Tag: Le Tour 2011

Le Tour- Stage 21

Créteil to Paris Champs-Élysées 59 miles

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Le sigh.

When an event like this finishes I’m immediately overcome with nostalgia because while it requires a certain amount of energy and discipline to persist, by the end of it your efficiency at the task is improved and you are inured and habituated to the inconvenience.

The absence persists as a phantom limb and the possibility of a next time seems unimaginably distant.

I’m not a particularly good prognosticator but I take solace in the fact most others aren’t either.  Before the race I didn’t even know who Cadel Evans was and like Armando and Jada Yuan thought this would be a duel between the Schlecks and Contador.  Hushovd and Voeckler were surprisingly strong performers and I knew it was over for Contador when he passed attacking on the Pyrenees where his advantages were strongest.  In the Pyrenees the crowds were rooting for the Spaniard, in the Alps they were chanting “Doper.  Doper.”

I’d call yesterday’s Time Trial by the Schlecks disappointing except that it wasn’t really.  Cadel Evans had an extraordinary performance, finishing 55:40 only 7 Seconds in 2nd to Tony Martin who set a blistering pace.  Contador finished 3rd but nowhere near the time he needed to erode the Schlecks’ lead.

This last Stage is a parade so these standings won’t change-

Rank Name Team ET delta
1 Cadel Evans BMC 83h 45′ 20″
2 Andy Schleck Leopard Trek 83h 46′ 54″ + 01′ 34″
3 Frank Schleck Leopard Trek 83h 47′ 50″ + 02′ 30″
4 Thomas Voeckler Europcar 83h 48′ 40″ + 03′ 20″
5 Alberto Contador Saxo Bank 83h 49′ 17″ + 03′ 57″
6 Samuel Sanchez Euskaltel 83h 50′ 15″ + 04′ 55″
7 Damiano Cunego Lampre 83h 51′ 25″ + 06′ 05″
8 Ivan Basso Cannondale 83h 52′ 43″ + 07′ 23″
9 Tom Danielson Garmin 83h 53′ 35″ + 08′ 15″
10 Jean-Christophe Peraud AG2R 83h 55′ 31″ + 10′ 11″
11 Pierre Rolland Europecar 83h 56′ 03″ + 10′ 43″
12 Rein Taaramae Cofidis 83h 56′ 49″ + 11′ 29″

I’m including 11th and 12th places because those are the positions of Pierre Rolland who clinched the White Jersey of the Young Riders champion and Rein Taaramae the runner up.

Remaining to be contested is the Green Jersey of the Sprint champion.  It seems highly likely that it will be Cavendish, Rojas, and Gilbert in that order.  Fourth will be Cadel Evans and it’s interesting to contemplate that if he were behind in the General Classification and a little closer to the lead in the points whether the customs of Le Tour would allow him to put on a move and ‘steal’ the maillot jaune.

Sportsmanship isn’t what it used to be and as Jada reports

Both the public and Tour organizers have been very vocal about wanting the Tour to get more exciting.

Last year’s Tour featured giant pileups seemingly each of the first ten days, and the bruised and bloodied riders slowed down the pace of the peloton several times to allow fallen riders to catch up. That’s wonderful and sportsmanlike, but doesn’t really make for a good race. With considerable market pressure on the Tour from the fast-gaining-in-reputation Giro d’Italia, officials hope the riders are a little more selfish this year. Race director Christian Prudhomme has also said that he wished Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador had attacked each other more last year, which one assumes he hopes they take as a challenge.

Of course that was the year of the 39 Second Chain which may be avenged in the Court of Arbitration for Sports on August 2nd.

So your final 2011 Vs. coverage starts at 8 am.  In the commentators prediction competition only Paul improved his position yesterday and he’s mathematically out so unless they pick again today (and they might, there is that final sprint) Phil is the wire to wire winner.

