Archives for posts with tag: Road Racing

My cheeky review of the 2014 Tour de France is finally catching up. And what should have been a boring transitional sprint stage turned into the stage that I was cheering the most, at some stupid time in the witching hour. Oh, and there was emotion and tears, and biblical references to boot.

Wind and Rain Came Out to Play – then Disappeared 😦

I like riding in the rain (not the wind – that sucks big ones). So when a deluge hit the peloton on this stage I was licking my lips at the racing action ahead. From the very start a small breakaway of two riders formed – Martin Elmiger (IAM) and Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp – my favourite team).

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Not that Jack Bauer!

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They rode strong. Then the wind kicked in and the two of them worked together to keep the breakaway going (Balaverde – this is a lesson for you). Back in the peloton, Team BMC lead by Tejay van Garderen tried to blow the race wide open taking advantage of the wind.

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The Shark in Yellow (Vincenzo Nibali – Astana) would have nothing of it. See how he forced his way into the pack. The chocolate soldiers of AG2R-La Mondiale were onto this attack too. So the break in the peloton never happened and the break continued to storm out in front.

Then the rain kicked in, as an absolute deluge. It was bucketing down onto the race route and pretty much rained the whole time in Nîmes.

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The inclement weather caused The Jensie to remembered times of his early childhood where he recalled that it rained less when the flood came for Noah.

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Then in the final 10km the bad weather all disappeared. The tricky entry into Nîmes with the slippery road surfaces aided the breakaway to keep ahead, that and the fact that they rode hard too.

So Close, Yet So Far

With 5km to go, the Panzerwagen (Tony Martin – Omega-Pharma-Quickstep) decided enough was enough and went out to show the peloton how to chase down a breakaway. He nearly did it too, but the breakaway still held out as they went under the flamme rouge (1km to go). The sprinters were revving up the motors in earnest, and it was line ball whether the two breakaway riders would hold out.

At less than 500m to go, first Elmiger cracked. Then within sight of the finish line Bauer got swallowed up by the rockets, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) securing his second win. Bauer finished 7th.

Bauer laid down in grief at the missed opportunity of a lifetime. I usually post a photo of the stage winner, but for me this stage will be remembered for Bauer being so near and yet so far.

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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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

Who gets the points are clear for this stage, with a few other smatterings

5pts – Bauer and Elmiger, who rode in a breakaway for 221.5km of a 222km stage.

1pt – Van Garderen for trying to create an echelon with his BMC team, which would have really lit up the race.

1pt – The Jensie for being old enough to have lived through the old testament flooding that swamped Noah.

1pt – The Panzerwagen for showing the peloton how to chase down a breakaway.

 

The current table is:

15pts – Panzerwagen (Martin)

13pts – Chameleon (Di Marchi)

9pts – Majka

8pts – Fuglsang and The Jensie (Voigt)

7pts – Elmiger, The Shark (Nibali)

6pts – Purito (Rodríguez), Bardet, and Voeckler

5pts – Bauer, Pit Bull (DNF), Kadri, Cheng, Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Van Garderen, Peraud, Clarke, Gallopin, Chava (Chavanel), Bideau, and König

3pts – Pinot, Bakelants, Gautier, Langeveld, Dumoulin,  Spartacus (Cancellara – DNF), and Clentador (DNF)

2pts – Serpa, Flowerman (Kwiatkowski), and Huzarski

1pt – de la Cruz (DNF), Edet, Mate, The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (DNF)

-2pts – Balaverde

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling News – Stage 15 Report

SBS Cycling Central – Stage 15 wrapup

VeloVoices – Tour Stage 15

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from LeTour.fr, SBS Cycling Central, and Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

My cheeky review of the 2014 Tour de France is still playing catchup – thank the maker (and ASO) for the second rest day. The second stage in the French Alpes was just as riveting as the first stage and there was much redemption dished out.

A Breakaway with Stones

A huge group of riders jumped into the breakaway from the peloton, and even more wanted to crack it. There were 17 in total and they included the Big ‘G’ (Geraint Thomas – The Empire), The Terminator (Peter Sagan – Cannondale) and his teammate lizard friend AGAIN(!) The Chameleon (Alessandro Di Marchi), Nico (Roche – Tinkoff Saxo) and his teammate Rafal Majka AGAIN(!), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida), and a certain Purito (Joaquim Rodríguez – Katusha).

The Terminator chased Green.

Purito chased Spots.

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Both were rewarded, firstly for Sagan at the intermediate sprint before the 1st category climb up the Col du Lautaret. Purito got the points up that climb as the breakaway started to break apart.

Behind the breakaway group the peloton was wilting down to a few small groups, for the non-climbers it was hang on and haul butt to the finish.  The hard men in contention for the GC hammered on in the chase.

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The breakaway, down to 10, then assaulted Col d’Izoard – the highest point of the race. Purito was gifted the points by the rider who finished second yesterday, Majka.

Let’s Try and Crack It!

The move of the day was definitely from the young French gun Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and his partner in chocolate Jean-Christoph Peraud. They bombed it down the 30km descent off the back of the Col d’Izoard. I was watching on my couch at whatever ungodly hour it was and I was salivating at the fun that those guys were having. Can you imagine a 30km descent? I have to get to France to ride the Alpes, preferably in July. Not only did the chocolate soldiers bomb it down, they put the fear of god in the rest of the peloton. But the Shark in Yellow (Vincenzo Nibali – Astana) along with his teammates would not be fooled…

No doubt Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) was crapping it given his dislike of descending at speed. But Pinot with the assistance of his teammates was able to catch back up.

