Tag Archive: Le Tour

Jul 20 2014

Le Tour 2014: Stage 15, Tallard / Nîmes

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Rafal Majka was clear by :24 at the finish but it sure looked as if Vincenzo Nibali was leaving something in the tank.  He barely even got out of the saddle to attack twice in the final 4 km which has the grouchy also rans talking about doping again, but frankly, he was never challenged except by the pure climbers and all of the top GC contenders are out of range for one reason or another.

On the stage it was Rafal Majka, Vincenzo Nibali (:24), Jean-Christophe Péraud (:26), Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet tied at :50, and Tejay Van Garderen (:54).  At under 2 minutes you had Frank Schleck (1:01), Laurens Ten Dam (1:07), Leopold Konig (1:20), and Alejandro Valverde BelMonte, Haimar Zubeldia Agirre, and Pierre Rolland at 1:24.  There were 5 more riders under 3 minutes behind, 6 under 4, 4 under 6, and 9 under 9.  Everybody else was farther back than that.

In the General Classification it is Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (4:37), Romain Bardet (4:50), Thibaut Pinot (5:06), Tejay Van Garderen (5:49), Jean-Christophe Péraud (6:08), Bauke Mollema (8:33), and Leopold Konig (9:32).  Everybody else is more than 10 minutes behind.  For Points it is Peter Sagan (361), Bryan Coquard (191), Alexander Kristoff (172), Marcel Kittel (167), Vincenzo Nibali (134), Mark Renshaw (118), André Greipel (117), and Greg Van Avermaet (115).  Everyone else is 28 points behind.  In the Climbing championship it is Joaquim Rodriguez and Rafal Majka tied at 88 with Vincenzo Nibali at 86.  Everyone else is 37 points behind.  In the Team competition it is AG2R, Belkin (12:42), Sky (38:16), Astana (46:10), Movistar (47:44), and BMC (51:01).  Everyone else is over 1 hour behind.  In Youth it is Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot (:16),  Michal Kwiatkowski (14:34), and Tom Dumoulin (47:18).  Everyone else is over an hour behind.

Today’s 138 mile stage, Tallard / Nîmes, is down hill with bumps and then flat, flat, flat.  There are no rated climbs and the Sprint Checkpoint is a little less than 50 km from the finish.  In short it sets up for a bunch sprint if the sprinters have any legs left after the Alps.  It is exposed and cross winds could break up the peleton.

Oh, and tomorrow is the last rest day.

Jul 19 2014

Le Tour 2014: Stage 14, Grenoble / Risoul

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Bad day for Sky.  As of today Le Tour is 2/3rds done and yesterday was not a good one for their emergency team leader, Riche Porte, who started fading with 25 km to go ending up 11 minutes behind stage winner and maillot jaune Vincenzo Nibali.  After Le Tour Dave Brailsford, the General Manager, may be looking for other employment as the decision to drop Bradley Wiggins looms large.  James Murdoch will, of course, never be replaced- nepotism.

What?!  You didn’t know Team Sky was part of Rupert’s media empire (a minor one to be sure)?  I find it hard to feel too badly for them.

Stage results- Vincenzo Nibali, Rafal Majka (:10), Leopold Konig (:11), Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (:50), Thibaut Pinot (:53), Tejay Van Garderen and Romain Bardet tied at (1:23), and Laurens Ten Dam (1:36).  Jean-Christophe Péraud, Frank Schleck, and Bauke Mollema tied at 2:09, Pierre Rolland and Rui Alberto Costa tied at 3:01, Michael Rogers (3:07) and Christpher Horner (3:11).  Ben Gastauer (4:02) and Michal Kwiatkowski (4:12).  Everyone else was almost 6 minutes behind or more.

In the General Classification, Vincenzo Nibali,  Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (3:37), Romain Bardet (4:24), Thibaut Pinot (4:40), Tejay Van Garderen (5:19), Jean-Christophe Péraud (6:06), Bauke Mollema (6:17), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (6:27), Rui Alberto Costa (8:35), Leopold Konig (8:36), Michal Kwiatkowski (8:51), Lauren Ten Dam (9:18), and Pierre Rolland (9:48).  Everyone else is over 10 minutes behind.

For the Points Championship it’s Peter Sagan (341), Bryan Coquard (191), Alexander Kristoff (172), Marcel Kittel (167), Mark Renshaw (118), André Greipel and Vincenzo Nibali tied at 117, Greg Van Avermaet (115).  Everyone else is over 28 points behind.

