Tag Archive: Le Tour 2010

Jul 25 2010

Le Tour: Champs Elysees

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

The first thing to remember as you watch today’s final stage up and down the Champs Elysees is that it’s not a race anymore.

Unless of course you’re racing for the Green Sprinting Jersey in which case if you’re Alessandro Petacchi all you have to do is finish in the top six, though I expect the Manx Maniac Mark Cavendish to put on a show and push hard for his 5th stage victory.

Another thing to remember is that 39 seconds is not so much over 3 weeks of racing, about 2,263 miles.  Andy got within 6 seconds at one point.

There are people who will point to bad luck

Ironically, it is the exact figure Schleck lost to Contador on stage 15 when the Spaniard counter-attacked him moments before he suffered an untimely mechanical problem with his gears.

He also lost his brother and climbing partner Frank back at Stage 3.

Menchov won the 3rd podium place by overcoming a 21 second deficit to finish the stage 1:39 ahead of Sanchez so there’s your 2 minute Time Trial margin.

I stand by yesterday’s analysis of Le Tour 2010, but maybe next year we’ll be talking about Alberto and Andy again.

In any event I’m open to suggestions about other sport coverage.  You’ll be hearing from me about Formula One and Baseball for sure, but I’m also open to World Championship Darts (well, it’s part of the same package that Vs. is in).

Which brings up some important points.  You, as is customary, can write about any sport you want including (shudder) Hockey.  If you want me to write about it, it has to be available on Cable TV and it has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  World Championship Poker and Monster Truck Races from 2007 on endless random repeat do NOT qualify no matter how many times I actually watch them.

Nor do Professional Wrestling and Figure Skating because they’re just too political.

Jul 24 2010

Le Tour: Stage 19

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

“I still believe I can do it. It will be decided more in the head than in the legs.”

Well…

The margin is still only 8 seconds.  As Contador says– “It will be an incredibly hard day, it’s not a time trial like the others, it comes after three weeks of racing. It will be more a matter of the strength you have left and Andy is strong.”

The proximate reasons most analysts toss up their hands are the prologue results where Andy finished 42 seconds behind Alberto over a mere 5 and a half miles and last year’s Time Trial in which, while shorter, Contador finished 1:45 ahead.

On the other hand at 122 Schleck finished 5 places and a full second ahead of the Manx Maniac Mark Cavendish, a pure sprinter who won yesterday’s stage (his 4th stage win this Tour) without the assistance of his head butting blocker, Mark Renshaw.

Cavendish has hopes for the Green Sprinter’s Jersey as he is only 16 points behind the leader in that category, Alessandro Petacchi, and Thor Hushovd, the second place contender, has virtually given up- “It’s over for the green jersey. It’s a disappointment but that’s life. I can’t sprint like Cavendish and Petacchi on this Tour.”

In the race for the final podium spot in the General Classification, Sanchez doesn’t seem to have been too badly hurt by yesterday’s crash.  He still leads Menchov by 21 seconds.

Today’s stage, 33 miles from Bordeaux to Pauillac, is the last day of racing.  By tradition tomorrow’s final stage finishing on the Champs Elysees is a victory lap except for the sprinters who have one last chance to improve their standing.

Jul 23 2010

Le Tour: Stage 18

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

I hope you got a chance to see yesterday’s exciting finish.  Contador and Schleck dueling up Col du Tourmalet in the fog as if the other riders didn’t exist.

Because it’s over.

Today is a sprint which means no change.  Tomorrow is the time trial where Contador is expected to dominate.  Sunday is the final stage ending with the Champs Elysees sprint.

I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed because that would be ignoring some realities.  Lance is done, if he ever comes back it will be as a commentator (and frankly he’s been dead on in his predictive abilities) or as a Team Manager (Radio Shack is largely his creation anyway).  The problem is that Le Tour is designed to feature the riders and not the teams so it’s not like staying loyal to Ferrari when Schumacher retired.

Without Armstrong Le Tour is much more difficult to get emotionally involved in.  I’ve tried rooting for Schleck but he doesn’t seem to have a killer instinct.  His difficulties aren’t just bad luck and equipment failure, his team is incomplete and his coaches and managers were never able to muster a convincing attack.  The ‘there’s always tomorrow’ attitude of sunny optimism may be good sportsmanship, but it sure lacked winning urgency.

Perhaps Contador has a personality I’ve yet to discover that will excite me in the future, but this Tour struck me as mechanical and emotionless.  I have no problem with his standards of ‘sportsmanship’, they provided the few interesting moments in a ride that was mind numbingly predictable and entirely lacked panache.