As they hit the final climb into Rissoul it was on for young and old, a small breakaway only a little distance ahead with the GC hunters in a rampaging pack behind them.

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Try and Try Again!

Two of the riders from the breakaway, The Chameleon and Serpa, decided it was time to distance the group and go for it. Bravo to the Chameleon, but more importantly how cool are the sideburns that Jose Serpa was sporting? Awesome facial hair. The Polish man who missed out on yesterday’s stage, Majka, jumped out in pursuit. Serpa’s facial hair started weighing him down, and he cracked. Majka caught him while gunning for The Chameleon. Purito tried for the last spotty points, but cracked as well.

Majka finally took the lead and a despondent Chameleon just couldn’t keep up. Majka went off for glory!

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The chasing group of the GC hunters had all the contenders foxing each other until the Shark decided that it was time for Majka to be reeled in again. Peraud, chocolate soldier #2, was the only one who could match his efforts (not bad for a 37 year old).

This time Majka would not be denied. He crossed the line to take his first ever win in the pro-peloton. What a way to do it! Awesome stuff.

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The Shark would put some more time into his rivals, but at least the Gen Y bunch had a crack. As for the Green Bullet (Valverde – Movistar) he cracked and would proceed to blame a mechanical incident. Tut, tut, tut…

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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

Big points again for the final day in the Alpes, and tough riding for all. But there were some clear points winners.

5pts – The Chameleon, at it again but falling agonisingly short.

5pts – Majka, who cracked his maiden win in emphatic style – so tired that he couldn’t even zip up his jersey for a bit of showtime for his sponsors.

4pts – Bardet, for trying to explode the race open on the descent

4pts – Peraurd, for keeping up with the Shark when nobody else could

3pts – Purito, for going after the spots even though it is clear that he is not back to full health

2pts – Serpa, for challenging for the best sideburns in the peloton.

-1pt – Balaverde (AGAIN), for blaming everything else other than himself for his struggles. As the TanMan quite aptly said, “this is what riding clean looks like!”

 

The current table is:

14pts – Panzerwagen (Martin)

13pts – Chameleon (Di Marchi)

9pts – Majka

8pts – Fuglsang

7pts – The Shark (Nibali), and The Jensie (Voigt)

6pts – Purito (Rodríguez), Bardet, and Voeckler

5pts – Pit Bull (DNF)Kadri, Cheng, Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Peraud, Clarke, Gallopin, Chava (Chavanel), Bideau, and König

3pts – Van Garderen, Pinot, Bakelants, Gautier, Langeveld, Dumoulin,  Spartacus (Cancellara – DNF), and Clentador (DNF)

2pts – Serpa, Flowerman (Kwiatkowski), Huzarski, and Elmiger

1pt – de la Cruz (DNF), Edet, Mate, The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (DNF)

-2pts – Balaverde

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling News – Stage 14 Report

SBS Cycling Central – Stage 14 wrapup

VeloVoices – Tour Stage 14

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from LeTour.fr and Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

My cheeky review of the 2014 Tour de France is running a bit overdue – well it is tough watching a race for 3 weeks between 10pm and 2am in the morning. But I did not miss a beat on this very decisive first stage in the high mountains of the French Alpes. And I am writing this in anticipation of the coming Stage 15 after two absolutely gruelling days in the high mountains. So this is a catchup, to ensure that no points are missed in the hunt for the Grey Jersey.

The Chameleon Strikes Again

The first of the two mountain stages saw the riders head into the Alpes from Saint-Étienne where they first climbed a little Category 1 mountain (only 1,154m in altitude – only), drop into Grenoble for a coffee, and then climb up the not so famous ‘Beyond Category’ mountain of Chamrousse (only 1,730m in altitude – only). While a reasonably large group of riders tried to breakaway, it was none other than the Chameleon – Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) who decided to crack it and leave the rest behind. Oh, I forgot to mention that Purito (Joaquim Rodríguez – Katusha) chased more spotty points and got them – he wants to be in spots by the time the race finishes. He was doing a bang up job of trying to stick it to all the contenders for Yellow, and for an age he only had one other chaser – Jan Bakelants (who shot to fame last year winning gloriously on Stage 2 and holding onto the Yellow for the two stages after). This time the Chameleon did not have an armoured car breathing down his neck (that would be Tony Martin), and he would keep Bakelants at bay as the gap would just not be closed.

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During the Chameleon’s sojourn, a nasty misplaced water bottle (it was dropped and was full) took out the Shark’s (Vincenzo Nibali – Astana) key lieutenant Jakob Fuglsang. Fuglsang hit the ground hard, and I am sure the peloton could feel the ground shake. It was nasty and unfortunate, and also meant that the Shark would be climbing alone. In the end the brutal final climb into Chamrousse brought demise to the unlikely break made by the Chameleon.

http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-13/photos/314714

BTW – the Chameleon did not use this camouflage pattern on this stage.

