Friday, 8 July 2011

Cav Two, Bradley Zero

Stage 7
8 July 2011

I am late starting this. I went for a ride today and am a bit tired. None of you serious cyclists will be deeply impressed, but I rode 67k today and climbed over 700 metres. I have not done that, which means a particular circuit I know, for at least two years. I have not been fit enough. But today I thought I might be. I am beginning to sense “being fit enough” (maybe in a month or so), that I can go anywhere and survive the ride. Around here that is.

Championne of France lives two villages up the valley

Chateau at Lunas

Have to admit to feeling sorry for French people in general and Brits/English people in general. At least those who watch the Tour. The French have STILL not won a stage. It could be they are saving it up for the fourteenth. But the fourteenth is up the Tourmalet then Luz Ardiden. For them, I fantasise a huge pack of every French climber who has lost at least fifteen minutes on the yellow jersey taking off and just outlasting the finest climbers when they try to catch them on the last climb. Could be a great scenario, and maybe with a one two three it would make history and we could get back to the real Tour. Gadret, Gautier, Dupont, Charteau, Coppel, Vichot ... It could be one glorious day. Anyway I do feel sorry for them. They put on a show and none of their guys are getting the big daily prize. In case you are not aware, an entire career is guaranteed to any French rider who wins a stage, and more. I will say something about Feillu in a moment. Maybe even a French guy might win who is NOT entirely vanilla French. Yessss.

Before I mention the other thing, Bradley's crash, I would like to say that in some ways, nothing much changed although it might look like it. For example three Brits in the top ten and three Sky guys in top ten for young, today they are almost gone. And Millar soon will be. Boonen left the Tour today. Pauriol (young French lad with possibilities) as well. But overall, even though some of the jerseys changed hands, that was partly due to Wiggins' crash. My wife was actually quite upset about it. I could pretend I wasn't, that it was all part of the game, that things happen, that the Tour is not about 'justice', but I was really disappointed. I have read two of his books. I liked the guy that I met in the books. I like hearing him talk. I like how he tried really hard to do well last year and failed. Then tried another way this year and was looking like he might succeed. Lost even more weight so he could climb better, and demonstrated it a few weeks ago in the Dauphine. But also seems to have lost nothing in his time trialling. He had a lovely team of such talented young lads, mixed with a couple of old geezers. I have been enjoying 'getting to know' Thomas, Swift (my least favourite) and EBH, for example. Bradley was pretty quiet up to now, staying out of trouble. But ready to try something. Damn. We will never know.

I felt a bit sorry for Pauriol too and Boonen, but not the way I did for Bradley. I note that Radio Shack has had some serious bad luck. Their young leader Brajkovic is out of the entire Tour in one of those stupid crashes, collar-bone maybe. Today Leipheimer and Horner lost so many minutes they are nearly out of the GC themselves, Leipheimer anyway. All they can do is win a stage and help Klöden. I still bet they are the 'best team' at the end of the Tour. Bradley was the only Sky guy injured, not like Shack. The rest of the Sky team is still impressive. Tyler Farrar, as a result of that crash, is now probably an outsider in the green jersey race. Although I am sure he will keep trying every sprint.

So results-wise Thomas hung around Bradley so long that he lost over a minute and with it the white jersey. I doubt he will see it again, but would be dead chuffed if he did. The new “young rider” is Gesink, who nearly everyone thought would win it anyway. Thor kept his jersey, but most likely will lose it tomorrow. There is a semi-serious climb at the end, not just an uphill finish, too much for Thor. By taking the points n the intermediate sprint and at the finish, Rojas grabbed the jersey from Gilbert, for a day anyway. So some small changes, but the outlines of the after mountain GC are still unknown. EBH, Bradley and Thomas, all in the top ten yesterday are out of it. Bang. Over.

What I like about the Sky disaster is that they might give us a good substory. Team has big plans. Leader is fit and ready. Suddenly Plan A is shattered. The leader is gone. But there are all these pretty good young lads, and a couple of competent vets. What can they do to make headlines? Nice challenge for their management. No one can doubt they have some fairly good raw material. I still think Thomas and EBH can do interesting stuff on the Tour.

I am fully enjoying those heli shots of houses and landscapes and am going to LOVE them in the mountains. It is such quality coverage. I have seen other coverage by other TV teams in various cycling races. I think the French produce a superbly varied and mostly pretty well edited picture/story. Did you know that in the studio it is Ronan Pensec who actually choosing exactly what camera to put on live? True! How else cold anyone, except the filthy rich, ever see shots like this? And the slo-mos of the sprints help me to actually understand what went on, since I have never actually, and never will actually be in such a sprint. End of tribute to the lads and lasses that bring us the picture. And to French history which brings us the landscape.

THE Intermediate Sprint was totally classic again. Do search out the video and check out both sprints. Soon the action will develop at a more leisurely and sustained pace, in the mountains. We won't need slo-mo to sort it out. Looks like Cav and his team ARE targeting the Green. Hope he gets it. Although I picked Hushovd. We shall see what he does when he loses the yellow jersey.

A word on Feillu. I am utterly certain that if he were not French, he would be relegated or tossed off the Tour. He is a “suddenly” competitive fast sprinter after many years of being pretty good, without being a star. He IS fast. I have been trying to watch him, and realised that he is a very dangerous sprinter. He has no train, just another competitor on his team, Bozic. Often they do NOT work together. If you are a sprinter, when you are in the last few hundred metres, you are mostly meant to go in a straight line toward the finish. You are not meant to suddenly lunge to the left, or drift over and block other riders, or make any really sudden moves. You are not really supposed to cut off someone by suddenly swinging over into their way. Now there is always a bit of physicality, but you are not meant to to do sudden dangerous moves. I maintain that Romain Feillu makes sudden dangerous moves every time he sprints. He is fast though. He is the guy with the VacanSolieil dark blue jersey with bits of yellow on it. Identify him in any of the sprints and then follow him, and you will see what I mean. If I get around to it, I will insert the URLs for the YouTube link. But there have only been six stages you have to check. Less really.

They were way behind schedule today, so I even had an extra long nap and “didn't miss anything”. They were tired, there was a headwind, weather had been togh, they wanted to take it easy, there are hard stages ahead, those were the reasons given.

One thing I like about some riders, Cavendish, Jens Voigt, Voeckler, Millar, Farrar, Voeckler, Gilbert, Thomas is that they give interesting interviews. Almost as if they know that giving interviews, ones that add something to our understanding and appreciation, is part of the spectacle. Some riders think they are sportsmen only, without realising they work for companies advertising products.

Voila. I had a couple more ideas, but I would not mind getting to bed at a decent hour. No time to even tell you about how my fantasy teams are doing. Actually my favourite fantasy team is doing badly. I decided to pick cheap chancy sprinters, only two. They have not done anything, so I am only going to start scoring points in the next few days. Should do well after that though.

Good night.