Archives for posts with tag: Road Racing

Well the North of the Empire showed the Southerners what it means to be true sports fans by completely swamping the race route for the first two days of La Grande Boucle. The spectators were out everywhere, and some a little too close to the action.

Unfortunately for Stage 3 we had an (another) incident that could have affected the outcome of the race for the GC. This absent minded observer thought he would get in prime position to capture the very quickly advancing peloton.

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He went down for the count in a bad way and the concertina effect rippled through the peloton taking down 3 riders including Aschleck (Andy). The question I have is whether this absent minded observer would have ever decided to play on the freeway?

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Newsflash – the pro-peloton goes fast, it is called racing. Repeating what ASO tweeted “Respectez les coureurs!”

Regardless of this incident, it was awesome to see the crowds absolutely swamping the race route. Where are all these spectators during the Tour of Britain (I forgot, it rained for most of the stages this year)?

Back to the race proper…

Let’s Breakaway – Where is Everyone Else?

Of course a breakaway decided to go, but when the two guys who jumped out in front at kilometer 0 and looked back to see who was going to join them there was… tumbleweeds. This breakaway was always going to be nothing but futile on this sprinter’s stage. It should be noted that the two brave coureurs were first time TDF participants – Jan Barta (NetApp-Endura) and Jean-Marie Bideau (Bretagne-Séché Environnement). And there were a few complications for these guys:

  1. Barta is Czech and Bideau is French, and I don’t think either of these two guys could speak the other’s language
  2. Can you imaging riding and working with a guy for over 140km without even being able to say hi (and let’s face it, the international language of love is not used in the pro-peloton – EVER!)
  3. The peloton were always just going to toy with these two, like a pack of lions with two mice, and reel them in as they approached the big smoke of London.

But to their credit, they hammered! Much cement was laid out on this stage by these guys. Lesson learned from the Jensie no doubt.

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They both held off the peloton until less than 10km to go and worked equally hard together to keep them at bay. Barta, who is the national time-trial champion of the Czech Republic went for another 2km more solo and is bound to be chomping at the bit for a contract on one of the big teams for next year. He was clearly the stronger of the two.

Rocket Racing on The Mall

After the chase for the intermediate sprint points for the Green Jersey (still on the Terminator’s shoulders), the stage inevitably come down to a bunch sprint. And as if right on queue the English weather delivered the goods and coated the roads with some slippery glistening water. It was edgy in the final turns and a heap of teams were lining up to put their sprinters in the box seat. With no Manx Missile racing (did anyone see the sign that said “GO CAV” with the “G” crossed out?), his matador teammate Renshaw was the anointed sprinter. The rockets were released, there was a crash, The Gorilla (Greipel) misfired, and Vanilla Ice (Kittel) monstered EVERYONE to the finish line. He even dragged the Terminator (Sagan) along for the ride who could do nothing but observe the sponsor logo on the Kittel’s bib knicks.

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Oh, and there was no change in the GC. The Froome-dog spent time looking at stems, and The Shark (Nibali) is still in Yellow.

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.

5pts – Barta, who carried his breakaway colleague for the last 10km or so.

4pts – Bideau, who died a bit in the end, but chapeau.

 

The current table is:

6pts – The Jensie (Voigt)

5pts – Kadri and Barta

4pts – Bideau

3pts – Lemoine 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 3 Report

SBS Cycling CentralStage 3 wrapup

VeloVoices Tour Stage 3

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

It didn’t take long for this year’s Tour de France to fire up, and credit has to go to the race organiser’s for laying down a challenging second stage. What is a real surprise to me is that it is definitely NOT flat in Yorkshire. And after yesterday’s efforst by the Manx Missile (Mark Cavendish) to imitate a head butting bull he has had to pull out of the race. His team of Omega Pharma – Quickstep now have their Tour de France plans in complete disarray. Anyways, misfiring missiles are all history now and there is 20 days of racing to go – here is the tale of the tape for stage 2.

A Breakaway Making a Good Effort

After “The Jensie” (Jens Voigt) dished out a lesson to the peloton yesterday in cement mixing, the breakaway group of 7 riders decided that they should give a good crack at it. The main protagonists were Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) and Blel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale). Fair play to Lemoine who chased down as many of the hill top finishes to earn his place in the Polka Dot Jersey taking it off the shoulders of the Jensie. He was in the break for some 140km. He earnt some of these points through what has to be the funniest name for a climb (in French) – “Côte de Blubberhouses”.

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Big credit also goes to Kadri who only got caught with just over 30km to go gave it a proper crack, but his compatriot Thomas Voeckler (Europcar – and face pulling champion of the peloton) led off an attack dragging a punchy group of riders – including the GC contenders to reel him back in. There were several more attacks including a brazen attempt from Mr Fashion Faux Pas himself Pierre Rolland (Europcar – check out his all polka dot affair from last year’s race… not good). Credit to Rolland who has showed that he intends to back up from his efforts in the Giro, let’s hope his legs hold up. Rolland was only caught by the chase group with just under 10km to go.

