Jul 032012
 

During the intermediate sprint stage, Cavendish easily dusted the other sprinters to claim the most points out of the peloton riders but that doesn’t mean it was without controversy. One of the other riders bumped and then changed their line forcing Cav to go around him. Still, it wasn’t much of an issue as Cav easily crossed the line first and even shot a look back at the rider the bumped him.

There were a few key crashes during today’s stage that impacted some big players.

In the first significant crash of the race, Kanstantsin Sivtsov, a climber from Team Sky, crashed during today’s stage and was forced to abandon the race. This is a blow to overall contender Bradley Wiggins. Sivtsov was expected to help pace Wiggins through the high mountains of the race.

A number of other riders were caught in a crash when the road suddenly narrowed including sprinter Tyler Farrar. Incidentally, Farrar seems to be involved in a lot of crashes. He’s going to have to change his luck if he’s going to get stage wins.

I don’t believe that Philippe Gilbert was involved in either of the crashes but he was shown shortly after the 2nd crash, with about 20 miles to go, lagging behind the peloton changing shoes while riding his bike at 25 mph. He would not be a contender in today’s stage.

These crashes, coupled with crosswinds, and a series of small hills created a lot of chaos in the last 12 miles of the race and prevented on of my picks to win the day from being able to compete for the stage win.

The first attack came just after the Côte du Mont Lambert by the rider currently in 3rd place, Sylvain Chavanel. Team BMC quickly organized and took on the chasing duties of the peloton, clearly not wanting to have 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans lose any time to Chavanel.

Chavanel had an 8 second lead heading into the final climb of the day but he was quickly chased down and Peter Sagan got his 2nd stage win in just 3 days. Sagan is proving to be a beast in this Tour de France and commentator Phil Liggett compared him to the man considered to be the greatest cyclist ever, Eddy Merckx.

Sagan does the “Dumb and Dumber” move as he crosses the line.

Stage Results:

  1. Peter Sagan
  2. Edvald Boasson Hagen
  3. Peter Velits
  4. Fabian Cancellara
  5. Michael Albasini
  6. Cadel Evans
  7. Nicholas Roche
  8. Samuel Sanchez

It didn’t play out how I expected due to the chaos that occurred within the last 20 miles of the race but Sagan laid waste to the field as I thought might happen.

Fabian Cancellara kept the yellow jersey and it appears that he’s going to be able to keep the jersey for the first week of the Tour de France.

Stage 4 Preview

133 relatively flat miles for the sprinters

Stage 4 will be for the sprinters. Look for Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish to duke out at the finish line tomorrow.

Jul 022012
 

198 people enter the Tour de France this year but only 1 can win. Out of the 198 people, there’s really only about 10 people that are likely to win the overall race and of those, there are 2 clear favorites this year. I’ll discuss those favorites in a future post but today, I want to discuss the sprinters.

During most of the multi-day cycling races, there are multiple competitions in addition to the overall winner. One of these competitions is for the sprinter’s jersey. During the Tour de France, there are multiple check points in the middle of most of the stages where racers can earn points by being one of the first racers to cross the check point. These racers can also earn sprinter’s points by crossing the finish line first. This competition was created about 60 years ago because the sprinters struggle when the race reaches the high mountains and therefore cannot win the overall race. It also creates some additional excitement during the race, creating a race within the race.

The traditional way to win a sprint finish is to have a lead out train. This is where 6 or so riders will form a single file line of racers, usually all team mates, and they will slowly accelerate from 30 mph to 40+ mph. The team’s strongest sprinter is in the last position in the line. Each of the racers in the line will take a turn at the front of the lead out train riding at an increased pace. As the speeds go up, the time taken at the front of the train decreases and one by one, the lead out train gets shorter and shorter as they approach the finish line. Ideally, the sprinter takes over during the last 100 meters or so and can reach speeds in excess of 50 mph.

For the past few years, Mark Cavendish has had the perfect lead out train and as a result, has won more of the sprint finishes than any other rider. This year, Cav, or the Manx Missile as he’s often referred to, has changed teams and now rides for Team Sky. Here’s a video where they discuss and demonstrate the lead out train.

