley Wiggins, who was paced up the hill by two team mates. Frank Schleck was in pursuit of the lead group and was going to lose even more precious time. By the last mile of the stage, there were only 5 riders in the lead group — Froome, Wiggins, Evans, Nibali, and Taaramae.

Evans attacked during the last 250 meters and was quickly matched by both members of Team Sky and Nibali. The result was shocking though when Team Sky’s Chris Froome, riding in support of Bradley Wiggins, accelerated beyond Evans and Bradley to get the win.

Christopher Froome wins stage seven of the 2012 Tour de France

But the news gets better for Team Sky as Bradley Wiggins became the new overall leader of the Tour de France.

Bradley Wiggins becomes the leader of the 2012 Tour de France.

Team Garmin seems to be cursed this year and has lost 3 riders in the first week of the Tour de France — Ryder Hesjdal, Tom Danielson, and Robbie Hunter. Tyler Farrar is also just barely hanging on, likely for a chance to win the final stage in Paris, which is the most coveted stage to win for all of the sprinters.

Stage 8 Preview

Stage 8 Profile of the 2012 Tour de France – A hilly one!

This is the kind of stage that promotes excitement and a breakaway could conceivably survive. This makes the stage impossible to predict but I do expect that Bradley Wiggins will not lose any time to Cadel Evans. Frank Schleck would be wise to attack…

Top 10 GC standings:

  1. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky, in 34:21:20
  2. Cadel EVANS, BMC Racing, at :10
  3. Vincenzo NIBALI, Liquigas-Cannondale, at :16
  4. Rein TAARAMAE, Cofidis, at :32
  5. Denis MENCHOV, Katusha, at :54
  6. Haimar ZUBELDIA AGIRRE, RadioShack-Nissan, at :5
  7. Maxime MONFORT, RadioShack-Nissan, at 1:09
  8. Nicolas ROCHE, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 1:22
  9. Christopher FROOME, Sky, at 1:32
  10. Michael ROGERS, Sky, at 1:40

Notables:

  • Samuel SANCHEZ GONZALEZ, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 2:02
  • Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol, at 2:11
  • Frank SCHLECK, RadioShack-Nissan, at 3:43
  • Levi LEIPHEIMER, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 3:47
Jul 072012
 

I was away from the house yesterday and was unable to do a timely stage review. Here’s the important stuff:

Tyler Farrar was able to start stage 6 and was said to not be participating in today’s sprints. His body was covered in bandages.

Andre Greipel, winner of the last two stagescrashed twice and was seen bleeding from his elbow and knee and there was a report of a hand or finger injury of some sort.

A large crash occurred with about 15 miles left to race that delayed about 50 riders including GC riders Frank Schleck and Ryder Hesjedal who more than likely lost their bids to win the 2012 Tour de France today. Mark Cavendish was also at least delayed by the crash and would finish the stage many minutes behind. Teams BMC and Team Sky were able to keep their leaders safe by avoiding today’s crashes and those that missed being involved in the crash stepped up the pace and reeled in the day’s break away riders which would also create a significant time gap over those involved in the crash.

Team Orica formed a lead out train in the final miles to give their sprinter Matthew Goss the best chances of winning the stage. Amazingly, team Lotto also organized a long lead out train for the injured Andre Greipel and Peter Sagan locked onto his wheel. The last of the breakaway riders of the day were caught in the final mile of the day. Approaching the final stretch, team Lotto were in position to lead out Greipel when Kenny Van Hummel’s chain broke and Peter Sagan accelerated and defeated the injured Greipel who likely had less than 100% to give. Goss finished in third.

Frank Schleck finished just over 2 minutes behind and was shown holding his bars in an odd manner. I don’t see him being able to pull back 2 minutes of time and I think that this turn of events has ended his bid for the yellow jersey. Ryder Hesjedal lost over 13 minutes on the day as well.

  • Fabian Cancellara kept his yellow jersey which he’ll likely lose in stage 7.
  • Peter Sagan increased his lead in the green jersey competition.
  • Michael Morkov would keep the  polka dot jersey.
  • Tejay Van Garderen remains in the white jersey.

 Stage 7 Preview

Stage 7 Profile

A steep climb at the finish of the stage will likely cause a change in the yellow jersey standing where Bradley Wiggins, who’s just 7 seconds behind Cancellara is expected to take the overall lead of the race.

While this is the first stage of the race that’s likely to shake things up, I don’t expect anything to crazy to happen. Most of the GC guys will finish within seconds of each other, though Frank Schleck is the rider most in need of making up time at this point. He’s the one that needs to win the stage the most.

Jul 052012
 

Today’s stage profile looked incredibly flat and that’s likely a sign that there won’t be a lot of excitement beyond the final 3 miles of the race. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t news. It was announced today that former team mates George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie have allegedly given evidence to the USADA investigation that has charged Lance Armstrong with doping.

In June of this year, the United States Anti-Doping Agency formally charged Lance Armstrong with the claim that they had evidence that Armstrong had used performance enhancing drugs to win each of his 7 Tour de France victories.

My opinion on the usage of PEDs is this — if you pass the tests at the time they were administrated, you’re not guilty. Now that doesn’t mean that he didn’t use something or that I’m condoning the use of something. It means that he passed the tests. Going back in time and re-testing urine or blood samples feels pointless to me. In Armstrong’s case, it feels particularly vindictive and drenched in vengeance because the rumor within the peloton is that Armstrong is rude and not liked.

