Tag Archives: Tour de France

Independence Day

For readers from the United States I wish you all a great Independence Day! For all you readers in other countries I thank you for putting up with us for these 239 years. Whether this is just a normal day for you or a day of celebration, make the most of it.

Of course, it is also the start of the Tour De France. I’m using the iPad app to watch it this morning. With Apple TV and Airplay, I can see it on the larger screen.

tdf

Don’t know if I will be getting on the bicycle today. The weather is calling for rain all morning. This afternoon is looking better.

Vive la France! God bless America!

Disappointments from the 2011 Tour de France

The 2011 Tour de France is complete. It had some incredible moments. It also ended the way I hoped it would, except for a few minor things.

No stage win for George Hincapie

One of the commentators mentioned that George was creating for himself a spot in cycling history as the greatest super-domestique ever. It is hard to argue with that seeing how he has helped shepherd nine yellow jerseys onto the Champs Elysees. Armstrong credits the man with being one of his primary lieutenants, and now in this Tour his influence on the BMC team as it supported Cadel Evans was clear.

However, the role Hincapie played in the team tactics never presented for him an opportunity to turn his wheels in a threatening break. For him, no break equaled no chance for a stage win. That would have been marvelous, but admittedly not that realistic. I would have loved to have seen it.

Still, seeing the young team coming together at the conclusion of Sunday’s stage, reveals that George has helped accomplish much more than win a stage or a yellow jersey. He has helped build a team. It is a team on which it appears he will ride with again along the roads of France in 2012 when he will take yet another record with 17 starts.

No sponsor for HTC (soon to be “?”)

Then there is another American team with whom I was hoping to see some action – but not on the roads. HTC Highroad entered the Tour with a big question mark. Would they even exist at the end of the year?

I just couldn’t believe that this incredible team would go much longer without a sponsor. I even told someone that I would bet that an announcement would be made after the second rest day. I was wrong. As each day passed and the peloton moved closer to Paris things looked less and less likely.

Finally, we are hearing that something is in the works. You do wonder if it is too late. Cavendish is said to basically be packing his bags for Sky. Other members of the team are rumored to be preparing to sign contracts elsewhere. Even if Stapleton does land a sponsor (and if the rumors are true, it sound like he will – and that it will be a good one), the team won’t be what it has been.

Of course, with Highroad, what’s new? The amazing thing about the team is its ability to find success with whatever riders it has on board. It is one of the reasons why I enjoy the team. It says a lot for the organization that they are so successful. When Stapleton writes his management guru book, I’ll be buying it!

The crack of the Shack

There was some great successes for American teams in the Tour. BMC takes yellow, HTC takes green, and Garmin put all of their riders (including a DZ cutout) on the podium by winning the team classification. It was Radio Shack that took the brunt of the bad luck. I could not help but feel sorry for them.

I saw a friend comment on Facebook, “Why don’t they just give Levi a saddle bag with a spare tire and let the rest of the team go home.” It was really beginning to look that way by the end of the 3,000 kilometers. The team had to feel punch drunk by the finish.

Certainly, Chris Horner continued to add to his legend. His crash and completion of the stage while not even knowing where he was speaks of his toughness. It also speaks to the danger of the sport — not merely the crashes, but the drive of riders (and team managers) to get back on the bike no matter what.

It is there I have to give kudos to Garmin Cervello. They have a system in place that allows them to evaluate a rider when he goes down. If he cannot pass the test, he does not ride. It would be wise for other teams to follow suit.

What a Tour de France! It is hard for me to find much with which to be disappointed. If there was one thing I would have liked to have seen, it would have been more contenders available to contest for the podium. So many of them were taken out in the early accidents. Yet, even the accidents created iconic stories. What cycling fan does not now know the name Johnny Hoogerland?

Finally, was this the cleanest Tour we’ve had in recent memory? So much of the nature of the racing and the lack of positives seems to point in that direction. We won’t know much more until the tests are scrutinized. I so hope so.

I do know that as messy as it is, the sport grabs hold of you in ways others can’t. We fans are not so much drawn to the rider who climbs to Alp d’Huez breathing through his nose. We cheer on the likes of Tommy Voeckler who collapses while trying to hold the yellow jersey for one more day.

Vive le Tour!