In Climbing competition we have Vincenzo Nibali (again) (70), Joaquim Rodriguez (53), Thibaut Pinot (41), Alejandro Valverde BelMonte and Rafal Majka tied at 40.  Everybody else at least 6 points behind.  Between the Teams it is AG2R, Belkin (9:24), Sky (23:46), Astana (29:20), BMC (33:31), Movistar (45:25), and EuropCar (55:33).  Omega Pharma leads a group of 10 teams at under 2 hours behind and the rest are over 3 hours back.  In the Youth Contest it is Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot (:16),  Michal Kwiatkowski (4:27), and Tom Dumoulin (37:50).  Everyone else is over an hour behind.

Today’s stage is 110 miles long.  Mercifully for the sprinters the Sprint Checkpoint is early before any of the climbs.  There are 2 Category 1s and 1 Beyond Categorization.

Distance Name Length Category
Km 82.0 Col du Lautaret (2 058 m) 34 km @ 3.9% 1
Km 132.5 Col d’Izoard (2 360 m) – Souvenir Henri Desgrange 19 km @ 6% H
Km 177.0 Montée de Risoul (1 855 m) 12.6 km @ 6.9% 1

What they are chiefly is very, very long and the finish up hill.  It is our last day in the Alps, tomorrow will be a day for the sprinters if any of them are left.

Jul 18 2014

Le Tour 2014: Stage 13, Saint-Étienne / Chamrousse

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Well you could call it a Sprint because most of the usual suspects were involved less André Greipel who fell on a roundabout 3.5km from the finish and Marcel Kittel who dropped out of the leading group on the Monts du Lyonnais.  The commentators keep talking about how frustrated Peter Sagan must be without a stage win but seriously, how frustrated can you be when you’ve been wearing Green for so much of Le Tour and your point position is so dominant that you could practically walk to the Champs-Élysées and still win the class you’ve chosen to compete in and not some wienie also-ran honor like most stage victories or Youth rider?  As far as I’m concerned Sagan has run a near perfect multi-stage race to date, you don’t get a fancy Jersey just because you cross the line first on any given day.

Yesterday that rider was Alexander Kristoff who’s Katusha team was able to deliver in a way that Cannondale could not.

Three withdrawls since the rest day, Fabian Cancellaria, Andrew Talansky who gave us that gutty ride on Tuesday (turns out he has a respriatory infection too), and David De La Cruz Melgarejo who had a specatcular crash out and was sent to the hospital.  Flaming chunks of twisted metal I tells yah.

On the stage there was certainly a bunch with 60 riders finishing on the lead time.  The actual leaders were Alexander Kristoff, Peter Sagan, and Arnaud Demare.  In the General Classification Vincenzo Nibali, Riche Porte closest (2:23), and Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (2:47).  Romain Bardet (3:01), Thibaut Pinot (3:47), Tejay Van Garderen (3:56), and Jean-Christophe Péraud (3:57) round out those under 4 minutes behind.  Bauke Mollema (4:08), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (4:18), Jakob Fuglsang (4:31), and Michal Kwiatkowski (4:39) make up those under 5 minutes away.  Geraint Thomas (5:17) and Rui Alberto Costa (5:34) are less than 6 minutes back, Mikel Nieve Iturralde (6:03) and Pierre Rolland (6:47) 7.  Christopher Horner (7:33) and Laurens Ten Dam (7:42) under 8; Haimar Zubeldia Adirre (8:01), Leopold Konig (8:25), and Tony Gallopin (8:57) under 9; Cyril Gautier (9:12) under 10 minutes.

Why so deep (21 riders) into the GC ek?  It’s the Alps and 10 minutes is not so far behind.

For the Green Jersey, same as it ever was.  Peter Sagan has a commanding lead (341), Bryan Coquard (191), Alexander Kristoff (172), Marcel Kittel (167), Mark Renshaw (118), André Greipel (117), Greg Van Avermaet (100), Vincenzo Nibali (95), Tony Gallopin (87), and Samuel Dumolin (80).  In the Climbing competition Joaquim Rodriguez (51), Thomas Voeckler (34), Tony Martin (26), Vincenzo Nibali (20), Alessandro De Marchi (18), Blel Kadri (17) and Thibaut Pinaut (16).  Everyone else is at least 4 points behind.  Between the Teams it is AG2R, Astana (3:19), Belkin (4:25), and Sky (4:56).  Everyone else is over 21 minutes behind.  In Youth competition it is Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot (:46), and Michal Kwiatkowski (1:38).  Tom Dumoulin is 14:16 back, Peter Sagan (your prohibitive Points leader) is 38:07 behind.  Everybody else is about an hour or more off the pace.

