Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tour de Pologne 2013 - Stage 4 - FINAL KILOMETERS

Amazing finish by TP at the Tour de Pologne today. Ma and Pa Phinney must be beaming with pride.

Monday, July 22, 2013

And that's that.

Froome, Sagan and some little kid looking good on the final podium. 
Just like that - It's over. The 100th Tour de France ended with a magnificent show on the Champs-Élyseé. Everything must have been just as ASO planned it. The race was held at twilight or the first time in history. The remaining riders rode in and then did a set of circuits around central Paris to the throngs of adoring fans. As they rode into the city they followed a parade car containing the four greatest living champions in the history of Le Tour; Lemond, Indurain, Hinault and of course the great Eddy Merckx. I couldn't help but wonder how Lance Armstrong must have felt as he sat on his gigantic couch, with those 7 yellow jerseys lining the walls above it and watched as those true champions were presented in front of the cheering fans. There were attacks throughout the day once it got to the circuit, but none that looked serious enough to work. On the last lap things finally heated up and Omega Pharma Quickstep went to the front to set up their man Mark Cavendish. 

Cavendish had won the previous four Tour finalé's on the Champs-Élyseé and was a favorite to do so again...although not the huge favorite he normally is. That is because the story in sprinting for this Tour has not been Cav, but the young German with the stunning Vanilla Ice hairdo - Marcel Kittel. Around 1 km to go his Argos Shimano team came roaring up the middle and forced both Cav and the ever present Sagan to the right side of the course. It appeared that the Missile was caught off guard and was forced to respond with a huge effort. Before he and the rest of the field knew it they were at 500 meters and Kittel still had support ahead. Sagan was the first to fade as Greipel and Cavendish struggled to get back on the younger German's wheel. As he started his sprint Kittel had a half a length lead. The Greilla and the Missile made up much of that difference, but it was a classic case of too little too late. In fact Cavendish nearly crashed in his effort to overtake Kittel, his front wheel skidding over the cobbles on the road and his rear wheel swinging wildly to the right. He maintained his upright position but the race was done and he was third behind Greipel and the newly crowned king of the sprint. 

23 year old Marcel Kittel was one of the big revelations of this tour and his four wins have served to position him as arguably the best sprinter in the world today.  

With the fans thrilled and filled with exciting racing, the stage moved to an actual stage in the middle of the road. The pomp and circumstance was at an all time high for the centenary edition of Le Tour, and they took full advantage of all of the entertainment technology available in the world today and lit the Arch de Triomphe in every jersey color possible. The final color was of course yellow and it called to the stage the newly crowned champion of Le Tour de France - Christopher Froome. He was strong and confident as he accepted his jersey, lion and bouquet. He stood proudly as God Save the Queen played throughout the capitol of France. He then read a short but sincere speech where he politely thanked all of the proper people who helped him make it to the top step of the podium and fulfill his professional dream. 

It was the last line that I'll remember however, because he took the opportunity to respond to all of the doubters and haters out there in the world. He did it with class, the same way he has all race long. He simply said: "This is a beautiful country and it hosts the biggest annual sporting event on the planet. To win the 100th edition is an honour. This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time:."

For your sake and ours Chris - I hope that is true. 

So the 30 somethingth TDF that I have followed in my life is in the books and what a race it was. To those who say that it was boring because Froome was so far above the rest of the field I feel sorry for you. For each days racing was incredible in it's own right. The fight for the lower podium spots went literally until the last km of the last stage ridden in anger. It was a phenomenal event that laid to rest any lingering discussion by the knownothing talking heads who said that cycling was dead in the wake of the Pharmstrong scandal. On the contrary, this race is as vibrant and strong as ever, and we'll keep one eye on the future (but perhaps one eye on the blood tests) which seems brighter than it has been in years. 

Thanks for following along with my madness for the last 23 days. 

For those interested in more, stay tuned for my final "Bicycling life Tour de France 2013 Awards" which will be posted over the next few days. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

As it happened.

Something different today: Going to chronicle the last few km as they happen. Went for a ride this morning and DVR'd the race. I've been on radio silence all day and have managed to keep the results a secret from myself. As I write this Jens Voigt is out front but is just about to be swallowed up by the GC group containing Froome, JRod, Quintana and Contador. Apologies for any typo's but I'm getting this down as fast as I can.

Here goes nothing:

8.5 km - The catch has happened. Jens looks over a the leaders group as they ride past. Chapeau Jens, if this was your last tour break it was a great one. 

8.3 km - J Rod attacks, Nairo follows - and Froome responds!!!! He's riding away from them and Contador is fading. Amazing acceleration!

8.0 km - Froome has made a gap but JRod is pulling Nairo back. The three are together again - Contador is gone. 

