Results tagged “Quick Step” from spare cycles

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 2: Tommeke Tommeke Tommeke

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Tom Boonen - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Tom Boonen - (c) Ken Conley

Stage 2 Photo Gallery

The Tour of California got a bit of the old and new today and a world champion in between: Tom Boonen took his first victory in the Tour of California, Tyler Farrar put on Slipstream's first overall leader's jersey, and Mario Cipollini showed that he has more kick than fellow riders gave him credit. CSC's dominance of this year's Tour of California ended as Haedo flatted in the final circuits. He was able to chase back but was outkicked by Cipo for third. Dominguez was less lucky and finished off the back of the peloton with a teammate.

All were wet and worn after a long day pedaling in chilly rain and winds. BMC rider Scott Nydam had the longest day as he went on a solo effort up the early Trinity Grade climb and latest through all the intermediate prizes on the day. Nydam picked up BMC's second most aggressive rider award and Jackson Stewart defended his KOM lead.

I spent the early part of the day on Trinity Grade. Levi Leipheimer's dad helped me climb a tree and Levi's wife Odessa brought along their dog Smokey to help cheer Levi along.

Stage 2 Photo Gallery

Dinner with Quick Step (Bettini + Boonen)

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Quick Step is hosting a dinner at Ribsibisi in Petaluma after Monday's stage as a fundraiser for the NorCal High School MTB Racing League. Limited tickets are available.

Vasseur - DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Cedric Vasseur gave France and Quick Step a victory as he won the sprint finish from a breakaway of five. Vasseur's career TdF stage tally is now two, the previous coming all the way back in 1997. It was a fairly uneventful stage, save for the actions of the breakaway on the final climbs, as the rest of the peloton was content to get some rest as they leave the Alps behind.

Today's stage had breakaway written all over it and there's no name in the Tour more synonymous with breakaway than Jens Voigt. A break of 11 riders, including Voigt, built up early in the stage and stayed together until the last two Cat 3 climbs. Voigt was the first to shake things up, but it was Halgand who really shook things apart. A group of five made it over the last climb together despite a flurry of attacks by Halgand to further whittle things down. With Voigt forced to the front and the riders all marking each other's wheels, Vasseur lead the sprint up the right side and took it to the line.

FD Jeux's Sandy Casar took second despite having been dropped on the final climb and having to claw his way back. Liquigas' Albasini took third, benefiting from having teammate and Lanterne Rouge Kuschynski there to help back when the break was at 11.

Boonen - FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

Boonen outsprinted the pack to take the stage win, restoring the green jersey to his shoulders. Boonen battled all day for the sprint points, taking the first two intermediate sprints to move into the virtual green jersey while still on course. He then sent his teammates to nullify the final intermediate sprint to save his legs for the big mass sprint. Boonen came around Gerolsteiner's leadout in the final sprint and held off Freire and Zabel. He managed to do so despite wrecking his rear derailleur in Mark Cavendish's front wheel](http://www.t-mobile-team.com/tmo_team/servlet/pages/944728) -- "The bike's rear end was making noise. I was forced to do my sprint in my 11 [a very high tooth gear] and it was not possible to shift" (good ole' 53x11). There was no sign of McEwen.

It was perhaps the quietest day of the Tour so far as the peloton rode slow and the typical breakaway catch was easy. The peloton only let one rider go -- Bradley Wiggins -- and they left him off the front as long as they could, waiting until 7k to catch him.

Degano abandoned today after a crash in the feed zone while LeQuatre didn't start after his similar crash yesterday. Kloden and Vinokourov both rode on today, though Vino was making a sign across his throat at the end of today's stage, perhaps indicating that the mountains are not going to go well for him.

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.

Photo by Mike Shimahara, BikeZen.comPaolo Bettini, I apologize. I noted your apathetic form in the prologue and stage 1, thinking that you didn't have form yet. But clearly you had a strategy to win because you took today's stage and quite nearly yesterday's as well -- if Mick Rogers hadn't gotten a flat on the descent, your chase group may have had enough power to reel it it.

photos by Mike Shimahara, BikeZen.com

It was a very different stage from last year's and not just with the deluge of rain. While there was a flurry of early attacks, Discovery Channel seemed to do a good job of letting a break get away and then keeping it on a three-minute leash. As the finish line approached, the sprint teams did their part to reel it back in and setup the finish.

Great Mark Shimahara shot of Basso leading Levi down along the ocean

Vuelta Stage 2: Malaga-Cordoba

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Bettini grabbed the first individual stage win of this Vuelta and Thor Hushovd showed his skill in grabbing leader's jerseys as it was a familiar scene with him pulling on the golden jersey -- he must have wanted one to replace the yellow jersey that got all bloodied and torn during the Tour de France.

I once had the opportunity to take the road from Malaga to Cordoba, but my fellow travelers preferred Granada instead. From the coverage, it looks like it an open and exposed road -- plenty of wind to batter the peloton, though with an early start the temperatures weren't as punishing as last year's Vuelta.