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Finish with a Shark Attack!

Surprisingly the GC boys all came out to play. First it was the Froome-dog who was checked by Clentador (Alberto Contador – sorry that name is going to stick) and The Shark (Vincenzo Nibali finally hunting in Le Tour). It was the Shark’s team mate, Jakob Fulsang (Astana), who messed around with everyone providing the perfect springboard for a Shark Attack!

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Nibali went with 2km and he smoked all of them. As he crossed the line he let everyone know that he is here to win and intends to do so as the Italian national champion. Chapeau! Nibali now wears Yellow on his back, and there will be fun and games in the days to come.

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One should not look past the guys who finished behind him as the GC contenders including the dark horses, like my pick Talansky, were all nipping away at Nibali’s fins.

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.

5pts – Blel Kadri who really kicked on with it on an underestimated but tough stage.

3pts – Cyril Lemoine for not only riding the breakaway but also laying some smack down to his partners in the breakaway group.

2pts – Vincenzo Nibali for his successful attack in the final two kms earning the rewards and firing up the contest early in the race.

1pt – Jens Voigt for cracking jokes with his fellow riders in the peloton while wearing the silliest jersey in the race.

The current table is:

6pts – The Jensie (Voigt)

5pts – Kadri

3pts – Lemoine and Spartacus (Cancellara)

2pts – The Shark (Nibali)

1pt – The Hornet (Horner)

It is a veritable zoo in the hunt for Grey.

 

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

Cycling NewsStage 2 Report

SBS Cycling CentralStage 2 wrapup

VeloVoicesTour Stage 2

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

As I have previously done, here is the first of my tongue in cheek Tour de France stage reviews. I love professional cycling, after all it is one of the toughest sports in the world. But it is full of drama and some bizarre goings on (grown men and women in mankinis anyone?). So I can’t help but being a bit irreverent in my assessment. So once again, the Tour de France has kicked off again and I am very much looking forward to a sleepless July of road racing and helicopter views of chateaus in the country of France.

The Grand Depart in the North of the Empire

When you have to listen to your English cycling buddy (JB you know who you are) carry on about how grand the start was with three people with no interest in cycling named Windsor cutting the starting ribbon, then you have to wonder whether you just watched the Tour de France kick off. But I have to swallow my antipodean pride a bit because I love Leeds and my wife is a Yorkshire lass. The English Northeast put on a real show for the peloton and it was absolutely amazing seeing the throngs of people line the streets. There were strange decorations about with pretty much every town hanging up yellow painted bikes in bizarre places, including churches. But the most bizarre decorations would have to have been the yellow painted flocks of sheep.

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The race was really one of two halves. And the thing I was most looking forward to seeing was last year’s Grey Jersey winner (I’ll detail that further down in my post) Jens “The Jensie” Voigt go on the attack. As soon as Christian Prudhomme waved the flag, both he and two French riders (Nicolas Edet – Cofidis and Benoit Jarrier – Bretagne – Seche Environnement) went to attack in the breakaway. The fact is the two French boys just could not keep up with the 42 year old Jensie who knew that if he could hold off the peloton over the two climbs, he would be riding in a polka dot jersey (the climbers jersey) in this his final tour. So for 50km the Jensie became one with pain and dished out a lesson to the peloton.

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Once they reeled him on over the top of the final climb, the reality is that the stage became a boring countdown to the sprint. The countryside and scenery was spectacular, particularly the far to often mention dry stone walls which Paul Sherwin dutifully informed me were on average 52 inches in height but that this was not a standard (I am putting this in my stiff sh!t collection of facts – thanks Paul). To have my mate JB ring me during the stage and tell me further how glorious these stone walls were further reinforced the boredom of the stage. The reality is that the peloton showed much trepidation knowing that they could lose the race in this stage but not win it.

The Sprint Trains Motor Up

So the anticipation for the sprint was what I was watching for, and the concept of a sprint train is now well understood by the teams targeting the speed finishes. The Gorilla’s (Andre Greipel) team, Lotto Belisol, did a big turns on the front as did Vanilla Ice’s (Marcel Kittel) team of Argonauts, Giant Shimano. But when the action really kicked in it was The Manx Missile (Mark Cavendish) and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team who upped the ante in the final 4km. But they were disorganised and went out too early. Losing steam on an uphill champion, my boy’s favourite rider – Spartacus (Fabian Cancellara) jumped with 1km to go and nearly got there, but even this gladiator was not strong enough to keep the others at bay. This was nearly the biggest shock of the finishing sprint, until the Missile tried this…

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Head butting Simon Gerrans from Orica GreenWedge and bringing him down and a host of others. The calamity that ensued robbed us of an awesome sprint finish and Vanilla Ice was in the perfect position to claim the win and be the only one of the big sprinters to fight it out. Of note was the Terminator (Peter Sagan) chomping on his shoulder, and issuing a warning to everyone that he wants the Green Jersey.

