Saturday, 14 July 2012

Greipel beats Sagan

Stage 13

Plan A, B and C all fell apart. I ended up deciding that seeing the Tour live with some pals was really what I like doing.  My remaining choice was to get in my car, drive an hour to a casually chosen spot, and watch the spectacle pass, on my own. So I stayed home. So there are no photos. I did watch with my wife and the kid from up the road. Since I have seen the Tour many times, it was not a huge blow, but a minor disappointment I will forget about tomorrow. Must plan better next year, find someone who is committed. Serious. Next year will be easy however, as Montpellier is stage town, there will be plenty of action. Easy to do Montpellier.

All over France there are people who watch the Tour very intensely as it passes this or that specific area. This stage was the one that passed in my region. My pal from near Montpellier rides his bike over many of the roads they used today. So he was watching them ride on “his” roads. Adds a dimension to the viewing experience. Same thing when they passed through my area. Our really good roads and interesting climbs are probably not suitable for the Tour. But they could make a semi-mountainous stage around here very easily. Maybe there is not enough car-parking space for a finish on the top of the climbs. TV trucks and all those stands for special people. Anyway, for those of you who do not know an area of France well, you won't know what I mean. But it does attract many people to the large TV audience. If you do, its obvious. Oh look, that's where we spent our holidays for five years. Oh look, cousin Claudette lives just down that road. Oh look, I remember climbing that col when I was young. And so forth. I know about this tendency for intense watching when you know an area for one reason or another. But rediscovering it is always a treat, especially from the helicopter. Maybe the TV has advantages.

Essentially it was a simple stage. Break gets away, Near the end they are caught. Another couple of shorter escapes, they are caught near the end. The sprint is between any riders who managed to get over Mont St. Claire in good shape. The surprise of the day for me is that Andre Greipel was able to get over that last hill and win 20 odd k later. Mont St. Claire is a very short, but very steep hill in Sete. Sete is the biggest French fishing port on the Med. Pretty serious town. Famous French Poet George Brassens and not so famous poet Paul Valery are from there. Anyway the hill is enough to get rid of a sprinter or anyone who does not want to work very hard. I am not sure if I would be able to pedal all the way up without stopping, even in my lowest gear. Maybe. Even Laurent Jalabert was saying that people would underestimate it. He won the Midi Libre race up Mont St Claire more than once. I knew Sagan would make it up the hill and contest the sprint. I was hoping Cav would try to get up the hill fast, but he really seems to be saving himself for the Champs Elysée where he thinks the others will be a bit more tired than he is. Cav's constant companion, Bernie Eisel got dropped worse than Cav. I would bet on Cav for the Champs. However, today Greipel held off Sagan to win his third stage. Greipel beat Sagan by “throwing his bike” at the line at exactly the right time. Sagan threw his bike just AFTER he crossed the line, when a good sprinter does it just before.

Sagan and Greipel have each won three stages, four Brits have one each, that's ten. And the French have three. Young riders also have quite a few wins. That means the goodies have not been spread about much. No other country can have had a victor. Not many teams either. I think it is time to spread out the goodies. I do agree that when a young, Slovakian from an Italian team wins, which characteristic gets the credit. However he speaks Italian in the interviews, so maybe he is a young Italian. What I am getting at is when LL Sanchez got annoyed it could have been about all stages being won by a few people and few nationalities.

Evans seems to be very tired, or not quite strong enough or something. He made another seemingly badly timed and futile attack. Vino made the same kind of unsuccessful attack, but it made more sense. Evans is in trouble. I am sad about that. He's like a champion who should have quit after the last event. He should begin to reframe his career. Not sure into what, maybe just stop. He's old enough, he has enough money, he has a family he is keen on, no doubt a nice house or two. He could stop and see what he really wants to do. However, it might be added that he can still ride a GC better than any Australian, and all but three guys on earth. Maybe he should go over to Greenedge and be an elder statesman rider for a couple of years. Hmmmm. Anyway, he does not appear to be the guy to beat Wiggo. Or Froome. Or Nibali.

The green jersey is even more safely in the arms of Peter Sagan. We still have no idea who wants the mountain jersey. I guess Kessiakoff does, but no real climbers. Thibaut is still the only rider between Tejay winning the “best young rider” jersey. Whoever wins the competition, they (along with Tony Gallopin who left today on account of gastro) are “the young riders of the Tour” this year. Sorry, even if he finished in tenth place, Peter Sagan has to be the most spectacular young rider. So four of them, separated by a scoring system. They all seem to be great cyclists, with history already, well mannered, respectful, sometimes playful, of varying intelligence and interview attractiveness. Their presence will enliven the sport.

Bradley still has yellow. I was actually quite surprised that Bradley rode the entire Mont St Clair without ever getting off his saddle, as far as I saw. Just cruised up it, unworried. Hope he has good luck and rides well. I like the idea of a British rider winning the Tour. The French and the entire cycling community will have to think a bit differently. And if Cav takes the Olympics … but this is getting ahead. I bet Bradley had fun leading out EBH for the sprint. Must be a bit like a regular guy (Bradley says he is one) having a very fast car, which can never be allowed to go really fast. Leading out EBH was a chance for him to floor it, hoping to help EBH win. But he's not every good at it really, left EBH way too far out. It was VERY dramatic to see the yellow jersey in front of the peloton, racing full out.

