Results tagged “Denis Menchov” from spare cycles

Stage 15: Gap - L'Alpe-d'Huez

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Frank Schleck won the day and Landis probably won the Tour. Scheck's victory was earned by the hard work of his CSC team. CSC put three riders into a 24-man break and Zabriskie and Voigt pushed that break through rain and shine until it was whittled down to a select group at the base of Alpe d'Huez. Lampre also did a bit of work in that break and both Schleck and Cunego were launched on the final climb. Schleck and Cunego rode up together most of the way, but with 3k to go, Schleck attacked and put in the gap he needed to win, having enough time to zip up his jersey at the end. It's Schleck's first Tour de France and first Tour victory.

Landis finished in fourth and it looks like in all certainty he'll be wearing this yellow jersey in Paris. He took his yellow jersey back from Pereiro, who fought hard but lost out by 10 seconds. Landis never showed a second's weakness while all of his GC competitors did. Menchov couldn't hold Landis' wheel, not even with Rasmussen somehow bridging up to Menchov to help out. Evans couldn't hold on either and Sastre made a good effort, but was dropped further up the climb. Kloden was the only GC contender that stayed with Landis the whole way, but even when his T-Mobile teammate Mazzolini dropped back from the break, Kloden could never get a gap.

The breakway was a big factor in the finish as riders in the break dropped back on the Alpe d'Huez to help out their GC hopefuls. Voigt was first, putting in a big effort for Sastre not long after helping to launch Schleck -- Voigt may have done the biggest effort on the day. Merckx was next, as Landis jumped onto his wheel and shouted for him to go. Merckx was a caught a bit by surprise, but quickly jumped to the front and handed over a bottle. Mazzolini was last, coming back to pace Kloden.

The big abandon on the day was Tom Boonen, who leaves with some yellow jerseys but no stage win or green jerseys. Most would be happy with that sort of haul, but the Belgian press is probably letting him have it today.

Prediction check: * My prediction: Azevedo * Actual: Azevedo, where did you finish? Somewhere way back (7+ minutes)

Post Stage 11 Analysis

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Some times you need pre-race plan, sometimes you don't. Discovery, already on the ropes from a poor time trial showing, probably came in with a race plan, but they disintegrated well before execution. T-Mobile, vaulted into the top of everyone's mind after a strong time trial performance, came in with a plan and over executed: they went so hard on the penultimate climb that they couldn't hold onto their own pace -- a mistake they made last year as well. Gerolsteiner, which had all the pieces for a plan -- three riders in the lead on the penultimate climb -- no longer had a leader to call the plan into play. Rabobank, which seemed more concerned with helping Rasmussen pick up third-place KOM points, suddenly came together on the penultimate climb and decided, hey, our leader Menchov is strong, let's give it a go.

Boogerd and Rasmussen were the uber domestiques, the true stage winners on the day. Rasmussen, previously criticized for being too selfish, sacrificed himself pulling Menchov and the rest of the lead pack to the final Pla da Beret climb. Granted, he did get beat by Voeckler going for some KOM points, so Rasmussen may not have had full chicken-leg power today, but he had more than enough power to give over the Menchov. Boogerd then put in the super effort on the Pla da Beret, an effort that reminded me of Landis' super pulls for Armstrong. Boogerd created the final selection, and then was able to finish in a descent position himself... all of this after helping lead out Rasmussen for his KOM points earlier in the day.

Menchov did his job as leader -- he took the setup, and then delivered the final punch. Landis was stronger, but Menchov was the better sprinter, and Levi just couldn't time it right. In a game of what-if, Levi might have been in the same position had he not had a disasterous time trial. Menchov had two teammates going over the penultimate climb, but so did Levi: Totschnig and Fothen. Instead of riding for Levi, though, Totschnig seemed to be protecting their rider in the best young rider jersey, guiding him along. Levi was no longer in a position to ask for a sadistic effort from them, and he essentially rode alone.

Landis also rode alone, but it didn't matter. He had delivered in the time trial, all he needed to do today was defend and pad. He had no riders to send to the front to set the tempo, so he sat on the T-Mobile train instead. When the T-Mobile train ran out of gas, he sat on the Rabobank train. And when the Rabobank train was just Menchov, Landis lead the train himself.

