Results tagged “Columbia” from spare cycles

Much has been made over the denial of Hincapie's yellow jersey, in part due to Astana setting a high enough tempo to keep the break reachable, and the rest due to AG2R and Garmin vigorously chasing in the final kilometers. In fact, every interview that Versus did this morning focused on this rather than the upcoming explosive stage.

I make less of Astana's efforts -- I do think in Astana's analysis, AG2R was too weak to chase the break down and it wasn't like HTC-Columbia was going to come to the front to set things up for the sprint. I do think that Garmin was a major factor in reeling it in -- Zabriskie and Pate had enough firepower to make up the 5-second difference.

Garmin has offered this reason for the chase: there had been splits in the peloton that cost them GC time in previous stages, so they wanted to ride a hard tempo and keep their guys up front.

Bruyneel stomped all over Garmin's reasoning this morning, instead claiming that the move made no strategic sense whatsoever. While I think Garmin's reasons were bunk (this wasn't a sprint stage, AG2R wasn't going to cause a split in the peloton), I disagree with Bruyneel's analysis: it made plenty of sense.

Sure, HTC-Columbia is a more successful team than Garmin if you count stage wins, but HTC-Columbia has no viable GC contender. Garmin, on the other hand, has two GC guys: Bradley Wiggins and Christian Vandevelde.

So here's my theory as to why it made plenty of strategic sense: if Hincapie had been in yellow, HTC-Columbia would have been forced to defend the yellow jersey today. HTC-Columbia, unlike AG2R, is fresh enough and has the firepower to really put on a show of defense, even if holding the jersey was an unlikely result of the day.

From Garmin's perspective, it's far better off keeping the yellow jersey with AG2R, because AG2R is weak enough that Astana has to keep coming to the front and tiring themselves out. If HTC-Columbia had the jersey, Astana may have been able to keep a couple more cards in the deck for the final assault, rather than spend them keeping any breaks at the proper range.

As it was, Astana really only needed the Contador card to play. Saxo and Garmin set the climb up, but it was Contador who delivered. Nevertheless, Garmin's Bradley Wiggins delivered the GC ride of his life and it's Garmin, not HTC-Columbia, who has the chance at seeing themselves on the podium in Paris.

"Chance of a Lifetime"

|
George Hincapie - (c) Ken Conley

The story of today can be summarized via Twitter (5 seconds!):

@lancearmstrong: St14 done. Sounds like there's quite a bit of confusion over this one... Noone, and I mean noone, wanted George in yellow more than me.

@lancearmstrong: Our team rode a moderate tempo to put him in the jersey by at least 2 mins. Ag2r said they would not defend then they started to ride.

@lancearmstrong: Until 10km to go he was solidly in yellow until GARMIN put on the gas and made sure it didn't happen.

@lancearmstrong: And I reiterate. @ghincapie deserves to be yellow tonight. He deserves more than that. Look to who pulled the last 50k to see who to blame..

@lancearmstrong: @bfogelstrom And george should be pissed. Very pissed. He can talk to his teammates who were n the bunch w/ us then perhaps it will be clear

@dzabriskie: Pawns in their game...

@lancearmstrong: @bbelshaw told astana 2 chase? Not true @ all. My vision was george would have YJ by 2 mins. Was reality til ag2r and garmin started 2 pull.

@lancearmstrong: Last thing. There were 13 guys in the breakaway. We had 2 guys riding "tempo". That is not chasing by any stretch of the imagination.

Cav unbeatable

|

Not an exciting stage, but a great battle for the sprint finish as sprinters Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar had their best shot at disrupting Mark Cavendish to get a win -- but they failed. Milram came to the front with just over 1km to go, but Columbia's Tony Martin held the Columbia train together and broke on through. The Columbia train continued to win up as Hincapie then spun it up for Mark Renshaw, with Cavendish and Hushovd behind.

Hushovd went first and managed to come around Cavendish, who waited until late to leave Renshaw's wheel. Hushovd faded as Cavendish wound it up, but Tyler Farrar was on Hushovd's wheel and got a good slingshot to the finish. It didn't matter -- Cavendish again, Four Wins.

VeloNews has a nice article on Mark Renshaw. Renshaw is basically Cavendish's guardian. When Cav was off the back at the Tour of California with a mechanical, it was Renshaw who came back to pace him back. When it comes to the final sprint, Renshaw organizes the train as is the last to break off. Solid experience, so bravo to him as well.

