Category: Tour de France

August 1, 2009

Sport Economist on Hushovd vs. Cavendish

Glynn sent me this article from the Sport Economist on different point structures in different sports, with a focus on Hushovd's green jersey victory over Mark Cavendish. I admit I was disappointed to see Cav lose the green jersey, though I was biased by the fact that Cav was my pre-race prediction. Still, if one equates the yellow jersey with the best overall rider, the polka dots with the best climber, and green with the best sprinter, it's hard to come to the conclusion that Cavendish wasn't convincingly the best sprinter in the Tour -- six stage victories was a dominating performance.

Of course, this year's point total was messed up, as it sometimes is, by the role of relegation. Perhaps it's not the point structure for the Tour that was incorrect, but rather the penalty structure that allows Cavendish to lose all of his points for a stage for a non-flagrant infraction.

I actually think that its the polka dot jersey that has more issues than the green jersey. It's heavily biased towards crazy breakaways. If you happen to make it in the break on a heavy mountain stage, you can pretty much sew up the competition. Great climbers who are also GC contenders have a heavy disincentive to compete for the King of the Mountain title, though it does establish a good secondary contest for climbers who have no GC chances.

Sport Economist: Stage Wins, Points Losses

July 19, 2009

With today's stage over, a tactical analysis of yesterday's stage

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.

July 18, 2009

"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.

July 17, 2009

Levi Out

TechCrunch posted some internal documents from Twitter that shows that Twitter aims to be the "pulse" of the planet. @LeviLeipheimer offers his own support of this, Twittering directly from the operating room as doctor's insert a 22mm titanium screw into his wrist:

We'll miss him in the Alps, especially as he had a chance at podium this year, but we'll always have the tweets.

July 15, 2009

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

July 14, 2009

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.

July 11, 2009

Stage 8: Luis Leon Sanchez Wins From the Break, Yellow Jersey Hot Potato

CYCLING: MAR 14 Paris-Nice 2009 - Stage 7

Luis Leon Sanchez won from the break after playing the tactics of the last 3km perfectly, egging on his breakaway companions to chase back Vladimir Efimkin, then launching his own sprint for the line. Sanchez's win should take away some of the sting of losing Oscar Pereiro, who retired from fatigue.

The tactics back in the peloton were more interesting as it looked like Saxo Bank was trying to put Astana's Contador in yellow. It's not often that you see a team trying to put its rival in yellow, though it makes sense: Astana doesn't want to wear itself out, especially with so many "leaders" and not so many domestiques (though Kloden and Leipheimer have moved into support roles). Astana made no secret of the fact that they wanted Nocentini in yellow and I'm sure they were disappointed to see AG2R pay them back by putting riders in all the breaks and not chasing.

Saxo Bank's "Get Contador in Yellow" campaign started when Andy Schleck put in an attack on the final climb, which Levi Leipheimer ably controlled. Sure enough, all the GC contenders made it. The only rider of import left behind was Nocentini in yellow. Saxo Bank certainly doesn't feel threatened by Nocentini, but they continued to press the attack with Frank Schleck. Contador was in virtual yellow.

Astana worked its way back into control of this group and then proceeded to slow it down so that Nocentini could catch back on. AG2R may not be the willing defenders they were looking for, but clearly Astana wanted to use them for one more day.

Levi Leipheimer was impressive as a lieutenant today as he spent a lot of time in the wind today throughout the stage to control the race.

July 10, 2009

Are we clear yet?

Disco Posse - (c) Ken Conley

It's Contador's team

Nocentini - (c) Ken ConleyBrice Feillu and Christophe Kern went 1/2 for France from the breakaway as the race transitioned from Spain to France with its stop in the tiny country of Andorra. Cancellara put on a good show of defense of his yellow jersey, but the writing was on the wall as the climb in Arcalis dragged on. No one probably predicted that another rider in the breakaway, Rinaldo Nocentini, would be the one to take it off his shoulders, but that's the rare promise that motivates a great breakaway.

It feels good to put the Astana leadership debate to rest, for now. Contador showed why he can win the Tour by putting in an explosive attack that none of the other GC contenders could chase down. He went so fast it looked like he was descending as he freewheeled around a switchback. Armstrong and Levi were loyal teammates, following the wheels and keeping themselves in a strong position in the GC. Overall, Astana did a great job setting the early tempo on the Arcali, controlling the field up until the moment of Contador's attack.

If there's any doubt that Astana is in the driver's seat, just look at the GC standings:

  1. Nocentini
  2. Contador 0.06
  3. Armstrong 0.08
  4. Leipheimer 0.39

July 6, 2009

Questions on Leadership

Coast - (c) Ken Conley

A friend e-mailed m a question on team leadership, so I thought I'd share the response here:

Q: I know Contador is the team leader for Astana right now, but how set in stone is that for any team? I know that's what they sort of shoot for at the beginning, but is that something that just changes as the race progresses or does something official have to happen?