Le Tour- Stage 20

Grenoble to Grenoble 27 miles

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

So what happened yesterday?  It became a 3 person race.

Contador attacked the moment they started going up hill and for the first two climbs seemed well on his way to duplicating Andy Schleck’s surprise performance on Thursday.  However on the long descent from the Col du Galabier all the prime contenders caught up and it was basically a sprint up the Alpe-d’Huez.

It’s not that Contador finished badly (in 3rd, only 23 Seconds off) it’s that he needed a spectacular one and didn’t get it with Evans and the Schlecks just 34 Seconds behind.  The person hurt worst was Voeckler, 3+ Minutes behind, losing the lead he had kept against all expectations for 10 days equaling his 2004 performance.

But there are only 2 Stages left, today’s Individual Time Trial and the Sprint and parade up the Champs Elysees

Rank Name Team ET delta
1 Andy Schleck Leopard Trek 82h 48′ 43″
2 Frank Schleck Leopard Trek 82h 49′ 36″ + 00′ 53″
3 Cadel Evans BMC 82h 49′ 40″ + 00′ 57″
4 Thomas Voekler Europcar 82h 50′ 53″ + 02′ 10″
5 Damiano Cunego Lampre 82h 52′ 14″ + 03′ 31″
6 Alberto Contador Saxo Bank 82h 52′ 38″ + 03′ 55″
7 Samuel Sanchez Euskaltel 82h 53′ 05″ + 04′ 22″
8 Ivan Basso Cannondale 82h 53′ 23″ + 04′ 40″
9 Tom Danielson Garmin 82h 55′ 54″ + 07′ 11″
10 Rolland Pierre Europcar 82h 57′ 40″ + 08′ 57″

Is it all over but the shouting?  Yes and no.  Being extremely generous as many as 6 riders still have a shot at the malliot jaune, but the farther down the list you go the more riders have to choke to put you at the top no matter how spectacular a Time Trialist you are.

On the outside fringe of realism is France’s hope Voeckler in fourth, but he has to make up over 2 Minutes.  This is actually a 3 person race now, Cadel Evans and the Schleck brothers are under 60 Seconds apart.  The rap on the Schlecks is that they’re terrible trialers, but last year Andy went head to head against Contador who’s reputed to be one of the best.  Evans has his work cut out for him especially since he’ll be starting ahead and the Schlecks will know exactly what time they have to beat.

In the Individual Time Trials what happens is the riders go off individually at intervals in reverse order of standing so that the last placed of the 167 riders remaining starts first.  There is overtaking, but no help from your team.  As flat as this stage is the 2 bumps are thought to favor the Schlecks.

King of the Mountains (Polka Dot Jersey) is Samuel Sanchez.  There are no more Mountains.  Garmin is almost certain to be top Team with a 12 Minute advantage over Leopard Trek.  The White Jersey (Youth) could be won by Pierre Rolland (boosted by Friday’s Stage victory at the Alpe-d’Huez) or Rein Taaramae 1:33 behind.

Sprinting is complicated, I’ll let BruceMcF explain it

Nobody expects Mark (Cavendish) to lose the Green Jersey with 15 points ahead of JJ Rojas, who is not expected to be within three or four places of Mark on the line on Sunday.

However, the Champs Elysee is the last Flat Sprinty Sprint Sprint stage, with the famous bunch sprint still ahead to decide the most prestigious of the stage winners. Though Tyler Farrar and Andre Griepel long ago gave up hopes of the Green (Jersey), they will both be looking for the stage winner of the last day.

The Mad Manx once again finished behind the elimination time of 25 Minutes, but once again so did 83 others (this time including his closest rival JJ Rojas) and once again Tour organizers evoked the escape clause (Santity Clause?  You-a doan fool-a me.  There ain’t no Sanity Clause) and invoked a 20 point penalty rather than drop half the field.  An interesting intellectual exercise would be to figure out the Sprint winner had the rule been enforced (hint- Cadel Evans).