More Tour Talk

During the last rest day of the Tour de France, I made a few comments about the race up to that point and my thoughts going forward. Now that we have reached the second rest day, I thought I would follow up. There is just one problem… not much has changed since last Monday.

Johnny Hoogerland is now beginning to fade from the spotlight. However, he has made his mark on the Tour (as the Tour has on him!) Sure, there was a part of me that was hoping he could recover and hold his jersey. It was another sign of the camaraderie of the peloton that he held it that extra day.

It was good to see the wrecks begin to lose their quantity and magnitude. It took a while, but it seems that the field has gotten pass those first rough days. Other than some painful looking individual and smaller wrecks, last week finally put the focus on the racing… not the crashing.

What about the racing? That is where things are pretty much the same. Will the Alps finally bring what we hoped to see in the Pyrenees?

If the favorites keep racing the way they are, I have to put my money on Cadel Evans. However, his position is tenuous. If he can cut down a few more seconds from Voeckler’s lead while holding Contador at bay, his chances look very good.

The thing is, we aren’t seeing those huge killer attacks that we have become accustomed to with Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador. We keep expecting to see it… to the point where the favorites are castigated for not doing so. As it is, they are standing toe-to-toe punching each other.

What if it is a matter that there will be no such attack? What if none of them are trying to sandbag? Could it be that we are seeing a cleaner race?

I would like to think that what has happened is that we are now seeing more of what a race should be. There are a number of men who are at the top of their form and they are evenly matched. None of them have eaten tainted beef from Spain.

Sure, we are not seeing what we have become accustomed to, but maybe we are finally seeing what we should. Perhaps we will have this nip-and-tuck battle all the way to the final time trial. Who knows, perhaps Europcar will provide the first French winner in… how long?

Still, I do hope that we see one of the favorites (or two – Andy and Frank) really try to put the hurt on their competition. Surely, Contador can’t just keep following wheels. The winner is either going to be meteoric or consistent (Cadel). Consistency is winning at the moment. It is time for meteoric to step up to the table.

My gut tells me it isn’t going to be close. I hope it is. I can’t help but think that on some mountain top in the Alps, Paris will be decided.

Versus Tour Tracker on my iPad

If you have an Apple product such as an iPhone or iPad, you know it can be frustrating not having the ability to watch video from the Internet. This is especially frustrating as a cycling fan. Since we don’t get much video of cycling on our US networks, much of our opportunities to see professional cycling have to come over the Internet. Thank you, Versus for making it possible.

The video above shows the same Tour Tracker that you would access on your computer. Until recently, Versus used Flash for showing their video. With the Tour Tracker that has changed and they are using a streaming tool that allows the iPad to process the feed… and it is quite impressive.

Now if UStream and other streaming services would do the same thing, cyclists would have more options for accessing the professional peloton on the Web. For now, I’m just happy with the step Versus has taken.

My Tour De France

The Tour De France got underway Saturday with the first stage on the road covered Sunday. Wow, the Prologue lived up to its billing — even the (IMHO) overhype between Contador and Armstrong. Sunday’s stage also gave some unexpected (if painful) twists with the crash in the final meters. It’s been great… but this blog isn’t about the racing over in Europe.

Saturday, I started my own Tour De France — or I’m going to call it the Tour De Sous-sol. What? I’ve been off the bike for several weeks. The legs have only turned for several hours since May 22. I’m down to 163 pounds from around 167. Much of that weight lost I’m certain is muscle. It’s time to get going again. It’s time for the Tour De Sous-sol — my Tour of the Basement.

It is exciting to see the Peloton rolling over the roads of the Netherlands and Belgium. The pulse quickens and that switch flips in my head drawing me to the bike. The only problem is that my bike can’t go on the road. Let me rephrase that… my bike can go on the road, but I’m not allowed to be on it if it is!

I’m getting around this by riding the trainer. My goal is to get back on the bike and ride each day there is a stage of the Tour. As I go forward into this month, I’m sure I’ll come up with more of a system of training. Right now, I just want to get on the bike for as long as I can each time.

Saturday was my first day on my personal tour. I went for two hours on the trainer! I don’t do two hours on the trainer when I’m training for real! Granted, most of the time was spent at 100 watts or under. However, I did get over 150+ watts for thirty minutes or so with a few minute bursts up to 200+ watts. It was a good start, but there is a lot of work ahead.

