Results tagged “Belgium” from spare cycles

Cancellara Wins - DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

One of the most boring stages became one of the most exciting as Fabian Cancellara blazed to victory in his yellow jersey. It nearly appeared that the breakaway would stay away as it still had a 0:20 advantage with 1.4k to go. As the peloton massed behind a breakaway on the final cobbled stretch, it was Cancellara in his bright yellow jersey jumped across the gap, past the breakaway, and solo'd to victory as the sprinter's nipped at his heels. That's a yellow jersey. Cancellara becomes the first rider to hit the two-win mark of this Tour.

The longest stage allowed for a really long break: Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel) and Mathieu Ladagnous (FD Jeux) went at 5k and were joined by Stephane Auge (Cofidis) and Frederik Willems (Liquigas), who jumped with 58k to go. The peloton seemed to be riding in 'recovery' mode, doing little to reel in the break other than keep it at a containable distance: when the break slowed down, the peloton slowed down, and vice versa. It became a real stage with around 30k to go as the sprint teams started putting in an earnest effort to bring things back. The break last for about 231k as Cancellara caught them with half a kilometer to go.

Auge can celebrate his breakaway effort: he was able to take the KOM polka dots from David Millar. Boonen gained some points in the green jersey competition over McEwen.

Steegmans wins - DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Cancellara - DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Photos by DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images
CRASH!

An ugly stage but good one for Quick Step as they went one-two in the sprint. Boonen didn't come around his own leadout man Gert Steegmans for the race finish, but he had no real reason to: they outsprinted the rest of the pack by several bike lengths.

The big story of this stage was a major pileup that occurred just before the finish. Only about 20 riders made it through as the crash covered the whole width of the road. Erik Zabel clipped out, which caused him to sweep hard right near the front of the peloton and take out a Liquigas rider. The riders pinballed left and right, crashing into barriers on both sides. Cancellara came in holding his arm as did Vaitkus (Discovery) and Fast Freddie (Lotto). Hincapie appears shaken from this photo as well. The injury reports won't be pretty after this one. Vino gave a little prayer as he crossed the finish line, probably to give thanks for making it uninjured.

Fast Freddie - DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images Vaitkus - DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

photos by DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

The stage had been fairly sleepy up until that point. Marcel Sieberg (Milram), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel), and Cedric Herve (Agritubel) went in a break at 18k and lasted until 3k to go. There was a bit of infighting over the intermediate sprints as Sieberg was unhappy with Herve trying to take more than one prize, but, with the exception of a minor crash by Frank Schleck, there was little drama until the big pileup at the end.

Belgian dope

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At the Tour of California I talked with the family of one of the racers. Their son had raced over in Belgium but decided to return to the US because he felt like he was racing with a bunch of drug addicts (performance- and non-performance-enhancing). Thus, it wasn't with much surprise when I read about the police raid in western Belgium that uncovered doping products and arrested one of the trainers for QuickStep. QuickStep denies any implication, but with time more sordid details are certain to emerge.

Stage 4: Huy - Saint-Quentin

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McEwen got his second win on a relatively calm day for the peloton. The weather was slightly cooler and the Tour ended its road trip through the classics, leaving Belgium and entering France for good. McEwen made the win look easy, winning by at least five bike lengths. There was a bit of chaos in the final sprint as Hushovd's leadout man crashed, but Hushovd had already grabbed another wheel and the rest of the sprinters made it around on the uphill finish without any problem. Hushovd's arm must be feeling fairly good as he was able to hold the fourth spot ahead of Boonen. Zabel didn't get to compete in this sprint as he got a flat tire in the final kilometers.

As a result of the sprint, McEwen moves into the green jersey and 6th overall at 0.12 back. Boonen gets to hold onto his one second lead in the yellow jersey for at least one more day. The KOM jersey stays on Pineau's shoulders as he won the first KOM sprint on the day over the other KOM contenders.