Anyway the penultimate coverage starts on Vs. at 8 am conflicting with Nurburgring Qualifying on Speed.  Tomorrow I’ll be able to pay exclusive attention to the Champs Elysee stroll also on Vs. at 8 am since the tape delayed Formula One will be on Fox at noon.

Le Tour- Stage 19

Modane Valfréjus to Alpe-d’Huez 69 miles

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

As it turns out BruceMcF was quite right to suspect that yesterday the Mad Manx, Mark Cavendish, 4 Stage winner and leader in the points competition by a comfortable 35 would come under tremendous pressure to finish inside the time limit (which yesterday was 33:07) or be dropped from the Tour.

Well he didn’t do that, and was part of a group of 88 riders that finished 35:50 back.

But there is safety in numbers and as one can imagine the Tour organizers were kind of embarrassed at the prospect of losing about half the field, including some other high recognition sprinters like Gilbert and Hushovd, so instead they used a loophole in the rules designed for after a spectacular Peloton splitting crash and fined the all the riders in the group 20 points instead.

This did a bit of reshuffling of the sprinter standings from Wednesday to Thursday and instead of a commanding 35 point lead the Mad Manx has a margin of but a bare 15 and is headed to another day in the mountains.

At the front Andy Schleck put on quite a show with an early break away after the Casse Déserte that he maintained all the way up the Galibier and gained more than 4 Minutes over Alberto Contador who has defeated him for the past two years.  While the shuffling in the GC was not quite as dramatic there were still a few changes-

Rank Name Team ET delta
1 Thomas Voeckler Europcar 79h 34′ 06″
2 Andy Schleck Leopard Trek 79h 34′ 21″ + 00′ 15″
3 Frank Schleck Leopard Trek 79h 35′ 14″ + 01′ 08″
4 Cadel Evans BMC 79h 35′ 18″ + 01′ 12″
5 Damiano Cunego Lampre 79h 37′ 52″ + 03′ 46″
6 Ivan Basso Cannondale 79h 37′ 52″ + 03′ 46″
7 Alberto Contador Saxo Bank 79h 38′ 50″ + 04′ 44″
8 Samuel Sanchez Euskaltel 79h 39′ 26″ + 05′ 20″
9 Tom Danielson Garmin 79h 41′ 14″ + 07′ 08″
10 Jean-Christophe Peraud AG2R 79h 43′ 33″ + 09′ 27″

The most important thing is the deltas, the time margin between competitors, because after today it will be very difficult to make up more than a minute, maybe 2, in the Individual Time Trials without a major mistake or a disasterous crash.  The route tomorrow is relatively flat and short, only 27 miles.

Today’s Stage is the last in the Alps and contains 1 category 1 and 2 Unclassified climbs finishing uphill on the Alpe d’Huez.  It’s fairly short so you can expect climbing attacks early.

At about 56 miles there is a descent that looks in the profile like you’re dropping straight off a cliff.  They exaggerate the scale so the elevation changes are more visible but it is still a high speed and twisty bit and people, especially if they are tired and anxious, might make mistakes.

If there are any sprinters left, their checkpoint will be after that.

Tomorrow is a very busy day for me as I’ll also have Formula One Qualfying at Nurburgring at 8 am, the same time as Le Tour.  Today’s Vs. coverage starts at 8 am.

Le Tour- Stage 18

Pinerolo to Galibier Serre-Chevalier 125 miles

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

The story of yesterday is the group that finished 4:26 back- Frank Schleck, Cunego, Sanchez, Evans, Contador, and Andy Schleck, and the group that finished 4:53 back- Voeckler and Basso.

Contador looked to put on a move in the final descent into Pinerolo and was apparently succeeding when away from the camera and commentary the rest of the major contenders snuck up to be right there at the finish.

Voeckler would have been right there also except that pressing a little too hard he had to take an escape road off into a car park (his second slide off) and lost another 27 Seconds.