7.7 km - Contador is 10 seconds back with Porte on his wheel - Quintana only needs 11 to take second. Kreuziger has blown and is losing a lot of time to Purito.

7.3 km - Mollema is struggling - no top five for him this year.

7.1 km - Contador 24 seconds behind the 3 leaders - he's in 3rd on the road. 

6.9 km - Contador seems to have recovered a bit - only 22 seconds back now. Porte still on his wheel. 

6.7 km - Kreuziger is struggling to pull Contador/Porte back. 

6.3 km - Kreuziger has caught Contador - he's leading him back up. Herioc ride by RK, but the break is still at 27 seconds. 

6.0 km - Froome is out of the saddle and is leading JRod and Nairo up the hill. When will JRod attack?

5.9 km - Contador group 37 seconds back.  JRod takes the lead, but keeps it at tempo. No attack yet. Valverde put in a great ride in support of Quintana today and has now passed Contador/Porte. 

5.3 km - JRod and Quintana looking comfortable as they lead Froome up. Valverde is only 27 seconds back of the leaders - Contador is now 47 seconds back, that means that Purito is virtual 3rd place at the podium!

5.2 km - Chubby pale shirtless guy in a tshirt and rainbow wig. 

4.6 km - The 3 leaders on the road are now the 3 leaders of Le Tour! Contador in danger of dropping further. 

4.2 km - Nairo looks good - has he learned from his earlier attacks? Will he wait for the last minute?

4.0 km - banner just passed - 1:19 to Contador. Quintana seems to be in a bit of stress...

3.5 km - Virtual top 5 on the road: Froome, Quintana, Rodriguez Contador and Kreuziger.

3.2 km - Talansky has caught Contador/Porte - great ride!!

2.8 km - Froome smacks a runner who was too close - runner turns around and looks for another rider to bother.

2.4 km - A giant Papa Smurf just showed up - the freaks are coming out. 

2.1 km - If Quintana finishes ahead of Froome he wins the dotty jumper - if Froome finishes ahead of Quintana he wins the yellow and the polka dots. 

2.0 km - The crowds are really starting to swell now, classic riding up the Somnez. They are inside the banners now. 

1.9 km - Will Purito attack? Only 26 seconds to second for him...

1.8 km - Inside the barriers now. JRod out of the saddle. Kreuziger has cracked. 

1.4 km - Chubby guy in a yellow Tshirt running inside the barriers- hope he doesn't have a heart attack. 

1.2 km - All three out of the saddle. 

1.1 km - Froome Attacks and Quintana follows! JRod cannot respond!

1.0 km - Quintana catches and passes Froome - he's leaving them both behind!!!

0.9 km - Colombia must be losing it's collective mind!!! 2nd spot on the podium is surely secure!

500 meters - he is out of the others sight!

400 meters - J Rod leaves Froome, but it doesn't matter. 

Quintana looks amazing as he crossed the line - both arms in the air in triumph. He wins second place in Le Tour, The white jersey, the polka dot jersey all in his first tour!!

Rodriguez follows 17 seconds behind and has secured 3rd spot on the podium - what a great race after a shaky first week!

Froome crosses 29 seconds back and gives a muted fist pump - he knows he has won his first tour - but the first of how many?

Valverde comes in fourth and has done a great job in support of Quintana - This writer has new found respect for him.

Porte is next in 5th - The MVP of the tour in my opinion - for Team Sky and Froome for sure! Will he be his main competition next year?

Talansky crosses the line just ahead of Contador for 6th place in the stage - What an amazing ride by the kid from Miami. Will he make top 10?

Contador follows Talansky in 7th, his podium dreams are gone but still a great ride by the Spaniard.

John Gadret out of nowhere for 8th.

Jesus Hernandez leads Kreuziger across 9th and 10th - Enough cannot be said about his sacrifice for Contador. 

What a great stage and a great Tour. One of the best in years, sure the overall has barely been in doubt for the last two weeks (or was it ever?), but the racing has still been fantastic and the battle for the lower podium spots has been riveting. 

One more stage tomorrow and then I'll list the final "The Bicycling Life" awards for the race. 

Good times. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rui times tui.

Rui celebrates win number 2 of the 2013 Tour - Stage 19 - Photo Credit: Graham Watson
Movistar team is having an incredible tour. With 2 wins from todays victor Rui Alberto Faria da Costa; and another win, the white jersey and a possible podium for Nairo Quintana the team has more than made up for Alejandro Valverde's mechanically induced inability to fulfill his role as GC contendor. It doesn't mean Valverde hasn't been a valuable leader. He was resigned to his fate after losing 10 minutes on the windswept stage to Saint Amond Montrod due to a broken rear wheel. Despite that disappointment he has continued to ride strong and has played domestique extraordinaire for the Colombian while also giving Costa the springboard he needed to ride to 2 victories this week, the second being today's stage 19 which ended with his jump from the break away group to solo to victory on the Col de la Croix Fry. Some might say it's payback for Costa's GC opportunity being eliminated as well when he was ordered to stay back with Valverde and limit his losses on that fateful day in the second week, while the young Quintana was allowed to go with the lead group and maintain the possibility of a podium finish in Paris. 

