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Author Topic: Le Tour  (Read 3141 times)

OpusAndBill

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Re: Le Tour
« Reply #15 on: 17 July, 2009, 10:45:33 PM »
Heinrich Haussler (An Australian who rides for Germany) took todays stage. It was tough going for everyone, as it was wet, cold, and had three big climbs. Haussler had two big advantages - he likes riding in the rain, and he lives and trains in the region. He was the only guy really prepared to take on the conditions and broke away from a breakaway group that itself got whittled down by conditions as much as anything else. He absolutely flew down the last descent and came home almost seven minutes ahead of the peleton.

Wiggins got detached on one of the climbs, but made it back when the peleton played safe on the descent. Pellizotti, who was one of the original breakaway group, has been coming on strong over the past week, and hoovered up enough points to claim the polka dot jersey. Thor Hushovd underlined his all-round abilities by staying with the peleton and coming home in sixth, helping him to regain the green jersey. Cavendish has real opposition here. Tomorrow is a flat stage so it will be interesting to see if he can reply.

Luis-leon Sanchez moves up into 10th due to Leipheimer's pulling out. Otherwise it's as you were.

Haussler, btw, plans to switch back to riding for Australia next year.
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OpusAndBill

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Re: Le Tour
« Reply #16 on: 18 July, 2009, 08:23:38 PM »
Ivanov took today's mostly flat stage. He was one of a twelve man breakaway group that proved too strong for the peleton. The big winner was George Hincapie (Colombia team). Also one of the breakaways, he was 5"25' back in 28th position overall at the start of the stage. He finished eight today 5"20' ahead of the peleton, and jumps to second overall, just five seconds behind Nocentini. Fellow breakaway Christophe Le Mevel jumped to fifth from thirty-sixth.

The big loser today was Cavendish. He was with the breakaway group initially, but returned to the peleton. I'm not sure what that was about. He pipped Hushovd into thirteenth in the peleton sprint, but was penalised for failing to hold his line and demoted. Hushovd gets 13th instead and is now 18 points clear with the next two days in the mountains. Right now I'd say he looks like the favourite for green.

Expecting big changes in the standings over the next two days, especially in the top ten. Tomorrow is a mountain-top finish so gives the climbers a real chance to claw themselves into contention. Even Menchov, 5+ minutes back isn't totally out of it.


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OpusAndBill

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Re: Le Tour
« Reply #17 on: 18 July, 2009, 08:40:40 PM »
I've been trying to focus on the race itself, but sometimes things happen which put the sport in its proper perspective.

Todays stage was over-shadowed by the tragic death of a sixty year old woman when she was hit by one of the police motorbikes that follow the peleton. Two other spectators were injured seriously enough to be helicoptered to hospital. Fingers crossed they'll be okay.

Yesterday somebody shot at, and hit, Oscar Freire and Julian Dean with pellets from an air-rifle. Police are investigating the incident, which occurred on a descent about three quarters of the way through the stage.

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OpusAndBill

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Re: Le Tour
« Reply #18 on: 19 July, 2009, 07:31:47 PM »
Contador in yellow. Dramatic last 10km as the GC contenders battled it out on the climb to the finish at Verbier. A breakaway group led the way into the final 25km before splintering into several smaller groups fighting it out. Some seriously good contenders in amongst them (Cancellara on his home turf, Pelizotti, Moncoutie, and Astarloza).

The peleton tracked them down piecemeal as they steamed into the final climb. The last of them to survive was Spilak, who had almost been dropped from the tour because he came last on stage 13 behind the cut off time.

I was expecting to see a group of about 15-20 GC contenders still together at the halfway stage of the climb, but instead we were down to a group of about six or seven. Just under 5Km to go and Contador made his break. Andy Schleck was the first to react and set off in pursuit. He couldn't catch Contador's wheel though and the Spaniard powered to the top and crossed the line 43 secs ahead of Schleck.

