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.

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.