Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Froome and Martin, Martin and Froome

10 July 2013

This blog is dedicated to my long time friend, Ian, with whom I rode my first century in Brittany, and who has helped me understand things, and listened to me, over many decades. I missed his birthday yesterday.

A time trial is a bit tough to write about. I can watch one for some time without getting bored, but I can see how a non-fan could get a bit bored. Once you get the countryside, and today it was quite good and ended with the spectacular Mont St. Michel, repeated views of the exact same road and flags and displays and towns can take away bit of interest. Not the same as a road stage which is never the same. I do admit that ending it at Mont St. Michel, which required no cost to construct for the Tour, was a great stroke of advertising genius. And it is truly a lovely place. I have been there twice. Once with Ian (see above) and once with my wife. She left after only a few metres of the crowded narrow streets, full of souvenir sellers. I felt the same thing, but knew that this is almost exactly what the streets would have been 800 years ago. It has always been that kind of place for the two hour visitor, which I have been. I had thoughts about visiting it again, and promoting those thoughts is exactly what one important aspect of the Tour de France is. The news had figures today which claimed that France was still the most visited country in the world, although I am never sure exactly how they get those figures.

I guess we could note who did well and who did poorly. Tony Martin did what he always seems to do lately, won the mostly flat ITT. He really is good. He has nothing to do with the GC, so he simply demonstrating that he was the best. Although Martin beat him by 12 seconds, Froome put more than 2 minutes into every GC rival. Every single one. While not quite outrageous, it is certainly exceedingly good. I am sure this will give strength to the “The Tour is Over” people (and the “he is doping” people), but I shall not be one of them until I am sure it is really over. Froome was outstanding. First minor surprise for me was how well Thomas de Gendt rode. I have let this guy slip past my radar for too long. He rides quite strongly in all terrain, even the ITT, which I never knew. He was third in the Giro. I should not be surprised, but I was. Richie Porte did what was expected, indicating that he is one of the best ITT riders on earth. He is even better uphill. Looks like he is back in form, after his disaster last Saturday.

Kwiatowski was fifth, only one and half minutes behind Martin. He will become, almost certainly, the great revelation of this Tour, maybe with Quintana, if Quintana successfully attacks. In fact, these are the two best “young riders”, and will fight it out for the white jersey. I had an image of Michal K being not so good as a time triallist, and Quintana being good. Quintana was a disaster, he lost three more minutes on Froome, maybe he can get those back or maybe not. Movistar can risk sending him off on massive mountain attacks once or twice more in the race. If he does execute a successful mountain attack, on a given day, or even two given days, it will make for a terrific race. The sixth through 10th place ITT guys are very good, but their efforts are not gong to upset or change much about the GC. Bauke Mollema (another “revelation” maybe, Dutch) finished just ahead of young Andrew Talansky, who in turn was just ahead of Valverde. The two youngish riders did well and confirmed that one day they will be racing for yellow. Bauke maybe even this year, as he is third, “only” 3.37 behind Froome. Talansky had a bad day or two, and is not even in the top twenty. A bit like Tejay van Garderen who has totally vanished from the radar. Without carrying on for long like this, we can say that there are a cluster of ITT results between tenth and twentieth that are within 30 seconds of each other. If we take third place to 20th, there is only a gap of 1.30. This means that if it weren't for Froome and Martin, this would be a very tight cluster of finishers. They will never get to Froome unless they attack. What is more hopeful this year is that most of the best GC challengers come with a partner who is almost as good as they are. One-two.

We did get a change of jerseys, an intriguing shift. The white jersey passed to Kwiatowski, as Quintana had his awful time trial (he is still eighth, I hasten to add). Spots to Pierre. Yellow to Froome. GC the same almost. Ten Dam dropped one place. Contador moved two places up, to fourth with his “all right” ITT. Kreuziger, his top henchman is where he was, fifth. In fact, The GC was not really altered much, just that Froome increased his gap on everyone. Medium changes were Nieve dropping four places, Jean Christophe Peraud moving up four and Kwiatowski moving up SIX places. And Dan Martin dropped five places. But looking at times, there is not a lot to say as yet, except that Froome has a big fat cushion.

Froome apparently rode a 56-11. Some years ago, NO ONE ever rode that gear, and only few would ride it a few years ago. This is a gear that a sprinter would use for a flat stage sprint only if they were a powerful sprinter rather than a quick one. It is an awesome gear.

Sagan was seventeenth. This means that he is a very respectable ITT rider, even though I am sure he does not train for it. So he can ride a decent ITT. Sprint with the best. Climb small hills easily, up to first category. When he can do first cat and HC, then we have a total winner. Anyway, I was impressed. He could not possibly have been trying THAT hard, as he has sprints to win for the next two days.

In case anyone wondered, a “young rider” has to be under 25 on the 1 January of this year.

Looked at one way, it was a terrific stage for Omega. Stage win. Michal K in white. Very good day.

If not for Bakelants (Belgian), riding for an American team, that would mean the classic strong European cycling powers are being eclipsed by Germans, Irish, British, Australian riders, with at least Colombians and Americans waiting in the wings. Interesting sign of some kind of transformation not underway, but already made. Globalisation. I still hope the French win one stage at least. Did I say that already?

So the next two days are meant to be sprints, and unless all four of the Sprinters' trains fail, the break will be caught. I will be wiling Cav to take at least one win. But I do like sprints with all the slo-mo decoding a geeky type can do.

Good night.