And we come to the big hills.  123 miles, only 3 climbs.  We start off with a gentle Category 3, 90 km of  bumps and flats, mostly descending, then a Category 1, Sprint Checkpoint after the descent, and an uphill finish to a Beyond Category at Chamrousse.

Distance Name Length Category
Km 24.0 Col de la Croix de Montvieux 8 km @ 4.1% 3
Km 152.0 Col de Palaquit (1 154 m) (D57-D512) 14.1 km @ 6.1% 1
Km 197.5 Montée de Chamrousse (1 730 m) 18.2 km @ 7.3% H

Once again, looks are deceiving.  Overall Col de Palaquit is rated at 6.1% but it has 3 sections at 10% gradient or better.  Likewise Montée de Chamrousse which has 2 sections at 10%+ but is very long, though it levels off to a mere (mere?  Merde!) 3.1% at the top.

Jul 17 2014

Le Tour 2014: Stage 12, Bourg-en-Bresse / Saint-Étienne

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Yesterday all the action took place at the back of the race as Andrew Talansky (team leader of Garmin from the USA), the very last rider, struggled against back injuries caused by 2 crashes, one in Nancy and one on the Gérardmer descent Saturday, to avoid the broom car, so called because it picks up riders unable to continue, and time disqualification, on this day 37 minutes from the stage winner, Tony Gallopin.

After a a solid 4 minutes on the side of the road talking with the team manager and unkinking his back, he remounted and struggled to the finish a mere 32:05 behind.  It was, as the French say, an outstanding example of cran, guts, and whether he starts today or not he did not quit and that is a quality so admired that about half the (French) TV coverage was devoted to his effort and they stayed with it long past the normal post stage wrap up.

Otherwise it was a breakaway day with a pack of about 36 riders including most of the top contenders slipping away into the hills at the end and Tony Gallopin, the maillot jaune on La Fête Nationale, capturing the finishing sprint for the stage victory.

So the the results for Stage 11 look something like this.  On the stage it was Tony Gallopin with John Degenkolb in 2nd and Matteo Trentin in 3rd.  In all 35 riders scored the lead time including most of the usual suspects, an additional 10 riders were within a minute of the lead.  Nothing much changed in the General Classification with Vincenzo Nibali leading, Riche Porte closest (2:23), Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (2:47), Romain Bardet (3:01), Tony Gallopin (3:12), Thibaut Pinot (3:47), Tejay Van Garderen (3:56), and Jean-Christophe Péraud (3:57).  Bauke Mollema (4:08) leads a group of 4 riders at under 5 minutes behind, Gerant Thomas 2 at under 6, and Mikel Nieve Iturralde 2 at under 7.  Everyone else is farther back than that.  In Points Peter Sagan has a commanding lead (301), Bryan Coquard (164), Marcel Kittel (157), Alexander Kristoff (127), André Greipel (111), Mark Renshaw (110), Greg Van Avermaet (100), Vincenzo Nibali (95), and Tony Gallopin (87).  Everyone else is over 11 points behind.  In the Climbing contest Joaquim Rodriguez (51), Thomas Voeckler (34), Tony Martin (26), Vincenzo Nibali (20), Alessandro De Marchi (18), Blel Kadri (17) and Thibaut Pinaut (16).  Everyone else is at least 4 points behind.  In Team competition it is AG2R, Astana (3:19), Belkin (4:25), and Sky (4:56).  Everyone else is ove 21 minutes behind.  For the Youth contest it is Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot (:46), and Michal Kwiatkowski (1:38).  Tom Dumoulin is 12:42 back, Peter Sagan (your prohibitive Points leader) is 38:07 behind.  Everybody else is about an hour or more off the pace.

I hesitate to stick a fork in it with both the Alps and the Pyrenees to come, but with over 50% of Le Tour complete were I a betting man I’d start putting my money on stage wins, place, and show.  It’s starting to look very America’s Cup/Formula One.

Today’s stage is about 115 and a quarter miles and is another one of those ‘hilly’ sections that encourages breakaways instead of bunch sprints.  The Sprint Checkpoint is early (40 km) and uphill after a little dip and there are 2 Category 4s and 2 Category 3s with the finish on the flat after a descent.

