Stage 15 19-7-10
More racing today than yesterday, but with big controversy. It seems like every day there is some great moral action to debate, some doubt as to who acted properly and cleanly. Good for the media stories, but sometimes overshadows the actual racing. In the end, Thomas Voeckler won the stage after attacking on the last climb from what was left of the escape. Bravo Thomas! Once again, the escape succeeded, as the first through sixth places, and seven of the top ten came from the escape. I wonder if there are so many stages where 'the escape' won in a normal Tour. Somehow my impression is that if one or two escapes succeed in a Tour that is more normal. Another abnormal thing is the number of stage wins for the French. They have won a third of the stages so far. Not bad at all. It appears that the new methods of training and the slightly cleaner peloton are making a difference. On the other hand, let's look down the GC to see how the French are doing overall, not just on one day efforts, followed by resting in the big groups behind. We find that the highest placed French rider is 19th. Still some work to do, but seems like a change in the air. I am totally pleased the Thomas won the stage.
Controversy was about what happened when Schleck attacked and threw his chain off. On my cycling forums it is a big polemic Nearly all the pros and commentators on French TV thought everyone behaved fine. It was a 'race incident' like a puncture, pulling a foot out of the pedal, breaking a chain or derailleur, or whatever. His chain jumped. Finest components on earth, ace mechanic cleaning and adjusting every night, and this happens. Certainly not Andy's fault, unless he had failed to changed up or down before the attack and did it under pressure (amateur's mistake, I do it all the time). Some people suggest he made a boo boo. My view is simple, Contador could not have looked down at Andy's bike, analysed all the components, made a decision to slow down, while he was accelerating past (swerving past Andy to avoid him) at full speed on a mountain climb. I watched and reckon he had maybe one second to see and evaluate as he swept past. No way he should have slowed or stopped. He is not a cyclo-tourist checking of someone has a puncture and needs help. Its a race! Later when he might have found out the problem, maybe, by earphone, it was a little late to stop and he was with guys who were in third and fourth position. It is not like he saw Andy stop, THEN attacked, he was already under way. If Andy had crashed, that is something and maybe waiting was in order, but you don't wait for a puncture (Evans lost the Vuelta with a puncture last year) or a mechanical incident. You don't.
Others think that Alberto definitely knew the problem as he rode by, definitely should have stopped or slowed, should have told the others with him to slow or stop, and demonstrated his lack of class by carrying on. He should have waited and started the race again. Maybe.
Have yet to read one person who is not happy with Voeckler's stage win. He has managed to please nearly everyone in the whole cycling world. Everyone likes him and his style of riding, although it is not pretty. He also has a decent palmares too. When he talks, and can he talk or what, he does not speak banalities or talk nonsense or beat his own drum. Not like others I have already named. He does take full credit for doing well even though he says he is not a great rider, and does not have great physical means. He is somewhat modest and a decent, while giving plenty of credit to his team and bosses. He come across really well. We love wee Thomas.
Contador looked good today, Andy looked a little stiff. My wife said Andy looked that way and Thierry Adam said that about Alberto. I agree with them both. When Andy attacks tomorrow or the next day, we shall see who is best.
My wife says that Andy turns around and looks behind way too much, so he gets tired and gets stiff. I added that he is probably looking for his brother. My wife also said that when the biggest event of the day, the most discussed problem, is someone's chain coming off …. what kind of race is that? My wife often has excellent points.
As for changes in the top twenty from yesterday. Today we had the same fine adjustments, no one going too much higher, no one too much lower. But I am not keeping track from two days ago with a curve for each rider. I am just trying to give you an idea BOTH that something changes every day, and that not much changes on most days, after the general form of the GC is sorted. Schleck and Contador changed places, but now there is eight seconds between. There are only two days left for Schleck to make his move. And unlike the attack today, the serious attack has to happen way earlier on a climb. He can't leave it so late. Sanchez and Menchov are now only two minutes from third place, they gained half a minute. If they keep doing that, if Schleck does not do the deed and take MORE time out of them, not less, they can both time trial better than Schleck and might even push him off the podium. Maybe. Gesink and Levi dropped a half minute, but are still in fifth and sixth. Instead of winning the stage as I had predicted, Rodriguez lost another minute. LL Sanchez dropped from ninth to 12th and Basso from tenth to 14th. Vino on the other and moved into the top ten at ninth, from 11th. Hesjedal, Kloden and Sastre moved up a couple of places, and Kreuziger one. The big losers of the day were Wiggins and Evans, who lost five and three places respectively and are no longer in the top twenty. No idea what is happening with Evans' injury. Wiggins is just drifting off the pace, and recognises he just did not have the form this year, and now knows he is not going to do well. On the other hand, I would expect he nurtures, perhaps foolishly, hopes in the final Time Trial, the day before the end of the Tour in Paris.
Jalabert was interviewed extensively on the main news programme in France. He said he examined the video carefully and thought Contador's behaviour was impeccable. He was not that happy about the yobbos who booed him at the awards ceremony, but what can you do with ignoramuses. I agree with Jalabert, although it is a shame the chain jumped.
None of the other jerseys changed hands, but Voeckler, due to his escape today over a few hills and because he got over the last one first, moved from nowhere to fourth in the mountains jersey. I am still waiting for the polka dot jersey to go on the back of someone who is a climber, but I might still be waiting on Thursday night when the battle will be over. There are real climbers massing behind the not so real climbers, waiting to take over the jersey. But they might not make it. Only two more days of climbing, and for most of the real climbers, the last climb is the only one that matters. For the mountain jersey 'competitors', the previous smaller climbs are the ones that matter since none of the first three riders in the competition can stay with the real climbers when the real climbers start to motor.
I noticed for the first time that Voeckler has some cool shoes, when you take into account all the sides, they are blue, white and red, to match his French champions jersey.
So we wait until tomorrow for more news on who might win the Tour, but don't expect a final verdict until Thursday evening. Although there still might be some doubt if Alberto has lost a couple of minutes of Schleck, which could always happen. If Schleck does not attack tomorrow or Thursday, the Tour is over. So there is unlikely to be any element of surprise. This is apparently Riis' idea of strategy.
No time for more tonight, but one or two of these stories will run and run. This Tour has many intriguing aspects, not least who places where on the GC.
I like the route tomorrow, I have ridden it, but stayed overnight along the way.
Vive le Velo.