It's not an official matter who the leader is, merely a strategic one. There's generally an idea of who the best rider is on the team, as well as second-best rider for that matter. You can usually be 90% certain who that is, but a crash may take your leader out, or your leader may not have the form you hoped, so someone else steps in. That's how Oscar Pereiro won the TdF (i.e. the Floyd year). Valverde crashed out, and Pereiro got a really lucky break. Another way a leadership situation can change is by semi-accident. For example, you may want to send your second-best rider up the road. If the other teams chase, they burn their matches and you get to rest. If they don't chase, your second-best rider takes a huge chunk of time and is put in a position to win.

It's important to understand who is in charge as the rest of the team must focus on protecting that rider. Discovery Channel (the first year post-Armstrong) and other teams in the past have tried to go into a race like this with "options", but they ultimately fail because you can't build a cohesive strategy around that. One could argue that CSC won last year's Tour with the options strategy -- Sastre and 2 Schlecks -- but when push came to shove on the Alpe d'Huez, Sastre was sent on the attack and the two Schlecks worked their butts off to protect that move.

So, where it becomes important is in the mountains. If Saxo Bank whittles down the Astana team so that it's only Armstrong and Contador left, you want to know who is going to work for who. If Armstrong attacks and a top GC contender like Andy Schleck goes with him, does Contador pull it back or let it go?

Leadership battles have compromised Astana in the past: Contador won the Vuelta, but Levi was a close second. Contador complained that Levi didn't work as hard for him as he should have been, and Levi even beat Contador in the final TT. Granted, Contador still won, but it could have been different if other teams were in a better position to take advantage.

As for Lance vs. Contador, Lance doesn't really stand a chance, so I'm not understanding what's going on there -- unless this is intentional subterfuge on Astana's part to confuse other teams. Given their past tactics, I wouldn't be surprised if this was a game that they were playing, though it would have taken a lot of effort over the past several months and a lot of acting to pull this off. The fact is, Contador is a much better rider than Armstrong is right now. Armstrong is either lying to himself that he's a potential leader, or he's playing games. The only way Armstrong could win is the second-best rider strategy, i.e. if Bruyneel uses Armstrong as a carrot and the other teams don't respond.

Stage 3: A Columbia TTT and a dash of Astana Leadership Rivalry

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.

July 5, 2009

Cav wins his first, Tour is stickin' to the predictions

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.

July 4, 2009

Who else but Cancellara?

Fabian Cancellara - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Cancellara winning was the easy part to pick and watching him catch Menchov as his 1:30 man was a treat, but now that Contador (0:18) laid down the law with a second-place finish, well ahead of Armstrong (0:40), will Armstrong admit the obvious and commit to being a loyal lieutenant? One thing Astana did settle is that they really are the strongest team if they can settle the pecking order: Contador 2nd, Kloden 4th (0:22), Leipheimer 6th (0:30), Armstrong 10th (0:40). Cadel Evans also put in a respectable 5th (0:23), so count on him to be a thorn in the side of the GC.

July 2, 2009

Tour Time: Predictions and Light Blogging

Contador-Armstrong.jpg

It didn't hit me until the middle of this week at the Tour is starting on Saturday. After shooting Lance at the Astana Training Camp, Tour of California and the Nevada City Classic, you'd think that I'd just be counting down the days, but shooting the American Velodrome Challenge and Manhattan Beach Grand Prix in one weekend has a way of keeping you distracted.

When I first saw Lance at the Astana Training Camp I thought, "No way." He looked different on a bike, he looked... fat (for a cyclist). Then I saw him at the Tour of California on a TT bike, and that only reinforced the fact that he looked fat. Then I saw him a couple of weeks ago at the Nevada City Classic and he looked thin.

Does this mean that I think he can win? No. But whereas I thought in February he was certain to realize this and be forced to work for Contador, I now think he's strong enough to cause more than enough trouble for the Astana squad -- with Vino back in the picture, is there any team under more stress right now? Another way to think of it is: Armstrong won his final Tours largely on the strength of the team supporting him; now there's little chance that the entire team would ever support him.

That's not to say Armstrong hasn't been trying to build his own mini-squad. Armstrong has spent a good portion of this year cementing his relationship with Levi Leipheimer, burying himself to help Levi win the Tour of California and luxuriating him in the world of private-jet travel. And he did well enough by Horner than Horner was sniping at Contador for getting left off the Tour squad, not at Armstrong for giving Contador more than seven reasons to think about wanting more allies on the squad.