Distance Name Length Category
Km 58.5 Col de Brouilly 1.7 km @ 5.1% 4
Km 83.0 Côte du Saule-d’Oingt 3.8 km @ 4.5% 3
Km 138.0 Col des Brosses 15.3 km @ 3.3% 3
Km 164.0 Côte de Grammond 9.8 km @ 2.9% 4

Now tomorrow there are only 2 climbs, but we are in the Alps for sure.  One is Category 1 and the other is Beyond Category.  Things could still change so stay tuned.

Jul 16 2014

Le Tour 2014: Stage 11, Besançon / Oyonnax

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

So 2 of the 3 favorites are out.  Alberto Contador broke is leg in a crash on the Col du Platzerwasel 5 days after Chris Froome was forced to withdraw with a broken wrist and without question this makes Vincenzo Nibali who won the stage the prohibitive favorite to win it all.  Not that strange things can’t happen, that’s why they race.  His chief competitors now are Richie Porte (2:23) who has taken over as leader of the Sky team and Alejandro Valverde (2:47).  What brought down Contador?

Speaking with Agence France-Presse, he said he had taken his hands off the handlebars to reach for an energy bar in his back pocket when his front wheel hit a pothole. Along Monday’s route, there were several small potholes and larger sinkholes on a number of descents. Most were ineffectually marked with orange spray paint that all but faded away in the fog and the on-and-off rain.

But everybody knows that, the surprise this morning is that Fabian Cancellara is out too so he can prepare for the World Championships, leaving Trek with just 6 riders.

That makes 19 drops-

Stage 10

  • HAYMAN Mathew, Orica
  • KING Edward, Cannondale
  • CONTADOR Alberto, Tinkoff

Stage 9

  • GARCIA ECHEGUIBEL Egoitz, Cofidis

Stage 8

  • FRANK Mathias, IAM
  • DE CLERCQ Bart, Lotto

Stage 7

  • VAN POPPEL Danny, Trek
  • ATAPUMA John Darwin, BMC
  • CLEMENT Stef, Belkin

Stage 6

  • RICHEZE Ariel Maximiliano, Lamprey
  • HERNANDEZ BLAZQUEZ Jesus Alberto, Tinkoff
  • SILIN Egor, Katusha
  • ZANDIO ECHAIDE Xabier, Sky

Stage 5

  • FROOME Christopher, Sky

Stage 4

  • SCHLECK Andy, Trek
  • HENDERSON Gregory, Lotto

Stage 2

  • MODOLO Sacha, Lamprey
  • CAVENDISH Mark, Omega Pharma

The results from the 10th Stage look like this, Vincenzo Nibali, Thibault Pinot (:15), Alejandro Valverde BelMonte and Jean-Christophe Péraud (:20), Romain Bardet and Tejay Van Garderen (:22), Riche Porte (:25), Leopold Konig (:50), Joaquim Rodriguez (:52), and Mikel Nieve Iturralde (:54).  Twelve more riders finished within 2 minutes and an additional 3 under 3.  Leaders of the General Classification are Vincenzo Nibali, Riche Porte (2:23), Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (2:47), Romain Bardet (3:01), Tony Gallopin (3:12), Thibaut Pinot (3:47), Tejay Van Garderen (3:56), Jean-Christophe Péraud (3:57), Rui Alberto Costa (3:58), Bauke Mollema (4:08), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (4:18), Jakob Fuglsang (4:31), and Michal Kwiatkowski (4:39).  Ten other riders are under 10 minutes behind.  In Points competition Peter Sagan at 287 is waay ahead of the field.  His closest competitors are Bryan Coquard (156), Marcel Kittel (146), Alexander Kristoff (117), Mark Renshaw (101), André Greipel (98), Vincenzo Nibali (95), and Greg Van Avermaet (87).  Everyone else is over 11 points behind.  In the Climbing contest it is Joaquim Rodriguez (51), Thomas Voeckler (34), Tony Martin (25), Vincenzo Nibali (20), Blel Kadri and Alessandro De Marchi (17), and Thibaut Pinaut (16).  Everyone else is at least 4 points behind.  Team times look like this, AG2R, Astana (3:19), Belkin (4:25), and Sky (4:56).  Everyone else is over 20 minutes behind.  In Youth competition it is Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot (:46), and Michal Kwiatkowski (1:38).  Everyone else is over 12 minutes behind.