A thrilling finish, but not one that shakes up the standings-

Rank Name Team ET delta
1 Thomas Voeckler Europcar 73h 23′ 49″
2 Cadel Evans BMC 73h 25′ 07″ + 01′ 18″
3 Frank Schleck Leopard Trek 73h 25′ 11″ + 01′ 22″
4 Andy Schleck Leopard Trek 73h 26′ 25″ + 02′ 36″
5 Samuel Sanchez Euskaltel 73h 26′ 48″ + 02′ 59″
6 Alberto Contador Saxo Bank 73h 27′ 04″ + 03′ 15″
7 Damiano Cunego Lampre 73h 27′ 23″ + 03′ 34″
8 Ivan Basso Cannondale 73h 27′ 38″ + 03′ 49″
9 Tom Danielson Garmin 73h 29′ 53″ + 06′ 04″
10 Rigoberto Uran Sky 73h 31′ 25″ + 07′ 36″

My analysis is that it’s another missed opportunity for Contador and there aren’t too many of them left- today and tomorrow in the High Mountains and the Individual Time Trial on Saturday.  BruceMcF thinks there could be an attempt by the sprinters to put the Mad Manx out on time elimination.

Today’s Stage has only 3 climbs but they’re all unclassified with the sprint checkpoint before any of the tough hills.  The finish is uphill after the longest climb (but not steepest) of the day so a repeat of yesterday’s bunch finish is unlikely.  This is the centenary of the Galabier on the Tour and the highest finish ever.

Vs. starts it’s coverage at an early (unless you were already up at 5 am to watch the final landing of the Space Shuttle) 7 am so it’s possible we might see the points checkpoint finish.

Le Tour- Stage 17

Gap to Pinerolo 112 miles

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

The sporting press seems evenly divided over whether Contador or Evans benefitted the most from yesterday’s results.  At the very least it was a psychological boost to Contador’s chances as he aggressively attacked at least 4 times and was suddenly a part of the conversation after 2 weeks.

Looking at the times the results are not so clear.  There’s no doubt that Andy Schleck was hurt by his cautious descent into Gap, giving up 1:06, and Basso nearly as badly, but riders like Frank Schleck, Cunego, and Voeckler gave up just 18 Seconds and Evans gained 3.

Hushovd’s Stage win was also unexpected, and puts him in 4th place of the points competition some 84 behind the Mad Manx and 65 ahead of Greipel in 5th.  BruceMcF’s analysis of yesterday’s competition here.

In any event your adjusted overall times look like this today-

Rank Name Team ET delta
1 Thomas Voeckler Europcar 69h 00′ 56″
2 Cadel Evans BMC 69h 02′ 41″ + 01′ 45″
3 Frank Schleck Leopard Trek 69h 02′ 45″ + 01′ 49″
4 Andy Schleck Leopard Trek 69h 03′ 59″ + 03′ 03″
5 Samuel Sanchez Euskaltel 69h 04′ 22″ + 03′ 26″
6 Alberto Contador Saxo Bank 69h 04′ 38″ + 03′ 42″
7 Ivan Basso Cannondale 69h 04′ 45″ + 03′ 49″
8 Damiano Cunego Lampre 69h 04′ 57″ + 04′ 01″
9 Tom Danielson Garmin 69h 07′ 00″ + 06′ 04″
10 Rigoberto Uran Sky 69h 08′ 51″ + 07′ 55″

Today’s Stage has a category 3 climb before the sprint checkpoint and overall 2 category 3s, 2 category 2s, and a category 1.  The descent from Sestrieres is about 29 miles which is expected to be long enough to bunch the field before the final climb and descent into Pinerolo.  Since it’s not considered particularly difficult  the final section is thought by some analysists to favor Evans.

Vs. joins the race in progress at the relatively sane hour of 8 am.