It was a real brawl in the group behind. Sastre, who'd been dropped early in the last climb, fought his way back. Wiggins tried to go but got nailed by Frank Schleck, who took off after his brother, to no avail. Wiggins and Nibali managed to join up with Frank Schleck and all crossed at 1.06 behind Contador. Armstrong, in the group behind, had teammate Kloden to help out. He admitted afterwards that he'd been at his limit from the bottom of the climb. He did well to hang on as Evans and Sastre both left him in the final stretch.


Contador leads from Armstrong (at 1.37), Wiggins (1.46), Kloden (2.17), Andy Schleck (2.26), Nocentini (2.30), Nibali (2.51), Martin (3.07), Le Mevel (3.09), Frank Schleck (3.25), Sastre (3.52), Vande Velde (3.59), Hincapie (4.05), Evans (4.27).

Wiggins toughed it out today. He's not a climber, so has obviously worked at it. The bad news for him is that there are three more mountain stages to survive, including the penultimate stage which, I believe, is also a mountain-top finish. The good news is that tomorrow is a rest day, and Thursday is a time trial.
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OpusAndBill

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Re: Le Tour
« Reply #19 on: 21 July, 2009, 08:24:32 PM »
Astarloza took the stage, about a minute ahead of the GC contenders, and climbs to 11th.

Todays stage featured two big climbs - the Col De Grand-Saint-Bernard straight off, and the Col De Petit-Saint-Bernard about 30km from the (downhill) finish. Both climbs strung the peleton right out. Another breakaway group packed with talent struck first, but were beaten to the first summit by Pellizotti (who's been coming on strong this past week) and Karpets. They were eventually overhauled by the chase group, only for Pellizotti to again hit the front, leading Van den Broeck, Moinard, and Astarloza (who had bridged from the peleton all the way back) over the final climb. Pellizotti took maximum points for the two climbs and tightens his grip on the mountains jersey. He had a good day all round managing to finish ahead of the peleton in 7th. Astarloza tore away from the now eight man breakaway group with 2km to go to cross first.


The real drama happened on the Col Petit Bernard were the Schleck brothers broke from the GC contenders about 3 or 4 KM below the summit. Only Contador, Nibali, Kloden (I think) and Wiggins could go with them. I suspect this was a move on Armstrong as much as anything. Contador is now the top man in Astana, so Armstrong is riding for him and is therefore vulnerable. This group quickly opened out to a minute. But Armstrong, once he'd recovered, was the first to respond and ate up the distance between the two groups. He even passed Frank Schleck, who'd himself been dropped. Once Armstrong made the link this new group eased off and allowed some others to bridge (including Sastre) before summiting and descending swiftly to the finish. Evens was not able to bridge and came in well behind - the days big loser. He will do well to make the top ten from here.

On the final descent Jens Voigt suffered a nightmare fall. His bike hit a bump in the road and, by the looks of it, his steering column snapped. He went face first into the deck and was reported unconscious for three or four minutes. Taken straight to hospital and now out of the tour - though I'm not sure how serious his injuries are.

In an interview after, Contador said he thought tomorrows stage would be the toughest of the lot (including Ventoux on Saturday) and might be decisive. So maybe the final couple of hours are what the neutrals among you would want to catch (though I also recommend Saturday as there is nothing to beat the drama of a mountain-top finish).

Sastre up to ninth. Nibali in sixth. Nocentini drops to 14th.
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OpusAndBill

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Re: Le Tour
« Reply #20 on: 22 July, 2009, 08:26:57 PM »
As Contador predicted, today was a big battle. A large breakaway group stormed the first of five summits, were they were joined by Hushovd in search of intermediate sprint points. He duly picked up maximum points as he led the field to within just 37km off the finish. That puts him 30 clear of Cavendish, and virtually guarantees he'll win the green jersey.

Pellizotti also thrived and looks safe for the King Of The Mountains jersey.

The peleton hauled Hushovd in on the penultimate Col De Romme where Sastre tried to attack. That came to nothing. The Schleck brothers launched a series of attacks on both of the final climbs which eventually saw them shed everyone bar Contador and Kloden. As they neared the summit of the Col De Colombiere they had about 1'30" on the Armstrong/Wiggins group. Contador jumped for the lead, then reined himself in when he realised he had only dropped teammate Kloden. Contador just shadowed the Schlecks after that, allowing Frank Scleck to take the stage. Armstrong and Nibali jumped leaving Wiggins behind. He eventually came in 7th, 3'07" behind Frank Scleck.