I still think Contador is the best overall rider of this generation and is stronger than Armstrong, but Armstrong may cause just enough discord to provide an opening. The worst thing that can happen, and could easily happen, is that Lance and Levi beat Contador on Saturday's stage. Levi we know can beat Contador in a TT and who knows what Lance will bring. Or maybe even worse is that Contador overly focuses on establishing his primacy with his team on this opening stage and leaves himself open to harm the rest of the Tour. No other team has as much riding on the very first stage.

As for other contenders, Bjarne Riis is obviously salivating at the opportunity to exploit the conflict and has enough weapons to force Astana to figure out who they're protecting. Silence-Lotto's Cadel Evans is also just boring enough to slip in during all the fireworks and run off with the prize. It's harder to drum up support for Sastre. I feel bad not rallying behind the reigning champion, but as good as Cervelo Test Team has been, can they really help him win the Tour? Not likely.

NOTE: I've decided not to do my normal Tour link roundup this year around, and my summaries may be infrequent. When I first started blogging about the Tour in 2003, there weren't that many sites out there blogging about it, there was no Twitter or Facebook, and I had not yet embarked on my cycling photography career. Perhaps I'm faking my memories, but back then I felt it was necessary to blog about the Tour because it was a beautiful event that needed many more voices in the up-and-coming blogosphere. Now there are many voices out there and the return of Lance has turned the dials back up to 11 for this event. I also find that I'd rather shoot bicycles and ride bicycles than write about bicycles, so look for me this month at events like the San Rafael Twilight Crit. Rest assured that I will still be up every morning at 5am to watch the Tour.

July 27, 2008

Jonathan Vaughter's Tweet of the Day

In the last of this year's series, a fitting tweet to celebrate Garmin-Chipotle's success this year:

Well, I'm finally close to the Champs... Closer than I ever got as a rider. JV

Vaughter's helped guide his young talent and unheralded leader through their first Tour de France, mounting a series move on the GC podium, coming oh-so-close to breakaway stage wins, placing high in the ITTs, and flying the new Garmin-Chipotle kit well. Not bad for a rider that went 0-3 in finishing Tour de Frances.

July 26, 2008

Tour de France '08 Stage 20 Link Roundup

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Stage 20: The Race is Decideth

letour.jpgI had a really nice stage summary, really, but the Internets ated it and I had to take off for Comic-Con. But here is a simpler summary:

Everyone was wrong

Evans didn't race Sastre for the yellow jersey; he raced Bernard Kohl for second, which either reflects poorly on Evans, really well on Kohl and Sastre, or both.

I could also say:

Bjarne Riis was right

Riis may have raced with three GC contenders, but Sastre was his go-to rider. Sastre is his ever-consistent Grand Tour rider, full of experience and strong GC finishes. Even with Frank Schleck in yellow, Riis bet it all on a Sastre gambit on Alpe d'Huez. That gambit put Sastre in yellow, strained Evans, and delivered today's outcome.

As someone who's always emphasized the role of teams in the sport of cycling, I was a bit worried that Evans would defy this pseudo-truism. There's much to admire in Evans gutsy attempt, the mix of strong TT abilities and solo defenses on the climbs. It would also have been a nice storyline to have the Tour bookended with Silence Lotto's Evans and first and Wim Vansevenant in last.

But it is a team sport. CSC once again proved that. Kudos to Andy Schleck, Frank Schleck, Volodymir Gustov, Jens Voigt, Fabian Cancellara, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, and Nicki Sorensen. Evans, Valverde, Cunego, and Vande Velde are just a small sampling of their victims. Bernard Kohl found himself asking them permission to collect his KOM points.

Even on today's Individual Time Trial they did their damage as a team and they will rightly ride into Paris first together tomorrow with all nine of their riders.

July 25, 2008

Tour de France '08 Stage 19 Link Roundup

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July 24, 2008

Stage 18: Columbia's Burghardt gets a break

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.

July 23, 2008

Tour de France '08 Stage 17 Link Roundup Final

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Stage 17: All on Sastre, Was it Enough?

letour.jpgWas it enough? That's the big question today as CSC played a great hand today, successfully transferred the yellow jersey to their anointed leader, Carlos Sastre. Another stage win on Alpe d'Huez and another yellow jersey are cause for celebration, but Evans knew he could sacrifice both today as long as he kept the gap close. 1'34" seems like a pretty small number when you think of Evans on his prototype Ridley TT bike. It seems strange to say, but CSC, sitting in first and second in the GC, must be worried.