The race is far from over, as the five-minute gaps that were made today could easily become five-minute deficits in the Alps, but no rider has looked nearly as strong as Landis. As predicted, Landis' team is nowhere to be found, but it's going to take a lot more than an imploding Discovery and an exploding T-Mobile to take him down. Cadel Evans' Lotto seems to have no riders to throw at Landis in the mountains, as Chris Horner went backwards today, and CSC only has six riders left, though the Sastre/Schleck combination could definitely net a stage win. Rabobank could enact a plan -- they didn't have one before, but perhaps they'll have one now. Denis Menchov looks to have his podium spot sealed up, they just have to fight for the top seat.

Well, a day with five hard climbs will sort out the standings, won't it? Menchov takes the stage win on a day that Rabobank controlled the end, but it's Floyd Landis that takes the yellow jersey. Menchov and Landis are the clear leaders now; Kloden, Evans, and Sastre are close, but they will have to look towards the Alps to prove themselves better than they were today. If Landis continues to ride the way he did today, without any teammates to really help him, then he should be in yellow in Paris. It won't be an easy defense as Menchov's Rabobank showed themselves to be a strong mountain threat. T-Mobile hasn't given up yet either, though all their bets are riding on Kloden now. One team that won't give Landis any trouble is Discovery. I picked them as the strongest team going into this Tour, and let me say I couldn't have been more entirely wrong. They haven't controlled a second of this race and certainly weren't ready for today's attacks.

Leipheimer hung in there with Landis and Menchov, hoping that his loss of contender status would allow him to escape for the win, but Menchov kept nailing back his attacks. It didn't seem like it was going to be a Rabobank day: T-Mobile did the initial damage on the penultimate Col du Portilon climb, dropping all of Discovery except Azevedo as well as Caisse rider Vladimir Karpets; however, T-Mobile did the most damage to itself, knocking all of their highly placed riders out of contention, except Kloden, who they pushed into cramping. Rabobank seemed more concerned with helping Rasmussen get some KOM points, as Boogerd led out Rasmussen twice to collect points. On the lead-in to the final climb, though, Rasmussen moved to the front of the surviving 18 riders and set a pace that kept the peloton from closing down the gap. Then on the final climb it was Boogerd who shattered the rest of the group, shedding Azevedo, Fothen, Parra, Schleck, Simoni, Moreau, and Zubeldia. With a final push he popped off Kloden.

Menchov, Landis, Leipheimer, Evans, and Sastre were the only riders to survive Boogerd's final acceleration. Leipheimer made several attacks, but wasn't going to be allowed to get the win by Menchov. Landis did the majority of the work, with Menchov and Evans doing a bit of pacing as well. An attack by Levi and counterattacks by Menchov and Landis were enough to drop Sastre and Evans. Menchov timed his final sprint perfectly, coming around the final corner ahead and holding off Levi and Landis. From there it was a race to see if Dessel could pull a Voeckler and stay in the yellow jersey. Dessel needed to limit the time gap to about four and a half minutes, but was eight seconds too slow in the end -- the difference was Landis' twelve-second time bonus.

David de la Fuente deserves a big mention as he and Fabian Wegmann duked it out for KOM points early in the day. de la Fuente won that battle and was able to stay away until the final climb.

Prediction check:

  • Prediction: First I picked Sastre and then swapped for Rasmussen, with Floyd in yellow.
  • Actual: Rasmussen was nowhere close as he sacrificed himself for Menchov, who took the stage win. Sastre got dropped near the very top and came in fifth.

Ascendency: Five in a Row

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The first was "The Comeback," the second was "The Confirmation." No one seems to have a good term for the third or fourth (Armstrong called the fourth "The Year of the Team;" I have a cool t-shirt that says "4-titude"). I prefer to call this year "The Ascendency" b/c he's finally climbed the ranks to join Indurain, Merckx, Hinault, and Anquetil as the elite set of tour riders that have one five tours. Also, he and Indurain are the only riders to have the dominant ability to win five years in a row.

This year has also set the stage for the future of Tyler Hamilton and Alexandre Vinokourov. Both will certainly figure in future TdF battles. Euskatel, with Mayo and Zubeldia, should also be a fun team to watch in the coming tours. Finally, let's hope that this year's performance that Ullrich will continue to come to play in TdF's and have less written about him in the offseason.

In other tour news: * Hamilton's efforts helped secure CSC's team win over Ibanesto.com. * Cooke beat out McEwen on the line to take the green jersey * Virenque kept his king of the mountains with his dominant lead of 137pts.
* Menchov also had a dominant lead in the youth jersey competition with a gap of 42'29". * In the jersey no one cares about, O'Grady gets to don the "Centenaire" jersey for this year's 100th Tour de France