Rui Costa has had the freedom to make the breaks 2 times in the last 4 days for 2 reasons: 1) he is so far back in the GC that the race leaders are not concerned with him gaining time and 2) Alejandro Valverde has shouldered the load of protecting Quintana against all of the other GC contenders. He has made the most of that freedom by making well timed attacks when the competition was at it's most vulnerable. Today he had teammates Reuben Plaza and J.J. Rojas to work for him in the break. They helped him to make up time on Pierre Rolland who had been out in front on his own for almost 50 km. Costa caught Rolland early in the final climb and then made his move on the steepest part of the road. Rolland had no answer and simply sat up and fixed his glasses on his helmet as he watched the climber from Portugal ride away to victory. 

Costa crossed the line 48 seconds ahead of Andreas Kloden and 1:44 ahead of Klodens Radio shack teammate Bakelants - who continued his strong run in this tour by taking yet another podium. Rollands collapse was dramatic, as he lost over 6 minutes to Costa in only a few kim. He can take solace in the fact that he won enough mountain classification points during his break that he will wear polka dots tomorrow as he sits only one point behind Froome for the outright win in the climbing contest. Expect him to be out front again tomorrow in the final mountain stage of this amazing tour. 

And what of the GC contenders? Well, JRod took the fight to Quintana and Contador, but was unable to distance them and gain any time. Froome had a much less stressful day and handled all of the surges with the same calm and focused efforts we had seen from him on all the stages prior to yesterday. The group ended up crossing the line together nearly 8 minutes behind Costa and the leaderboard remained status quo, with all eyes fixed on tomorrows penultimate stage of the Tour. With 6 categorized climbs and one HC mountain packed in to only 125 km, the riders should be fresh and ready to attack on the final cllimb of the day and the tour - the 8.5 % hors categorie finish up the Annecy - Semnoz. 

Get up early or set that DVR folks, because it should be a true donnybrook on the last real racing day of the 100th edition of Le Tour de France.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mind = Blown.

One of the most amazing cycling photos I have ever seen - Stage 19 2013 TDF - Photo Credit: CorVas/Cyclingtips
This photo is stunning. It captures all of the drama of the fight for the stage and the GC lead in one incredible moment. Not just any moment mind you, but the moment. That instant where the world realized that for the first time in this years tour, at a crucial moment, Chris Froome was struggling. His arm looks like it is floating, almost beyond his control skyward. Porte is looking back over his shoulder for his leader, he may be starting to hear Froome's voice as it calls out to him. JRod and Quintana's faces are stoic and focused...locked in on the moment to overcome the otherworldly pain that envelopes them. They are still unaware of the coming issues for Froome. The perfect scenario is unfolding behind them and they don't even know it yet. At this point they are still reeling from the sight of Porte leading them...after he had been dropped once. They must be expecting Froome to come around them and force the issue at any time. They are preparing for the brutality of that moment but instead, in a few seconds they will realize he has dropped off the pace and they will reach for another gear and find their wind as an unexpected hope appears. They will work together to distance the maillot jaune and when the dust settles they will gain 59 seconds on Froome and more importantly move in to 3rd and 5th place in the GC, with 2 more high mountain stages to go.

They will learn later that it was not a mechanical as it appeared and as so many of us thought. It was Froome cracking on the biggest day of the tour. They will know that he is human, that he may be vulnerable, and they will plan to attack again and again over the next 2 days in the high mountains. The tour leader will be tested like he never has this weekend by these two and the other GC contenders and it will be amazing to watch.
The Didi is in the details - stage 19 2013 TDF - Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
All of this was happening while up ahead another dramatic battle was taking place between the American TeJay Van Garderen and the Frenchman Christophe Riblon. Both nearly had their races ended earlier in the stage - Tejay by a chain mechanical, and Riblon by an overshot corner on the descent where rode off the side and into the grass...luckily without falling. They had put those issues behind them as they rode up L'Alpe D'Huez for the second time today. Riblon struggled and Van Garderen broke loose with Cannondale's Moreno Moser who he then dispatched a few kilometers up. His lead would stretch out to 45 seconds, but on the second half of the climb Riblon found his legs again and Tejay lost his. It was painful to watch as the American struggled to keep his lead. Riblon was reeling him in kilometer after kilometer. With 4 km left it looked like Van Garderen might hold him off, With 2.4 km to go it was slowly slipping away, and with 1.9 km to go the decision had been made. 
Riblon celebrates just past Dutch corner - stage 19 2013 TDF - Photo Credit: AFP/AFP photo