Alpe d'Huez, it's switchbacks adorned with drunken and partially dressed fans, delivered the promised drama as all the GC contenders had to duke it out on the last decisive mountain stage for this Tour. As it has been in the mountains of this Tour, it was Riis' CSC team that controlled the tactics on the day, delivering his three climbers to the base of the Alpe d'Huez primed and ready. The Sastre/Schlecks trio worked to perfection as Sastre attacked at immediately, once, then twice, to solo his way to victory and yellow. As all eyes watched Frank Schleck in the yellow jersey among them, no one seemed intent on chasing the future yellow jersey ahead.

Move after move attempted to go up the road, but Andy Schleck was on amazing form and played the role of sheep herder to perfection. Anyone who attacked quickly found Andy stuck to their back wheel, dragging them back. It all seemed effortless as he moved back and forth up the chase group, keeping his wheeled sheep in a tight bunch. The chase group was unable to maintain any sort of pace: Menchov had been dropped after unwisely attempting to go with Sastre's first dig, but was able to claw his way back in as the pace stuttered.

As Sastre's lead hit the two minute mark, the grand moment that everyone seemed to be waiting for happened: Evans went to the front to chase. He proved his reserve was simply patience, not weakness, as he single-handedly kept Sastre's lead contained even under the brunt of CSC's three-pronged attack.

Christian Vande Velde fought valiantly to try and claw back the time he lost yesterday, but ultimately his efforts were spoiled by both Andy Schleck's policing and Bernhard Kohl, who seemed eager to chase down every move early on the climb. Vande Velde was able to put in a final jump with less than 2k to go, but he couldn't stay free of the chase and was caught at the line.

AG2R had a good ride today with Valjavec and Efimkin both putting in good attacks today to round out the top ten in GC.

July 22, 2008

Tour de France '08 Stage 16 Link Roundup Final

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Stage 16: Dessel gets his win, Vande Velde loses big time

letour.jpgLots of riders were sent up the road today -- some for individual glory, some as GC pawns. Cyril Dessel took the glory and didn't even seem to see the finish line as he sprinted across ahead of Casar, Arroyo, and Popovych. Columbia seemed well positioned with Hincapie and Siutsou in the break, but they weren't able to make the selection over the top of the final Cime de la Bonette. Schumacher spent much of the day off the front by himself but full apart on the Cime de la Bonette-Restafond.

CSC continues to dominate the peloton in the mountains. O'Grady, Cancellara, and Gustov all went to the front to crack some legs on the Cime de la Bonette-Restafond. They also won the send-a-teammate-up-the-road sweepstakes as both Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Jens Voigt were able to come back and provide assistance and tempo. When it wasn't one of those riders in front, it was grimacing face of Andy Schleck dosing out the pain pills. Bjarne Riis wanted more climbs to force selections, but even with the full armada firing salvos, CSC didn't push the group hard enough -- perhaps they were saving energy for tomorrow.

Vande Velde was the big casualty, losing time on final climb and then even more time on the descent as he crashed. Luckily he was able to have Ryder Hesjedal drop back from the break to help out. Menchov was a smaller casualty as he became unhitched on the windy descent to the finish -- Kirchen joined him on the chase to the finish. Valverde lost ground on the steep ramps at the top of the Bonette, but his descending skills got him back into the yellow-jersey group.

Evans seemed unthreated by the pressure of CSC, even prefering to weather it all himself san teammates. He had Popovych up the road, but Popovych got the green light to go for the stage win instead of dropping back to provide help Evans. CSC has to hope that they hurt his legs enough before tomorrow's Galibier-Telegraphe-Croix de Fer-Alpe d'Huez smackdown.

The Tour's youngest rider John-Lee Augustyn of Barloworld probably had the best and worst day of his career: he took the final climb up the Bonette-Restafond, then proceeded to shoot straight off the side of the mountain on the descent. The helicopters were there to catch his head-first belly-slide down the slopes in all its glory, but most importantly he was not seriously injured.

July 21, 2008

Tour de France '08 Rest Day 2 Link Roundup

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July 20, 2008

Tour de France '08 Stage 15 Link Roundup

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Stage 15: Deadly Andy, Triumphant Frank

letour.jpgThere were two races today. Egoi Martinez, Danny Pate, Simon Gerrans, and José Luis Arrieta formed the early break and probably weren't expecting to stay away, but nasty conditions on the road changed the storyline. Oscar Pereiro was the victim of a terrible broken-bones crash, going over a guard rail and falling five meters to the switchback below. There was also a double pileup on both sides of roundabout as the slick conditions knocked the peloton over like dominoes. Even Menchov had a big dig undone by a slippery switchback.

In the race of the breakaway, Egoi Martinez looked to be the strongest as he broke the group apart on the slopes of Prato Nevoso. But Pate bridged back and, more slowly but surely, Gerrans bridged back as well. Gerrans then somehow found the legs to attack on the steep slopes of the finish to take the win ahead of Martinez and Pate. I've photographed Danny Pate winning on the flat turf of Missouri, but little did I expect the "TT specialist" to hang with a Spanish climber in the Pyrenees. I think Vaughters owes him a giant bottle of wine as well.