Lance Armstrong just posted this on his Facebook page.

Armstrong responds to USADA.

Incidentally, the report that the riders testifying against Armstrong in exchange for a reduced 6-month ban has been proven to be untrue.

Back to Stage 5…

At the start of every stage of the Tour de France, 3-10 or so opportunists will sprint out in front of the peloton in an attempt to survive the day and get a stage win. This almost never works now because all the riders wear race radios and know exactly how far ahead they are and how much distance is left before the finish line. The team’s race directors can do a little math and tell their team exactly how much faster they need to go in order to catch the lead group.

Someone in one of these break away groups does occasionally win but it’s so rare that one would wonder why you’d even bother with such a strategy. You’d think that the best strategy would be to conserve energy by riding with the peloton and then attack at the very end of the stage and hoe for the best.

However, there’s a secondary reason one might want to break away, even if you don’t try to win the stage — publicity. The riders in the front are heavily featured on the televised broadcasts where they often mention a little about each one of them but more importantly, their team names and sponsors are frequently discussed and on display, which the sponsors love. If you make your sponsors happy, you tend to have a job for longer.

Most time advantages that a break away has established vanishes within the final 5 miles, yet 3 miles to the finish today, the break away riders still maintained a 25 second advantage. And with just about 3 miles left to go, there was yet another big crash in the peloton, where Tyler Farrar crashed hard for the 4th time in 6 days, nearly taking out yesterday’s stage winner, Andre Greipel in the process. Both of Greipel’s feet came off the pedals and it was all he could do to keep the bike upright. This was exactly what the break away riders were hoping for.

It really looked like one of the men in the break away would survive today but within the very final moments of the stage, the sprinters caught and passed them. It was all the usual culprits as well — Cavendish, Goss, and Sagan but the shock was when Andre Greipel finished first and got his 2nd stage win in as many days at the 2012 Tour de France.

Mark Cavendish of Team Sky looks on disappointingly as Andre Greipel wins stage 5 of the 2012 Tour de France.

Tyler Farrar was able to finish the day’s stage, some 7 minutes after the peloton crossed the finish line. Blood was seen dripping off of his elbow. At this point, I would consider Tyler Farrar lucky to be able to continue to the race and it would be a miracle if he were able to even contend in tomorrow’s sprint finish stage.

 Stage 6 Profile:

Stage 6 – 129 miles long

Stage 6 heads to the base of the mountains where we’ll get a preview of the high mountains to come in week 2. It’s a flat stage so expect Cavendish, Greipel, Goss, and Sagan to be in the mix.

Jul 042012
 

When I mention to my friends that I enjoy watching bike racing on TV, they constantly clown on me and claim it’s not a real sport like football and they state that the racers are wimps. Well, yesterday I mentioned a few crashes that occurred. Here is the fallout from those crashes:

  • Kanstantsin Sivstov (out) – Broken Tibia
  • Jose Joaquin Rojas (out) – Broken Collarbone
  • Maarten Tjallingii (out) – Broken Hip
  • Tom Danielson – Separated Shoulder
  • Pablo Urtasun – Slight Concussion
  • Giampaolo Caruso – Chest Contusions (flew over handlebars into barbed wire fence)
  • Koen De Kort – Thumb
  • Philippe Gilbert – Shin Gash

No one in the NFL would finish the game they started after an injury like a separated shoulder, a concussion (which the NFL won’t allow them to continue after), or the injury Philippe Gilbert sustained.

Philippe Gilbert’s shin gash

I’m sure that I wouldn’t be able to ride my bike the day after this happened but this is what sets the pros apart from the recreational riders.

You may view how the intermediate sprint went down yesterday here. Notice how easily Cavendish dusts the field and how upset he gets at their attempt to block him in.

During Stage 4, Mark Cavendish again proved that he was the fastest man on 2 wheels when he beat Matthew Goss, Mark Renshaw and Peter Sagan at the intermediate sprint line.

With just over 30 miles left in the stage, it began raining. This makes everyone nervous since the roads have become slick. In the end, it was just a brief shower that didn’t have an impact.

There was a big high-speed crash within the last 2 miles as racers were jockeying for position that narrowly missed Cancellara and took out Cavendish. With the field decimated, team Lotto were able to form a lead out train for Andre Greipel which was successful despite the counter attacks from Alessandro Petacchi and Peter Sagan.

Andre Greipel wins Stage 4 of the 2012 Tour de France

Cavendish would finish the stage but he looked really dejected as he casually strolled to the finish line covered in dirt, with his jersey and helmet displaying the damage.

Here is the current standings for the jerseys:

  • Fabian Cancellara – Yellow
  • Peter Sagan – Green
  • Michael Morkov – Polka Dot
  • TJ Van Garderen – White

Stage 5 Profile – 122 miles

 

This is a dream stage for the sprinters. Expect Mark Cavendish to get the win should he not be too banged up. If Cavendish can’t contend, look for Sagan, Griepel, Goss, or Petacchi to get the win.

Tomorrow’s recap will be late as I’ll be playing in the first poker tournament I’ve played in since 2005. Wish me luck.