To call today’s 116.5 mile stage, Besançon / Oyonnax, hilly is only by comparison.  There are plenty of bumps and 4 rated climbs, 3 Category 3 and 1 Category 4.

Distance Name Length Category
Km 141.0 Côte de Rogna 7.6 kilometre @ 4.9% 3
Km 148.5 Côte de Choux 1.7 kilometre @ 6.5% 3
Km 152.5 Côte de Désertin 3.1 kilometre @ 5.2% 4
Km 168.0 Côte d’Échallon 3 kilometre @ 6.6% 3

The Sprint Checkpoint is after the first big bump but after a rest day and a flat run up you may see the sprinters try to contest except for Peter Sagan’s overwhelming lead in points.  The finish is down hill after a descent so you will probably see some tight racing, but I doubt it will be a bunch sprint.  Tomorrow is another hilly day and then we hit the Alps where there won’t be many climbs, but they will be very steep indeed.

Jul 14 2014

Le Tour 2014: Stage 10, Mulhouse / La Planche des Belles Filles

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

The 9th Stage of Le Tour was defined by a breakaway.  Tony Martin was part of a 20 rider group that seperated from the peloton about 20 km in while descending the Col de la Schlucht, the first climb.  They broke away decisively ascending Le Markstein (5th on the stage, first of 17 Category 1 or beyond classification climbs) in decidedly damp conditions.   Now Martin is best known as a Time Trialer and on the flats after the last descent (of 6) he drove away from the lead group finishing 2:45 ahead.  The main contenders in the General Classification were content to stick with the peloton and finished 7:46 behind.  That extra 5:01 was enough to remove the maillot jaune from Vincenzo Nibali’s shoulders and put it on Tony Gallopin’s (he was part of the breakaway group).  So we have a Frenchman in the lead on La Fête Nationale for only the second time in a decade (the last was Thomas Voeckler).

On the stage it was Tony Martin with Fabian Cancellara and Greg Van Avermaet leading a group of 18 riders 2:45 behind.  In front of the General Classification is Tony Gallopin, Vincenzo Nibali (1:34), Tiago Machado (2:40), Jakob Fuglsang (3:18), Riche Porte (3:32), Michal Kwiatkowski (4:00), Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (4:01), Pierre Rolland (4:07), Alberto Contador (4:08), Romain Bardet (4:13), Rui Alberto Costa (4:46), Bauke Mollema and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (tied at 4:36), and Cyril Gautier (4:44).  Everyone else is over 5 minutes behind.  In the Points competition it is Peter Sagan (267), Bryan Coquard (156), Marcel Kittel (146), Alexander Kristoff (117), Mark Renshaw (101), and André Greipel (98).  Everyone else is over 11 points behind.  In the Climbing contest the leaders are Tony Martin (18), Blel Kadri and Alessandro De Marchi (tied at 17), Nicolas Edet (12), and Joaquim Rodriguez (11).  Everyone else is at least 3 points behind.  Team competition has tightened up considerably- Astana, Belkin (:22), AG2R (:53), Sky (5:31), and Omega Pharma (9:31).  Everyone else is over 10 minutes behind.  Among Youth the leaders are Michal Kwiatkowski, Romain Bardet (:13), Thibaut Pinot (1:06), and Tom Domoulin (4:08).  Everyone else is over 16 minutes behind.  There was one withdrawl- Egoitz Garcia Echeguibel.

Today’s 100 mile+ stage, Mulhouse / La Planche des Belles Filles, is Mountains for sure with 7 categorized climbs- 4 Category 1, 2 Category 2, and a Category 3.

Distance Name Length Category
Km 30.5 Col du Firstplan (722 m) 8.3 km  @ 5.4% 2
Km 54.5 Petit Ballon (1 163 m) 9.3 km @ 8.1% 1
Km 71.5 Col du Platzerwasel (1 193 m) 7.1 km @ 8.4% 1
Km 103.5 Col d’Oderen (884 m) 6.7 km @ 6.1% 2
Km 125.5 Col des Croix 3.2 km @ 6.2% 3
Km 143.5 Col des Chevrères (914 m) 3.5 km @ 9.5% 1
Km 161.5 La Planche des Belles Filles (1 035 m) 5.9 km @ 8.5% 1

Col des Chevrères is even tougher than its rating since about half of it is an 18% grade.  La Planche des Belles Filles is no picnic either with quite a bit @ 11% and the uphill finish @ 20%.  The Sprint Checkpoint is quite early which is a good idea since it’s doubtful we’ll have many sprinters around at the line.