A Shark, Two French Youths, a Cagey Spaniard and a wiry American

The top 9 riders in the race all reached the Chameleon as a bunch. The race was on fire – literally! It was so hot on the climb up that riders (good riders) were tumbling out like bowling pins. An unlikely Eastern European pair in King Leo (Leopold König – NetApp-Endura) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) decided enough was enough and went for glory. They both took off like mountain goats bounding up the Alpes.

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Meanwhile back in the lead group, the game was being whittled down. The next great Aussie hope of pro-cycling, Tassie Devil – Richie Porte (the Empire??? Huh???), blew a head gasket and had to drop. This was a shame to see as he went from second to somewhere in the forgettable teens. While Porte tumbled down the ladder, the Shark in Yellow devoured his rivals… again! He took off after König and Majka with a ferocious attack in the final kilometres. Young French gun Thibaut Pinot went out to reel the Shark in, and he was joined by Balaverde – Green Bullet in English (Alejandro Valverde – Movistar). Pinot was the only one doing the work, and I am not sure about the gamesmanship of the Green Bullet where he was asked by Pinot to do a turn at the front. Balaverde was cagey, saying he was tired – then attacked… Pinot caught him and when it came to the end Balaverde attacked again…

Behind them the other young French Gun Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) partnered up with the wiry American Tejay Van Garderen to keep themselves in contention. This race though was all about a Sicilian Shark in Yellow. He dispatched the unlucky Majka and König who would be both wondering what might have been. In the hunt for Yellow the Shark increased his lead. The cagey Green Bullet moved into second, and French hopes are bubbling with their two young guns in prime position to displace Balaverde.

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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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

Big points earned in the sweltering heat of the French Summer.

5pts – The Chameleon – he has been working hard for the Terminator and this was the second big break of his Tour. He has a certain Panzerwagen in his sights.

4pts – König and Majka, for having the stones to try and put one over the big guns.

4pts – Fuglsang, for getting back on his steed and dressing himself up like a mummy to finish the stage and fight another day.

3pts – Bakelants for trying to close the gap.

3pts – Pinot for not throwing in the towel to The Shark, and earning respect.

2pts – Bardet and Van Garderen, for teaming up and limiting the losses.

-1pt – Unheard of but true to Balaverde for the dodgy gamesmanship with Pinot.

N.B. I can’t give points to The Shark, even though he kicked everyone’s butt in style. He has Yellow, and we all know that Yellow should not be mixed with Grey.

 

The current table is:

14pts – Panzerwagen (Martin)

8pts – Chameleon (Di Marchi), Fuglsang

7pts – The Shark (Nibali), and The Jensie (Voigt)

6pts – Voeckler

5pts – Pit Bull (DNF)Kadri, Cheng, Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Clarke, Gallopin, Chava (Chavanel), Bideau, König, and Majka

3pts – Van Garderen, Pinot, Bakelants, Gautier, Langeveld, Purito (Rodríguez), Dumoulin,  Spartacus (Cancellara – DNF), and Clentador (DNF)

2pts –  Bardet, Flowerman (Kwiatkowski), Huzarski, and Elmiger

1pt – de la Cruz (DNF) Edet, Mate, The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (DNF)

-1pt – Balaverde

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling News – Stage 13 Report

SBS Cycling Central – Stage 13 wrapup

VeloVoices – Tour Stage 13

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

My cheeky review of the 2014 Tour de France continues with the peloton only one day away from the fireworks that will explode in the Alpes. I have to ask the question, is this the toughest Tour that we have seen in recent history? Really? Stage 12 should have been a flat and gently rolling one, but it still had bite. And there was more news in the GC fight.

The Pit Bull Out!

After a humbling, and monumental, display of cement mixing the day before by The Pit Bull – Andrew Talansky (Garmin Sharp) he has had to pull out. He rode with some nasty injuries, and unfortunately we will have to wait till next year to see him light it up in the chase for Yellow.

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While I am loving this Tour, I am feeling a bit robbed by 3 of the guys who should have finished in the Top 10 are scratched. The likes of Purito (Rodiguez – Team Katusha) have also misfired. There is a lot of quality sitting on the couch watching SBS now.

So it opens the door in a big way for the young guns to shine and maybe slay a Shark.

A Breakaway with a Bit of Bad Luck

This was to be a perfect stage to stick a breakaway, and a group of five tried to do it. Within the group were two very strong riders – Simon Clarke (Orica GreenWedge) and Dutch National Champ Sebastian Langeveld (Garmin-Sharp). They were complimented by Gregory Rast (Trek) – no slouch himself, Florian Vachon (Bretagne-Seché), and David de la Cruz (Team Netapp-Endura). The hard luck descended on de la Cruz, who blew his front tyre at the apex of a right hand turn when he was third wheel in the group and went down HARD! He took out Langeveld as well, who was fortunate enough to rejoin the group. Very hard luck for de la Cruz who busted up his collarbone and was obviously in incredible pain – respect. The flat blowout could have happened anywhere, but it happened at a position where he couldn’t have saved it.

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They were looking good, but eventually Clarke and Langeveld pushed on by themselves. Two riders from Europcar tried to chase them down, including Cyril Gautier (who does not poke faces). Langeveld cracked eventually as well and Clarke got caught. For a brief glimmer it looked like the two of them might have been able to nab the win, but when Gautier turned to Clarke to rotate him around to the front, Clarke’s response:

“I got nothing left in the tank”.