Le Tour- Stage 16

Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Gap 101 miles

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Today’s Stage is pretty much steadily up hill with a dip after the feeding station and a full fledged descent at the finish following the Col de Manse, so theoretically at least there could be huge deltas as back markers struggle up hill and front runners zoom down.

There’s also the crash factor that could come into play especially if the winds are tricky or the weather is bad.

After consideration I have no reason to change yesterday’s assessment that if you’re not in the top ten now it’s extremely unlikely you’ll get there barring a catastrophic breakdown by a lot of teams and riders.  The gap between 10th and 11th is a full 1:37 and it’s 8:20 to Voeckler.

Whether he can hang on is, I think, the question of the day.  He’s not known as a climber though he did pretty good in the Pyrenees so this is probably the last chance for him to put some seconds in the bank on a Stage suited to his style.

Vs. will join the race in progress at 8 am.

Le Tour- Rest Day 2

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Had a chance to chat with Armando last night which I’ve always found very enjoyable despite others having a different experience.  Nobody is obligated to treat you any particular way on the Internet and if you’re going to expose yourself you just have to get used to that.

His analysis echos the consensus view expressed here which if I might be allowed to summarize is that Contador has missed his best opportunity for a victory and barring a miraculous comeback in the Alps is no longer a contender.

He’s a little more skeptical of the Schleck brothers’ prospects than I am, perhaps because of their reputation as poor time trialers, and likes Cadel Evan’s chances.  Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oy, Oy, Oy.

I personally think that anyone in the top 8 (well, except for Contador) is close enough to strike and 2 minutes being what it is we could even see a Frenchman (gasp), albeit one with an Alsatian name, cruising down the Champs Elysees in yellow in a little less than a week.

The standings as of the second (and last) Rest Day-

Rank Name Team ET delta
1 Thomas Voeckler Europcar 65h 24′ 34″
2 Frank Schleck Leopard Trek 65h 26′ 23″ + 01′ 49″
3 Cadel Evans BMC 65h 26′ 40″ + 02′ 06″
4 Andy Schleck Leopard Trek 65h 26′ 49″ + 02′ 15″
5 Ivan Basso Cannondale 65h 27′ 50″ + 03′ 16″
6 Samuel Sanchez Euskaltel 65h 28′ 18″ + 03′ 44″
7 Alberto Contador Saxo Bank 65h 28′ 34″ + 04′ 00″
8 Damiano Cunego Lampre 65h 28′ 35″ + 04′ 01″
9 Tom Danielson Garmin 65h 30′ 20″ + 05′ 46″
10 Kevin De Weert Quick Step 65h 30′ 52″ + 06′ 18″

What type of race do we have remaining?  Mountains.  Medium tomorrow and Alps for the next 3 days.  Then the Individual Time Trial that is supposed to be the Schleck’s Achilles’ Heel.  Finally the big parade to the Champs which is customarily contended only by the sprinters while the GC also rans accept their fate with dignity.

So there’s not much race left.

I’m hoping the Vs. coverage at 8 am has a little more recap and a little less yesterday than the first Rest Day did.  Limoux to Montpellier was instructive in the points competition but not so much for the overall.  If you miss it there are plenty of repeats at 11:30 am, 3 pm, 8 pm, and midnight.

Le Tour- Stage 15

Limoux to Montpellier 120 miles.

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

So Alberto gives up another 2 Seconds to Andy.  No big deal right?  He’ll make it up in the Time Trial.

Time ticks on filled with wouldas, shouldas, and couldas.

This was Contador’s bread and butter on his home court, there is no reason to expect it gets any better.  Who are the best of the rest?

Smart money is on the two Schlecks even though they’re not the trialers Alberto is reputed to be.  Cadel Evans- Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oy, Oy, Oy!  Basso.  Sammy Sanchez if you simply must root for a Spaniard (you Alonso fans know who you are).  Cunego is not too far behind.

But pretty much everyone else is and though the Alps are not very far away it’s the same legs as the Pyrenees.

