Sunday, 10 July 2011

More crashes, Voeckler in Yellow

Stage 9
10 July 2011

Where we had our picnic

Tomorrow is a rest day, and after Thursday, we can relax a little and maybe not have such a bunch of crashes. I am getting upset more than I like.

News of the day, bad news overall. Two leaders of teams out with a crash. The day after vino almost won a stage, he crashes out. Not really a happy way to end your Tour career. In the same crash, Jurgen Van Den Broek also crashes out. I already mentioned that I don't like crashes, not because I don't know that life is full of bad breaks, but because it is such a tragedy for the spectator and for the teams. But it happens. So we have had several team leaders out or injured already, Chavanel, Brajkovic, Van Den Broek, Vinokourov, Wiggins, Zabriskie. I don't think this is usual. Two big crashes and 8 abandons in one day. Millar crashed, Kreuziger injured. And lately, rumours that Contador's small crash at the start (caught his handlebars in Karpets' saddle) was not so small and that his previously injured (another crash) knee might be affected.

But hey, Thomas Voeckler in yellow! How about that. I doubt that very many cycling fans would not like to see Thomas in Yellow. He is a kind of well mannered, modest, moderately talented, attacking type rider. He knows and says that he is not that great, but yet he wins and does so in pretty interesting ways. In my mind, the jersey is not so much for this escape, he could have missed it. It is a mid life reward for the general way that he rides. It is the universe saying we like a totally clean, attacking, modest, non-'people' type rider. I so think he is riding clean that if he got caught doping I would be really sad, for many days. “Many years ago, Thomas, you wore this sacred jersey, it helped you become who you are today. Its time you wore it again. Clearly you are not going to win the race, but here is the jersey, we want to write about how cool you are.” Even non-French people like him. I just thought those two actions in the Tour were typical of a good Tour, no matter who wins. Voeckler wearing yellow and crashes wiping out team leaders, favourites or other good riders entirely. One makes you happy the other makes you sad. Can't get away from it.

Nice award to Hoogerland and Flecha for “most competitive”. And a sort of justice that Hoogerland will wear the spotted jersey for another day if he can actually ride. I suppose it should be easy to watch that car swerve suddenly to avoid a tree in the road, apparently not seen before the last moment, just when he was passing a little thoughtlessly. Both left wheels were already off the road, he should have never been there. I figure the guy made a bad driving mistake. If he had crashed into the tree, I guess all the riders would have got wiped out. Choice, should he have knocked over two riders or all of them and wrecked the car and held up the whole Tour. Both wrong, he should never have been in the position to make one of two horrible choices. He drove badly. He should apologise to those at the very least. Maybe have a huge fine, and loads of points. Maybe jail. Certainly off the Tour.

I don't have every cyclist's correct name spelling in my spellchecker. Thomas, I have had on for ages. His team also rides Colnago, like I do. One thing I don't understand is why some people call him Tommy. Sharing the name, I assumed you stopped calling boys that “diminutive” (unless they like it, for example in the Southern USA where there are adults called Tommy, or Jimmy or Billy) when they grew up. I think the French commentators call himThomas.

Hushovd quite happily gave up his yellow jersey, it just was not worth knocking the team out over long, heavy roads, for a jersey that had a good life on Thor's back. Thing I like about Thor and Voeckler is that they have good smiles. When they are happy, they show it. Not all riders do that. Makes the spectators like you, if a rider does that. Thor was a great leading man in the show for a few days. And Thomas … really, you could not pick a better rider to wear yellow for a bit than Thomas. No way he can keep it all the way to Montpellier on the 17th, where I will l watch the finish near the rugby stadium. But Voeckler COULD keep it until Bastille Day on the 14th, only two more days of riding. It would make good photos to have Voeckler, ex-French champion strips on his yellow jersey, doing more than just wearing it on that day. Maybe doing something with panache. Sadly it is up some heavy mountains, so I doubt Thomas will have the jersey in the evening of the 14th. Hope he keeps it till then. The French put on the show, they should have one of their own riders do a little bit of good stuff now and again. Rather Voeckler than Casar, any day. I know the French have not really got anyone remotely like the big champion they want, but they have Thomas. He will do for a bit. Maybe he will make a desperate last sprint on the 14th, trying to keep the jersey from some climber who attacked. Even Voeckler in yellow could not possibly keep up with a good climber for long. The climber finishes, Thomas struggles, the countdown starts, and then, at the end, after very good close-up shots, Thomas (fill in verb) the yellow jersey. Good show, good rider. More like him would be GOOD.