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So the General Classification (Yellow Jersey) contenders were just happy to survive the first stage in the beautiful North of England, and an Argonaut is in Yellow for stage 2.

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). Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

5 pts – Jens Voigt (extending his lead for the most number of points earned in the hunt for the Grey Jersey), demonstrated for 50km to the whole peloton

3pts – Fabian Cancellara for his brazen attack in the final stages of the race.

1pt – Chris Horner for showing the rest of the peloton that a nasty crash and punctured lung is no excuse not to get back on the bike and flog yourself in the toughest race in the world.

 

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

Cycling NewsStage 1 Report

SBS Cycling CentralStage 1 wrapup

VeloVoicesTour Stage 1

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

The 2014 and 101st edition of the Grand Boucle (the Tour de France) is only one more sleep away. To continue getting into the spirit I am nerding up on a few books that celebrate the most gruelling sports event in the world (N.B. I don’t want to get into the argument of whether the Giro d’Italia is really the tougher race).

Thanks again to my father in law Benny (and the incompetence of international snail mail) I received two books about the Grand Boucle for Christmas. This post is about the second of those two.

Tour de France 100 by Richard Moore

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Richard Moore is one of my favourite cycling sports journalists. The Scottish author is a former top level cyclists himself, and has written several best selling cycling books as well as a book about the infamous Seoul Olympic Games 100m Athletics final and its protagonists. He has regularly written for the big British newspapers on all things cycling and his writing style is excellent (a lot better than mine) backed up by a deep knowledge of the sport of human powered two wheeled racing.

At first I thought that this book was going to be another photography book about Le Tour, nothing wrong with that given I fancy getting behind the lens, but this would be underselling this book by a long shot. The book is a veritable history of not only Le Tour, but of the society that hosted it as well. The Tour de France is a mirror onto the history of France and greater Europe since it had started. It is not a race that is bolted up into a stadium, where the sports image is controlled for the public eye. It goes through the cities, towns, and villages of an entire country and the spectators are not turned away by the stupid cost of ticket prices. But back to the book…

The book is broken down into chapters by era from the very start of the history of the event. At the start of each chapter there is a detailed write up of not only the hosting of the race, but it also captures some of the drama and incidents. This again is all painted against the backdrop of the changes in French society. My favourite photo is one where one of the riders is changing his own tyre on the roadside (at the time the riders were not able to have external assistance) and standing alongside looking on is a mother holding her young infant looking on – not so much about racing but about a race that is never too far away from the people.

A big bonus is the inclusion of some of the vintage photos from the early days of the tour. These are fantastic and it must have been tough riding in those conditions.

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The photography in this book is superb but just as good is the editing that has gone into choosing the images that communicate the story. This image of “The Cannibal” (Eddy Merckx) is iconic, and you can see the steely determination in his eyes.

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The book provides equal photographic focus on all the key protagonists in each era, which is something that the previous book that I reviewed did not. And it is not just the champions who are in focus, because the race is also very much about the guys who finished second… that maybe in another time would have been on the top step. It is these racers who often pushed the champions to greatness. Here is Big Mig (Miguel Indurain) in action leading in front of Luc Leblanc and Alex Zulle respectively – both great riders in their own right, they just came across the giant of a Spaniard.

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The book treats the EPO doping years in a much different fashion. It recognises that these guys in the peloton were still the best riders in the world, but it doesn’t shy away from the smear that befell the sport. I still look at this as a real shame, rampant drug use at the top level just when the sport was about to explode.

This book has an elegance and style to it that the previous book did not. I will pick it up again and again just to gawk at the stunning photography and point me to where I should further research the history of the Grand Boucle.

I give this book 5 cranks out of 5 – an excellent read and a real photography gem.

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The 2014 and 101st edition of the Grand Boucle (the Tour de France) is around the corner and due to start this weekend. So the Southern hemisphere insomnia of July is due to hit as well. To get into the spirit I am nerding up on a few books that celebrate the most gruelling sports event in the world (N.B. I don’t want to get into the argument of whether the Giro d’Italia is really the tougher race).

Thanks to my father in law Benny (and the incompetence of international snail mail) I received two books about the Grand Boucle for Christmas. This post is about the first of those two.

Mapping Le Tour (the unofficial history of all 100 Tour de France races) by Ellis Bacon

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This book is fantastic for any cycling fan. Us cyclists are a strange type of athlete (pro, amateur, wannabe pro, or otherwise) in that there is just as much focus on geography and stats as there is in the effort. I find myself “analysing” my rides and bike travels in my post ride review. The analysis is not just on my performance (or lack thereof) but also the route traveled. So this book ticks a lot of these analysis boxes for the big race as well as the historical race results.

The foreword for the book has been provided by none other than the Manx Missile himself – Mark Cavendish. I like Cav a lot, he is a racer, but am not too fond of his post race interviews. But what is surprising about his quick writeup is the respect he shows to the race and what is required from all of his peers to compete in this ultimate of physical challenges.