The peloton swallowed them up with 5km to go.

Messy Bunch Sprint… Again

We were robbed of a rocket for this finish with a bingle between two of the hardest men in the peloton – Chava (Chavanel – IAM) and the Gorilla (Greipel – Lotto-Belisol).

The Gorilla was angry!

Chava told him to get over it.

The Gorilla got angrier.

Chava told him to check out his tattoo and he had a cooler looking bike.

Clearly a cold beer was needed…

Anyways, back at the front, the finish was not straightforward and the sprint trains were fumbling. Finally it was AK47 himself (Alexander Kristoff – Katusha) who blew them all away and crossed the line ahead of The Terminator (Sagan – Cannondale) who just can’t win a stage. I don’t know if he was rubbing salt into The Terminator, but his victory salute was “Wolverine-esque” robbing Sagan of the celebration (my blades look a bit rubbish – but you get the idea). Purito was happy and the Russian oligarchs of Katusha had two visits on the podium for the day.

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The rest of the GC riders kept their noses clean, and I can’t wait for things to blow up in the Alpes tomorrow. What I am hoping for is The Shark to be checked and two young French riders in Pinot and Bardet to run rampant as they blow the race wide open.

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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

The whole peloton should be given a cement milkshake after this stage going into the rest day, but we have to be judicious.

4pts – Simon Clarke for trying to stick the breakaway.

3pts – Gautier for catching the breakaway and trying his own cheeky attack.

3pts – Langeveld for holding out with Clarke for so long.

1pt – de la Cruz for going hard and his bad luck

 

The current table is:

14pts – Panzerwagen (Martin)

7pts – The Shark (Nibali), and The Jensie (Voigt)

6pts – Voeckler

5pts – Pit Bull (Talansky – now DNF)Kadri, Cheng, Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Clarke, Gallopin, Chava (Chavanel) Bideau, and Fuglsang

3pts – Gautier, Langeveld, Purito (Rodríguez), Chameleon (Di Marchi), Dumoulin,  Spartacus (Cancellara – now DNF), and Clentador (DNF)

2pts –  Flowerman (Kwiatkowski), Huzarski, and Elmiger

1pt – de la Cruz (DNF) Edet, Van Garderen, , Mate, The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (DNF)

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling News – Stage 12 Report

SBS Cycling Central – Stage 12 wrapup

VeloVoices – Tour Stage 12

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

Can this year’s Tour de France get any more eventful? Well of course it can, but it will be hard to top the first 10 days. My cheeky review of Le Tour continues, and wow what a stage 10 it was in the Vosges mountains. I have worked in sports organisations before, and I am pretty sure that the Tour route planners are a devilish bunch. Is it possible that for Stage 10 they were drinking a little too much cognac and champagne? A stage with four category 1 climbs, two category 2 climbs and a category 3 – oh and finishing off with the last 400m at a 20% gradient. As the French say, “c’est fou!”

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Did I mention that the weather was atrocious as well?

El Pistolero Out!

The third major shock exit happened on this stage, El Pistolero – Clentador – Alberto Contador (Tinkhoff-Saxo) crashed spectacularly not once but twice. And contrary to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen’s commentary during the race it was not due to failure of his Specialized bike frame. The riders around Alberto said he was taking risks on the downhill descents, dangerous risks. But I will call it what it is, bike racing at its toughest.

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As you have probably figured out I am not a big fan of Alberto due to part of his dubious past which no doubt was influenced by his team management at the time (Bruyneel et al). But he earned my mega respect by the huge demonstration of Rule #5. He broke his leg in the second crash, then got patched up, back on the bike and rode another 20km uphill to try and get back into the peloton. Alberto showed everybody how to HTFU! Maybe Arjen Robben and many other star players in the Football world can take a lesson or two from a tiny Spaniard.

Robben Falls

Alas Clentador had to pull out and join The Manx Missile and Froome-dog on the couch watching the SBS coverage of La Grande Boucle.

Races within a Race

This stage had action all around independent of Alberto’s troubles. The Panzerwagen (Tony Martin – Omega-Pharma-Quickstep), backed up his huge efforts from the day before to play domestique for his team’s Polish young gun, The Flowerman (Michal Kwiatkowski) – who went on the attack! The Flowerman tried to stick it to the Shark, but it was not to be his day. His breakaway group also contained The Terminator (Peter Sagan) who all but wrapped up the Maillot Vert sprint competition by scoring maximum points on the first intermediate sprint. This all but guarantees him taking a position on the podium on the Champs-Élysées. Then the action kicked off in the Polka Dot competition with Purito (Joaquim Rodríguez – Katusha) punching it out with the Gurning Champ (Thomas Voeckler – Europcar) on a number of the climbs. Purito came third last year but is out of contention this year after a poor start, so he is ferociously chasing another jersey. I have never seen uphill sprinting of this nature before – awesome!

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But ultimately the day belonged to the Shark (Vincenzo Nibali – Astana) who grabbed the stage by the horns and hammered past everyone. In a post race interview, Purito claimed that it was like he was overtaken by an aeroplane, such was the force of the overtaking manoeuvre.

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A warning to the Shark – your chasers are not far behind, this race is far from over. Porte, Van Garderen, Pinot, Bardet, Valverde were all less than 30 seconds behind him. The Pit Bull (Talansky – Garmin Sharp) crashed several times on the stage and is now out of overall contention. This year’s race has become a real battle of attrition. With the big Alpes and Pyrenees climbs looming there is more action to come – and I am loving it!