A person who could surprise is Voeckler, he is after all actually wearing the maillot jaune and did much better than expected in the High Mountains.  He’s 1:40 clear of the competition and it could be a magical year for the Frenchman even though fairytales are usually found in the fiction section.

Today’s Stage is the last flat before Paris with just one piddly category 4 so you can expect a sprinter show.  The checkpoint is right before the finish and I expect that someone will gun for the double.

Tomorrow is the second rest day, but I’ll be posting on the results and setup for the Alps.  At 2:45 ET the U.S. Women’s Football Team will be competing for the World Cup against Japan on ESPN and unless some kind and more knowledgeable person posts first I’ll be covering that later.

Vs. joins in progress at 8 am.

Le Tour- Stage 14

Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille 105 miles

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Our last day in the Pyrenees and the last chance for some riders to make a statement.

Not that I’m expecting for Contador to pack it in, just that there are those who will look ahead to the Alps and decide to spare themselves.  We had 4 withdrawals yesterday including Kloden of Radio Shack.

Speaking of surprises, I’m not sure who would have predicted a Hushovd Stage win and Gilbert finished unexpectedly high.  There was a huge group of 54 that tied for twelfth with another 30 riders 15 Seconds behind so you might argue the deltas don’t make a difference.

Today’s Stage is all up and down with a category 3, two category 2s, two category 1s and we finish on an unclassified (though the last 100 yards is pretty flat).

After this we have a flat day (last one except the Champs Elysees finish) and then there is no rest for the wicked though there is for the riders before we attack the Alps and finish with the Individual Time Trial and parade.

Too early coverage on Vs. starts at 6:30 am.

Le Tour- Stage 13

Pau to Lourdes 95 miles

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Yesterday’s first Stage in the Pyrenees was not as dominant a day for Contador as might have been predicted on paper.  He was awfully lonely at the finish and gave up time to his main rivals in front of the home crowd.

Now 30 Seconds is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, a margin like that over a single rival can be easily made up by a bit of bad luck like a flat, but the truth is that Saxo Bank looked totally feckless in the face of a strong Leopard Trek effort from the first serious climb.

Contador’s problem is that it’s not just the :30 and it’s not just one rider he has to beat.

In the General Classification the standings look like this after the first High Mountain Stage-

Rank Name Team ET delta
1 Thomas Voeckler Europcar 51h 54′ 44″
2 Frank Schleck Leopard Trek 51h 56′ 33″ + 01′ 49″
3 Cadel Evans BMC 51h 56′ 50″ + 02′ 06″
4 Andy Schleck Leopard Trek 51h 57′ 01″ + 02′ 17″
5 Ivan Basso Cannondale 51h 58′ 00″ + 03′ 16″
6 Damiano Cunego Lampre 51h 58′ 06″ + 03′ 22″
7 Alberto Contador Saxo Bank 51h 58′ 44″ + 04′ 00″
8 Samuel Sanchez Euskaltel 51h 58′ 55″ + 04′ 11″
9 Tom Danielson Garmin 51h 59′ 19″ + 04′ 35″
10 Nicolas Roche AG2R 51h 59′ 41″ + 04′ 57″

Don’t be deceived by that even 4 Minutes, while it was a great thing for France to have a Frenchman lead Le Tour de France on Bastille Day, Voeckler is not expected to retain the maillot jaune past Saturday if he can hang onto it that long.

The people to watch are the two Schlecks, Evans, and Basso.  Sammy Sanchez is only 11 Seconds behind and could sneak up.

This Stage ramps up with a Category 3 and a category 4 climb before the Sprint checkpoint and then heads for the unclassified Col d’Aubisque and steeply down to the finish.  I think team management is going to be a real issue because it will be very difficult to stick together and help your contenders over the Col and after that a serious gap could develop as the back markers struggle up and the leaders zoom to the finish.

Coverage on Vs. starts at 8 am.

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