The main body of the book itself is centred around the geography of the race. When I had the opportunity to attend a talk by the Director of the Tour de France, Christian Prudhomme, he explained to us that planning the route for the race was a painstaking three year exercise and it was planned down to the local street level within the towns. But it is not just an exercise of ‘which towns are we going to visit this year’, but there is also the technical and logistical details of the race itself that have to be accommodated. After all, the race is over 3,000km in length over a period of 23 days with 2 rest days. The course has to be a mix of flat stages, rolling hill stages, and mountain stages so as to cater for all types of riders in the pro-peloton and provide a mix of sport entertainment.

Each of the 100 editions of Le Tour has a few pages dedicated to detailing what happened at a summary level in the race and which cyclists were the main protagonists in the event. Coupled with this is a detailed map with of all the stages marked up on it. The scale of the maps is such that the subtle route changes around the towns don’t get picked up in the route delineation. This also means that the all the mountain switchbacks are lost in the route delineation too. I do like the illustrative style of the maps, which is more akin to that the paper atlases I was familiar with as a kid growing up before the days of Google Maps.

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There are icons that denote what type of stage it is (flat, hilly, or mountain), but one negative is that there are no notations on the category of climbs for the mountain or hilly stages – after all not all mountain stages are equal.

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The book has some key stats on the iconic climbs of Le Tour, but again given the detail in the rest of the book I was wanting more (I have another book for that). There is a spread on the stats about the winners of Le Tour and the holders of the Maillot Jaune (yellow jersey). Again I wish they had similar statistics for the other jerseys; points (sprint) – green, climbers – red polka dot, and youth – white.

One interesting aspect of the book is its treatment of the doping controversies. It doesn’t mince its words at all, and correctly identifies the official omission of the winners in the doping years.

The photography is fantastic and this book serves as a great collection of some of the vintage photos of the early decades of the race. Now here is where I have a personal, or should I say Australian, gripe. There is not a showpiece photograph of Cadel Evans. I know the author is British, but Wiggo has only won the race once and never before taken a podium place. “Cuddles” on the other hand hopped on the top step before him, was on the second step a couple more times, and never had the team (or team funding) like Wiggo did to deliver the goods (N.B. I am not taking anything away from Wiggo – but give Cuddles his due).

After each of the previous editions, the book contains a detailed stage by stage preview of the 2013 and 100th edition of the Grand Boucle. This part of the book is fantastic because it also delves into the local history of the geographic region that the race is passing through. The final part of the book is a write up of what the author considers to be the most memorable locations visited by Le Tour. Locations like le Mont Ventoux, Col du Tourmalet, and Col du Galibier are given the attention that they should.

Overall, I think this book is great (thank Benny)! It could be improved in parts, but that is me being a nerdy cycling fan – give me more detail. The book is rich and comprehensive and fills in a lot of details that I have not read about before. The book is very well written and reflects the experience that Ellis Bacon has as one of the modern era’s premier English language cycling journalists. When I compare this book to the details held on a site like Wikipedia, this book wins hands down. I was very happy when this book arrived, and I think that this will be one that I nerd up on in the years to come. I only wish that there was a way in which I could append future editions of the race.

I give this book 4 cranks out of 5.

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When I first started writing this blog one of my earliest posts was about a cycling app / website called Strava. Strava is an app / website that enables you to log all your rides and runs up to the cloud and then tracks your performance along “segments” (sub sections of your route) and ranks your ride on a leaderboard not only against yourself but against every other rider who has done that “segment” including your mates. I posed the question “Is Strava evil?” given the way it gamifies every ride – but the conclusion I reached was no. I use Strava to push myself, and encourage my mates to go smash it as well – all while maintaining an upright position on the bike. The top of a segment leaderboard is appointed the Segment KOM – King Of the Mountain, and in all my riding I have yet to achieve this feat. I have managed to squeeze into the top 10 several times and even jumped on the podium on one of my local routes, but never the KOM.

So visiting my folks on the weekend gave me an opportunity to bring my bike, go out for a ride on my old stomping grounds and see if I could not nab a KOM.

The first aim of my ride was not to get any Strava KOMs but get in a short and intense ride for an hour. I wanted to see what average speed I could hold on my new Shimano DuraAce 9000 C24 wheels. I have ridden a couple of hundred kilometers on them now and they really are a factor. Everyone writes in the forums about the performance advantage of lighter and stiffer wheels. What they also mention is the cost of lighter and stiffer wheels. This cost has to date been prohibitive for me to upgrade, until recently when I was forced to get new wheels as a result of 5 year old rear wheel failing with multiple stress factors around the spokes. But with 450 grams of weight shaved off the bike in all the right places and a stiffer construct, I find myself performing marginally better on the bike with the new setup. I will write up a detailed review later, but the new wheels rock.