But maybe you are a fan who thinks that one perfect moment on the Col with the two top competitors locked in a head to head contest of strength and will, a yellow haze isolating them and turning both their maillot jaune, is worth 21 days of devotion.

Well, they bike through some beautiful countryside too.

Schleck– I’m sure I’ll do a good time trial. I can see the yellow jersey in front of me, and I really want it, and I’m not going to give up until Paris.

Today’s stage is 123 miles from Salies-de-Béarn to Bordeaux (where they won’t produce plonk anymore).  Flat, 2 Sprints and the finish.

Jul 22 2010

Le Tour: Stage 17

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Well, everyone is talking tough

Schleck– “There’s only one way and that is the climb of the Tourmalet… I always said the guy who has yellow tomorrow will have the yellow in Paris… Tomorrow is definitely the queen stage.”

“What gives me a lot of confidence is that I just feel I haven’t given everything yet, I still haven’t spoken my last word on this Tour.”

Contador– “(This stage will be) very, very hard…  We can have very big gaps in (this) stage, probably more than in the time trial.”

Johan Bruyneel (manager of Armstrong’s Radio Shack team)- “It’s not yet finished… We’re going to try again.”

You have my analysis from yesterday.  The only thing that’s changed is the weather.  It rained hard last night and as we have seen slippery conditions lead to crashes and unexpected results.

Flaming hunks of twisted metal!  Hurray!

I agree that Armstrong put on quite a show, though whether it was really more significant than the equally symbolic 6th French Stage Victory is certainly arguable.

I also agree with Justin Davis that Schleck really didn’t challenge Contador Tuesday, though most of the attention was on what was probably Lance’s last hurrah.  In news I am not covering are the increasingly strident doping accusations of Greg LeMond (I think there’s more than a touch of jealousy in them) and the factoid that the disgraced Floyd Landis was dropped from the Bahati Team in Oregon’s Cascade Classic and is racing solo in an unmarked jersey.

If you’re looking for examples of ‘sportsmanship’ maybe this piece will warm the cockles of your heart, though to me it reads more like- ‘I planned to wait for the last minute all along’.

We’ll see.

Jul 20 2010

Le Tour: Recovery Day

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

The reason they call it a recovery day is you get to rest.

So what happened?

If you’re looking at the General Classification, not much.  Contador still 8 seconds ahead of Schleck.  Sanchez and Menchov about 2 minutes behind that.  11 other people you’ve never heard of (except for Leipheimer) within 10 minutes which is not an impossible margin to make up.

But time is running out.

If you’re a big Armstrong fan he made a charge.  He threatens the same tomorrow on the last mountain stage, but I don’t believe it.  Lance was racing hard from the get and he had about as much support from Team Radio Shack as you can expect.

He wasn’t able to break away from the break away and got outsprinted at the line.  They might try that again but I’m not sure why the results would be different.  If you must get your jingoism on, Radio Shack is leading the team standings by 4 and a half minutes and that’s unlikely to change for the same reasons that the other standings are- no more time.

Tomorrow is the last mountain stage, 108 miles from Pau to Col du Tourmalet.  Two category 1s and then straight up.  This is not as good a scenario for making up time as yesterday when you could magnify the margin over the peak on the finishing downhill.

Friday is 124 miles from Salies-de-Béarn to Bordeaux.  No climbs worth mentioning, so likely our final ‘Sprinter’ finish.

Saturday is the big 33 mile Time Trial where Contador buries Schleck.  Sunday is Champs day and see you next year.

So whomever you like time to get in your last licks, it will all be over soon.

Jul 20 2010

Le Tour: Stage 16

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Well, let’s chat a little about what happened.

Just as Schleck was about to put a move on Contador at the top of yesterday’s big climb (gaining perhaps as much as a minute and maybe more in the downhill) his chain slipped and by the time he was able to continue he was almost 2 minutes behind on the stage.

After resuming the race Schleck made up practically all of that deficit, but he did slip to 2nd in the General Classification and is now 8 seconds behind Contador with 2 mountain stages to go and with Contador presumed to have as much as a 2 minute advantage in Saturday’s penultimate sprint.

I think I’ll give a pass on Contador’s sportsmanship.  Frankly I’m not all that comfortable with ‘unwritten rules’ and I think they move your sport’s credibility from the ‘Olympian Ideal’ side of the scale to ‘Professional Wrestling’/’Figure Skating Political Kabuki’ just as surely as steroids.

As an athelete your duty is to try as hard as you can to win within the rules all the time, every time.

Anything else is cheating yourself and your fans.

I don’t think things are as grim for Schleck as they might be.  It’s only 8 seconds.  There are 2 more mountain stages including today.  There is a recovery day tomorrow.  I don’t think Contador is really 2 minutes faster over 34 miles (that’s actually quite a bit of time given the distance).