In the race of the GC, CSC again brought the pain. Nearly the entire team was in force to ratchet up the tempo, but it was Deadly Andy Schleck who deserves the big kudos on the day as he slew the yellow dragon Cadel Evans. So much was expected of Andy Schleck, even a yellow jersey, but he had a bad time in the Pyrenees. Today he showed why so much potential is seen in the young rider. He hammered the leaders repeatedly and each time he seemed used up, Sastre would then launch a big attack. Then it would come back together, Deadly Andy would fight back up, and then kill them again. Brother Frank sat comfortably on Cadel Evans' wheel, letting him try and dig the sharp attacks back, weakening with each attempt. It was cruel, almost, to watch the CSC trio dismantle Evans.

Sastre, Kohl, and Menchov finally sprung free and Valverde bridged up. It was open bar on Evans as everyone in the top ten sensed the opportunity to gain time. Kohl, sitting in fourth place in the GC, was suddenly in position to take the yellow jersey from Evans. Only Sastre could hold onto his wheel as Kohl sprinted for fifth place on the day. Kohl is a familiar sight in the mountains, but who would have predicted that the Gerolsteiner rider would be laying it all on the line on in the Alps to take yellow?

It was then up to Frank Schleck to determine who would win the battle for yellow. With Evans reeling, the advantage was Frank Schleck's: he only needed one second and he got nine. It was a bit cruel for poor Kohl, who needed 46 seconds to take yellow and got 47, but he did take the KOM jersey for his efforts.

Christian Vande Velde gained time on Evans as well but lost spots in the GC as Kohl and Menchov were able to leapfrog with their efforts. Menchov suddenly seems a lot more dangerous and will be watched more carefully as he's quietly fought back the time lost due to inattentiveness on the flat, windy stages.

CSC can't celebrate just yet. They'll need a lot more time than 8 seconds on Evans to take yellow in Paris, so expect more fireworks after the rest day.

July 19, 2008

Tour de France '08 Stage 14 Link Roundup

Please see http://cyclodro.me/race/tdf2008/stage14 for more frequent updates

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July 18, 2008

Delayed Stage 14 blogging

I'm doing a TT tomorrow morning so no early stage report from me. I will be doing my best to keep posting links live at velo.kwc.org (aka cyclodro.me -- it's new name). Check for stage 14 links at:

http://cyclodro.me/race/tdf2008/stage14

Tour de France '08 Stage 13 Link Roundup Final

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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.

July 17, 2008

Tour de France '08 Stage 12 Link Roundup Final

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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.

July 16, 2008

Tour de France '08 Stage 11 Link Roundup Final

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July 15, 2008

Tour de France '08 Rest Day Link Roundup

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July 16, 2008

Stage 11: CSC's Arvesen outsprints the break

letour.jpgWith the peloton looking to extend their rest day one more day as they leave the Pyrenees, and with news of another EPO case (this one caught with the goods), it was an ideal day for a breakaway to strike. 12 riders made the move and it was Kurt-Asle Arvesen who emerged victorious in the breakaway cat-and-mouse. Taking the lead in the sprint, he held off Ballan and Elmiger to just take it at the line. It started with the catch of Cofidis' Moinard at 4k to go. Moinard had made the best of a solo effort off the front, but the rest of the 12-man breakaway group was too much in the end, especially with the likes of Arvesen, Wegmann, and Pozzatto in the mix.

With Moinard caught, Arvesen and Elmiger jumped and Arvesen did his best to egg Elmiger into taking pulls. Ballan and Moerenhout then caught on, and the jockeying began. Ballan took a flyer with less than 1km to go, but Arvesen chased him down and went to the front. Arvesen went through sharp-right hander with 300m to go first and was able to use the slight rise on the finishing straight to his advantage.

We were treated to a rare sight today: Silence-Lotto leading the peloton. It remained a rare sight as Caisse d'Epargne's Oscar Pereiro decided to make a repeat of his Tour-de-France-winning breakaway tactic from 2006. He jumped off the front with nary a reaction at first. CSC seemed to decide that Silence-Lotto has as much leg-power as Phonak in those days and went to the front to keep that contained. Once Pereiro was caught and CSC got the win with Arvesen, Silence-Lotto was free to patrol the front the peloton once more.

The message is clear: Evans' team isn't in control of this race, CSC is. Evans may win this race in the ITT, but he's going to have a hard time on the road until then.