Sunday I backed off a little with only an hour on the Pain Machine. It was nice though to find the legs are remembering the rhythm. The 90+  cadence was coming as second nature. I even can feel a bit of firmness coming back to my muscles.  This is going to be good.

I’m looking forward to seeing where I’ll be a month from now. I will be out of the neck brace and hand cast by then with quite a few hours in my legs. It will be a good thing — when the Tour De France ends, I’ll have less than two months before the Ride for Mike begins.

A Versus commercial I actually enjoyed

During the Tour De France I enjoyed watching the action on the Internet live feed.  It was good to get it in real time, but also it allowed me to avoid the commercials. However, there were some times when I did see some commercials during the evening “expanded coverage.”  There was one I would have liked to have seen again, but I only saw it once.  Now, thanks to YouTube, I get to.

Anyone know who the narrator is? It seems I should know who it is… but that might be the point, they got someone with a voice that rang familiar.  It has the sound of an seasoned coach giving a pep talk before a big game.  If you know who it is, please leave a comment.

Tour Thoughts

Now that the Tour De France is over, I can write about it.  No one needed to hear my take on each stage as the race progressed. It is probably one of the most covered sporting events in the world. You proabably still don’t need to know my take on the race, but here it is anyway.

My first thought is that I feel sorry for Alberto Contador. Now, I’m not saying I was rooting for him, but I do have some sympathy for him because of the situation in which he was placed.  From the beginning I did not think Armstrong would be able to win the Tour (I do have to admit that he did better than I anticipated). The race structure led to a protracted time when the leader of the Astana team was in question.

The way I saw it, this was unfair to Contador.  The history of this 2009 edition of the race will have Contador as the winner in the record books, but he will be overshadowed by the man on the third tier of the podium.  Perhaps that is why the Spaniard rode as though he had a chip on his shoulder — and I really can’t blame him.

Of course, you can’t comment on the Tour without mentioning Armstrong – as the above paragraphs about Contador attest.  I have to admit that I did not think he would finish on the podium.  Yet, he showed that he still has the incredible ability to sense what is happening around him and avoiding mistakes that could cost him.  Where his body might not have been up to par his brain made up for it.

I’ve mentioned before that I am not a huge Lance fan.  I respect him as a rider – greatly, but I’ve never been drawn to him as a person.  Having said that, I did find myself warming up to the man during this Tour.  Maybe it is because somewhere in my heritage there is some French.  It is still true that the man sucks up all the air around him when he enters the room, but his interaction with most of his team and the rest of the peloton made him a little more endearing.  By the end of the Tour I found myself cheering him on.

Then there was the green jersey battle… Mark Cavendish is a Lance Armstrong type character in his own right. He says things that sound so brash – and you squirm a bit.  Then he kills everyone on a stage and follows it by showing obvious appreciation for his teammates – and you love the guy.  In an odd kind of way he is both arrogant and humble at the same time.

You compare him to Thor Hushovd and it is like fire and ice.  Thor did what he had to do and definitely deserved the green jersey.  Cav burned like a flame for six stages, but Thor was there each time moving solidly forward.  As much as I enjoy the Columbia-HTC rider, I was cheering on the man from Norway when he grabbed hold of Stage 17 and squeezed the points necessary to ultimately give him the overall win among the sprinters.

You can’t mention Mark Cavendish without giving team Columbia-HTC their dues. I never grew tired of watching the lead outs performed by this team. The only thing I didn’t like was the fact that there didn’t seem to be another team to rival their train.  For just a moment on the final day it appeared that Garmin was going to put their train on a parallel track. It was to no avail as it was derailed and shattered by the Columbia-HTC locomotive – coal car – freight car – tanker car…

Seeing George Hincapie start the wheels turning on the Champs Élysées and exerting his will on the front of the peloton got the adrenelin flowing. Watching Renshaw take that momentum through the final turn simply added to the excitement. Then with Cavendish riding for the line as though the hounds of hell were on his heels – when there was no one within camera view – you were left to shake your head in wonder.

