Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Stage 4

Stage 4
5 July 2011

Still no l'Equipe today, strike in Paris. So I had more time to ride the bike, 68k up the valley and climbing a bit to St. Vincent and then back. Nice valley.



Right by the side of the road, didn't even get off the bike to take the above.



This is more or less the start of the ride, I rode in the direction of the photo and back.

The judges, or commissars, took away the points of Thor and Cav for the intermediate sprint. You can see the replay of the intermediate Sprint from yesterday. In my mind, although I missed the live version, there is utterly no reason to really mess with them, neither of them even complained. http://www.cyclingfans.com/node/2353 Just a bit of argy bargy, Thor moved over on Cav, Cav moved him back. Very normal. Someone is getting overexcited about this and they should calm down. If Thor and Cav were to get thrown out of the race for a bit of this and that, it would be outrageous. No idea what is going on with the commissars. No way they should be punished.

Other thing to mention is that sometimes it is hard to give this little job the attention it deserves. Not getting l'Equipe for the second day in a row annoys me. But having a good ride instead of reading the paper is great. Tomorrow we are going to the beach. Life does go on, even when the Tour is on. I am sure I will get more involved in the mountain stages, although the green jersey DOES interest me this year.

Murky racing day today, but no rain toward the end. They looked pretty much like wet puppies when I tuned in. Good to see Kadri in the break. He is one French guy I am watching. However the break will be caught, and Gilbert will win. [wrong about Gilbert] No strong feelings about any other guy in the break of the day. In the end, very nearly the end, they did get caught, no surprise. So really the race is all going to happen in the last 5k. But we knew that too.

Those hills at the end, from a distance, are the kind of hills that break your heart on a hot day while cycle-touring. Seemed a problem for Farrar and Cav too, both dropped before the end. Evans leading out Gilbert. First real test to see who has good legs and power to spare, even if it does not matter in the end. This end is really good. All poised and waiting. Contador attacks. Gaps appear. Andy can't follow. Evans. Gilbert so clever. Alberto. Evans. Very tired bunnies. That top ten after this little climb is the first one that gives us a hint of what might happen. No Wiggins. No Schlecks. And Evans the best. No big gaps of importance, just some indications, something to contemplate. Three Brits (called English on the French commentary) in the top ten. Thor keeps the jersey. Contador has more to say, not dead yet. Gilbert is not invincible. Evans in the polka dot jersey, misses the yellow by a second. Thor keeps it. Thomas was in the picture as well, that guy is going to do something quite good soon. They were all in the front, only the fourth stage. Just like a mountain finish. Except Andy, who has shown us nothing whatever so far. Frank did well.

Sadly, we can't conclude very much, even thought the last five k were quite dramatic. Still one writes blogs to speculate a bit. Clearly Evans is in top form. Not worried about saving anything for later. For his trouble he got the stage win. Although Contador lost by a couple tyre widths, I think he wanted to show people he was still OK. He is. The Gilbert fans are going to have to figure out what happened, but he may still keep an interest in green. Don't know why Van Den Broek attacked Gilbert, they are on the same team. I think this deranged Gilbert. He said that he was trying as hard as he could and he just was not strong enough. Vino is serious and fit. The old guy was third!

The gaps are very small in the top ten. So in spite of all the action, nothing much has happened in the GC, except Sanchez, Hesjedal, Contador have lost a pocketful of seconds. In fact, anyone who draws any very serious conclusions from this stage result or the four stages so far is kidding themselves. Of course Wiggins (known as a diesel without acceleration) and Schleck (who only really does well on long climbs where he can settle in) lost a few seconds. Totally normal. Contador is known for acceleration and he wanted to say hello again. Evans is looking very good, but the Tour is long. And we (re)discovered that those who cannot be beaten (Gilbert) can be beaten. And that old guys can still do well (Vino). Looking back over the top men, it also seems to be pretty clear that Thor is one of the very best up a hill, even if he is also a sprinter. Quite surprisingly, as I have seen him accelerate well, Gesink seems to have missed the final selection. If I were a serious columnist, I would make something of this, but I am not, so I think it means little.

