6 July 2011
L'Equipe is back and the beach was great. Good place to read the paper, on the beach, in the shade, looking out at the Med. Forgot my pen though, and could not circle good stuff so I could tell you.
Seems to be a day for crashes. Very much a part of any cycle race, and very much a part of the first week in the TDF. I still don't like them at all. I don't like riders being eliminated by a crash, especially if no fault of their own. Anyone find an interview with that yellow dressed woman who took out riders? So who is out of the Tour? Kern out with tendonitis. Brajkovic out. Would have liked to see what he could do. Boonen probably out. Gesink we will see tomorrow. We have to accept this sort of thing, which I do, but not gracefully. The guy who designs the route (with help, of course) was interviewed. He gave an answer that makes some sense. Around nearly every town there are endless roundabouts, speed bumps and street furniture. They are designed to slow down the fast moving motor vehicles that dominate our urban environment. These traffic projects are dangerous for racing cyclists. They do slow cars, but they are dangerous for fast bikes in large packs. The route often gets designed so it goes on small roads, without the street furniture, avoiding that kind of anti fast car danger. But of course it is still dangerous, as the roads are smaller and during the first week for sure, riders are keen, they have not lost a lot of time, there are many who have high hopes. What can you do, except maybe make all the riders slow down whenever … whenever what? The problem is cars, not bikes. But the solutions for cars are not always good for racing bikes.
The main interest in these first stages has “the sprint”, including the intermediate sprint and the hill sprints. If the escape has only three or four riders, then there will still be points available at the intermediate sprint and the break will not be caught. My prediction that there would be two attempts to catch the break, both before the intermediate sprint and before the final one turn out to be dubious, if not downright wrong. The sprinters' teams seem to have come to an agreement to catch the escape only once.
Take a look at that finish. So it is slowly becoming clear who is going for the green jersey, but we should still wait a bit. There are six guys who are quite obviously in the running for the green jersey (check results now). Cav picked up the points he needed today and is back where he belongs. Gilbert is still trying, figuring he could have won this stage. No idea on earth how Cav beat him, as it was slightly uphill and Cav is supposed to be only good on the flat. I would say it is one of his most impressive victories in his entire career. Beating all the others on THAT stage. Never would have guessed it. Rojas not only has big ideas, but he seems to have the legs to back it up. I suppose we all have to admit he is not a second rate sprinter, but a first class one. Hushovd is still thereabouts, although his placing today does not really match the Mur the other day when he finished with about ten climbers. THAT was a genuinely remarkable ride. Geraint Thomas still has no idea if he is a sprinter or a climber or a rouleur (or all of them). We shall see what happens in the mountains. In any case, he is a very fine cyclist whose name will be even more well known after these first few days. Maybe the French will call him Welsh one day instead of English (Millar is also called English). Geraint needs to win a stage to jump up a level in fame. The fact that Cadel is still there, and he has mountains yet to come, means he is in fine fettle, very fine indeed. With the points he gets in the mountains, he might, oddly enough and quite surprisingly, do very well in the points competition by the time we get to Paris. Farrar was tired today, apparently, just not feeling that good. So he and his team gave the sprint a miss, although Garmin was very happy for Thor. At present those I mentioned are the obvious contenders. But it must be said that a really good day for Greipel (currently lead out man for Gilbert), Bozic (same team as Feillu but not working for him), Feillu (he got boxed in on the left hand side of the road, silly mistake), will bring them into contention. Today Cav won a stage, points on the other sprint and suddenly he is in the top five. I still do not think that those last three are class sprinters. I am thinking now that most of the other sprinters are out of the competition completely, maybe they will get lucky and win a stage. BUT the climbers have yet to move into action and they could upset the best laid plans of the sprinters. Maybe. Quite good this green jersey competition, so far.
I noticed that Lampre, the team of Pettachi (pink and blue), were riding in front at the end of the stage. I guess they were doing it for Allessandro, who has shown us nothing at all this year. Although perhaps I missed the point and they were riding for Cunego who finished 24th. I do not understand how a guy who won green last year cannot even place in the sprints this year. Today Pettachi was 114th. HTC was riding, Saxo and BMC as well. Garmin and Sky also, for their respective riders, to keep them up in the GC. Nice to have George Hincapie being your companion, as Cadel does. Still very pleased Big George is going to be the guy who rode the most Tours in human history. I like George, even if it turns out he took drugs.
Rather liked Thomas Voeckler making an escape about 30k from the end, with Jeremy Roy. Just rode up the verge of a narrow road and surprised them all. They didn't make it in the end. But the escape did allow a bit of cocorico (the sound a French rooster makes, NOT, for example, cock-a-doodle-doo or chicchirichi, Italian ) from the French commentators.
A little kid who was champion of France as a “benjamin” said (interviewed on the after Tour show) that Contador lost the sprint to Evans because his hands were in wrong position. The kid said you have to have your hands on the drops when you sprint, not on the brake hoods. The kid was right.
Take a look at the video of the intermediate sprint, to see why both Boonen and Rojas were relegated, no points. http://www.cyclingfans.com/node/2408 This led to the others getting more points. You can see Boonen and Rojas moving over and cutting off Cav. When you start a sprint, all other things being equal, you are meant to stay in a roughly straight line, You are not really meant to 'close the door' on a sprinter coming up to you and trying to pass. You are meant to sprint cleanly and clearly. The two mentioned did a fair bit of moving off a straight line, left then right. But I don't know why there is suddenly all this official interference in the sprint. They might have warned the sprinters, as they all seem a bit annoyed and puzzled.
Although there will be a break tomorrow, I expect it will be caught. The finish is uphill slightly, from 50 metres at 3k to 140 metres at one k. Then it is flat till the end. Thor, who is nearly a climber? Gilbert who goes up wee hills very fast? Cav again? Hard to bet against him when he is on form and warmed up. But Farrar should be rested, the stage the following day is utterly flat at the end, so …. The truth is I don't have a clue. I will go for Gilbert, so as not to go for Cav.