Update: podiuminsight sent me a link to this sporza interview with Mark Renshaw

Mark Cavendish - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Well that didn't work

|

The organizers decide to ban race radios to make the stage more exciting, but they choose a dull, sprinter-friendly stage to do it. A break goes down the road, the teams eventually chase, the break gets caught in the final kilometers, Cavendish wins. I'm not sure what sort of improbability they were hoping would arise, but this stage was duller than any other sprint stage this Tour and with exactly the same result.

Greg Henderson Leads the High Road Paceline - (c) Ken Conley

Today looked a little like a bit like that -- Columbia hit it as the winds picked up and soon found themselves 30 seconds up the road doing a team time trial. Some important names like Fabian Cancellara and Lance Armstrong (with Popovych and Zubeldia) tagged along. I hope Columbia saved a little for the team time trial, because that was an impressive display. Cavendish, of course, got the win, though his leadout train was a litlte ragged. Renshaw put in an impressive pull to contain a last-minute break and leadout Cav, who proceeded to ride Hushovd off his wheel.

It may pour a little salt in the Astana rivalry as Popo and Zubeldia both helped Lance Armstrong gain time on the field -- with Contador in it. But, given that Zubeldia was doing work, I imagine that the Contador was tranquil -- in the grand scheme of things, Contador is more than 30 seconds better than Armstrong and it may have been a tactical move to put pressure on the other teams not as well represented.

Mark Cavendish - (c) Ken Conley

Cancellara wins the opening time trial and Cavendish wins the opening sprint with a commanding leadout from his team. Tyler Farrar showed some promise by being the only sprinter to hang with the Columbia train -- it looks like he could notch his first TdF stage this year. I'm hoping for some strong crosswinds tomorrow to throw a dash of unpredictability into the mix.

Blossoms - (c) Ken Conley
Lance Armstrong - (c) Ken Conley
Cavendish Victorious - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Lance Armstrong - (c) Ken ConleyLance Armstrong - (c) Ken ConleyPeloton - (c) Ken Conley

Yes, that was his victory salute.

See more photos in:

Tour of California Stage 5 Photo Gallery

Tour of California 2009 Women's Crit

|
Columbia - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Columbia - (c) Ken ConleyVanderkitten - (c) Ken Conley

Emilia Fahlin won the sprint from an early break that was too hard to catch on a wet and nasty day. She had plenty of help from Kim Anderson, who took plenty of turns at the front of the break to control the attacks. I'm not sure if there were any crashes, but Brooke Miller had to switch to her spare bike after her rear derailleur hanger got taken out in a collision.

Santa Rosa Women's Crit Photo Gallery

letour.jpgToday's race occurred in front and behind the peloton. Columbia' Marcus Burghardt and Quick Step's Carlos Barredo were way up front and played a 9k game of cat-and-mouse to the finish. Barredo looked at Burghardt's big frame and thought he could drop him on the final little climb, but it was going to take more than a Cat 4 bump for gravity to give him difficulty. They traded little jabs to the finish line, with the final sprint led out by Burghardt. The Big German outsprinted the little Spaniard as easily as expected, but that didn't stop Barredo from screaming in anger at the unfairness of losing the break he started. Or perhaps it was the fact that Burghardt had plenty of gap to look back and stare him in the face before raising his arm in victory. Either way, Columbia got its fifth stage win of this Tour whereas the Boonen-less Quick Step is still looking to pay for the plane tickets.

Behind the race Damiano Cunego did his best to avoid elimination after greeting a road-side barrier with his face early on in the race. Even with his GC status completely out of the question, four of his teammates came back to help pace him back for the rest of the stage. Luckily for him, the long game of cat-and-mouse up front gave him more time to catch up within elimination time, but with his chin bandaged and the front of his jersey ripped up I probably shouldn't say 'luckily.'

The peloton was still recuperating from yesterday's Queen stage and there really wasn't a team to offer chase. Oscar Freire's Rabobank has to look after Menchov, Columbia had a man up the road and their best sprinter at home, Quick Step had a man up the road, and Credit Agricole had Le Mevel in a chase group just behind the two leaders. CSC riders like Stuart O'Grady got to eat a lot of wind at the front of the peloton today.

Stage 13: Cavendish unbeatable

|

letour.jpgYesterday Mark Cavendish held up three fingers as he crossed the line. Today there was no finger counting -- the stage wins are just too numerous at this point. Columbia did their work at the front to keep the breakaways contained, knowing full well that they have the man to deliver on the line. All the sprint teams took their best shot. Even Robbie McEwen finally got his groove back on (sans leadout man), but Cavendish's kick is too much to match.