It was a day for the sprinters and all the sprint teams did their work -- Milram, Lotto, Liquigas, Lampre, and Credit Agricole all did their work chasing back a break by Discovery's Joachim and Cofidis' Marichal, who jumped past a break by Relax's de Sarraga. With all the work and coordination of the sprint team, It was surprising to see Bettini win the sprint finish.

Milram did the leadout train in the final kilometer, but they seemed to lead Zabel out a little too early and Zabel only managed 10th. McEwen had a bit of trouble with his leadout getting stuck behind Hushovd. As McEwen was giving up his sprint, Bettini came jumping out from behind him and took the stage win.

Sastre had a flat in the final kilometers, but it didn't matter much as he was awarded the same time as the peloton. Either way, he was going to lose his jersey to the finish line bonuses.

Stage 18: Morzine - Macon

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FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

Look! A QuickStep jersey crossing the line first! Tossato won on a day controlled by the breakaway, getting a win for QuickStep where Boonen could not. Fifteen riders got away and stayed away as Saunier Duval gave a half-hearted chase. With most of the sprint teams missing their big sprinters -- Boonen abandoned, Bennati crashed/abandoned, Freire did not start -- and with Lotto having Aerts in the breakaway, no one really had a reason to help out SD. The good news for Phonak is that Saunier Duval did try to chase as it meant that they wouldn't have to worry about Levi Leipheimer in the break. Even though Levi was 22 minutes down, Pereiro's yellow jersey has something to say about that. Levi still gained almost seven minutes in the GC, which moves him within striking distance of the top ten.

Gerolsteiner went for the win with Levi and Scholz in the break. Levi made the first attempt at going for the win, jumping off the front of the break and pedalling with Euskatel's Isasi, but they were eventually pulled back with 20k to go. Scholz then attacked and two riders jumped across to join him. That attack was successful, but Scholz seemed fairly spent in the final kilometers. Tossato and Moreni came around easily in the final sprint.

Zabriskie was in the break but ended up finishing by himself, 2:23 down. I hope that means that he intentionally dropped off to save some energy for tomorrow. I'm still picking him for the time trial, though I have a feeling that the week may have been too difficult for CSC as they vaulted Sastre up the standings. Landis is the better bet for the time trial, especially with Zabriskie having to go very early in the day and setting a benchmark for others to follow. But CSC has fought back after losing two leaders and a domestique, getting stage wins by Schleck and Voigt in week two, leading the team classification for a bit, and putting Sastre on the podium. It's a strong squad of six and I'd like to see them get another prize.

Prediction check: * My prediction: Breakaway.George Hincapie has been going into break after break with no results. I'll pick him, but I'm also wondering if Chris Horner finally has his legs back. McEwen should win the bunch sprint easily as all of his competitors are out. Freire abandoned today, Boonen and Bennati previously abandoned. * Actual: Popo was in the first break and Martinez in the second, but no sign of Hincapie. McEwen didn't even bother participating in the sprint.

Tour of Flanders 2006

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Tom Boonen continues to have a ridiculously good year in the World Champion's jersey. His repeat victory at the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen) will certainly have his stock flying high for a repeat victory at Paris-Roubaix.

QuickStep had all the cards in this one. After several cobblestone sections had whittled the lead group down to the main contenders, QuickStep still had four riders in that group. Three of those riders -- Boonen, Bettini, and Pozzato -- had already won stages this year. Discovery, the next strongest team, only had two riders in this selection: Hincapie and Hoste.

Hoste put in a spur-of-the-moment attack that pretty much guaranteed Boonen the stage victory. With 33km to go, Boonen was the only rider to follow Hoste's attack. Even with Hoste's victory at De Panne just several days prior, there probably isn't a tactic in the world that would have let him beat Boonen. Hincapie might have had a slim chance, but he was forced to sit in the chase group and mark the other riders, including Bettini. Discovery still managed second and third place, which is probably the best result that could have played out on this day. Hincapie sounded a bit disappointed in the post-race interviews to have been stuck back in the chase group, but this was Belgian territory and it was up to the Belgians to duke it out.

Hincapie will certainly have Hoste's full support in Paris-Roubaix. Unfortunately, he probably won't have Roger Hammond, who got 14 stitches to his knee, and he certainly won't have Michael Barry, who will be out for several months with face and vertebrae injuries. The cobblestones are wicked.

Milan-San Remo

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How good is Quickstep that you can have two race favorites -- Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini -- and manage to win the race with a rider (Pozzato) you sent to cover a break? The season has barely started and Boonen has three wins, Bettini has two wins, and now Pozzato has a win. Poor Petacchi had to know he was outgunned on this one. Bettini may have been recovering from a crash, but he seemed to be riding pretty well and Boonen was never hard to spot riding far up in the pack. Milram did its best to bring back the break, but all they did was give Pozzato the opportunity to launch himself with 300m to the finish. (VeloNews Milan-San Remo summary)

Pozzato's victory raises the question of whether or not Pozzato punked the other riders in the breakaway. Personally, I say no. Pozzato was sent into the break to mark the other riders, doing no work and disrupting them as necessary so that Boonen's chances at victory would be preserved. If you look at this photo, you can see that he at least has the disruption part down pat. The crucial bit of Pozzato's victory, for me, was that he didn't attack until the breakaway had failed. If the breakaway had survived by itself and then Pozzato attacked, then I might cry out that it was a punking. But Pozzato timed his jump perfectly at the moment of the breakaway was being caught and sprinted to a victory that was an excellent strategic setup by the Quickstep team.