Top 10: Contador; Andy Schleck (at 2'26"); Frank Schleck (3.25); Armstrong(3.55); Kloden (4.44); Wiggins (4.53); Nibali (5.09); Vande Velde (8.08); Le Mevel (9.19); Astarloza (10.50).

Big difference from the 19th. Wiggins will have a tough time moving higher than 6th, though hopefully he has something left in the tank for tomorrow's time trial.
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OpusAndBill

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Re: Le Tour
« Reply #21 on: 23 July, 2009, 05:50:22 PM »
Contador took today's 40km time trial and put some breathing space between himself and his nearest rivals. Overall he now has 4.10 on Andy Schleck and 5.25 on Armstrong. Wiggins clocked in 6th fastest today and hauled himself up to 4th overall, but between Armstrong and Frank Schleck, down now in 7th, there are only 34 seconds.

Wiggins and Armstrong are both going to come under severe pressure in the next two stages as the Schleck brothers try to get themselves both onto the final podium. Nibali is seventh in GC at 7.15 with Vande Velde next at 10.08.

Be interesting to see if Columbia try to do anything in tomorrows transition stage by way of helping Cavendish pick up some intermediate sprint points and giving him a chance of going for green in Paris.
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Kerrin

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Re: Le Tour
« Reply #22 on: 23 July, 2009, 06:44:01 PM »
Come on Wiggins!

Jesus, that just sounds wrong.

But all the same, I'm struggling to remember the last British rider to be challenging this far up the GC. And Cav in the green jersey battle is just immense. How the hell do you have the energy to sprint like that at the end of a day in the saddle? Like you say OAB it would nice to see his team help him back up the points tomorrow.

Cheers for the continued coverage of this mate I read it every evening. Very clearly written as well. Have you ever thought of writing a short story?  ;D


OpusAndBill

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Re: Le Tour
« Reply #23 on: 24 July, 2009, 05:45:00 PM »
Hi Kerrin, glad you are enjoying the coverage. :)

Todays stage should have been a perfect opportunity for a breakaway group to claim a win, with the category 2 Col de L'Escrinet coming about 15km before the finish in Aubenas. The peleton had other ideas, gobbling up what had been a large group on the Col itself. Colombia got their entire team into the lead group. Even Cavendish took his turn at the front on what is a pretty steep climb. World champion Ballan and Lefevre jumped from the leaders and crested about 15 secs ahead of the top group - the peleton being well strung out by now.

Ballan and Lefevre had a bit of luck as they descended in that it started to rain. The road has a new surface and fresh tarmac is slippy, so the 35 odd guys chasing had to be circumspect. Four Colombia riders led the pack, with Cavendish in four and Hushovd on his wheel. All the GC guys were their, but also all the top sprinters. Ballan stuck it out to about 2Km when Hincapie led Tony Martin, Cavendish, et al past him. Martin did a marathon last haul to set Cavendish up for the win, just ahead of Hushovd. It only closes the Green Jersey gap by 5 points, but rates as one of Cavendish's best ever wins.

I noticed an Astana helmet in back of the sprinters. It was Armstrong, who had jumped with them, to take four seconds off the GC riders behind. It may not seem much, and probably won't be important, but it says a lot about the man. He'll be back next year as part of newly set up Team RadioShack.

He should probably be riding for Team Duracell. ::)

The Cav is now the leading Brit with the most stage victories in Le Tour. Today was his ninth, one ahead of Barry Hoban who claimed eight between 1967 and 1975.
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OpusAndBill

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Re: Le Tour
« Reply #24 on: 25 July, 2009, 08:25:02 PM »
Things really kicked off 28km from the Mt Ventoux finish when Astana hit the front of the peleton and blew it apart over the next kilometer. They then had about thirty guys with them, whilst six minutes ahead the day's 16 man breakaway group were just reaching the start of the 20km climb to the top.