To do this high(er – the pros would eat me up) speed ride, I mapped out a route I used to ride when I was younger and would use riding as part of my cross-training for other sports. The route doesn’t include any traffic lights, but it does include a number of short and sharp hills that in some cases get up to 8-9% gradient. It would be 3 laps of a 10km circuit. Best part is that there are no traffic lights on this route and it is mostly local roads so little traffic. On the first few warmup kms I was feeling good, and stretched the legs out a bit. I was consistently hitting 35-37kph (21.7-23mph) on the flats, so feeling quite good. Then I got to the hilly stuff and my speed dropped. I was targeting for a 30kph average for the ride, but that dropped when I hit the hills. I was going to have to lift it.

On the final section of the lap there is a long straight which, while undulating, has a total drop of around 30m in elevation. The best bit about this section of tarmac is that it has been freshly sealed and is quite smooth. As I approach the road, I saw that there was no traffic and I remembered that there was a Strava KOM on this segment that was worth a chase. I punched it! The segment is 1.1km long, so tough going to maintain full power. I put my head down and burned my legs up. I was a bit naughty when I realised that I had actually exceed the road speed limit and was maintaining that speed for over 600m. I got over the first bump followed by the second, and then put my head down for the final 300m. I was gone by that stage, but my momentum carried me past the segment finish. It wasn’t until I got back to my parent’s house and connected the Garmin into the computer to upload the ride that I realised I had just earned my first Strava KOM.

49.1kph (30mph) for 1.1km

I was chuffed! And the next nearest rider was a couple of kph slower. I fell just short of my 30kph average speed for the ride (at 29.9kph), but it was a good hitout. I got a second place on one of the segments too up a bugger of a climb that runs for 600m and gets up over 10% gradient. But my climbing still has to improve greatly. Now the gauntlet has been set on my KOM and others will chase, while I chase the KOM on that second placed climb.

I am feeling good in the saddle with the Amy Gillett Gran Fondo now only 46 days away. But I still have to get some solid riding in before then.

Strava isn’t evil anymore  🙂

 

 

I am writing this post with the same feeling I get on Boxing Day (26 December), my next Christmas is another year away. But what a Christmas in July this was. The 100th edition of the Grand Boucle was freaking awesome! We saw the emergence of some great new talent. The tour organisers tried their best to kill the peloton. There was some heroics. There were tears. And I was cheering some real underdogs to wins. I also got my fix of Aussie riders doing well. But not only did Aussie riders do well, it was a truly global representation of athletes who were competing – now all we need to see are more Asian and African riders.

The stage itself as tradition has gone was half parade, half competition. Having lived in Paris previously, I get twangs of longing to return – and it has been a while for me. It is so very familiar seeing the streets and boulevards with the peloton riding through closed off streets. To top it off, how good was the light show on the L’Arc de Triomphe. I wish I had been there, and I can’t wait to catch up with my old workmate who went over there for the trip of a lifetime to hear his stories.

While I have been a bit (huh? – a lot) tongue in cheek describing Team Sky and their Lead Rider Christopher Froome’s attempt to win the Maillot Jaune, the reality is that he rode absolutely awesome over the three weeks and is a deserving champion. For me the highlight of his victory was when he absolutely blew every other rider away on the first day in the Pyrenees. His mindblowingly high cadence acceleration up the mountain was something else. It was ballsy of the highest order – with Froome saying to all his competitors “I am going to smash you, and then hang onto this jersey for the next two weeks. Catch me if you dare!” So to the Froome-dog from the Empire – congratulations. And to pay this rider the respect he deserves, he is humble and a gentleman. His speech on the podium on Sunday was deserving of a champion.

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The Final Stage – Showdown on the Champs Elysees

Stage 21 of the Tour is now always a high speed shootout. But unlike previous years where the result was pretty much certain, this year’s Tour has featured four sprinters of class. And they are all characters to boot. First in the light blue corner we had the previous four time winner Mark “The Manx Missile” Cavendish (racing for Omega Pharma-Quickstep, an unfortunate sponsor name given professional cycling’s recent history). Second in the green corner we had the winner of this year’s Maillot Vert, “The Tourminator” Peter Sagan (from Cannondale). Third in the white corner we had Marcel “Ice Ice” Kittel (leader of the Argonauts – Argos Shimano) – if you don’t know what his nickname is about look at his hairstyle after he takes off his helmet. And last but definitely not least we had Andre “The Gorilla” Greipel (Lotto Belisol). With a motley bunch like this, no wonder my son finds it so amusing.

The shootout didn’t begin in earnest until after the first lap of the Champs Elysees. Then it was on for young and old with the peloton motoring. The Manx Missile copped a puncture while it all kicked on, and I think that this may have had an impact on his sprint in the end. David Millar (from the Rebellion – Garmin Sharp) tried to go out solo and broke away to nearly 25 seconds ahead of the raging peloton. But he must have known for sure that he was going to get reined in, and he was. The Missile eventually caught up and in the final lap the four sprint trains along with a couple of other pretenders started to form their lines. But with four sprint trains along the Rue de Rivoli and the tight left – right turns around the Place de La Concorde no clear train developed. From a pretty long distance out it was left to the four big guns to shoot it out. But it was Ice Ice Kittel who managed to keep both The Gorilla and The Missile at bay to take his fourth win for himself and his band of Argonauts. A lot of cycling fans don’t like the sprints, but I love the game of high speed chess and the sheer focus of these guys at speed. It was a fitting end to this year’s Tour.