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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

The whole peloton should be given a cement milkshake after this stage going into the rest day, but we have to be judicious.

5pts – The Shark, who grabbed the bit between the teeth and hammered.

4pts – Panzerwagen, backing up for the second day in a row with a phenomenal display of power and sacrifice.

3pts – Voeckler and Purito, for battling it out in appalling conditions chasing the polka dots.

3pts – Clentador, for racing, crashing, getting back on the bike, and riding another 20km with a busted leg – respect

1pt – Flowerman, going on the attack even though it was futile.

 

The current table is:

14pts – Panzerwagen (Martin)

7pts – The Shark (Nibali), and The Jensie (Voigt)

6pts – Voeckler

5pts – Kadri, Cheng, Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Gallopin, Chava (Chavanel) Bideau, and Fuglsang

3pts – Purito (Rodríguez), Chameleon (Di Marchi), Dumoulin,  Spartacus (Cancellara – now DNF), and Clentador (DNF)

2pts –  Flowerman (Kwiatkowski), Huzarski, and Elmiger

1pt – Edet, Van Garderen, , Mate, The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (DNF)

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling News – Stage 10 Report

SBS Cycling Central – Stage 10 wrapup

VeloVoices – Tour Stage 10

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

My cheeky review of La Grand Boucle continues for what is the ninth day of racing in a row, continuing in the Vosges mountains. After the heroics of the hotly anticipated attack from Chava (Sylvain Chavanel – IAM) the day before, another of my favourite riders decided that it was not good enough to let him steal all the limelight.

Enter the Panzerwagen!

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A Panzerwagen Chased by a Chameleon

My second favourite rider in the peloton is none other than Tony Martin, otherwise known as ‘der Panzerwagen’ (German for armoured car). Not only does he have the coolest nickname in the peloton, but he is an absolute machine of a rider and he earns the nickname every time he rides. The car above is what the rest of the peloton thought they were chasing for the whole of stage 9.

But he wasn’t alone for much of this breakaway journey, with the Chameleon – Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) keeping him company for the first 100km or so.

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But let’s face it when you only have little legs, and you are a small lizard, there is no keeping up with a Panzerwagen. De Marchi did ride strong though and fought for the polka dots but to no avail, there are other riders eyeing that prize. Credit it to him, in the stages leading up to this he has been doing some big work for his teammate – The Terminator (Peter Sagan).

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With just under 60km to go, der Panzerwagen hit the throttle and was never seen again. Awesome display of raw power, up and down mountains and leaving his fellow riders in a blur behind him. And he rode faster and faster as the stage went on. Just revenge on the entire peloton from last year’s Stage 6 of the Vuelta.

A Frenchman in Yellow for Bastille Day

The other tale of this stage was a Frenchman hammering on his own to take the Maillot Jaune off of The Shark (Vincenzo Nibali). Tony Gallopin of the Lotto-Belisol team managed to breakaway from the peloton and into the chase group of riders trying to catch the German armoured car. He absolutely hammered out a lead that won him the right to wear the jersey on Bastille Day. I think that there was another reason that this succeeded. One of the GC contenders, none other than Mr Fashion Faux-Pas himself, Pierre Rolland (Europcar) rode himself back into contention in the chase for Yellow. While he does not know how to colour coordinate (have a look at how many rules he broke riding in polka-dot everything at last year’s tour) he is backing up from the Giro d’Italia and riding strong. I hope he animates things.

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Ultimately though it was once again a day for the French with Gallopin taking the top spot.

So the GC riders were playing coy and marking each other out. The Shark and Clentador content to wait and shoot it out in the big mountains – maybe even fire up for Stage 10. With Froome out of this race, this is turning into a real scrap of a Tour and I am loving it.

The Most Beautiful Stage So Far?

Why the race organiser’s don’t visit this region of France more often is beyond me. The racing for the last two days has been challenging, and tactical. But above all the race route has been absolutely beautiful. Check out this shot.

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I think I may have to go and visit this region next time I am in France, it looks spectacular.

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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

Big points again for the second stage in a row, and now the Panzerwagen jumps into the lead for the Grey.

5pts – Panzerwagen, what can I say – Awesome! And he inspired Germany to win the Football World Cup.

4pts – Gallopin, who hammered to wear Yellow.

3pts – Di Marchi, who should have at least earned some stripes for his efforts.

 

The current table is:

10pts – Panzerwagen (Martin)

6pts – The Jensie (Voigt)

5pts – Kadri, Cheng, Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Gallopin, Chava (Chavanel) Bideau, and Fuglsang

3pts – Di Marchi, Dumoulin, Voeckler, and Spartacus (Cancellara)

2pts – The Shark (Nibali), Huzarski, and Elmiger

1pt – Edet, Van Garderen, Kwiatkowski, Mate, The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (now DNF)

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling News – Stage 9 Report

SBS Cycling Central – Stage 9 wrapup

VeloVoices – Tour Stage 9

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

 

My cheeky review of La Grand Boucle continues for what is the seventh day of racing in a row, continuing in the Champagne region. You know that it is a tough race when even the transition stages are over 230km in length. This was always a stage targeted for only one rider – The Terminator, Peter Sagan.