It was almost a good day for Milram: their man Terpstra was off the front for over 170km, first with Brard, then solo for another 15k before being caught. Then Milram setup a good leadout train for Zabel, but they went a bit too early as Hushovd's lead out sped past. Cavendish was smartly tucked in on Hushovd's wheel and was able to get a great jump.

A lot of French riders took their best shot today. Brard raced most of the day off the front with Terpstra. Later Auge took his shot and then Chavanel as the counterattacks kept coming, but too many sprint teams smelled blood.

There was plenty of jersey maintenance work today. Flecha had sweeper duties for Freire, leaping off the front to collect any remaining sprint points behind Brard and Terpstra. Gerolsteiner worked on their Lang/Kohl 1/2 in the KOM standings as Lang and Kohl swept up the third-place KOM points. They had a bit of a scare near the end when Krauss split his Specialized machine on a road sign, but he was able to walk away.

Stage 12: Cavendish x 3, Ricco idiot

|

letour.jpgCavendish has more than established himself as the sprinter of now and future. Three stage wins in his first Tour de France is an amazing feat and there may be more to come. It was a messy setup for the sprint finish. No team could really hold the front. Columbia drove it until about 1k to go, then got swarmed by Milram, which got overtaken by Credit Agricole, which got overtaken by Quick Step. Cavendish was attentive throughout and surged to the front with his impressive acceleration. Poor sprinter Robbie Hunter, who lost Cooke today as well continuing Barloworld's streak of losses. Hunter was forced to grab whatever wheel he could.

The big news today was of course the loss of Stupido Ricco, who demonstrated that his poor judgment when he runs his mouth is as bad as his judgment otherwise. Also, it is too much to have two amazing mountain stages in a row. Saunier Duval became the first team to withdraw, which makes me wonder what they caught Ricco with. Perhaps it was inevitable: his idol is Pantani.

Today's break was Oroz, Dumoulin and Gerard, who seemed to dangle just off the front of the peloton forever. Stuart O'Grady did the final reel-in, but then switched into an interesting tactic. TV cameras showed Cadel Evans with nary a teammate in sight, so O'Grady moved back to the front with Schleck on his wheel. Evans was forced to take third wheel, at least until the sprint teams reasserted control. It's not a move that cost Evans much, except perhaps the sly insult at his team. It's a sprint stage, Silence-Lotto. There's gotta be one rider you have left that can watch after your yellow jersey rider.

letour.jpgColumbia went 1-2 as Cavendish led it across the line in front of lead-out man Gerard Ciolek. It was a deserving win for Columbia. They had to pull double duty today to protect both their yellow jersey and sprint interests. Not only did Columbia spend most of the day setting tempo at the front of the peloton, but they also did the last of the reel-in of today's break and much of the sprint train into the finish. Quick Step eventually swarmed their train with 2k to go, but Cavendish and Ciolek were attentive and able to slot in well.

Columbia is dominating at this point in the Tour:

  • Stage wins: 2 (Cavendish)
  • Yellow jersey: Kirchen
  • White jersey: Lovkvist

They're also second in the team classification. They lost the green jersey today to Oscar Freire in a tie-breaker with Kirchen.

The day was wet and rainy, so much of the day was left to the breakaways. de la Fuente went early to sweep up some more KOM points for his jersey. Bouyges Telecom's Lefevre then spent a lot of time off the front solo before being joined by teammate Pineau, Euskatel's Txurruka, and AG2R's Riblon. Pineau and Txurruka were the last to survive, as it seemed that the peloton let them dangle off the front as long as possible to keep the counter attacks contained.

letour.jpgRicco and his teammates had confidence that today could be his day, and despite all brashness we should have listened. Valverde and Evans followed a second behind, but it was the Cobra's day and a well-earned victory for Saunier Duval. Behind them was race carnage as race leader Stefan Schumacher crashed in the final kilometer.

Stefan Schumacher's misfortune was Kim Kirchen's gain -- in fact, it was an accidental touch of Kirchen's rear wheel that caused the crash. Kirchen stayed close enough to Evans with a fifth-place finish (0:04 back) to take the yellow jersey. He also regained his green jersey lead from Thor Hushovd.