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For a more serious assessment of the stage, check out:

CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-21/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/21/tdf-stage-21-cest-fini/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/road/news/50382/froome-crowned-tour-champion-as-kittel-wins-in-paris

The three jersey winners were well deserving, having shown a great degree of dominance in their respective competitions. Both the Maillot Jaune (Froome-dog) and the Maillot Vert (The Tourminator) were decisively earned early in the Tour by sheer bloody mindedness of their teams to attack with hugely dominant moves on decisive stages. It was the race for the Polka dots that was the most interesting, and it deservedly went to the new upcoming superstar Nairo Quintana (who trained by outrunning FARC Rebels and Colombian druglords in his home country). Being only 23, Quintana also took out the Maillot Blanc. Much respect to these three!

tdf2013-jersey_winners

The Cement Ladder – The Grey Jersey

Watching the toughest sportsmen in the world, I decided to start a “cement” ranking that reflects truly great feats of endurance and the overcoming of pain (basically a bit of HTFU). Next time Prudhomme comes to talk to us here in Australia, I will tell him what he needs to do to create the Grey Jersey. The podium for the Grey Jersey is…

1. Jens Voigt – oldest man in the peloton, king of pain, and a rider who entered in numerous breakaways. If this was your last Tour Jensie then you will be sorely missed. His attack on Stage 20 was epic! We love the Jensie!

2. Sylvain Chavanel – who missed out on a stage win on his birthday in Corsica and then proceeded to ride ANGRY for the rest of the Tour. I mean this guy hammered and set up The Missile for a win. Never mind his attempt at glory on Bastille Day.

3. Richie Porte – who on any other team would have been a team leader, but he basically blew everybody else away to set the Froome-dog up for a win. He was epic to watch, and if it wasn’t for his explosion on the second stage in the Pyrenees he would have been on the podium.

Special mention goes to Gerraint Thomas, who busted his hip early in the Tour and did not abandon. In the Team Time Trial, his individual time after being dropped from the Empire’s train was faster than 6 other teams at full strength! Giddy-up.

I lift my cement filled bidons in salute to these three riders and all the others who earned points in this competition.

The Turbo Training Challenge

I had the objective of kickstarting my winter training by turbo riding during as many of the stages as possible. While my plans were scampered by a busted and very costly rear wheel, I still managed to ride just under 6ookm (both on the turbo and on the road) during the Tour. Now time to rachet it up a gear for the Amy Gillet Gran Fondo in September.

 

Now I can also go back to blogging about something other than Cycling for a bit too.

 

With only 2 stages left after this race from Bourg-d’Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand, I am getting that feeling in my stomach that I get on the 23rd of December – only two more days to Christmas (i.e. Stage 21 on the Champs Elysees in Paris). The peloton looks exhausted, and the race organisers have finally matched the challenge that the Giro d’Italia provides to the UCI Pro Tour.

When I switched on the coverage (and it started early on a Friday night), Pierre Rolland (from Showboating Europcar – who as a result of their showboating have successfully secured continued sponsorship from the car hire company) was belting out a brilliant breakaway paired with Ryder Hesjedal (from the Rebellion – Garmin-Sharp). Initially the breakaway had formed by Hesjedal and Jon Izagirre (Euskatel-Euskadi), but when Rolland had caught them he turned the screws and Izagirre (who has been having a good Tour so far) got dropped.

Side note – Ryder’s sunglasses have caused much controversy in the Tour this year. Yes, us cyclists and cycling fans are very partial to fashion faux-pas (can you hear us Pierre Rolland) while riding on two wheels. Ryder is a champion, but what is going on with those glasses?

RyderHesjedal-Sunglasses

Is he really Johnny Depp’s version of Willy Wonka in disguise? Anyways, back to the stage…

Willy_Wonka-Johnny_Depp

Hesjedal and Rolland were keeping away another group of breakaway riders lead by Daniel Navarro (of Cofidis – another team who has been unusually missing in action and hiding in the peloton for this year’s Tour). Navarro’s group also contained Rui Costa (Movistar) who showed his form a couple of stages earlier to win a spectacular solo mountain ascent. Navarro was also in the hunt for the Polka dots, so this was a looming battle with Rolland.

Rolland decided to turn the screws again, and he had eyes on Polka dots. Hesjedal hit the wall, and I think this reflected his 2013 season in a nutshell – not quite there.

Second side note – if you missed last night’s stage then you missed probably the best roadside display in the town of Marlens, where a couple of genius handymen created a suspended wooden riding cyclists who pedalled on a cable alongside of the road – and it moved at speed. It was brilliant!

