Sunday, 21 July 2013

A Very Good Ending - An Excellent Spectacle

21 July 2013

The French also know how to do a sound and light show as well as anyone. To do it on the Arc de Triomphe was kind of cool. Now its over. The right guy won. The right guy got all the jerseys. A few bad breaks cost a few riders. But its over.

I forgot to mention three other riders who made their name, became more well-known as a result of this Tour. For example asking Richie Porte to lead the team through the first lap onto the Champs was very tasteful. Although it is impossible to say, I am pretty sure that Porte was the single most important factor in the actual race, the main guy Froome could rely on when nearly all the rest of the team was not around. The exceedingly pleasant surprise of the team was not Ian Stannard, who can ride forever, but Peter Kennaugh. Peter is known to be good,but I think he came of age in this Tour. No telling where he will go, but somewhere good. He was like a kid on the Champs Elysée today. Brilliant.

The winer of the stage was Marcel Kittel, one of the finest sprinters in the world, the best sprinter in the Tour, and also young. While I wonder what might have happened if Cav had not hit the awful road imperfection, or pothole, in the last few metres, I think new have to agree that Kittel did all he could to be the new “fastest guy”. Cav will win stages again, even beat Kittel. Greipel too. But at the present this tour has made the reputation of Marcel Kittel.

A few other random observations, since there is nothing to say about anything else. Today was not really a racing stage, more like a celebration. Good move to have the Sky Team ride in together across the road. Good for them, good for photographers, even at the cost of 21 seconds or whatever. Very appropriate that Quintana won on Colombian Independence Day yesterday. In addition, it was a pleasure to watch him be revealed as a new young brilliant climber. A little work on the ITT and he could win. A note of regret for Lieuw Westra the rider who had to abandon ON the Champs Elysée today. Really bad break. One last word for the appalling taste of Thierry Adam, for calling riders by gratuitous and sill names or haunting them with history of no consequence. White Kenyan, Bad Boy (Cav), should really be put away in the attic. I also hope they continue going round the Arc, it was way better than the usual up and down, although I doubt they can paralyse the car freaks of paris more than once. Great Light Show!

Its late. I stayed up watching to the end. I have done my duty and had my fun for the year. It has been a very good Tour, verging on exceptional quite often. It was a pleasure to watch. Just enough boring stages so that I could catch up on real life a bit. But some excellent days of racing.

For me, Kwiatowski was the “revelation of the year”, with Quintana and Kittel more being revelations we already knew a lot more about about. Those three are the podium for me. Movistar was the best team, by far, contributed the most to the Tour. Most pleasure for me, not having to write much about doping, nobody busted, no police, nothing but lots of NON-evidence based speculation. Extra prize to the owners of the Tour for designing an excellent parcours, which the riders took advantage of pretty well. Even on the last stage, things changed and watching the top three attack and ride together up the last hill was very well conceived and executed.

Fantasy team results. League one: 250/1000 and 3rd out of 28 (my forum). Other team 20/28 (my forum). League Two: 3595/9454 and 6th out of 9 in my forum. League Three: 2/6 on my forum and 91st out of 584 overall. So I am OK, but nothing special, better than average. I had a few bad breaks, like one team where three of the nine riders scored zero and never finished. But everyone has bad breaks. One guy on our forum, a very obsessed guy with inside connections, fished first in two of the leagues in which we were all involved, plus two more. He does good guesses.

I should be back, barring exceptional events, next year. See you then.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Quintana Wins at Last

20 July 2013

The Tour is nearly over. I admit this last stage worked out nearly perfectly. Very good racing from several riders. Rolland did not get the KOM jersey, which will upset some French people, but one of the two best climbers in the race won it. Nairo Quintana. Stage win, young rider's white jersey and KOM jersey. Quite a debut. No one will say “who?” after this performance. He is now going to be one of the favourites for any stage race he enters, and any mountain stage he rides. Rolland gave it a try, but he simply is not the best climber. Full stop. Not even by the slightly warped system that is used by the Tour to determine that jersey. In my mind, he lacks any sort of racing intelligence. And somehow his directors do not tell him what to do. It was rather apt, almost poetic to watch the three podium finishers ride up the last hill together, with Valverde trailing slightly and Talansky trying really hard to make the top ten. Rodriguez made some effort to drop the other two, but they were as good as he was. Froome made an attack to clean out the rest of the riders, or for some reason that I don't understand. I am pretty sure he did not want to win the stage, even if he could have. Bad taste. Rodriguez led them up the climb trying to find a few seconds to get hm on the podium. Quintana waited until the end, then simply accelerated to win the stage. Valverde never gave up, and got fourth. Contador just did not have that little bit extra today, or even during most of the Tour. That is, he was as good as anyone but the very best, but he was not the very best. We even saw young Talansky dig deep, so he caught and passed Contador. Tejay should have been there too, but the young have to learn somehow.