It has been said that a team cannot compete for both the sprinter’s jersey and the yellow jersey that the overall winner receives. Attempting to do both would likely result in failure to achieve either goal. Team Sky has one of the favorites to win the overall race this year in Bradley Wiggins and as a result, Cav has stated that he will ride in support of Wiggins. Team Sky has a choice to make this year; support Bradley Wiggins bid to win the Tour de France, support Mark Cavendish to win the sprinter’s jersey, or attempt to do both.

Cav can win stages without the support of his team by muscling his way in on another team’s lead out train, drafting off of them, then pulling out on his own at the last possible second, accelerating and crossing the line first.

We learned the truth today as to what Team Sky and Cav’s plans would be at the finish of Stage 2 when Cav locked onto the wheel of his former team mate, Andre Greipel only to take him at the line and win by about a foot.

I predicted a win by Cavendish in yesterday’s post and today it came true. It wasn’t a bold prediction but the manner in which it happened was different than previous wins as he did not have the proper lead out train he’s had on previous teams. Team Sky is going for the yellow jersey this year.

Cavendish crossed the line first in stage 2 of the TdF.

 Stage 3 Profile:

Stage 3 is 122.4 miles and has a stage 3 climb followed by a short uphill finish.

This is one of the more difficult stages to predict but I would expect at least one of the favorites to attempt an attack on the Côte du Mont Lambert and then fly down the hill and sprint their way across the line. This will be a way of sending a message to the other riders that will attempt to win the Tour de France that they are strong and going to make a run at it. I don’t expect that their attack will be serious but if it isn’t countered immediately, it will become serious in a hurry.

I expect that defending champion Cadel Evans, along with Bradley Wiggins to be the most likely to counter the attacks while hopefuls like Samuel Sanchez, Ryder Hesjedal, Robert Gesink could be leading the attack. Opportunists Philippe Gilbert or Peter Sagan could also attack on the final hill if they’re able to hang with the peloton on the climbs before the finish.

Jul 012012
 

Stage 1 was very quiet early on. Team Radio Shack was doing most of the pace setting since they were in control of the yellow jersey. They kept a pretty slow and easy pace for the first half of the race or so. The riders typically ride in a large dense pack called the peloton. They ride in this formation because it reduces wind resistance and is more efficient.

Things changed suddenly about 10 miles out from the finish when cross winds split the peloton. When this happens, those at the front of the group accelerate incredibly and try to decimate the peloton. The winds coupled with the sudden acceleration makes it incredibly difficult to catch the riders at the front of the group.

2 miles from the finish, Cancellara attacked, Sagan, and Boasson Hagen were right there with him. It was a gutsy move to lead out a full 2 miles from the finish but it would prove to be successful this time, but not for Cancellara.

At the line, it would be Sagan who would get the stage victory during the first stage of the 2012 Tour de France. It was also the first stage he’s ever competed in at the Tour de France. I had predicted yesterday that either Gilbert or Sagan would be the victor today and that came true.

 

Peter Sagan crossing the finish line of stage 1 of the TdF.

Stage 1 results:

  1. Sagan
  2. Cancellara
  3. Boasson Hagen
  4. Gilbert

Not bad.

Stage 2 profile is about 128 miles long and looks to be very flat. These profiles favor the sprinters and tend to produce exciting finishes.

Though Mark Cavendish said that he would not be chasing after the green sprinter’s jersey this year, no one believes him, including me. I like Cavendish, Sagan, and Farrar to be there slugging it out at the end tomorrow.

Jun 302012
 

The Tour de France is the most legendary of all bike races and for good reason. The racers will cover 2173 miles between June 30th and July 22nd over 20 stages of racing. During that time, the racers will face:

  • 9 flat stages
  • 4 medium mountain stages – one with a summit finish
  • 5 mountain stages – two with a summit finish
  • 2 individual time-trial stages
  • 1 prologue
  • 2 rest days

Today was the prologue. The prologue is a time trial race that’s very short. During a time trial, they start the riders off one at a time every couple of minutes and time them as they compete on a set route. This will initially establish a time for all of the different riders. Today’s prologue course was only about 4 miles long.

Fabian Cancellara, who is widely considered the best racer at these shorter time trial courses, won today’s stage.

See? He just looks fast.

This was not difficult to predict though. He’s a specialist and usually wins these types of stages.

Tomorrow’s stage is a series of rolling hills over 120-some miles. The finish however, is the key.

A short and steep uphill finish will likely prevent the traditional sprinters from winning. I favor Philippe Gilbert or Peter Sagan to attack on the final climb and get the win tomorrow.