Then for the first time this year the Tour was hit by adverse weather. This was the prompt for one rider, Costa, to go on the attack and chase down Rolland. This was a ballsy chase, and he eventually caught up with Rolland. The two rode together for a short time until Costa did to Rolland what he had done earlier to his fellow breakaway riders. Costa turned the screws and belted it out to what would be an eventual solo win for the last 15 or so kilometers. Brilliant riding!

tdf2013-etape_19-winner

I feel a bit robbed watching this. Costa was one of the riders who joined his teammate Valverde when he got the mechanical, and if they hadn’t made the huge tactical stuff up and waited for the team car we could have had three Movistar riders to attack the Empire alongside the Saxo-Tinkhoff boys of the deli merchant El Pistolero (Contador).

The top GC riders did not really attack each other and would finish 8 min 40 sec down on Costa. They really looked spent, with El Pistolero and Quintana (Yay!) resting easy and matching the Froome-dog. I reckon that only Quintana has the get up to try and attack for second place tomorrow. I have resigned myself to the fact that the Froome-dog is likely to win the Maillot Jaune, and to be honest he deserves it (even though he rides for the evil Empire – Team Sky – owned by Murdoch). If he does win, he has one Richie Porte to thank greatly (supplier of a wind break and M&M’s).

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. My points are as follows:
1. Pierre Rolland – went on the attack in a big way, chasing polka dots. Unlucky not to win the stage.
2. Rui Costa – awesome riding and showed his class.
3. Jack Bauer – even though I didn’t write about him, apparently he face planted into a barb-wire fence in a nasty tangle with banana peels on one of the descents. He was forced to retire.
4. Jens Voigt – because the Jensie is awesome and riding tough in the Tour at the age of 41. Big respect!
For a more serious assessment of the race check out:
CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-19/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/19/tdf-stage-19-costa-doubles-up-froomes-rivals-give-up/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/news/50302/Opportunistic-Costa-wins-second-Tour-stage

It would seem like the Tour organisers had the foresight to work out that the best way to impede the Death Star (the Team Sky bus) or any other vehicle from the teams was to make the peloton climb up Alpe d’Huez not once, but twice! Twice! Not 21 hairpins to ascend, but 42! Twice! As the French would say – “c’est fou!

It was unclear to me how this stage would unfold. The only thing for certain was that the guys with the big thighs would suffer, a lot. When I switched on to the coverage, it was a pleasant surprise to see a breakaway of high quality for the second time in 3 stages.

The breakaway contained Tejay van Garderen (from BMC with the continued aim to erase the donuts), Moreno Moser (who is probably Cannondale’s only climber from the Tourminator’s squad), Christophe Riblon (from AG2R alphabet soup La Mondiale and teammate to hardman Peraud who had left the Tour with a Grey Jersey on his back), Tom Danielson (from the Rebellion – Garmin-Sharp), Jensie (Radioshack Leopard-Tank), Chava(nel) who along with Quintana is my rider of the Tour, and 3 others.

The First Ascent of the Alpe

These guys got to as much as over 8 minutes on the Maillot Jaune group, and given the calibre it looked quite possibly like the source of the day’s success. El Pistolero sent two of his teammates up ahead to see if there was any cold meat on offer, but they couldn’t catch up. Then by the time they hit the base of Alpe d’Huez for the FIRST climb it was on, van Garderen and Riblon attacked! Moser chased to catch up, with the rest of the breakaway smashing it but dropping back.

Side note – I love downhill bombing on two wheels! It is awesome and fun getting up to these sort of speeds. But the descent on the back end of Alpe d’Huez scared the crap out of me just watching it. One off and you are rolling down a mountain side for a couple of hundred metres – and probably dead. Still this is bike racing, back to the stage…

Tejay hit the group of three hard and lead the downhill bombing. But typical of BMC’s year (remember donuts) he had a mechanical while at speed rolling downhill. This gave Riblon and Moser the chance to leapfrog him. These guys were really pushing it, with Riblon trying to imitate Pharmstrong with a bit of MTB action on a road steed. Problem for him was that he went into the mountain and not down it and got his shoes dirty with bog in the process. He was alright and so was van Garderen in the end as he eventually caught up to the other two to reconvene the group of three.

The rest of the GC riders were sorting themselves out and the the riders on the periphery were dropping off. The Empire were leading from the front, and stymied El Pistolero’s plans. The true dark horse, Quintana (Movistar), was biding his time to pounce. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha – gee they have been quiet at this year’s race) was also plotting.

The Second Ascent of the Alpe

On the second climb van Garderen attacked again, this time only Riblon could give chase with Moser hitting the wall. Tejay was chasing glory, but ultimately it would be too much for him as he hit the last two kilometers. Riblon sensing the opportunity was told by his team car to push it and he did. The mountain erupted spontaneously to support his attack and French viewers everywhere waited with baited breath to watch a rider from the home country finally win a stage in the centenary edition of the Grand Boucle.

Vive la France!