In an as yet unexplained gesture, Luis Leon Sanchez shook a finger or a fist at Bradley as he roared around a corner and caught the last two attackers. Sanchez and Sprick. Usually when you are caught you move over and let the faster guys in the charging peloton go past. You don't make gestures at the guy in front at the moment they overtake. Of course the yellow jersey is easily seen. Maybe LLS is pissed off at that Anglo rider whose team is winning too much, dominating too much, not leaving crumbs to guys like him. Should the yellow jersey keep trying so hard, leading out his sprinter. Mind you he didn't know about EBH behind, maybe he thought Wiggo was trying to win the stage. I will keep you apprised about the analysis of the gesture. EBH was third, very respectable. About what he deserves. Mind you I don't see either of the other guys, Sagan or Greipel riding huge distances in front of their leader, 56k on the stage to Toussuire. Nice to have a guy like EBH on your team though. Sky is one excellent team.

So how are my Fantasy Teams doing? I do the newest league with an ex who is keen on cycling. She picked it. You choose a team, and at any stage, you can add riders, and delete riders. I don't find that very good, you have to think DURING the Tour instead of before it. Too much work. The informal internal competition one of my forums has is a bit like that, but with no team, only choices for each stage, and the jerseys for each major Tour. You choose for each stage up until the stage starts. That one goes all year long, is is quite time consuming. On that one, our internal forum one, I am usually halfway. Mid table. The first year I spent a lot of time on it and was third. I think maybe there are six or seven guys who can pick better than me for sure. But who has the time? From this same forum I was drawn to another fantasy league. I choose a new team every so often, monthly, for a series of races. You have to pick from a list which groups riders into ten groups. The groupings are based vaguely on the points they earn in the official points league for the International Ruling Body. So if you pick one rider in the top group, you can't have any other rider in that tranche. One picks all year around in that league. My rightful place is second or third out of …. five. There is one guy from Newcastle area who always beats me. And another guy who beats me too, or not, depending. I think I will drop that one, not enough players, too much management.

I should mention our inside the forum game too. We pick on stage winner and get points depending on how many others picked him. I am about mid table on that, and will always be, unless I concentrate, study a bit harder maybe, and enter all the races. I get sloppy sometimes and don't even pick a rider. The game with my ex where you change teams DURING race, I am 696th out of at least 1100, maybe more. In the league where there are only four of us, I am currently first. The only real competition in this league is the guy from Newcastle. I never can beat him. He is the one just behind me in the game I just talked about. So doing well in that league.

Several of us in one forum join this outside League and have a sub-league between ourselves. You pick a team and just let it score points or lose riders or whatever. I am fifth now. I am very few points from second, and only one point from sixth. A small group of four is well behind our top guy. He is sixth overall, out of a thousand, well ahead of us. I am 223rd. This is the team I might talk about most, the others are bit silly. This League only works for the three Grand Tours. Each rider is assigned a point value based on some rough criteria, maybe the same as the Ruling League Table. So you can spend 50 points. That is the one I take most seriously. I doubt there are more than 15 of us with teams. Everyone has one “real team”, the one we anguish over longest. How many sprinters of the nine riders we pick, three, four, two? Who to put as the GC riders? Should three, four or five of them should be GC? Should I drop some points on Cancellara, even if wins no sprints and no climbs. But he could win the first prologue and wear yellow for a few days. You get league points for having a rider in yellow, for each day. That is the choice I made. Good choice. At the end you get points for GC, Mountains, Points, Young. Then you see how you did. On average, I am about the sixth or seventh. Many people beat me. This year, I started well, due to Cancellara, and then have been drifting South.

Now you know something about my Fantasy Cycling League habits. There as many fantasy leagues as you could wish. Some have thousands playing. I mostly do ones that have fewer participants than the thousand or more leagues. I am always learning about myself and others with these leagues. Most of my life has never involved any leagues and competition. In fact, I am rather more for co-operation than competition. That's what I am mostly trying to do. But of course, being a lad, and liking sports, I do have some tendencies. I think these Fantasy Leagues fulfil certain needs that are unfilled in normal life. But sometimes when I think of all the time I have spent typing on forums or entering leagues, or even writing blogs, I get a little bit conflicted. I am quite sure that I am a very typical Fantasy internet person.

One thing I am noticing is that nearly everyone now tends to warm down after the stage. No one used to do that. Never saw it before I saw Bradley doing it this spring. Sure enough, they interviewed him in the Spring about his strange habit, one of the new things the arrogant uppity Sky guys think is a way to win races and train. Now the camera wanders around the team buses and there are often riders warming down. Already. I have no idea how many riders do it, but clearly it is spreading. I noticed that it SEEMS like it is the younger riders on the other teams that are doing it. Not the more experienced ones. Maybe some of the trainers of other teams are saying, “I told you guys to do this ages ago, its obvious”, or pretending they did. Merci, Sky. This innovation, if it stays for long, with always be Wiggo's legacy, no matter if he wins or loses.

Time to call it quits. Tomorrow there are a couple of mountain climbs in the Pyrenees. But the race finishes downhill quite some time after the last climb.