The notion of punking is obviously subjective, so here are some case studies from my point of view.

Paxti Vila getting the stage 3 Paris-Nice victory over Floyd Landis: If the rider you beat gets to don the overall leader's jersey at the end of the stage, then I usually wouldn't think to call it a punking. Weening sat on Kloden's wheel for the final kilometer of a Tour de France stage, but Kloden was gaining valuable seconds in the overall and Weening also did plenty of work before that final km. What qualified Paxti Vila's victory as a punking in my book was this post-victory quote: "I now have hopes for final victory, but it will be hard to knock off Floyd." Paxti Vila ended the day only nine seconds down on Landis in the overall. Even if he wasn't a realistic threat to Landis -- he wasn't -- I don't think you should pretend to be an overall contender and do no work for it.

Hincapie's Stage 15 Tour de France win: Although I was happy to see Hincapie win, I wish it were slightly more noble than this victory. Hincapie jumped on a break as a strategic move to help out Armstrong. The strategy of placing teammates ahead on the course is a great one -- if Armstrong needed another rider by his side all Hincapie would have to do is sit up and wait. It also means that other teams have to work to pull the breakaway back. Hincapie never did any work in the break, which eventually became just him and Pereiro, and a well-rested Hincapie easily beat Pereiro to the line. Pereiro was understandably upset. When you have a strong team leader like Armstrong, then you have the privilege of lazily sitting in a break. The punking question for me is, once it became clear that Armstrong wouldn't need Hincapie, should Hincapie should have started doing work in the break? I think he should have, but I also think that those occassional wins are part of the bonus in working for such a strong leader. I'd call this a well-earned punking.

Stage 3: La Chataigneraie-Tours

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keyhole.stage3.s.jpgHappy Fourth of July! Today's stage started with an American rider in yellow and with this being a sprint stage the overall standings weren't going to change. The course was 212km (~San Diego to Los Angeles), which means that there would be about 200km of mostly boring riding followed by an exciting sprint setup and finish. There was some action on the day that came from a breakaway. There were two baby climbs near the end of the course that the breakaway managed to survive until, and Dekker took both and along with them the King of the Mountains jersey from Voeckler.


photoBoonen took the sprint again, jumping out from fairly far back to power through the messy field of riders. He's so strong this year that I'd do much better with my predictions just to keep picking him. My pick Robbie McEwen got boxed in behind Boonen and tried to push aside Stuart O'Grady, a move that got McEwen relegated to last place.

Tomorrow is the team time trial, which I love watching. The Tour is a team race, even if an individual gets the glory, and tomorrow is a reminder of that. The riders will have to drill in military-like formations trying to best cut through the wind as well use their collecive strength to power through. The forecast says rain, which means that there will probably be crashes and flat tires that will cause teams to have to decide whether or not to leave a man behind or wait up.

Stage profile and my live stage log are in the extended.

Stage 2: Challans-Essarts

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keyhole.stage2.d.jpg

Today was a sprint stage, which means their weren't any big climbs to break apart the pack and the finish line is relatively flat. The sprint teams will take control of the race as it approaches the finish so they can launch their appointed rider to the finish line.

There was a breakaway that lasted until the final 4 miles, but as with all breakaways on sprint stages, it was pretty easy to catch. On these flat sprint stages, it's just a matter of organization: there are more riders in the main pack than in the breakaway, so there are more riders to take turns at the front in the wind while the riders behind you ride in your slipstream. One of the reasons why breakaways always seem to be caught in the final kilometers is that the sprinter teams plan it that way. They know how far ahead the breakaway is, they know how many kilometers it would take to catch them, and they don't start working until they need to. Of course, sometimes they mess up, or sometimes the main pack has trouble cooperating, but for the most part a breakaway is a long shot, or just an opportunity to get your sponsor's jersey and equipment on camera, or an effort to get points/time in one of the mid-race sprint competitions.

My prognostication skills weren't as good today. I picked McEwen for the win, but McEwen attacked too early in the sprint finish and got overtaken by Tom "My tooth aches but my legs don't" Boonen. McEwen said, "I made a bit of a tactical mistake... I just went from too far and practically gave the rest of the guys a lead out. I'll just have to do better next time." Boonen's been having such a great season, including winning huge races like Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders, and two stage of Paris-Nice.

Armstrong's quote for today: "The faster I pedal, the faster I retire."

Zabriskie's shared some important thoughts on what it means to be in the yellow jersey. Asked if he slept with the yellow jersey on, he answered, no, he slept "in the buff." Zabriskie was also asked what it was like racing on the road today in yellow. "It was exciting, a happy good feeling. It was unbelievable how many people there were on the roads. I could only find one place to go to the bathroom throughout the whole day and.... I took it."

Stage profile and my live log in the extended.