Saturday, 21 July 2012

Time Trial, Must be Wiggo

Stage 19

Let's see, what is there to talk about today? Nothing about tactics. The riders ride as fast as they can for 50k. All by themselves. Admittedly, only a very few of them ride as fast as they can, most ride pretty fast. Many ride only as fast as they need to ride to finish within the time limit. There are some points at stake, but after the first twenty or so, whether one finishes 65th or 68th is really of utterly no importance to anyone. Just finishing the Tour is a major accomplishment for anyone, even these guys. Riders who finish that low are usually working hard for their leaders and the GC has no bearing on whether they have done their job or not. Others had bad days, like Rein Taaramae, my choice to young rider, or Cadel Evans. Rein rode well in the TT, mainly to recover a bit of pride. As it happens this year, there were not many questions the time trial would solve.

The first was whether Bradley would beat Froome. If he did, then he would win two stages, and would demonstrate that he is the very best time triallist, and also nearly the best climber. That is precisely the combination that would win this Tour. Not THAT many mountains. And Bradley won very comfortably. We will never know if he was riding as fast as possible or whether Froome was riding as fast as possible. We think so.

Another question is whether the young French lads, Roland and Pinot would ride well enough to remain in the top ten. They both did, rather comfortably. Of the two, I think I would bet on Pinot to turn into the real GC contender, the first Frenchman to win since 1986. But maybe one day, Pinot and Rolland will be duking it out with Tejay to win the Tour. It is a bit noteworthy, to see that three (Rolland is almost young) young riders ended up in the top ten. Obviously we don't know where Tejay would have finished if he didn't have to work for Evans, just as we don't know where Froome might have ended up if he didn't have to work for Wiggo. This is often the case in the Tour. These matters will entertain us cycling buffs during the months to come.

One could not avoid mentioning that Evans had a terrible time trial. He lost the Tour some days ago, but I thought he might pull out a good time trial to save face. No luck. He was totally demoralised or else has some kind of physical problem we don't know about yet. He had, perhaps, the most disappointing Tour of anyone. During the time trial there was a moment when the young Tejay overtook the not so young Evans, both are on the same team. That was not a happy scene, although watching the young come up to the top, and the old one stop riding well is certainly quite normal and has been going on forever.

None of the jerseys changed. The changes in the top fifteen were minimal. Evans changed place with Zubeldia, as Zubeldia beat Evans by 22 seconds, enough to take sixth place from Evans. This should never have happened. Evans has not said anything, I think he was just crushed by his performances. Roche and Kloden changed places, Roche doing a good time trial. I won't search much further, but nothing else changed in the top fifteen.

Some results to note would be Pinot's rather good ride two and half minutes out of the top ten. He really does need to do a little work on his trialling. Tejay's rather promising work in the TT was noticed. I see that Peter Velits was quite fresh at the end, perhaps he should move to a team that uses him a bit better, supports him more. We can see that even after doing all that work for Wiggo, Richie Porte was still fresh enough to do an excellent TT. I think he might find himself moving to Orica Greenedge soon, as they don't really have a GC contender on the team. No doubt Richie could finish in the top ten with a bit of support. Menchov had a very disappointing Tour, since he was meant to be an outsider and because of crashes or lack of form or whatever, he really never appeared in the picture that much.

Tomorrow nothing will change much either, as no riders will attack until the Champs Elysée. The first few attacks will be harmless and give riders a chance to show themselves and their sponsor's jersey, especially if they have not done all that well during the rest of the Tour. But the result that seems most likely will be a victory for the Sky Train and Cav. The only question will be whether some other team or individual will mess up that ending. It is quite possible, but unlikely. British sports fans will be delighted. I noticed they are flooding in now with comments on newspaper stories, and revealing that they know nothing about cycling, except that a British guy won. Fair enough. They might spend a bit of money or a bit of elbow grease and get out on a bike. Now THAT would be great.

It was a good Tour in the sense that some stages were quite good racing for a few minutes or longer. On the other hand, for the most part, the suspense was not that great. There were more surprises through crashes than through good, daring riding. Let's be honest, the total dominance of Sky pretty much smothered the suspense that makes a race exciting. The mountains jersey was uncertain for a bit, but only because no one much cared until the last couple of stages. The green jersey was won at the end of the first week. And although Pinot put up symbolic opposition, the young riders' competition was not a competition. It was a good Tour, but not enough uncertainty. I prefer when five or six guys wear yellow rather than two. I am not that disappointed, for example, the revelation of how good some of the young riders are was quite uplifting.

It also has to be said that Sky were well organised, had a plan, had the form, did the job. It was maybe not such good spectator sport, but it was a team who did what they said on the tin. Bravo. I especially liked watching the French try to incorporate a British winner into their understanding of what was “normal”. They might take months or even years to really accept it. When you see riders “warming down” after a stage, you can remember when that change happened. Thank Wiggo and Sky.

Tour gossip from l'Equipe this morning.

I guess you have all noticed the emergence of the terminology "Colonel Wiggo", which somehow amuses some French journalists, and allows them to use all sorts of military metaphors to describe the planning, and execution of the plan for the Tour by “the British”. I find it slightly annoying, but maybe it suits someone.

Never knew Dave Brailsford, who speaks very good French, was a mediocre rider for ASPTT St. Etienne for three years in the 80s. His father was a mountain guide too, so he spent much time in France. Apparently he learned attention to detail from his dad, or so they say.

Bradley will use his usual black TT bike with a bit of yellow, but his front brake will be yellow (instead of blue) to celebrate.

Froome the latest to be connected by rumour to offers from Astana. Brailsford quoted as saying it is very simple, someone can stay with the Sky team or not. If they want to look elsewhere to be happier, let them go. Sky bought out contracts and so can anyone else. Omega Pharma interested?

The first twenty riders got a fast helicopter ride last night to today's stage, the rest took the bus. Apparently there are no fast train connections and not enough planes to rent, or whatever they do with plane rides. Sounds strange. A lot of the masses of the riders are moaning a bit, but I can understand that. Michelin tells me that it is four and half hour drive from Brive to Bonneval. That means arriving at about 11h00.

Apparently the Brits are putting the stages at the weekend on ITV 1 instead of ITV 4. Indicating they think the masses might want to watch.

Usually rubbish being spouted by Virenque in a continuing strange feature interview. A fake interview is constructed by the editors, and Virenque (or another riders) corrects it. Millar had one, Wiggo. Kind of stupid. N idea why they did Virenque, hwo is not even a rider.

The French are still working out what having the first British winner of the Tour means, and therefore what being British means, and how they are different to the French, and so forth.