The aftermath… Next Tour is going to be a whole new ball game.  The Columbia-HTC train will be no more.  I can see the writing on the wall that the team will lose some riders – including Mark Cavendish (?).  As much as there was infighting on the Astana team, there is no doubt Contador would not have been so solidly in the lead without that power house line up.  The team will not be the same – probably one main reason is that Contador won’t be there!

One definite positive to take from 2009 is the fact that cycling as a pro sport is alive and well!  Yes, we do have Lance Armstrong to thank for a good portion of that.  However, personalities like Cavendish are helping to expand that star power.  Did I mention that there will be two new Pro Tour teams in 2010?  It is exciting to see these signs of the sport’s stability.

It is hard to distill my thoughts of over three weeks of racing down into one article!  However, I am glad that is over.  It was fun, but I’m ready to have my life back!  I guess that is how it is for us cycling fans.  As a spectator sport cycling has a three week season.  Obviously, that isn’t true, but that is about all we get on television.  Give me a couple weeks though and I’ll start getting ready for the 2010 edition!

Fabulous Fabian

Okay, I know that I said I wouldn’t post about the Tour.  The spirit of that promise remains since I will spare you my opinions on the various story lines going on right now.  However, it is pretty hard to not jump into the fray.

So, in order to keep my fingers from getting carried away and typing stuff that will make me sound like one of those pundits, I present to you Fabulous Fabian Cancellara from Stage 7.  Watching him descend is much better than reading my opinions about Hincapie’s 5 second heart break and my told-you-sos concerning Lance.  Oops… there I go… to the video!

If you are not a cyclist, you probably won’t understand.  If you are, you know why they call him “fabulous!” Especially look for about 3 minutes and 30 seconds into the recording.  Oh, and thanks, Jeff, for pointing me to the video.

We now return to our regularly planned blog posts.

Dear Robert Gesink, I feel your pain

Crashing is just a part of cycling. Someone mentioned to me the other day that statistically there is a wreck for every 5000 miles. Hmmmm, either I am a mathematical anomaly or I’ve filled my allotment for the next couple of years!

We come to expect to see riders go down when we are watching a race such as the Tour De France. It is easy for us to pause when we see the rider pull himself back on the bike and think, “Oh, nothing is broken. He’s okay.” Having just gone down myself in a wreck that I was able to ride away from, I’ve changed my view completely.

I saw the video of Robert Gesink crashing. Actually, I don’t think they ever showed him going down. They just caught him as he picked his bike up, mounted, and then rode away. He was cataloging all of his body parts to make sure everything was operational. The road rash and contusions were obvious. It was harder for us to know what might be going on inside his body.

He soldiered on to the end of the stage. He ended up over 9 minutes off the back. I’m sure he was in pain, as a matter of fact, we learn that he has withdrawn from the Tour due to a fractured wrist. The adrenalin passed and by the end he was unable to hold the handlebars.

I wrecked a week ago and I still have pain in my neck and shoulder.  My body took a beating I didn’t realize when I first went down. Yes, for the most part I actually feel better when I am riding the bike, but pulling on the bars in a certain way brings the pain right back.

That isn’t said to seek for sympathy or anything. It is said to point out my deep respect for those riders who climb back on the bike and complete races and distances in ways that I couldn’t do even if I were in top form. I’ll never see a crash on TV in the same light again. Now it’s personal.

That race over in France

I decided not to add my two cents worth to the racing taking place across the pond.  There are plenty of sites offering coverage and commentary of the event.  Since there is nothing really unique for me to add, I figure to spare you all from constant updates about stuff you already know.

However, there are two blogs you might want to check out.  These will give you a unique perspective from some Greenvillians who are actually there to see the race.  Check them out!

Steve Sperry and Elizabeth Brady have been in Europe for some time now.  They got to see some of the Giro and now are taking in the festival that is the – you know, that bicycle race going on where they are.  You can find their descriptions (and pictures) at Tour of Europe.

Then there is Rich Hincapie and his dad.  They are over watching a certain relative do massive lead outs for the fastest man on two wheels.  Rich is able to give some insights that you don’t always get from Versus or a typical fan.  So, head on over to the Rich Hincapie Blog and enjoy.

What is your favorite way to keep up with the race?  It was nice for it to start on a holiday weekend as it made it possible to enjoy the first couple of days live.  Now it is back to work.  I’ll have to wait until later in the evening to catch the action.

But, I’m not going to talk about it 🙂