Archives for posts with tag: TDF

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.

tdf_2014-etape_04-01

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”.

tdf_2014-etape_04-02

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.

tdf_2014-etape_04-03

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.

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.

tdf_2014-etape_03-02

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?

tdf_2014-etape_03-03

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.

tdf_2014-etape_03-01

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.

tdf_2014-etape_03-04

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”.

tdf_2014-etape_02-01

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.

tdf_2014-etape_02-02

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!

tdf_2014-etape_02-03

 

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.

tdf_2014-etape_02-04

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.

TDF2014_Etape_01-Yellow_Sheep

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.

TDF2014_Etape_01-02

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…

tdf2014_etape_01-03

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.

TDF2014_Etape_01-01

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.

Tonight I, along with my father and an old friend from school, had the pleasure of attending a great event at the Alliance Française de Sydney – an evening with Christian Prudhomme, General Director of the Tour de France. The talk was hosted by both the Alliance Française and SBS Television which is the home of cycling on Australian television and they have been broadcasting the Tour de France (TDF) to Australia for the last 17 years. Mike Tomalaris was also in attendance and introduced Prudhomme to us. Both him and Tomalaris are journalists by profession, so there was a common bond that they both shared – particularly since both had spent so much of their work life focused on the TDF. As it turns out, they are also both the same age. I believe Prudhomme was in Australia to talk with the broadcasters vying for the TV rights to broadcast the TDF after the contract with SBS expires in 2017. I only hope that ASO (the organisers of the TDF) realise that there are no other broadcasters aside from SBS in Australia who will show the same passion and do the race justice in their broadcast.

Christian Prudhomme - 1

It was a fascinating talk, and it was amazing to see that man in person. As the General Director of the Tour de France, he is one of the most important people in global sports management and what he says on TV has implications to not only cycling, but France as well. So seeing his persona in real life versus the media conscience presentation that he must provide when formally interviewed was a real surprise. He was genial, honest, and inspiring. Inspiring in that when asked about what are his goals for managing the TDF his response was simple “to make kids dream about being the champion of Le Tour!” This was a grown man talking about his humble goal of inspiring the next generation to achieve something.

He covered a range of other topics with the unavoidable topic of doping in cycling. Prudhomme is a staunch opponent to doping in sport and described the challenges for ASO having to operate within the regulatory framework established by the UCI. He noted that most other sports have chosen not to be as fervent in tackling drugs in sport, to which he was disappointed. Prudhomme was also pragmatic in the ability to completely weed out the drug cheats, noting that in every facet of life there are cheats – so practically cheating will never be completely eradicated. But he reaffirmed his continued commitment to tackling doping, and the need for cooperation from all the sports and international federations to consistently apply the rules.

We got the chance to ask a few questions covering many aspects of his job and the organisation of the TDF. I even got to ask a question regarding the selection of the teams for the wildcard places and pressure in the promotion of the sport globally. When some of the questions regarding the broadcast of the race were asked we got a very interesting perspective from him. He spoke about how the TDF and the last 100 years of French history were inextricably intertwined.

But what was more remarkable for me was his perspective on the social responsibility that the race organisers had in the promotion of France and its regional communities. Prudhomme told one story about how a few years back one of the stages finished in a a little known small town in the centre of the country. In recent years, this small town had suffered a decline in its local economy having relied heavily on the wood industries. With close to 25% unemployment, it was only when the TDF traveled through that it put the town on the map. Since then, the publicity boost that it received has given it a much needed lift and a small turnaround in fortune.

He spoke about how if anyone was serious enough they could put a stop to the race by blocking the route. But such is the passion of the TDF in France that no-one has done this to date (and even if they attempted to there would be just as many locals attempting to stop the potential saboteurs). He told an anecdote of a planned sabotage of the race route by some poor farmers in the Pyrenees. They were having a rough trot with bears marauding their flocks, and the EU had just passed a law protecting the bears. This was to the economic misfortune of the farmers, some of whom were losing up to 100 sheep to the bears. So to make a statement they planned to disrupt the race to gain international exposure to their plight. Solution – send in Bernard Hinault to sort them out. He amicably explained why the tour must go on (being a former 5 time champion and farmer himself), and with the consumption of many a glass of pure Ricard sabotage was averted. Hinault, always the enforcer!

There were many other points discussed and I do not want to misquote Prudhomme in his honest discussions with us. But it was a real breathe of fresh air listening to a progressive and visionary sports administrator who was humble enough to recognise his own role in managing the tour. He recognised that he was merely the holder of the fort during this period in time and bearer great responsibility to the sport, his country, and his role to inspire the next generation. He has inspired me, and I am pumped to ride again tomorrow morning with some wind in my sails.

Merci Christian, and to Mike and SBS as well, for a wonderful evening and may some of your vision rub off on other sports administrators.

Christian Prudhomme - 2

Vive le Tour!

 

%d bloggers like this: