Friday, 12 July 2013

Valverde Punctures at Just the Wrong Time

12 July 2013

How dare I think it would be a flat uneventful stage? Well, I did. Small escape, brought back a few k from the end, was what I thought. Big sprint. And I expect maybe 95% of all commentators, professional or not would have agreed. Was I wrong! We got another surprise, and you all know how I love surprises. I must review everything later, but it did look like, with the wind playing a part, someone, not Froome, but someone just ahead of him, lost the wheel of the last guy in the first group. (Later I found out for sure it was Kwiatowski.) Clearly Omega or Movistar made the pressure, but I wonder who lost the wheel. Froome was right there, and did not panic, but called for his men after making an effort on his own and realising it was not worth it. Sadly for him, the help was not really there. His men were already far behind, except a few. Stannard and Thomas did serious work to try to bring back the break, but they could not compete with Saxo. There were SIX Saxo riders in that break out of fourteen. BMC helped for a bit to try and pull them back, but then decided to just leave it. Greipel's team helped for a bit, but not much. All that was left ws two exhausted Sky guys. So we got a demonstration of the power of Saxo. Nice demo. So far, we have had a Sky demo, a Cannondale demo, a Movistar demo and a Saxo, aside from the sprinter;s teams at the end of stages. Bravo for everyone who made that stage interesting. One major complaint. I really don't think that natural justice is served by having Valverde lose any chance of winning the Tour with a puncture. Not right. Not right at all. Still, that's the way the wind blew. We certainly don't mind bold teams that attack on the flat and surprise everyone. And Cav got his second stage. Great stage. Suspense until the end.

The Belkin boys also made their contribution and now find themselves in an excellent position (second and fifth) to try some one-two moves in the mountains to come. In case any of you are wondering what Belkin makes and where they are (although the team is formerly Dutch),Belkin International, Inc., is a California manufacturer of consumer electronics that specializes in connectivity devices.” Mind you, there are quite a few little climbs tomorrow. Maybe something more than what most thought would happen tomorrow will happen, a break will be allowed to get away. So now we have a GC where besides a few miscellaneous good riders, there are at least three strong teams with the possibility of moving up the GC, maybe winning the Tour. There is every reason for anyone to attack, since it is quite clear that unless they somehow take some serious steps, and maybe not even then, they might win. Sky makes mistakes and their riders are scattered all over the place. I really do wonder what has happened to Porte. He was riding really well all season, winning races, climbing well, TTing well, and suddenly after a bit of effort up a hill on Saturday last, he faded completely. I don't get it. I also wonder why they bothered to even bring Lopez.

The Omega team should be happy little bunnies today, they won for Cav in a rather unusual way. They got rid of every sprinter except Sagan, and Sagan is no match for Cav, even after a long stage. This means 25 stage wins for Cav, which means he is tied with Andre Leducq and has won more road stages than anyone in Tour history (Cav can't time trial well). I guess tomorrow it might end up with a sprint, but most likely the next sprint will be on the Champs Elysée. Cav would like to win that badly, but he has won four in a row and it might be time for someone else.

The wind, we often forget the wind in a race like this. Those of us who ride in Languedoc-Roussillon never forget the wind, but sometimes the other guys do. Not today. A bit unusual to have serious wind in that part of France though, so I can see they might have been surprised. Omega apparently had a good weather consultant on hire.

Saxo team was strong and smart, led and encouraged very well by Contador. A minute is a pretty nice chunk of what he was missing. Smart riding.

Overall, no jersey changed hands, but the GC was very slightly shuffled. Numerous riders moved up or down one or two places in the top 20, but with a couple of exceptions, nothing much was altered. Clearly Valverde was the big loser of the day, dropping 14 places, and pretty much guaranteeing he is off the podium this year. Mind you, this will leave him and Rui Costa free to help out Quintana. Another big loser was Rui Costa, Valverde's teammate, who dropped from ninth to 18th, due to being brought back to try and help Valverde when he missed the break. Bad day for Movistar. Fuglsang jumped up 6 places into the top ten, in fact sixth. All that with only a minute gained on most top ten riders. This shows that the gaps in the top ten are not immense, one good or bad stage can mean a lot. Sylvan Chavanel, Daniel Navarro and Andrew Talansky both made it into the top twenty. I would be happy if they ended up in the top ten. With the last week having a hilly time trial and four mountain stages, there are many minutes to be gained and lost. For example, in my estimation Fuglsang and Ten Dam and Peraud will drop from the top ten. Riders like Martin, Evans, maybe even Schleck might replace them.

What a wonderful day of racing. Very unexpected. The best kind of racing.

Good night. Off early tonight as I went swimming for the first time in ages, and I. Am. Tired.