Long and Flat with 2 Climbs at the End

Why was Sagan the favourite for this stage? Well it would be long and reasonably flat until the final 20km where there would be two punchy small climbs before the race into the city of Nancy. The peloton let a breakaway get away at the start of the stage, but they were never really let out of the bunch’s sights. It was a group of six riders consisting of Nicholas Edet (Cofidis), Alexandre Pichot (Europcar), Matthew Busche (Trek), Martin Elmiger (IAM), Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp), and Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Séché). They tried to get away, but it was The Terminator’s Cannondale Team who charged in pursuit to keep Sagan in position to chase the win. Edet wouldn’t allow the breakaway group to give up and spurred them on. But it was futile. Huzarski and Elmiger (Swiss National Champion) both tried to hold out but were reeled in before the climbs started.

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Another Crash for a GC Contender

The American hope for yellow was dealt a serious blow with a crash in the peloton, where the blame was very much on his own teammate for taking him down. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) went down for the count while riding in the front, and I think he copped a wheel in the head too while he was skidding on the deck. He dusted himself off, and his teammates dropped back to help. But he never managed to bridge the gap and lost a further minute in time along with the skin.

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Meanwhile, The Shark (Nibali – Astana), Clentador (Contador – Tinkoff-Saxo), and the other contenders kept their noses clean… almost.

A Sputtering Finale and Photo Finish

After dispatching the two climbs, The Terminator was in prime position as the riders entered Nancy. He jumped with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) with 3km to go. But instead of monstering away to the finish, he held up and checked his race radio back to his team car. I’m unsure whether he was taking a call from his Mum or not but instead of riding to duel it out to the finish with Van Avermaet, he held up. He let the lead group catch him back up. Then it was back down to a sprint finish, now with a bigger group. The Terminator dropped his helmet to try and scare them with his second pair of eyes. In the final stages it was mayhem with Gerro (Simon Gerrans – Orica-Greenwedge) colliding with the Pit Bull (Andrew Talansky – Garmin-Sharp). The Pit Bull was sent somersaulting and in reality both were to blame. Lucky for Talansky, his crash occurred in the final 3km and therefore no time was lost.

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The final dash to the finish saw one of the key lead out men from Omega-Pharma-Quickstep, Matteo Trentin, shooting it out with the Terminator. The sprint was so tight that it came down to a… photo finish!

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On the line, there was not even a half tyre width in it and it took forever for the marshals to make the call. But in the end it was Trentin, who was probably not who the team expected to first see on the podium. The Shark is still in Yellow for the 6th stage as we head to the Vosges mountains.

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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

Not many points for this stage but here is how they scored.

2pts – Huzarski and Elmiger for pushing on with the breakaway, though ultimately failing.

1pt – Edet, for kicking the breakaway back into gear though ultimately failing to make it stick.

1pt – Van Garderen, who took his fall in his stride and limited the time damage to stay in the fight.

 

The current table is:

6pts – The Jensie (Voigt)

5pts – Cheng, Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Bideau, Panzerwagen (Martin), and Fuglsang

3pts – Dumoulin, Voeckler, and Spartacus (Cancellara)

2pts – The Shark (Nibali), Huzarski, and Elmiger

1pt – Edet, Van Garderen, Kwiatkowski, Mate, The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (now DNF)

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling News – Stage 7 Report

SBS Cycling Central – Stage 7 wrapup

VeloVoices – Tour Stage 7

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

I am going to take a minor diversion from my tongue in cheek reviews of the Tour de France stages and highlight the importance of what happened on this stage. Le Tour passed through the North of France 100 years after the First World War and through many of its battlefields. The riders in the peloton came from all over the world to ride on French soil as competitors but united as riders. And in the end, a German riding on a Belgian team won the stage on French soil. 100 years ago this would never have happened.

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Finally Le Tour has Really Started

I say this because it is the first appearance of Didi the Devil. Now I know I am watching Le Tour de France.

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Gorilla Time

In reality, after the carnage of yesterday’s stage, this was a boring affair. A futile breakaway with again Luis Mate (Cofidis) and this time Jerome Pineau (IAM) along with two others was formed. But it had no chance, with Mate and Pinot holding out the longest but being reeled back in at some 30km to go to the line. The only thing that could have livened this stage up was wind. While the wind was present, it wasn’t strong enough to affect the overall outcome of what would be a stage for the sprinters.

One little bit action was a series of tumbles on what the riders described post the stage as a very slippery bit of tarmac, potentially coated with oil. Arnaud Demare (FDJ and French national champion) went down twice, and again was not a factor in the sprints (I had him in my TDF Fantasy team but he has been traded out a long time ago). But the big news was another retirement of another stormtrooper from the empire (Team Sky) – Xabier Zandio, who are now down to seven riders before we have even hit the mountains. Tinkoff-Saxo also suffered a DNF with Jesus Alberto Hernandez Blazquez going down – so Clentador’s team is down to eight. It is very much falling the Shark’s (Nibali) way at the  moment.