Barloworld may not have withdrawn from the race, but they are pretty well decimated after the news of Moises Duenas EPO positive and the subsequent catching of him with the doping goods. Felix Cardenas abandoned today with an injury and Paolo Longo crashed out with a broken collarbone. With Soler already gone, that leaves the team at half strength.

July 14, 2008

Tour de France '08 Stage 10 Link Roundup Final

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Stage 10: CSC/FSchleck kill the GC, Saunier Duval Piepoli/Cobo rule Hautacam, Evans squeeks by

letour.jpgAt last, we get a rock 'em sock 'em mountain stage with carnage spread over two giant mountains. The race was blown up like a pinata by CSC and Saunier Duval swept in to pick up the candy.

It was a familiar sight in the mountains: Saunier Duval went 1/2 as Piepoli crossed first and Cobo second. Not far behind was Frank Schleck, who was desparately seeking prize that CSC was seeking most: the yellow jersey. But he'll have to wait for the next mountain stage. Cadel Evans may have been far down the road, but he was able to snag a 1 second lead, and he tearfully accepted his prize. Saunier Duval's Riccardo Ricco may not have been part of the finishing duo, but he finished with the Evans group and also took enough points on the Tourmalet to take two jerseys, KOM and best young rider.

CSC have been the harbingers of pain this Tour. If see them at the front, you know that something hard and nasty is brewing. Last time we saw them digging in at the front the peloton was split in half. They setup their cards early as Fabian Cancellara worked hard to make the breakaway and stay up the road over the Col du Tourmalet. Back in the peloton, Gustov kicked it up, stringing out the leaders on the Tourmalet. Next was Jens Voigt. Riis said he had been saving Voigt, winding him up as a spring, and today he was sprung. With a face screwed up in agony, he pulled the ever-dwindling selection up and cover the rest of the Tourmalet.

The damage was huge -- Valverde and Cunego had been cracked. Not all hope was lost for Valverde and Cunego, though. They were only half a minute down and had the descent to catch on for the Hautacam. But CSC wasn't done yet: they still had one more pain bringer, Fabian Cancellara, waiting in the wings. Cancellara dropped back and banished hope for Valverde. Even with a couple of Caisse d'Epargne teammates, there was little chance of outdoing Voigt and Cancellara.

On the slopes of the Hautacam, Saunier Duval emerged unscathed from CSC's attacks. It was quickly a blur of CSC and Saunier Duval jerseys jumping up the road: Piepoli, Sastre, Cobo, Frank Schleck, back and forth. Piepoli, Cobo, and Schleck were the survivors, and soon the Saunier Duval tandem was able to shed Schleck. The Saunier Duval tactics weren't as well-honed as CSC's -- at one point Schleck was able to use Cobo to bridge up to Piepoli -- but in the end they stuck.

Further down the road the Evans group contained the rest of the riders who can hope to be on the podium in Paris. Garmin-Chipotle's Christian Vande Velde was a happy man as he was able to stick with the attacks and put in some of his own in order to slot into 3rd in the GC. As usual, I'll leave it to the eloquent words of Jonathan Vaughters to summarize their day:

Go F*ckin' Christian!!!!!!!!!!!!!! JV

Gerolsteiner's Bernhard Kohl also did well as he jumped off the front of that group to vault up to 4th in the GC. CSC's Carlos Sastre was probably a little less happy to have to stick with Evans as he had to sacrifice GC aspirations to preserve Frank Schleck's position. Menchov can be happy that he stuck with the group after all the bad luck he's had this Tour. A good time trial could get him on the podium in Paris.

The biggest losers on the day were Valverde and Cunego at almost 6 minutes back (there goes my prediction). They can almost certainly say farewell to the GC as it's hard to imagine they making up that time on Evans. Kim Kirchen lost four minutes and the yellow jersey today.

July 13, 2008

Stage 9: Ricco the Cobra strikes again

letour.jpgIt's a good thing that Ricco decided to come to the Tour de France after all. With a more proper mountain stage win to his credit he can now start accepting the comparisons to Marco Pantani in earnest. Saunier Duval was all over the front of the peloton as riders tried their attack. He flew off the front of the pack on the Col d'Aspin -- it looked like he was climbing a different mountain the way he blazed past everyone else on the mountain. from there was long 26km descent to down the long descent to the finish in Bagneres-de-Bigorre, which Ricco tackled with ease. Meanwhile, Caisse d'Epargne looked to have the chase group in control up the Col d'Aspin and on the half-hearted chase to the finish -- plenty of riders were attacking out of the chase, including Efimkin, who took second place.

Ricco's success was in part due to the conservativeness of the GC leaders. Evans managed a small crash to get road rash to match Valverde's and everyone seemed content to save energy for tomorrow's big stage. The 26km descent from the Col d'Aspin to the finish line was really too much energy for any of them to waste. Tomorrow there's the Col du Tourmalet and a mountain top finish on the Hautacam to contend with.