Before I go into any details, I LOVED seeing Jens Voigt out in front for so long. The guy is the oldest guy in the peloton and he simply rides like the wind forever. Admittedly he can't climb like the actual climbers, so we knew he would probably get caught. But if he had won, it would have been ever better. Quintana has many years to win stages, and he will. Jens, he went out on a high. Although for all we know, he will be back next year. What team would leave him out of the Tour. He could ride for anyone.

The results of the stage followed the previous patterns. More an evolution that a big change all at once. Quintana and Rodriguez moved up one and two places respectively to make the podium. Contador dropped down two place to make room for them. Alberto was one of the losers of the day, and as far as I can tell, he ought to change his training methods. The idea that he was constantly saying he would be strong in the third week was silly. He should be ready the first week, and get stronger as time goes on. He was badly prepared. He should be ready and strong in the first week. I am beginning to believe he really is not serious enough and spends too much time at home with his family. He is so good he will win a bit here and there, but until he buckles down and gets serious, his glory days are over. Maybe he does not care. His teammate Kreuziger dropped one place, but he was helping Alberto at all times. So it is very that he finished that well, overall and on the day. He will be one rider who might wonder what would have happened if he had been free to go on his own. Mollema and Fuglsang both kept their places. I hope they confirm their level in the near future, and this is not just a one off. Mollema no doubt will, I am not so sure about Fuglsang. Valverde moved up one place to be solidly anchored in the top ten. He must still be slightly annoyed about his wheel, and the wind at the exact moment he needed a new one. Andrew Talansky moved up two places to join the top ten. Navarro dropped one place, but he also made the top ten.

Other small losers of the day were Laurens ten Dam who dropped another two places to what I think is his rightful level, 13th. Rogers also dropped two places, but he had a simple job this year, and finishing in the top ten was not part of the job description. Helping Alberto win was his job. Everyone else in the top twenty pretty much stayed the same. Andy Schleck finished in the top twenty. Bravo. I surely hope he gets his act together, and gets serious about training and riding at the top level. Otherwise he is a has-been, even a rider who never was what he could have been.

As far as the jerseys go. Quintana won the spotted jersey and the young jersey, both throughly deserved. That guy is going to make cycling history. As the older cyclists fade a bit, it is always reassuring to see the new ones move into the limelight. Sagan and Froome have not really been threatened since they took their jerseys. That's about it.

Just as they would wish, I want to visit that area for sure one day. The lake was lovely, and my wife loves that area, so it will happen, one day. And tomorrow we get Versailles and the Champs Elysée at dusk. I am hoping for a Cav win. He might not win that many more stages in the Tour with all the young guys coming up. Today one of his rivals, Sagan, did a one handed wheelie and a back wheel skid as he came over the line with his four teammates. I suppose Sagan will try to win on the Champs, but he does not have to bother, maybe he will let the true sprinters duke it out.

The flops this year were guys like Evans (perhaps the biggest flop of all), Hesjedal, Dan Martin (illness?), Matthew Goss (who never even showed up for a decent sprint), Pinot and Bouhanni (both for injury or illness reasons, but also because they were not ready for action), Tejay van Garderen (who showed he could have been a player, but was not), Voeckler (who was invisible) and Schleck (who promised a bit, but never even delivered on that). The riders who either surprised or confirmed what we already knew, especially the young ones, were Quintana, Fuglsang, Mollema, Kwiatowski and Talansky. But I also think that many were surprised by the “best French rider”, who was Romain Bardet. Those of us who follow cycling closely knew about him, but he did show us he can ride a three week Tour pretty well. Not as well as Quintana's first Tour, and he will never beat Quintana, but still, good job.

From another blog, Inring. And if you want to know the difference between the pros and the amateurs, Ramunas Navardauskas was the last finisher on Mont Semnoz was still faster than the winner of the Etape du Tour, the cyclo event held on the same course two weeks ago. Navardauskas has been racing almost every day for the last three weeks.”

Still too early to say how my various fantasy teams did, but I have hunch two of them did very well indeed, one was very mediocre, and the other slightly above average. In any case, they really do add a bit of interest. What can I say about my abilities in that direction? Above average maybe, but not all that wise, knowledgable or careful in my choices. It would be so much easier if I had a pal who also was picking teams, someone I could talk to about it. But most of my pals would not waste their time on such trivial useless stuff. Still.