Discovery put Egoi Martinez into the main breakaway on the day and Martinez was able to rack up 18-seconds worth of time bonuses through the three sprint points, leapfrogging him into fifth overall. Discovery now has the 3rd, 5th, and 7th position overall. So, to update my analysis from last night, Discovery is in a really, really strong position right now. Bruyneel will have a lot of cards to play if his riders do well in the time trial.

It nearly looked like the breakaway might succeed as none of the sprint teams were coming forward in the final kilometers to lead the charge, but with about 4k to go the pace really picked up and the remainder of the break was caught with 2k to go.

Prediction check: * My prediction: Boonen first, McEwen second * Actual: McEwen first, Boonen fifth (will I learn?)

Kessler went for a repeat attack and this time was able to hold everyone off to the line. He put in a huge atack on the final steep Cauberg climb and the surviving members of the peloton had too much trouble working together to bring him back. Boonen managed to stay with the chase group just behind, which was enough to put him in yellow by a single second. He also takes over the lead of the green jersey competition from Robbie McEwen.

The biggest news on the day were the collarbone casualties: Valverde, Freddie Rodriguez, and Erik Dekker. Valverde is the biggest loss as the odds-on favorite for the overall win. He went down in a touch of wheels on this hot, difficult day. Fast Freddie and Dekker went down in a separate crash. Robbie McEwen will certainly miss his lead-out man.

The overall standings had a bit of a shakeup with Hushovd dropping to fourth, Michael Rogers jumping to second, and Discovery now with two riders in the top five: Hincapie at five seconds back and Savoldelli at 15 seconds back. Discovery has plenty of strength at the top of the standings and Popo and Azevedo are both right near Levi in the standings.

The day was dominated by a breakaway containing Jens Voigt, Christophe Laurent, Jos� Luis Arrieta, J�r�me Pineau, and Unai Extebarria. Pineau won most of the KOM climbs on the day and took over the KOM jersey lead. Jens Voigt picked up a bunch of sprint points and time bonuses, but the time bonuses were completely wiped out by finishing 1:29 behind. Arrieta was the last surviving member of the breakaway and made it all the way to the Cauberg climb before he was swallowed up by the swarm of riders from the peloton.

Prediction check: * My prediction: Frank Schleck * Actual: Kessler. Schleck finished 5 seconds off in the big chase group

Stage 1: Liege-Charleroi

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07-04-04.stage1 profile

Stage 1 was an ugly stage, not ugly in the way last year gave us a spectacular crash on the finish line, but ugly in the constant, crash here, crash there, lots of rain-slicked roads sense. Many riders were wearing torn shorts and riding spare bikes by the end of this race, and even Hamilton managed to have a crash of his own, though he recovered immediately. Eisel got the award for most spectacular crash on camera, as he tapped the wheel of the rider in front of him while he was talking with manager in the team car. He managed to do a somersault on the pavement, spilling his team radio and other goodies out on the roadway.

Piil was part of a two-man breakaway, and perhaps he was hoping for a repeat of his breakaway from last year's tour, but the day was not ugly enough to cause that sort of mistake from the peloton.

What surprised me most about this stage was the finish. I was expecting the typical, Fassa Bortolo leadout that was so dominant in this year's Giro, but the leadout was broken apart, with Petacchi boxed in. Jaan Kirsipuu edged out an accelerating McEwen to add another stage victory to his belt (O'Grady and Cipollini had crashed late in the race). Perhaps the riders aren't going to let Petacchi get his stage victories as easily this year?

Prologue: Liege-Liege

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07-03-04.prologue profile

It was a good day for Armstrong, even if he didn't emerge victorious. He put 15' on Ullrich and 16' on Hamilton in the short, seven-minute prologue and finished a close second. (Side note: Phil Liggett, as much as I enjoy his commentary, never seems to know where the finish line is). He looked strong on his bike and I am encouraged at his prospects for this year.

Cancellara showed that he's the man to pull Petacchi towards the finish line. The young, emotional rider was a surprise name to see at the top of the standings, but he put in a strong ride.