The green jersey has now got a serious front runner, Gilbert. If he keeps riding in the medium mountains like he has been, then he can pick up a fair few points, even if he can't out fight the real sprinters on a flat stage. Not too many of them left in the competition anyway. Quite good this little battle for green. The other thing is that Thor can now ride solely for the green jersey. We shall see whether he is really interested. I hope so. There an increasing number of sprinters who are losing ground fast. If the guys in sixth place or lower do not win a fair few points, then they will leave all possibilities for green in the thighs of four guys. Still could be loads of fun, especially since we have two sprinters who can do really well in hills, and a couple who can't, including Cav and Rojas.

The white jersey is still Gesink, but everything I read says he is in bad shape, not feeling well, and not at all confident of doing well in the Tour. Could just be disinformation or bad gossip, we shall see. He seemed perfectly sound today, at least at the end. His team will feel better as well now they have won a stage. I will try to find out something inside about Gesink, he does look good.

I noticed on the climb that in the second row, I saw EBH a few times. I wonder how he sees all this, and what Sky wants to do. EBH and Thomas have excellent possibilities, but perhaps not this year. We can also see that Flecha is no slouch, and was given some space to make a move. Too bad the guy ran him over. Anyway, I think I have become, during this Tour, especially after the loss of Wiggins, a Sky supporter. Their strategy must have an element of tragedy, improvisation and creativity to it now. This should be fun. Although my enthusiasm is dimmed by knowing what happened to Flecha. I figure he could have won that stage.

The full results for the stage are that same kind of result we had the other day. It looks like one group “lost” time, and of course technically they did. I must watch the finish, but I bet it is just a matter of when the commissars say there is “a gap” between a bunch of straggling in riders, up quite a hill. It can even be one is working hard, but a bit casual, following a wheel, but without noticing that the wheel one is following is not quite following the previous one, that “a gap” has opened up. Suddenly you loose a few seconds.

So the jerseys are changing, and the spectacle (sometimes tragic) continues. But so far it is only by elimination that we get results. No one has attacked. Gesink and Contador still riding, but both with unknown levels of distress due to their crashes. Contador fell today again, apparently on the same knee he injured earlier. Gesink and Alberto were present in the right group today, but they could have problems, as could anyone really. Crash, out of the Tour. I think I shall now keep watching Hoogerland, I am impressed with him. Wearing the spots today, what a day.

I won't be writing tomorrow, I take a rest too. So can't tell you who I think will win the stage on Tuesday. I was right about a breakaway today, was I not? Tuesday is a slight downhill finish, perfect for dramatics from a mass sprint. Thing is, they put one big hill and one little hill, not to far from the finish. Maybe the two or three sprinters who can climb would contest it. Or a break. I have no idea who will win, but I will tell you if I got it right on Tuesday night. Today, who did I settle on? Geraint Thomas. I was wrong, but I had a great story worked out. In fact, it was Flecha that enacted the first part of the fantasy. Thomas finished just behind Gesink and just in front of Basso and Kloden. In my opinion, he will soon be in the same kind of place in the final GC. Maybe not this year. I really am keen to find out if he can climb. I even have a wee fantasy that sometime soon, the first Brit to win the Tour would be Welsh! Cool.

Absolutely trivial and meaningless video about room-mates and hotels in the Tour.

A friend asked what I meant by “heavy roads”. I am not sure I am using the word correctly, but for me it means up and down all day, not much time where you can just ride along on the flat for a bit. It also means, for me, that the surface of the road is not so perfect, that it is rough, paved badly maybe, the edges ill-defined, there are potholes or obstacles. Basically you have to use one gear less to ride the same speed, it is just incessant slightly harder work. Not like climbing a big mountain which is hard work for a bit, then not. That’s what I mean. Today was on heavy roads, and I think Monday as well. But on the 17th, the roads from Limoux to Montpellier will not be that heavy as the roads in the sticks, up and down hills all day.

So have a nice rest day. I will. Both rest days are on Market Day here. I can go in to the Market a bit relaxed, not feeling under pressure to write. A wee holiday, I can go for a little ride in the afternoon if I want. Flat roads, if really hot, up a hill, if not. That is a poem. Anyway I am invited to a pool birthday party, in the early evening. So I am glad I don't have to write anything tomorrow.