Astana (Nibali’s team) is discounting yesterday’s finish as a choice to prepare for today.  Contador is not saying much of anything.  In any event the riders will be looking forward to their rest day Tuesday, as will I.

Jul 13 2014

Le Tour 2014: Stage 9, Gérardmer / Mulhouse

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Certainly for Stage 8 you can pretty much forget anything that came before the climbing though Simon Yates had a big breakaway and maintained it almost through the first climb, Col de la Croix des Moinats, when Blel Kadri and Sébastien Chavanel started the charge of the mountaineers with a breakaway of their own.  At this point conditions were pretty miserable and it didn’t really stop raining for the rest of the stage.  Speaking of the Mountain men it was the day Alberto Contador started to make his move and I would have expected something more decisive than a 2nd place finish a mere 3 seconds ahead of Vincenzo Nibali in 3rd.  Another interesting story is Sky’s Richie Porte.  Second to team Leader Chris Froome who is now of course out, he had a really good ride, finishing 4th on the stage and is now in 3rd place in the General Classification 29 seconds ahead of Contador.

Andrew Talansky crashed again, this time after tangling with Sky’s Geraint Thomas (along with Yates the only 2 British riders left).  Mathias Frank of IAM did not start and Bart De Clercq of Lotto did not finish.

As always the first day in the Mountains shakes things up a bit.  On the stage it was Blel Kadri for the first French win, Alberto Contador (2:17), Vincenzo Nibali (2:20), Riche Porte (2:24), Thibaut Pinot tied with Jean-Christophe Peraud (2:28), Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (2:36), Tejay Van Garderen (2:40), Romain Bardet (2:48), Sylvain Chavanel (2:54), and Bauke Mollema (2:55).  There were 16 riders between 3 and 4 minutes behind.  In the General Classification it is Vincenzo Nibali, Jakob Fuglsang (1:44), Riche Porte (1:58), Michal Kwiatkowski (2:26), Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (2:27), Alberto Contador (2:34), Romain Bardet (2:39), Rui Alberto Costa (2:52).  There are 7 other riders less than 4 minutes behind.  In the Point competition Peter Sagan (267), Bryan Coquard (156), Marcel Kittel (146), Alexander Kristoff (117), Mark Renshaw (101), and André Greipel (98).  The next nearest (Vincenzo Nibali) is 23 points behind.  In the Climber contest it is Blel Kadri (17), Cyril Lemoine and Sylvain Chavanel (6), Simon Yates (5).  For the Teams it stands at Astana, Belkin (5:23), and Sky (5:31).  Everyone else is over 10 minutes out.  The Youth competition is Michal Kwiatkowski, Romain Bardet (:13), and Thibaut Pinot (1:06).  Everyone else is over 9 minutes behind.

Today is Mountains for real, about 106 miles of them.

Distance Name Length Category
Km 11.5 Col de la Schlucht (1 140 m) 8.6 km @ 4.5% 2
Km 41.0 Col du Wettstein 7.7 km @ 4.1% 3
Km 70.0 Côte des Cinq Châteaux 4.5 km @ 6.1% 3
Km 86.0 Côte de Gueberschwihr (559 m) 4.1 km @ 7.9% 2
Km 120.0 Le Markstein (1 183 m) 10.8 km @ 5.4% 1
Km 127.0 Grand Ballon 1.4 km @ 8.6% 3

The Sprint Checkpoint is after the 2 Category 2s and 2 Category 3s and is uphill on a Category 1.  Pretty tough sprint if you ask me.  They finish flat after a descent so there might be some opportunity there for speed if a rider has kept up to that point.  On La Fête Nationale tomorrow they spend their last day in the Vosges and Tuesday is a rest day.

Jul 12 2014

Le Tour 2014: Stage 8, Tomblaine / Gérardmer La Mauselaine

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Flaming chunks of twisted metal!  You could hardly ask for better weather or roads than you got in Stage 7 and still you had massive, race altering crashes.  So much for your theories about cobbles, or rain, or ‘selfies’.

‘Selfies’! even my activist brother who admits he can’t watch 15 minutes of Le Tour without falling into a coma of boredom repeated that laughable excuse.  Folks, spectators have been crowding the road and even dashing into the middle of the course to take pictures since the invention of the camera, which is to say basically forever.  I wonder what the tough guys of the first Tour would have to say about these whiny ass pretty boys when they rode cobbles almost every day and had to deal with flash powder explosions?