Schumacher tried a small acceleration on the Col d'Aspin which cost him in the ended -- Vande Velde took over his third place spot as he ended up losing time to the rest of the GC contenders. Columbia's Thomas Lövkvist also had trouble today and passed his white jersey to CSC's Andy Schleck.

It will be interesting to see if Ricco takes over for teammate David de la Fuente in the hunt for polka dot points. de la Fuente had his own battle today as he had to protect his jersey from assault by Sebastian Lang, who was part of the early break that lasted all the way to the Col d'Aspin. de la Fuente dug deep to get 4th on the climb and keep his lead.

Tour de France '08 Stage 9 Link Roundup Take 2

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July 12, 2008

velo.kwc.org updates

velo.kwc.org.screenshot.jpgI've made small improvements to velo.kwc.org over the past few days to try and improvement the overall experience. Some of the most notable improvements are:

  • Photo sidebar: daily photos from the Yahoo AFP/Getty photo feed appear in the sidebar. I take a snapshot of the feed every day so if you go to past stages you'll see that day's feed appear in the sidebar (starting with stage 6). I don't let this one continually update as the photos tend to decrease in quality after the race has finished.
  • Stage highlight video: you'll find a highlight video for each stage at the top of the page.
  • Faster: the first day I got hit with a bunch of unexpected StumbleUpon traffic, which took me over quota. Sine then I've been slowly optimizing the site to help it load faster as well as keep me from ever going over quota again. Much thanks to bp, who pointed out that memcache had been ported to Google Appengine.
  • More sites: over 30 sites are checked regularly now plus any other random links I see in my own reading. I use a combination of RSS feeds and link guessing to find pages. I still don't have a good way of automatically getting VeloNews' and Versus' videos -- suggestions are welcome there.

I may add more features as they come to me. I would like to do more with video, though problems with getting VeloNews/Versus videos plus issues with their Dayport player leave me limited there. I may also open up the gates for people to start submitting links, if that interests you. I can also add more sites -- I'll pretty much take anything so long as it provides a different point of view.

Tour de France '08 Stage 8 Link Roundup Final

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Stage 8: Cavendish again as Columbia controls the race

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.

July 11, 2008

First doping case: Beltran

Say it ain't so: L'Equipe is reporting that Manuel Beltran of Liquigas was caught with traces of EPO in his blood in a test conducted after Stage 1. There's sure to be plenty more news items as this develops.

Tour de France '08 Stage 7 Link Roundup Final

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Stage 7: Caisse d'Epargne's Sanchez solos to victory

letour.jpgOn a hard, windy, peloton-fracturing day, Caisse d'Epargne's Luis Sanchez was the most daring and took the stage victory. After sitting in a four-man break that was swept back up, he attacked again on the run-in to the finish and held off the chase. He had plenty of help from his team -- he had two teammates, including Valverde, in the chase group, who marked the attempts to try and reel him in.

Caisse d'Epargne is either one of the strongest teams or burning a lot of matches. They've been patrolling the front of the peloton much of this first week and have two stage wins to show for it. Today was a stage that really challenged teams -- it was hard to figure out which group to call the peloton -- but Caisse d'Epargne showed up to play. The opposite can be said of Cadel Evans' Silence Lotto team. Whereas Caisse d'Epargne had three riders in the final selection of 23 riders, Evans had zero: his lieutenant Popovych was caught back in a chase group. Similarly isolated was Rabobank's Menchov and Columbia's Kirchen, though the latter is understandable given the amount of time that Columbia spent at the front.

CSC did a lot of work today, first to drive a split in the peloton and then help keep the breakaway contained. They didn't get the stage win, but all of their GC hopes -- the Schlecks and Sastre -- were in the final selection. Garmin-Chipotle wasn't expected to contend for GC, but Vande Velde continues to shine and finished with the chase group to hold fourth in the overall. Unfortunately they lost big Maggy Backstedt to the time cut -- he's battling some sort of acid buildup in the legs.

Cunego was the big loser of the GC hopefuls today. He crashed and ended up losing almost half a minute to the other GC contenders.

July 10, 2008

Tour de France '08 Stage 6 Link Roundup Final

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SAAB Fly to the Finish Codes: Sprint, First Class

    <h2><span class="stage-span"><a href="/race/tdf2008/stage6/">Stage 6</a></span></h2>

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Stage 6: Ricco calls his shot, Big prizes for Kirchen

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.