Once the sprint trains fired up it was going to come down to the rockets to shine. The Omega-Pharma-Quickstep train roared into gear, but there was no Manx Missile to finish off the job. Vanilla Ice copped a puncture in the finale and his Argonaut teammate John Degenkolb is carrying a nasty tear in his butt from the mayhem of stage 5. Katusha tried to fire up for their man Kristoff as well. But the surprise was Michal Kwiatkowski launching off the front in the last kilometer dropping everybody in his wake. The sprinters had to try very hard to reel him back in, and it was my son’s favourite rider The Gorilla (Greipel – Lotto Belisol) who pipped out everyone at the line. Finally a bit of Gorilla time!

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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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

Not many points for this stage but here is how they scored.

1pts – Cheng, who rode again at the front of the peloton and has earned the nickname the “Breakaway Killer”.

1pts – Mate, for having the stones to attempt a breakaway again. Giddy up.

1pts – Kwiatkowski, for having the stones to try and put one over the sprinting peloton and nearly succeed.

 

The current table is:

6pts – The Jensie (Voigt)

5pts – Cheng, Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Bideau, Panzerwagen (Martin), and Fuglsang

3pts – Dumoulin, Voeckler, and Spartacus (Cancellara)

2pts – The Shark (Nibali)

1pt – Kwiatkowski, Mate, The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (now DNF)

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling NewsStage 6 Report

SBS Cycling Central – Stage 6 wrapup

VeloVoicesTour Stage 6

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

Since the start of this year’s Tour we have been waiting in anticipation for the potential epicness (there is no such word but I have just created it) of what would be Stage 5. Rain, cobbles, peloton jitters – BRING IT ON!

Froome Out!

I am not a big fan of the Froome-dog, as you can probably tell from previous articles in this blog. But that does not mean I don’t respect him. In a big way it is a shame to see the defending champion go out like this. We will probably never know, but he probably injured his wrist more heavily than was made public. To see him go down for the count twice in the wet before we hit the cobbles was… well sad.

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But in adversity there is opportunity. The other GC riders will be emboldened and the new up and comers like the Polish sensation Kwiatkowski (Omega-Pharma-Quickstep – this team name is far to long) or my dark horse for the overall, the American kid Talansky (Garmin-Sharp). For one rider in particular now is the time to shine. Step up to the plate please Richie Porte!

A Helluva Stage

A small breakaway of seven riders led by the none other than the Panzerwagen himself, Tony Martin (Omega-Pharma-Quickstep), made what would be a very smart move to get in front of the peloton and ride hard. I have no idea why the Panzerwagen doesn’t ride the Classics, but I suspect that ASO have banned him just in case he flattens out the cobbled sections with his power and speed. N.B. This is pure conjecture on the part of the author.

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The rest of the peloton was very nervous and as the incidents and roundabouts kicked in, the peloton broke down. Groups of riders formed to survive. The big GC contenders were hunting for their key domestiques to buddy up and try to survive. There was carnage! As they came close to the cobbled sections then the Classics boys came out to play, Spartacus (Fabian Cancellara – Trek), The Terminator (Peter Sagan – Cannondale), Vanmarcke (Belkin), Van Avermaet (BMC) all started licking their lips and hammering. The breakaway got caught up in the groups of chasers and Vanmarcke alongside his teammate Lars Boom looking set to steal the show until he… had a mechanical leaving Boom to ride on by himself. The biggest surprise was The Shark in yellow (Vincenzo Nibali – Astana) along with his teammate and super-domestique Jakob Fuglsang going out and trying to keep up with Boom, but then being satisfied with putting a big lead over all the other GC riders scrambling in their wake.

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Carnage

While I don’t like seeing riders go down, and I have enough scars on my body to demonstrate my own mishaps, this stage made for riveting sports drama. The quality of the riders who tumbled was most surprising, here is a smattering:

– Pinot (FDJ), great French rider

– Froome x2 and not even on cobbles, and so did his teammate Bernie Eisel

– Acevedo (Garmin-Sharp) while in the breakaway going down after he had a mechnical earlier on.

– The Gorilla (Griepel) – he is nervous…

– Démare (FDJ) – misfiring and nervous…

– Vanilla Ice (Kittel) – and he broke the pavement when he went down with his wide shoulders.

– Rojas (Movistar) – the Spanish bullet.

– Talansky – off the back of another rider from Lotto Belisol doing a forward somersault into a ditch in front of him.

– Heino Haussler (IAM) – and he loves riding in these conditions.

– Dumoulin (AG2R La Mondiale) – unlucky because he was going hard in the breakaway.

The Cannibal Welcomes a Boom

Not surprisingly the Cannibal, The Great Eddy Merckx, had to attend this race. I bet he was itching to get on a bike and smash them all on this stage. But the Badger, The Great Bernard Hinault, wouldn’t let him and told him he had to hand out flowers on the podium. There was nearly a punch up behind the podium between The Badger and The Cannibal, but Prudhomme (Race Director) chastised them both and told them to behave. N.B. This is all hearsay (i.e. likely made up by the author).

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The final group of Boom, followed closely by The Shark in yellow and his teammate Fuglsang absolutely hammered. Flying in at an average of 47km/hr Boom crossed the line gloriously for a well deserved win. The litany of GC riders tumbled through with a nervous Clentador being the biggest loser and falling well outside of the overall Top 10. This Tour is boiling now already in the first week – game on!

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One point of note, it is disappointing that Belkin, Boom’s team sponsor, have pulled out early. They are enjoying the spoils of some big coverage off the back of a stupendous effort.

