I want to start this post by making one statement.

The 100th edition of the Tour de France has been Awesome!

And Stage 9 proved why. I was slightly despondent at the end of Stage 8 thinking that the GC was all done and dusted. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. The main GC teams were not about to lie down and let the Evil Empire (Sky) take the crown at the end of the first week.

First side note – I want to make a point of clarification – I have named the Team Sky as the Evil Empire in reference to a comment made a while back by David Millar where he nicknamed the Team Sky bus as the Death Star. Any who knows Star Wars knows that it was the Empire (who are evil) who made the Death Star. Couple that with the fact that Sky and 20th Century Fox are both owned by Rupert Murdoch and you can see where my reference starts becoming real. Anyways, back to the stage…

Right from the start of the stage, the Rebellion (or more specifically Garmin-Sharp) stuck in the knife to Sky. They ganged up big time, with David Millar, Tom Danielson, Ryder Hesjedal, and Daniel Martin dipping into the world of hurt to inflict pain on the peloton. It makes me wonder if they hadn’t all crashed into each other last year whether they would have tried to light up a fire under Sky. Back to reality, and the carnage that this left for the rest of the riders. The Evil Empire, who the day before had rode so strongly, imploded leaving their Maillot Jeune – the Froome-Dog – exposed and alone. At first I thought that Evans and A Schleck were going to crack, but they turned on their diesels to ride to the main group. El Pistolero’s Saxo-Tinkoff boys along with Movistar were up for the challenge too.

Second side note – there has been a lot of “discussions” on the cycling forums about what magic potion the Evil Empire were taking. I don’t agree with this as Brailsford (even though he is possibly the Emperor in disguise) has forever banished the druids. The evidence of this is how they blew up the day after a massive effort to take yellow. Even one of the main domestique engines from Sky ended up missing the cut today – Vasil Kiryienka. This is not the Sky team of last year.

Third side note – I don’t recall a more bizarre crash in the Tour de France than seeing Peter Kennaugh being run off the road and into the shrubs on the side of the road. He emerged from the flora like some sort of dazed and confused lycra clad skinny yeti.

Chasing Polka Dots

A group of five riders tried to light it up in the chase for the polka dot jersey. This included Pierre Rolland (Showboating Europcar – with crimes against lycra committed by his choice of spotty shorts), Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM and a shadow of the rider that took third at last year’s Giro), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), Bart De Clerq (Lotto Belisol) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale). But it was Simon Clarke (Orica GreenWedge) who blew past the lot of them and took some epic points in the climber’s competition. During all of this Richie Porte was pretty much blowing up!

Meanwhile the Spaniards were ganging up on a lonely Maillot Jaune. Movistar were pretty much doing a Sky like the day before and were hammering a pace. One of my new favourite riders, Nairo Quintana, started launching attacks left, right, and centre. This forced Froome to mark these moves out by himself, and he was not happy. His stormtroopers were all missing lower down the mountains.

tdf_2013-stage_8-attacker

The Winning Move

The winning move was launched by Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) when he blew away from this climbing group and he took Jakob Fuglsang with him. It was an explosive burst of speed that he launched.

Fourth side note – Dan Martin is a phenomenal rider and really laid some smack down earlier in the year at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. I wanna see more. Back to the stage…

Martin and Fuglsang were relentless as they neared the finish of the stage. They crossed over the top of La Hourquette d’Ancizan (the fourth Categorie 1 ascent of the stage) and had over 20km of downhill bombing to finish the stage. They switched the turbos on and the only thing left would be to determine who would cross the line first. Martin let Fuglsang get in front of him and in the final couple of hundred metres jumped Fuglsang to take a much deserved victory. He would now have to be the dark horse to take the Maillot Jeune, lurking dangerously close to the top of the GC rankings.

tdf_2013-stage_8-winner

What was disappointing to see was how Movistar did not turn the screws on the Froome-dog. Maybe they were at their limit too, but at least they could have let Quintana off the leash to cause pandemonium – that would have been cool to see. Froome was issued a big wake up call, you are not the winner yet! Disappointing for Porte is that he really has no chance of a podium finish after his stage implosion.

The Tour has a rest day now, and I wonder how the riders are going to fair. Hopefully things will get shaken up even further.

The Cement Ladder – The Grey Jersey

Watching the toughest sportsmen in the world, I have decided to start a “cement” ranking that reflects truly great feats of endurance and the overcoming of pain (basically a bit of HTFU). Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category. Much hardness and cement was demonstrated on this stage

1. Dan Martin – Brilliant attack, and issued notice.

2. Jakob Fuglsang – Someone has to finish second and he was the only one to try and match Martin in sticking the knife into Froome.

3. Simon Clarke – Showed some stones again by going on the attack to chase dots – Respect.

4. Nairo Quintana – He showed the meat eating El Pistolero how to dance on the pedals again. He is only 23!

5. Jens Voigt – the Jensie was awesome on this stage, holding on a lot longer than his other rivals.

For a more serious assessment of Stage 9 check out:

CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-9/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/07/tdf-stage-9-martins-licence-to-thrill-as-froome-survives-skyfall/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/news/49918/Froome-weathers-storm-as-Martin-takes-Tour-stage-victory

The Turbo Training Challenge

Another short session on the Turbo during the stage, but I will have to get out and go for a spin during the rest day on Monday to make up for the lost day. I am so glad it is a rest day, so I can catch up on some sleep. Mind you, I don’t want this Tour to end just yet.