July 9, 2008

Millar's Diary: Looking after our yellow numbers

Garmin-chipotle.gif

Yeah, yeah, this is in the link roundups, but this is one of the most thrilling bits of reading I've read this Tour, taking you right in to the heart of a shattering peloton:

Millar: Looking after our yellow numbers

At this point, I realized that the shit was hitting the fan. It became more apparent as I saw Fedrigo pulling out of the line further ahead, then Cobo, then Kreuziger. This is when I knew that all hell had broken loose. When riders of that quality can’t hold the wheel, you have to face the fact that the race is ON and you’re on your own.

Tour de France '08 Stage 5 Link Roundup Final

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SAAB Fly to the Finish Codes: Born From Jets

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Stage 5: Cavendish Gets his First Tour Win

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.

July 8, 2008

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.

Tour de France '08 Stage 4 Link Roundup Final

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SAAB Fly to the Finish Codes: Efficiency, Hammering

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July 7, 2008

Tour de France '08 Stage 3 Link Roundup Final

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See velo.kwc.org/race/tdf2008/stage3/ for more frequent updates.

SAAB Fly to the Finish Codes: Aerodynamic, Sportcombi

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Stage 3: A break, a crash, and lots of shakeup

letour.jpgCofidis' Dumoulin took the stage, Agritubel's Feillu the yellow jersey, and Garmin-Chipotle's Frishkorn some podium respect as a breakaway went from start to finish with over two minutes on the pack. Dumoulin attacked with a kilometer to go, Frishkorn followed, Feillu countered, and Dumoulin countered the counter. As a fan of Frishkorn's diaries on VeloNews, I hoped he could cross the line first instead of second, but any podium spot is spectacular. Frishkorn's face was a mixture of disappointment and joy after the race. You have to appreciate the excitement of Jonathan Vaughters, who posted this to Twitter during the race when it became clear the break would win:

Willy is going to make it!!! Now can he win??? Mass confusion behind, crashes, wind... Le Guerre!!! JV

Le Guerre indeed -- today was supposed to be the first proper sprint stage, but crashes and winds were thrown into the mix and changed everything. A crash as the peloton split around a median ended up splitting the peloton into three, sending white jersey Ricco and Menchov into the second group. Saunier Duval and Rabobank worked hard to bring their riders back, but Quick Step and Liquigas were busy putting the hammer down in the tailwind.

Robbie McEwen took the field sprint over Erik Zabel at 2:03 back. It was another half a minute to the Menchov/Ricco group and even longer to the peloton. The crash cost many riders, though none more than Jose Angel Gomez, who hit the deck with another big crash (see Flanders).

The chaos of a stage wouldn't be complete without protests. Christian Prudhomme was able to negotiate a hole in a large group of protesters blocking the road just in time for the breakaway to just scoot past. Bernard Hinault handled a protester on the podium less diplomatically, giving him a good shove off the stage.

July 6, 2008

Tour de France '08 Stage 2 Link Roundup Final

This list is now 90% computer-generated, so I apologize as I work out the kinks. Feel free to suggest more sites that should be included.

Final: more cyclingnews, including Chavanel, lots of WorldCycling.tv content, Bruyneel, etc...

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SAAB Fly to the Finish Codes: Echelon, Time Bonus

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July 5, 2008

Tour de France '08 Stage 1 Link Roundup

letour.jpgI'm hastily writing some software to do the link roundup for me, so this is hopefully the last of the hand-made roundups. I flew in this morning at 9AM, so today will be slightly less attentive.

Versus Highlight Video:

SAAB Fly to the Finish Codes: SAAB, Brittany

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Tour de France 2008 Stage 1: Valverde Makes an Immediate Mark

letour.jpgI'd like to pretend that my Valverde overall prediction last night somehow applied to the results of today's stage, but the fact is that I hardly expected the GC contenders to come and play today. Valverde's win today had little to do with time gains as he was already sitting up and celebrating far before the line. Instead, it was a mental strike at Cadel Evans and the rest of the GC field. I worried that the lack of a Prologue would leave less room to make a statement about form, but there are already three distinct groupings in the standings: Valverde up top, Evans, Kirchen, Ricco, and Cobo one second back, and Sastre, Menchov, Sanchez, and Cunego seven seconds back. Poor Soler, who crashed and then had his chase slowed down by poor turning. His sights will be readjusted onto the polka dot mountain jersey now that he lost 3'04" today.

On a snotty note: those Columbia jerseys suck -- you can hardly tell if it's a Milram or Columbia train up front, and it's even worse when you have Erik Zabel riding in the Columbia train. I thought I didn't like the High Road jerseys, but the legion of the light blues does it.

January 1, 2006

Tour de France coverage

Tour de France 2003: Armstrong x 4

Tour de France 2004: Armstrong joins the greats (x 5)

Tour de France 2005: Armstrong x 6

Tour de France 2006: Armstrong's Last (x 7)

Tour de France 2007: Floyd?