Green jersey, can we say anything. Still not totally obvious who is keen. Seems that Rojas is beginning to make a serious attempt to keep the jersey. Could be interesting as I have no idea if he is really good. Always thought of him as a second rank sprinter. Maybe not. Someone said that Gilbert, for example, will decide what his goals are after the sixth stage. Evans is going to pick up points in the mountains as well, but I think he is totally fixed on yellow. Hushovd is one good stage away from green, so he still could have his eye on the prize. Tyler Farrar has had a good start too. Those guys seem serious. If those below them do not win a few more points in the next three stages, then we will know they are not serious about the jersey. For example, if Cav does not pull his finger out and get his train together by the eighth stage or so, then the opportunities to win sprints or even intermediate sprints, start to disappear. Same goes for Greipel and Galimzyanov, neither showing much. McEwen clearly is not interested in anything but maybe sneaking a stage. Pettachi is so far behind he might just go for one stage. Allessandro has 4 points, the top five all have over 60. I predict, fairly safely, that Pettachi is not going to have any chance whatever to win the green jersey. None. Perhaps, perhaps, this year the winner might be a climber. As I say, much more speculation is a bit premature.

Having said all that, for one reason or another, riders like Gesink, Hesjedal, A Schleck, Thomas, EBH, Brajkovic, Roche all were unable or unwilling to keep up with acceleration of Contador and Evans. French guys like Chavanel, MoncoutiƩ and Voeckler also didn't keep up. But we are talking small time gaps here. Very small mostly. Gesink and Schleck or even EBH and Brajkovic are still ready to do anything.

I am slowly getting into this Tour. But it IS slow, hard to devote enough time to it. Tonight's “something better to do” was a meeting of the Collectif Non-Violent in town. Last meeting of the summer, thought I should turn up. I am the only immigrant who goes. Not very many politically active immigrants in this town. The group is a very decent bunch of people who do get things organised quite well for group in this area.

Tomorrow I have no idea who is going to win. Velo magazine thinks it will be Cancellara. My forum that guesses, thinks it will be any one of a number of sprinters, Farrar, Brutt, Rojas, and Cav getting the most votes. I see that the last five k, after a slightly bumpy parcours without any BIG hills, slightly uphill from 4 to 3k then a little uphill the last k, more like a faux plat maybe. That is not obviously for Cav. So maybe HTC will ride for Goss. Or Hushovd can do it too. For that matter Gilbert is not going to give up. I could go for Goss. Like I did today and got nothing at all. Goss was not even involved in the sprint at all, he rolled in four minutes down, at the back of the peloton. In fact, although Tony Martin and Tejay Van Garderen were in the group that lost 8 seconds, the rest of the HTC team ambled up the hill without even trying, losing at least 2 minutes each. HTC not present today. Mind you, I am glad that Tejay is doing well, and Tony Martin is keeping in touch.

Why do I even bother with these predictions? What do I know anyway? Maybe Cancellara, no one else has picked him, so he might just do the job. Yes, I will stick with Cancellara, I get most points if he does well and no one else has picked him. I can imagine him doing it.

Supposed to be totally scenic tomorrow. And my 'better thing to do', you guessed it, go to the beach in the morning, hopefully after buying l'Equipe. But like I said, I am just warming up, they are just warming up. While they have been entertaining each day, nothing that profound has happened, except Contador, Hesjedal, Sanchez all have to attack. There are three Sky and three HTC in the top 16, and FOUR Radio Shacks in the top 16, they have not yet made any big mistakes. I bet Lance is having a good laugh at Contador, and pleased his old fellows are doing well. Like I said, I really should not be speculating it is so early in the game.

Roll on tomorrow. We might have the TV by tomorrow.