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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.

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!”

tdf2014_Etape_10-profil

 

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.

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.

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.

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