Stef Clement, Belkin captain, withdrew after a crash at km 40 (dead flat and dry), but then again he wasn’t expected to even start.  Mathias Frank withdrew early in the stage and Danny van Poppel at km 120 leaving Simon Yates, who scored the Climbing point for Côte de Maron, the youngest rider left at 22 years old.  Shortly after Tejay van Garderen who fancied himself a contender in the General Classification at (2:11) was involved in a crash and ended up losing 1:03 on the day and taking out his team mate Darwin Atapuma.  

In the last km there was another crash when Andrew Talansky went down during the final sprint and it looked like Peter Sagan would get his first stage win only to be aced out by Matteo Trentin in a photo finish.

On the stage it was Trentin and Sagan followed by 25 other riders who scored the same time as the leaders.  In the General Classification it is still Vincenzo Nibali followed by Jakob Fugslsang (:02), Peter Sagan (:44), Michal Kwiatkowski (:50).  Three more riders are under 2 minutes back, Tony Gallopin, Riche Porte, and Andrew Talansky and only 10 more under 3 minutes including Alberto Contador (2:37).  In Points competition the leader is Peter Sagan (259), Brian Coquard (146), Marcel Kittel (137), Alexander Kristoff (117), Mark Renshaw (85), and André Greipel (91); the next rider is 31 points behind.  In the Climber contest another static day, Cyril Lmoine (6), Blel Kadri (5), Jens Voigt and Nicolas Edet tied at 4.  Among the Teams it’s Astana, Belkin (4:18), Sky (6:31), BMC (7:08), and Trek (8:25).  Everyone else is over 10 minutes behind.  In Youth competition nothing changed, Peter Sagan, Michal Kwiatkowski (:06), Roman Bardet (1:27), Tom Dumoulin (1:41), and Thibaut Pinot (2:40).  Everyone else is over 11 minutes out.

Today’s stage is almost exactly 100 miles.  It starts out fairly flat though constantly ascending and the Sprint Checkpoint is at exactly 100 km.  After that the day goes up hill for the pure sprinters as we finish with 2 Category 2 climbs, Col de la Croix des Moinats and Col de Grosse Pierre, and in a Category 3 climb to the line in Gérardmer La Mauselaine.  This is the start of 6 more days in the Vosges which while not as tall as the Alps or Pyrenees are pretty steep and narrow.  We shall see in the standings start to change.

Coverage will be on NBC proper, not Vs. (or NBC Sports as it is now known) at 8 am ET.  Your usual schedule of constant repeats will be interupted by IndyCar racing and Outdoor shows though they will do the customary noon and 8 pm.

Jul 11 2014

Le Tour 2014: Stage 7, Épernay / Nancy

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Well, just to prove you don’t need wet weather and cobbles to make Le Tour dangerous (why yes, I am in favor of keeping the cobbles sections), yesterday on regular roads we had 2 huge crashes that injured 14 riders, more, may I point out, than in Stage 5 with the cobbles.  Three had to withdraw on course, Xabier Zandio of Sky, Jesús Hernández of Tinkoff, and Egor Silin of Katusha, and Stef Clement of Belkin will not start.  By contrast on the cobbles we only lost 2.

People are also grousing about the spectators getting too close to take ‘selfies’ but the fact is they have always been getting in the middle of the course and pressing in from the sides to take pictures so it’s really the same as it’s always been.  It was a bit damp, but it always is in Belgium, and there was a strong cross wind that broke up the main group of riders into 2 smaller groups which helped shape the race.

The fireworks came in the final kilometer when it became clear that Giant-Shimano had lost a little of it’s leg speed.  Though commentators initially blamed Kittel’s disappointing finish to a puncture he later admitted he had simply run out of gas.  Starting at the 1 km mark it looked as if the race was Michal Kwiatkowski’s but André Greipel attacked from the middle of the lead group and held off a very late charge from  Alexander Kristoff.  Once again Peter Sagan overcame a crash to finish a very respectable 5th.

So on the day it was André Greipel, Alexander Kristoff, Samuel Dumoulin, Mark Renshaw, and Peter Sagan.  Marcel Kittel finished 84th, 54 seconds back.  64 riders finished on the lead time including Jakob Fuglsang in 15th and Vincenzo Nibali in 18th.  Alberto Contador finished 20th.

In the General Classification it’s Vincenzo Nibali, Jakob Fuglsang (:02), Peter Sagan (:44), Michal Kwiatkowski (:50), and Fabian Cancellara (1:17).  There are only 3 other riders less than 2 minutes back.  In the Points championship the leader is Peter Sagan (217), Brian Coquard (137), Marcel Kittel (135), Alexander Kristoff (117), André Greipel (91), and Mark Renshaw (87).  Their nearest competitor is 32 points behind.  In the Climber competition not much has changed, Cyril Lmoine (6), Blel Kadri (5), Jens Voigt and Nicolas Edet tied at 4.  Team rankings are Astana, Belkin (4:18), BMC (6:05), Sky (6:17), Trek (7:22), Cannondale (9:03).  Everyone else is over 10 minutes out.  Youth competition has boiled down to 4 riders, Peter Sagan, Michal Kwiatkowski (:06), Roman Bardet (1:27), Tom Dumoulin (1:41), and Thibaut Pinot (2:40).  Everyone else is over 11 minutes out.

Épernay / Nancy is about 146 miles long.  It’s another mostly flat sprint stage with the Sprint Checkpoint about 2 thirds of the way through.  At the end of the stage there are 2 Category 4 climbs, Cote de Maron and Cote de Bofflers.  They expect showers on and off, we shall see.

Jul 10 2014

Le Tour 2014: Stage 6, Arras / Reims

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Well, it rained and as a consequence they scrapped 2 of the 9 cobbles sections, 1 km at Mons-en-P V Le that was rated the highest difficulty and 1.4 km from Orchies to Beuvry-la-Forêt, leaving just 7 and reducing the overall length from 15.4 km to an even 13, not that it made any difference.  Even the main roads were treacherous at best, Chris Froome, defending champion and a favorite this year, had to withdraw before the cobbles crashing twice before the midpoint of the race.  Marcel Kittel dumped it on a roundabout (what we would call a traffic circle).

Others surprisingly survived.  The eventual stage winner, Lars Boom, races what’s called cyclo-cross which routinely covers terrain much more difficult than this but Fabian Cancellara who won the the Paris-Roubaix which is runs entirely on this very route and other stages like it, finished a disappointing (for him) 5th, a little over a minute behind.  Not that he didn’t improve his position in the General Classification.  Other winners on the day were Jakob Fuglsang, Peter Sagan (who survived a crash at the very end), Michal Kwiatkowski, and Cyril Lemoine.

The big loser was Alberto Contador who finished almost 3 minutes behind the stage winner and over 2 minutes behind Vincenzo Nibali who is now openly talked about as the favorite.

Twelve riders had to be treated for injuries, many more opted to work with their trainers, Ariel Maximiliano Richeze joins Chris Froome on the sidelines and will not start today, the 6th drop since the start of Le Tour.

On the stage the winner was Lars Boom of Belkin.  Jakob Fuglsang and Vincenzo Nibali of Astana finished 19 seconds behind (Fuglsang is Nibali’s lead-out rider) and Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara, and Jens Kelikeleire a little over a minute behind.  Only 4 more riders finished within 2 minutes.

In the General Classification the leader is still Vincenzo Nibali with Jakob Fuglsang a mere 2 seconds behind.  Peter Sagan is in 3rd (:44), Michal Kwiatkowski in 4th (:50), and Fabian Cancellara (1:17) 5th.  There are only 3 other riders within 2 minutes and 13 under 3 minutes.  Alberto Contador is 2:37 behind which he could make up in the Mountains but it’s a while until we get there.  In the Points contest Peter Sagan leads with 185, Marcel Kittel has 135, and Bryan Coquard 121.  In 4th Alexander Kristoff has 85 and in 5th Vincenzo Nibali with 53 only 3 ahead of Mark Renshaw.  There were no categorized climbs.  The Youth competition is led by Peter Sagan, Michal Kwiatkowski (:06), and Mateo Trentin (:20).  No one else is within a minute.

Today’s stage, Arras / Reims, is basically a tour of World War I battlefields and while scenic is not likely to be very interesting.  It’s about 120.5 miles long and has 2 Category 4 (least challenging) climbs.  The section before the first climb (a little over halfway) is very flat with the Sprint Checkpoint coming after the first climb but before the ascent at Chermin des Damas which looks as tough on the map as any of the 2 rated climbs but obviously isn’t.  Then a long flat across a plateau, a descent, the last rated climb which is scored at the first peak of a saddle, and then a final descent into more flat at the finish.

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