Jul 192012

Well, the Tour de France was unofficially won today when the 1-2 combo of Froome and Wiggins charged up the mountain thus putting even more time between themselves and Vincenzo Nibali. The stage was pretty exciting though.

Team Liquigas lead most of Peloton today in an attempt to setup Nibali for an attack, which never came.

Frenchman Thomas Voeckler was out in a breakaway for the majority of the day in an effort to secure the King of the Mountains jersey.

Controversial rider Alejandro Valverde won the stage by about 20 seconds today with Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins finishing 2nd and 3rd.

Alejandro Valverde wins stage 17 of the Tour de France

Chris Froome has been the real story of the 2012 Tour de France though. He was totally able to chase him down but he instead chose to stay loyal to his teammate Bradley Wiggins and waited for him on a number of occasions during the final climb when he could have been chasing down Valverde. Wiggins and team Sky have held him back this year.

Chris Froome will win the Tour de France in the future.

GC Standings:

  1. Bradley Wiggins
  2. Chris Froome, 2:05
  3. Vicenzo Nibali, 2:41

It’s also worth mentioning that Team Radio Shack has 4 riders within the top 16. Had Andy Schleck been able to compete this year, things may have been very different considering how dominant they’ve been as a team.

King of the Mountains Standings:

  1. Thomas Voeckler, 134
  2. Fredrik Carl Wilhelm Kessiakoff, 123

Voeckler should be able to hold onto the jersey pretty easily now.

Sprinter’s points race:

  1. Peter Sagan, 356
  2. Andre Greipel, 254
  3. Matthew Goss, 203

Sagan has destroyed this race.

Best young rider classification:

  1. Tejay Van Garderen
  2. Thibaut Pinot, 3:16

Van Garderen just needs to not give up 3:16 in the final time trial and he’ll win the best young rider competition.

Stage 18 Preview

Stage 18 Profile

Lots of little hills makes it possible for a breakaway to survive. I like Alexander Vinokourov, who’s racing in his final Tour de France to get the win tomorrow.

Jul 182012

The King of the Mountains race was fully underway today as it’s one of the final mountain stages of the 2012 Tour de France. Points are awarded for the first few riders that reach the apex of each designated climb. It’s really a badge of honor and the most coveted jersey available aside from the yellow jersey. It implies that you’re the toughest racer in the tour that year and that you conquered the Alps and/or Pyrenees better than any other racer.

Races like the Tour de France are typically won in the mountains where only a handful of the riders are able to push themselves to the point where they’re able to outperform the bulk of the other riders in the race. The rider that gets the polka dot jersey is typically someone that either has a weak team around them that aren’t good at pacing their climbers up the mountains or are generally poor at the time trial discipline where they lose too much time to overcome.

When Frank Schleck lost too much time during the time trials (and then some more due to a crash), I figured that he would be going for the King of the Mountains classification. He abandoned the races yesterday after testing positive for a banned diuretic though. The next guy that I thought would make a run for the King of the Mountains jersey was Thomas Voeckler.

He made a run during stage 10 for the points but he didn’t make any effort for them in stage 11 so I thought he might not be trying for that jersey after all. Today proved me wrong when he attacked early with two other riders, one of whom was dropped early.

Voeckler would go on to take maximum points at the peak of every mountain today. He attacked the only other rider that was with him on the final climb, opening up a lead of about 1:30 and then went on to win the stage. Voeckler has become the favorite son of France in this race over the last couple of years. Today he’s likely fulfilled a dream of his by taking over the King of the Mountains jersey with only one high mountain stage remaining. There are probably other points available for the competition but they’re unlikely to impact the jersey points race. The jersey will be won for sure at the conclusion of Stage 17.

Cadel Evans again showed weakness when he was dropped on the final climb and his team had to pace him back up to the group with Tour de France leader, Bradley Wiggins. He certainly hasn’t looked like someone that was capable of winning the race this year while Wiggins has looked like a machine, riding his own race while almost never reacting to any of the attacks from the hopefuls, though he and his teammate Chris Froome did respond to the attack of Vincenzo Nibali today on the final climb. They didn’t get out of the saddle and aggressively match the attack set forth by Nibali; they stayed in the saddles and simply kicked up the speed a bit to reel Nibali back in. Wiggins looks unbeatable this year and  will go on to win the race due to his uncanny ability to ride a steady high-pace up the mountains which very few others were able to match.

Stage 17 Preview

Stage 17

The last nightmare of the 2012 Tour de France. If Voeckler’s going to win the King of the Mountains classification this year, he’ll likely need to win the stage. If Vicenzo Nibali wants to finish better than 3rd this year, he’ll need to win the stage. Cadel Evans has dropped to 7th place overall so if he wants to finish on the podium, he’ll need to win the stage.

It’s just that simple now.

Jul 172012

It was just announced that Frank Schleck has tested positive for the banned diuretic Xipamide.

Diuretics aren’t technically performance enhancing drugs in the traditional sense, but can be used to reduce weight which can help a rider go faster, especially in the mountains. The B-sample has yet to be tested but it is expected that Frank Schleck will be suspended immediately.

Frank Schleck

Jul 172012

Stage 15 was boring until the last few miles. A break away got out, opened up a 10 minute time gap, and survived. French rider Pierrick Fedrigo attacked the break away group in the last few miles. They failed to counter so Garmin rider Christian Vande Velde rode across the gap to prevent him from getting a walk at the line. It was exciting because the American has tried this before and it’s clear that he really wants a stage win today. Unfortunately, Fedrigo did too and he was faster. Fedrigo got the stage win.