But there certainly isn’t much margin for error and none at all for slacking and what we have seen so far in the mountains is that Saxo Bank (Schleck) is not the team Astana (Contador) is.

Today’s 124 mile stage from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Pau has 2 category 1 and 2 Kute Kuddly Kitty Kat Klimbs and a long high speed descent into the finish.  It should be possible to generate huge deltas off the last peak depending on conditions and competition.

We’ll see what happens.

Jul 19 2010

Le Tour: Stage 15

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

I suppose I should try to avoid  any sentence that starts- “What really happened yesterday…” especially when it comes to Le Tour because I really don’t have any special insight except that which comes from watching each stage about 16 times in preference to the crap that normally infests my TV, particularly the Sunday Morning Beltway Bozo Shows.

It is a shame that I will take to my grave that I ever thought they made me better informed and worse that my persistent addiction infected my parents who have yet to recover.

But back to professional bicycle racing which, even with doping, is so much more legitimate than Wrestling, Roller Derby, or Politics.

Yesterday’s subtext is that Astana, Alberto Contador’s team, is going to try and drop every other contender by pushing the Peloton.  Schleck and Saxo Bank are keeping up so far, but Lance and Team Radio Shack have nothing to race for but pride.  My prediction is that unless Saxo Bank puts an a move (which will be quite difficult if Astana stays aggressive), Contador leaves the Pyrenees seconds behind and counts on a blistering Time Trial the penultimate stage Saturday.

Or there could be flaming hunks of twisted metal, that’s why you watch anyway isn’t it?

Stage 15, Pamiers to Bagnères-de-Luchon, is 117 miles ending with a Kute Kuddly Kitty Kat Klimb.  If Astana is serious, and there is no reason to believe they aren’t, the Peloton will again be 10 or more minutes ahead of its expected pace before that final climb even begins.

Jul 18 2010

Le Tour: Stage 14

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Today could be the end, or the beginning of the end, if either Contador or Schleck break down.

The 4 Pyrenees stages are the last places on this year’s Tour that large chunks of time are likely to be available.  Contador is counting on his time trial superiority for some fractions of a minute in the next to last stage, but it shouldn’t come to that and we may know everything by the time the Peloton mounts Port de Pailheres, one of those Kute Kuddly Kitty Kat Klimbs.

I don’t expect Leipheimer or Sanchez to put on much of a move but they are positioned, you can make arguments for others and many will.  Climbs like this can produce 15 minute deltas (for the quants).

There is that recovery day Wednesday and then one more of climbing and then it’s sprinters to the Champs Elysees.

It’s still more exciting than golf even at The Royal & Ancient because of the flaming hunks of twisted metal.  When was the last time you saw someone break a bone in a pot bunker?

Today is 115 miles from Revel to Ax 3 Domaines.  Only 2 climbs, the last one is just a category 1.

Jul 17 2010

Le Tour: Stage 13

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Well everyone (umm.. is anyone talking about this besides me?) is talking about Contador’s 11 second move on Schleck up the New Cross Rib (also called The Jalabert Ascension for you SG-1 Fans).

Disagree with my translations?  It’s not my fault the French don’t speak a sensible language like… oh say Southern US English.

‘You all’ is just you.  ‘All you all’ is you and your cousins.  Yawl is a sail boat with multiple masts the stern most of which is behind the rudder.

I’m glad we’ve settled that,

So it’s age and guile (27) vs. youth and enthusiasm.  I’m pretty sure how that works out.  Today’s stage is even less interesting than yesterday’s, 122 miles from Rodez to Revel, 3 category 4s and 2 category 3s, overall descending.

Jul 16 2010

Le Tour: Stage 12

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Just over the half way point today, one more day to the Pyrenees.  Cavendish the Manx Maniac has another controversial stage victory which moves him up in the Sprinter’s standings and does nothing at all to change the overall picture.  Head butts are an interesting innovation, but I can understand the steward’s actions and HTC-Columbia is now less the services of Mark Renshaw.

Umm… what makes them controversial is that they’re dangerous.  This is not Roller Derby or Hockey where contact is allowed and encouraged, it’s more like NASCAR where it’s merely expected.

Otherwise there’s nothing to watch.

Yawn.  3 Threes and 2 Twos, one of them at the finish in this 131 mile jaunt between Bourg-de-Péage and Mende.  Neither Contador nor Schleck are predicting any change in their 41 second gap and they seem well positioned to fend off interlopers.

Tomorrow’s stage is even less interesting if that’s possible so if there is a move before the mountains it should be today.

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