The ever dwindling GC group passed and dropped most of these guys, although some tried to stick. Tony Martin and Juan Manuel Garate stayed away though, pretty much chained together until Garate broke away with about 2km to go. Martin looked all in but somehow dragged himself back behind the Spaniard. Garate kicked again just below the summit and, Martin's resistance broken, took the stage.

The real battle was behind as Andy Schleck tried to help his brother Frank lever Armstrong off the podium. The Astana response was for Contador to shadow Andy whilst Armstrong followed Frank, whilst also keeping an eye on Wiggins. I think Wiggins tactic was to just hang in there and see if either Frank or Armstrong broke. But he himself came under increasing pressure, being dropped a couple of times in the closing kms though always getting back in touch. Nibali, Kloden, and Pellizotti and Kreuziger were there as well.

With 3.5 to go both Schlecks attacked. Everyone followed except Kloden. More attacks over the next 1km saw Wiggins dropped. Andy and Contador crossed together in 3rd and 4th. Armstrong took a couple of seconds out of Frank (5th & 6th). Next Kreuziger, Pellizotti, Nibali, in that order. Nibali and Frank are both a threat to Wiggins holding 4th. He finds enough to put on a spurt and comes home tenth on the stage, holding fourth overall by just 3 seconds from Frank Schleck.

The last day tends to be a bit of a procession, with not much changing in the GC, but at only 3 secs difference Wiggins' work may not yet be done. Pellizotti only has to cross the finish line tomorrow to pick up the Polka Dot jersey - he's been safe in that points race since yesterday.

Highlight of the day was watching the arrival of the sprinters 26 minutes later. Hushovd and Cavendish put on a very good humoured "sprint for the line", having reconciled any differences they had in the past couple of days.

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OpusAndBill

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Re: Le Tour
« Reply #25 on: 26 July, 2009, 08:55:41 PM »
Contador wins tour. Cavendish takes the stage.

The last day is something of a leisurely procession into Paris followed by a sprint around nine laps of the Champs-Elysees circuit (about 60km). A breakaway group hoovered up the intermediate sprint points, cutting Cavendish's options and making life easier for Hushovd. The final lap was played out at a furious pace as Garmin and Colombia vied for the head of the race, with Hushovd sitting in behind the Cav. On the final bend the Garmin boys tried to grab the inside line and pushed Hushovd wide. Renshaw took Cavendish around the last bend in front and he ripped away to win easily. Renshaw hung on for second, but the rest were well beaten. Hushovd's sixth place finish was enough to hang on to the Green Jersey.

Contador had to do nothing more than stay with the GC boys in the peleton, where it was as you were last night. Contador, Andy Schleck, Lance Armstrong on the podium in that order. Wiggins in fourth, equalling the previous highest finish by a Brit in Le Tour. Pellizotti picked up the King Of The Mountains title, and Andy Schleck was best young rider. Astana won the team competition, with Garmin in second.

One hundred and eighty riders started the tour, and only 148 finished (might be wrong about that and will update when ready). From the British point of view easily the most successful tour ever, surely? Six stage wins for the Cav, and Wiggins proving to be the surprise contender. Maybe his in a couple of years time?

Well done to all the lads. Congratulations to Contador (the fourth Spanish winner in succession) and just awesome on the climbs.
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OpusAndBill

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Re: Le Tour
« Reply #26 on: 01 August, 2009, 12:06:20 PM »
Le Bad News:

Astarloza has just failed a doping test for EPO and been suspended. He had finished 11th in the overall GC. What happens next depends on the results of his B-sample. It was actually a pre-tour test sample which came back positive, so presumably testing on tour samples in general has not begun yet?

I didn't mention the D word during the tour as I only wanted to talk about the racing. The following article, posted a couple of days after the end of the tour, did make me feel queasy though:

http://tour-de-france.velonews.com/article/96120/lab-official-still-wary-of-tour

We haven't necessarily heard the end of the tour.

Robert Millar was the only other Brit to finish as high as fourth, back in 1984.

The final number of riders to drop out this year was 24, with 156 finishing the race.
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