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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

I could have dished out a bucket load of points for Stage 5, but the reality is that the distribution of available points was determined prior to the start of this race.

5pts – Boom, absolutely phenomenal ride in what would have to be the toughest stage I have watched in years.

4pts – Fuglsang, for dragging his teammate in Yellow to the line. It was also clear that on this stage he was stronger than The Shark.

3pts – Dumoulin, who in the breakaway had a mechanical then had to catch up in the wet the hard way and then stacked it too.

2pts – Lemoine, who pretty much rode by himself in the final kilometers to finish a respectable 10th for the stage and honouring the polka dot jersey.

1pt – Froome-dog, he respected the Maillot Jaune and rode on even though probably should have pulled out yesterday

 

The competition is certainly heating up, the current table is:

6pts – The Jensie (Voigt)

5pts – Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Bideau, Cheng, Panzerwagen (Martin), and Fuglsang

3pts – Dumoulin, Voeckler, and Spartacus (Cancellara)

2pts – The Shark (Nibali)

1pt – The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (now DNF)

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling NewsStage 5 Report

SBS Cycling CentralStage 5 wrapup

VeloVoicesTour Stage 5

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

Finally we depart the shores of the heart of the empire and land back on territoire français. And while I salute the English hosts of the first three stages for an excellent show and fanatical support, it has had consequences. The muppet who caused Aschleck (Andy) to crash has also caused him to pull out of Le Tour. Aschleck can’t buy a trick at the moment and seems to be cursed. I just hope he can recover and get back to learning how to time trial so he can win a grand tour.

In a bizarre twist of roles, it was not until we left English soil that we have had bad weather – just in time to polish the cobbles of tomorrow’s stage 5. But this is about stage 4…

The Moment I was Dreading Would Happen

No it was not the Froome-dog crashing in the middle of the peloton because he was looking at his stem. But while I pick on Froome, I have to say “Ouch!” At least he has Gerraint Thomas in his team to teach him the finer points of Rule #5.

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It was that the gurning champion of the peloton, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), getting in a breakaway where the camera would be focused on his facial contortions. He was hoping that he would be joined by a few others, but in the end there was only one companion (much to his disgust) – Luis Mate (Cofidis). Now these two were able to talk to each other, albeit in French. Their initial conversations were captured on the race coverage. For those of you who don’t understand French here is how the conversation went:

Voeckler – “We can make this break stick if the two of us work together.”

Mate – “There would have been more riders joining us if you didn’t pull so many faces.”

Voeckler – “I promise that I won’t pull any today, let’s hammer.”

… the Cofidis team car pulls alongside the two

Cofidis DS (head stuck out of his car window) – “Hey Thomas, can you pull that funny face from stage 17 last year?”

Voeckler – “But I promised Mate that I wouldn’t”.

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So the two of them continued until they hit the town of Cassel, then Voeckler couldn’t help himself and BAM! – Mate has a mechanical. Mate was able to catch up on his new bike, but not before giving his breakaway companion a serve.

Mate – “You promised you wouldn’t pull faces!”

Voeckler – “I thought your bike wasn’t looking.”

Meanwhile, back in the peloton, for the fourth day in a row there was cement being laid out by the first Chinese rider to ever ride Le Tour. Cheng Ji (Giant-Shimano and newly adopted Argonaut) for the fourth day in a row was pulling massive turns at the front of the peloton. I suspect Jensie learned a Chinese dialect in the off-season so that he could tutor Cheng. Now I realise that as a domestique rider you have got to do your duty for the team, but c’mon Giant Shimano give the little guy a break. Maybe he can have a rest on stage 5, riding on cobbles.

Voeckler and Mate continued with their breakaway riding well together when Voeckler did it again, he contorted his face. Same result I am afraid – Mate’s front wheel punctured. Now it was left to Voeckler to ride by himself which he did so until 16km to go.

On with the Sprint

So the sprint trains formed, and Omega-Pharma-Quickstep and Giant Shimano were signalling their intent to win this drag race. It was in the final kilometers where the second big demonstration of cement laying for the day was shown. The Panzerwagen, Tony Martin (Omega-Pharma-Quickstep), got to the front of his sprint train and… proceeded to drop everybody. He turned around and realised he was riding too fast and that was naughty, so he slowed down to let the slow pokes catch up. The peloton kicked on and I thought there was going to be a change in the script when Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) jumped with over 300m to go. But he went too far out, and Vanilla Ice (Kittel) reeled him back in again. No change in the script, win number three for the leader of the Argonauts.

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Now I am salivating in anticipation of the carnage of Stage 5. There may even be some cement laying over the cobbles.

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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

4pts – Cheng, 1 point for every day he has pulled the peloton.

4pts – Panzerwagen, for dropping the entire peloton in his leadout.

3pts – Voeckler, would have got 5 pts but he caused two mechanicals.

 

The competition is certainly heating up, the current table is:

6pts – The Jensie (Voigt)

5pts – Kadri and Barta

4pts – Bideau, Cheng, Panzerwagen (Martin)

3pts – Lemoine, Voeckler, and Spartacus (Cancellara)

2pts – The Shark (Nibali)

1pt – The Hornet (Horner)

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling NewsStage 4 Report

SBS Cycling CentralStage 4 wrapup

VeloVoicesTour Stage 4

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

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