The peloton weren’t interested in chasing them down and took it easy on this stage prior to heading back into the high mountains.

Stage 16 Preview

Mountains, lots of them

Tomorrow’s stage will be very telling. A series of HC and Cat-1 climbs followed by a descending finish. There will be attacks by GC contenders and you have to expect that Cadel Evans will do everything he can to win the stage.

Jul 152012

A break away of 11 riders has a massive lead of nearly 15 minutes on the peloton and I believe that one of these riders will go on to get the stage win today unless Cadel Evans and Vincenzo Nibali attack in tandem, which I do not expect to happen.

Rain began and worsened on the descent of the Port de Lers climb. The wet pavement would prove to make the decent slick and scary. The riders were quick to put on their raincoats before the descent started.

Peter Sagan and Philippe Gilbert are among the riders in the lead group which makes me think that they’re expecting their team mates, who are currently in 3rd and 4th place over all, to attack on the second climb in an attempt to make up time on Wiggins.

Louis Leon Sanchez would do his best to thwart that plan when he attacked on the 2nd climb. It was a good move because he immediately got rid of 5 of the riders in the group and 2 others, including Sagan, would drop off the leaders but do their best to keep them in sight. Sagan would eventually catch up with the group when French cyclist Sandy Casar launched his own attack to reach the top of the mountain first.

When the GC riders got to the second climb, the roads were so narrow that they could only ride at a width of about 3 riders at points. It looks very dangerous, not to mention incredibly hard. Team Sky quickly regained control of the group and that would make it very difficult to for anyone to launch an attack.

At the summit of the climb, Cadel Evans hopped off his bike and waited for his team’s mechanic to replace a flat for him. The good news for Cadel was that his team mate George Hincapie caught up to him and waited for him. Evans would two additional flats on the descent. He lost a lot of time but team Sky slowed down their pace, perhaps in a sign of sportsmanship. Evans was a total of 2 minutes behind them.

It turns out that there were at least half-a-dozen flats here and it was later confirmed that dozens of tacks were discovered on the road. Wiggins was also a victim with under 10 miles to go.

Louis Leon Sanchez attacked on his own with about 6 miles left in the stage and quickly opened up a 15 second lead when no one countered. This is a move that would prove to hold up as the remaining 4 riders chasing Sanchez would not be able to catch him.

The remaining 4 riders would sprint for 2nd place but Sagan easily took the line first. The riders in the GC group slowed their pace to that of us mortals in order to let Cadel Evans catch up to them. It wasn’t Evans’ fault that he had all those flats and they weren’t going to punish him for it. It was a wonderful show of class by Team Sky.

Stage 15 Preview

Rolling hills for stage 15 of the TdF

A series of rolling hills will prove difficult for the sprinters but I expect one of them to win the stage and it will likely be Greipel or Cavendish.

Jul 152012

That tiny little Cat-3 blip on the profile known as the Mont Saint-Claire turned out to be very steep and played a much larger part in the stage than I had anticipated. Cadel stayed true to his mission and was quick to attack on the climb. The GC leaders quickly caught up to him and nullified the attack. Cadel’s intention to attack was quickly turned into him pacing the leaders up and over the hill. This did nothing more than drop all of the sprinters out of the peloton. They would have to play catchup now.

Alexandre Vinokourov would attempt an attack immediately after the climb. Vino, as he’s commonly called, was said to be riding in his final TdF last year but a tremendous crash in which he broke his femur ended his race prematurely. Like any competitor would, he decided to give it one more try and he clearly wanted to get one final stage win.

Team Lotto would begin forming a lead out train for Andre Greipel and Peter Sagan would latch right onto his wheel. Boasson Hagen was also in on the train. The leaders would be caught within the final mile and the speed would be so great that the peloton would be decimated. All that was left was the lead out train for the few sprinters that were left.

Friday I stated that there would probably be some horrendous crash at the end of the stage but that climb would prove to be too much for the sprinters to handle. The good news is that there would not be a big crash at the finish today.

Louis-Leon Sanchez would be the first to attack but he lead out WAY too soon. Then, in a move that no one could have imagined, Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins would crank up the speed for his team mate Boasson Hagen leading him out to try and get him the stage victory. In the end, it wouldn’t be enough as Team Lotto’s Andre Greipel would capture his third stage win of the race. Sagan comes in second about a foot behind him.

Greipel edges out Sagan in stage 13 of the TdF

Here’s an update on the various standings:

Yellow Jersey:

  1. Bradley Wiggins
  2. Christopher Froome, 2:05
  3. Vincenzo Nibali, 2:23
  4. Cadel Evans, 3:19
  5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, 4:48
Green Jersey:
Peter Sagan, 296 points
Andre Greipel, 232 points
White Jersey:
Tejay Van Garderen
Thibaut Pinot, 1:54
Polkadot Jersey:
Fredrik Carl Wilhelm Kessiakoff, 66 points
Pierre Rolland, 55 points

Stage 14 Preview

Stage 13 elevation profile of the 2012 Tour de France

It doesn’t even look possible to walk up those two climbs and some how, these guys are going to ride up and over them.


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.