Several teams launched efforts at the start of the final climb but strong tempo riding from Caisse d'Epargne kept them in check. Garmin-Chipotle's Vandevelde launched an attack with Saunier Duval's Piepoli that got a good gap, but they lost time on the false flat before the final 1.5k steep slope and were quickly swallowed up and as soon as the road start going back up. Vandevelde's efforts leapfrogged him into 4th place on GC, while teammate David Millar fell to fifth.

Chavanel continued his efforts off the front, this time netting himself a KOM jersey by virtue of a tie-breaker over Tommy Voeckler.

letour.jpgThe peloton timed its reel in of the break to near perfection today. There's been a lot of criticism from the sprinters about controlling and reeling in the breakaways. With so many teams hunting GC chances, there's not as many teams willing to do grunt work for their sprinters.

Today a breakaway of Vogondy, Jegou and Brard was kept within striking distance, then Credit Agricole, Liquigas, Columbia, and Quick Step worked to reel them in. A couple of small crashes in the final kilometers hardly disrupted the charge, but with a mile to go the break still found itself just off the front -- then Vogondy attacked. On a long straightaway finish, the charging peloton hovered behind Vogondy. It wasn't until after Mark Cavendish launched his sprint that Vogondy was swallowed up. Cavendish was hoping for a stage win at Stage 3, but he can be happy to notch his first win today. Columbia won't even mind the fact that they lost the green jersey to Thor Hushovd today.

Soler finally abandoned today after toughing out his wrist injury since stage 1. Valverde crashed today though the damage appeared minor.

Stage 4: Schumacher?

|

letour.jpgSome quick thoughts, since a cold has been cutting into my sleep:

What a stage -- Pate taking the early lead, Cancellara going all out to nick Menchov's best time by less than a second, and then Schumacher coming in and laying waste to everyone's time.

Stefan Schumacher: the man has great palmares, but the conventional wisdom must suck because not many would have thought he could put in 18 seconds over his nearest competitor

Kim Kirchen: in this era of specialists, you have to appreciate a guy who thinks he can win every stage (and nearly does).

Alejandro Valverde: methinks people's expectations were overinflated for all the dire analysis of his 1'07" that he lost to Evans.

Garmin-Chipotle: a podium finish by Millar, Vande Velde in 8th, and Pate setting an early fastest time. I'd say that's a pretty good day for them. Shame there wasn't a TTT as they and Columbia had the best team performances on the day

Columbia: Second place with Kirchen got them podium and an 11th-place finish by Lövkvist got them the white jersey. And Hincapie got 9th place. A strong day for Stapleton's crew.

With so many teams seeking new title sponsors at the beginning of this season, I was a bit worried about the health of pro cycling. You could sense a bit of anguish on Bob Stapleton's part as High Road struggled for a high profile victory in the Tour of California, finally delivered by Hincapie on the last day -- of course they've had too many since then to count. Then there was the storied CSC team, continuing to cleanup in top classics like Paris-Roubaix, but perhaps too wounded by Riis' past. And then there was young Slipstream, which has gone from the little TIAA-CREF development team all the way to living on the international stages getting invites that Astana was denied.

Garmin-chipotle.gif

Garmin's sponsorship makes the most sense to me -- the Garmin triangle even fits well with the Argyle. The hints have perhaps been there for awhile as the Edge 705 has already been featured in past blog posts. They may also be the team most in need of the Nuvi products, getting lost not once, not twice, but three times during the Giro. It was even a Garmin Nuvi that saved them the first time around as David Millar realized that the Nuvi was among their prizes for the opening TTT stage.

Motionbased continues to improve as a Web-based stats platform as has the Edge product line, which most recently has added compatibility with Saris PowerTap hubs. That will certainly put some hurt into Training Peaks.

csc_saxo_logo.gif

CSC was the first of the recent announcements, with Saxo Bank taking a secondary title but assuming the title role next year. I'm sad to see CSC go -- they're sponsorship of the ToC and TdG Tour Trackers made for some new ways to follow cycling. As a Virginian, I'll also miss the Virginia-based company's sponsorship of the CSC Invitational. Saxo Bank brings the sponsorship back to Riis' Danish roots.

columbia-high-road.jpg

Perhaps the national roots led me to my initial confusion over the Columbia announcement -- my eyes misread the new High Road sponsor as Colombia. Without the aid of my morning coffee, my brain was left to puzzle over how a country's adoration for George Hincapie could lead to a team sponsorship. A little more reading solved my confusion. The US-sportswear company is looking to raise their profile Internationally and perhaps they'll also add some more cycling apparel to their lines.