Further behind – El Pistolero and Kreuziger (his teammate) cracked, The Froome-dog cracked (but not the Empire’s Super-Super-Super-Domestique Richie Porte), Mollema and TenDam (from the Team formerly known as Rabobank formerly known as Blanco now known as Belkin) cracked – but Quintana and Rodriguez didn’t and attacked! They put a minute into the Maillot Jaune who further got docked 20 seconds for eating M&M’s on French soil.

tdf2013-etape_18_winner

I can’t say enough times how good this year’s Tour has been and we still have three days left.

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. Epic amount of cement laid out on the Queen stage of this race, here are my picks.

1. Tejay van Garderen – did all the work and hit incredibly bad luck to still get donuts.

2. Christophe Riblon – came off, gathered his composure and then attacked. He rolled the dice and salvaged glory for la France.

3. Nairo Quintana – showed smarts and hardness to go out and attack, and duly rewarded with a current position in the top 3.

4. Joauquim Rodriguez – matched Quintana and now threatening a podium place.

5. Richie Porte – for continuing to feed the Froome-dog M&M’s on the way to possibly winning the Maillot Jaune.

and

6. The Jensie – Jens Voigt jumped into the breakaway to attack up Alpe d’Huez (we love the Jensie)

 

For a more serious assessment of the stage, check out:

CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-18/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/18/tdf-stage-18-christophe-riblon-france-is-proud-of-you/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/news/50264/Riblon-wins-on-Alpe-d’Huez-as-Froome-survives

 

The Turbo Training Challenge

The new wheels on my ride bike have been installed and are ready to roll for the next stage. I was transferring shoes over as the stage commenced. For the first time I also installed a gear cassette on the rear wheel of a bike. A little bit tricky, but with the correct tools (chainwhip, cog lockring tool, wrench, a bit of grease, and a spacer) it turned out to be relatively straightforward. The new wheels are Shimano Dura-Ace C24 clinchers and they are light (500g lighter than the stock standard Bontrager wheels that I had with my Trek Madone 4.7)! I will be going for a couple of road spins on the weekend so I will see how they perform up the climbs and how stiff they are in comparison. The wallet is lighter by the same amount.

 

I am playing catch up writing up my review posts about the Tour. Work and Southern Hemisphere Tour induced insomnia is working against me. Stage 17 was always going to post a challenge of a different kind of time-trial. The Tour planners decided that they would throw a bit of torture at the riders with a short 32km stage that had two categorie 2 climbs in it, combined with a wickedly fast downhill run into the finish. The regular TT riders like Tony Martin (drinker of much cement and who did his best to impersonate a riding mummy early in the race) would not be the favourites, but it would be a route for the climbers.

Tejay van Garderen (from BMC) has tried to erase the team’s donuts at this year’s Tour (that’s right, they have earned nothing but zeroes, nada, nothing, zip – donuts). And early in the piece he set a cracking pace that would hold up until the last 10 (and highest place) riders would come in at the end of the stage. And then the weather came in…

I can’t believe that of all the stages when the weather decided to play up it chose this day. The little micro-tempest that rolled through turned a gruelling time-trial stage into a spot of ice skating for the unlucky riders. Understandably a lot of those caught in this greasy road mess backed it off. But thank God it cleared up and dried out for the big guns in the GC to come out and play.

But here is when I have to make a major call out to a rider showing much cement to just start the day. Jean-Christophe Peraud, the highest placed French rider at the start of the day, fell while reconnoiter the route and cracked his collarbone. He cracked his collarbone! And yet he still took to the bike. He was a figure of riding pain every time he leaned right to take a turn. And unfortunately for him he went down again during the stage and on the same side. This would force Peraud to retire from the Tour – but to this rider goes much respect!

tdf_2013-stage_17-legend

The GC Shoots it Out

Realistically everyone had the Froome-dog, and currently the holder of the Maillot Jaune, shoed in as the favourite. Each of his challengers, bar 2nd place Mollema (from the Team formerly known as Rabobank formerly known as Blanco now known as Belkin) ended up nudging Tejay van Garderen from his blistering time. Finally it was El Pistolero (the deli merchant Contador) who would take the gun position waiting to see what the Froome-dog would do. And true to form the Froome-dog belted everybody. I am struggling to see how anyone can beat the Empire and Froome-dog.

tdf_2013-stage_17-winner

So bring on stage 18 and the double climb of Alpe-d’Huez, which is what everyone is waiting for. This is the best Tour that I can ever remember watching.

For a more serious assessment of the stage, check out:

CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-17/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/17/tdf-stage-17-froome-dispatches-spanish-armada/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/road/news/50228/froome-builds-lead-as-alpe-d-huez-looms

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. I am only going to reward three riders today:

1. Jean-Christophe Peraud – He represented his team, and his country. Tough, tough, tough.

2. Christopher Froome – buried himself to set the final last sector time to take the stage. He may ride for the Empire, but he has done the Maillot Jaune due justice.

3. Tejay van Garderen – could have settled on his crap position in the GC, but went out to try and smash it.

The Turbo Training Challenge

My turbo training challenge ride has come off the skids, I need the new set of uncracked wheels to come in. They should have arrived in Australia and hopefully get delivered soon.

 

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