Riblon rode by Van Garderen with relative ease. The gravity of the moment must have hit him and given him extra strength. For there is no better place for a Frenchman to win a stage of Le Tour de France than at the summit of L'Alpe D'Huez. Riblon is a national hero for his performance and will go down in history for this magnificent ride. He wept as he crossed the line and I'm sure those were not the  only tears flowing. Van Garderen rolled over a full 59 seconds behind the winner. He looked broken at the line despite putting in a fantastic ride for second. But you do not come to the tour to finish second. You do not ride L'Alpe for anything other than the top step of the podium. I'm sure in time Tejay will be able to look back at this day fondly and enjoy the amazing accomplishment for what it was. A truly epic ride on a truly epic day at the 100th Tour de France. 

SPOLER ALERT: The Alpe squared.

Alpe D'Huez. There are few mountains that inspire excitement in a cycling fan like L'Alpe. It may not inspire fear like other riders, but the 21 hair pin turns are not only a path to victory...they are a path to glory for any rider who is first to the top. 

Spoiler alert: The winner of todays stage is revealed after the break. 

What time is it?

Chris Froome on a cheetah...what else would you expect? Don't know who to credit this image to, but I'd wish I did.
Time trials. Many consider them to be the purest form of bicycle race there is. No drafting, no teammates, no lead outs, just you and your bike for what seems like eternity. There are tactics to be sure,  like when to push, when to rest, which bike to ride...sometimes you have to decide that one multiple times. The ability to sustain a nearly full effort for upwards of an hour on varying grades of road is ultimately the only thing that matters. The strongest man wins and everybody else is left wanting, and wondering how to beat a man who seems to have no weaknesses. Today's race was not your ordinary time trial, it had nearly a thousand meters of climbing, far more than your normal race of truth. This meant that the pure climbers actually had a shot to podium, or at the very least to limit their losses. They took full advantage of the profile and managed to claim the top ten spots on the leaderboard. 
The Norwegians are very comfortable in their own skin - TDF 2013 stage 17 - Photo Credit: Casey B. Gibson
This centenary tour continues to provide some of the best racing in years and today's time trial was no exception. There may be little question as to how the race will end up in Paris, but nearly each days race - taken on it's own - has been phenomenal in the amount of drama and excitement it has gifted to those of us who love this race. 

In no particular order here are my thoughts on today's amazing day of racing:
Froome in all of his rail thin glory - stage 17 - Photo Credit: Christophe Ena/Ap photo
Chris Froome is good at bicycle racing: On today's stage he had to dig down deep to win. It wasn't a surprise that he won mind you, but he really had to work for it...and work he did. He was 2 seconds back of provisional leader Alberto Contador at the first check and 11 seconds behind at the second check. When you throw in the bike change that he made (I don't like that they allow bike changes, but that's for another post) and he had to make up around 15 seconds on Contador. He did that and more, winning by a full 9 seconds and strengthening his already vice like grip on the general classification. 
Alberto Contador sucking through an invisible straw (I hope) - stage 17 - Photo Credit: Bike Radar
Contador is coming into great form in week 3: He may feel that it is too little too late and he may be reeling with disappointment at coming so close today, but Alberto's racing has really improved as the tour has gone on. It bodes well for his chances to maintain his second place in the GC through the high mountain stages that are coming in the next 3 days. He struggle a bit compared to his teammate Kreuziger last weekend, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out for Saxo Tinkoff with only 17 seconds separating their two top riders.
Dirty beard - stage 17 - Photo Credit: Laurent Rebours
Dirty rode the TT of his life: Alejandro Valverde is not known for his time trial abilities, and actually is probably better known for his horrible time trial performances in the past. His fifth place finish only 30 seconds was a revelation for the Spaniard. Dirty stepped it up today. I'm still not a fan, but I can respect a good ride when I see one. 
Purito's pain face - stage 17 - Photo Credit: CorVas/Pez Cycling
JRod might have saved his podium chances: Like Valverde, Purito is not known for his time trialing prowess. Though he's not been horrible in his career, he has given away a lot of time in previous time trials - including the first TT of this tour. Today was a different story however, third place and only 10 seconds behind Froome pushes him to within only two minutes and thirty seconds behind the current third place holder. With plenty of vertical feet to ride, he has a shot to gain that time back between now and Saturday...expect fireworks from the Spanish climber. 
Roman Kreuziger Stage 17 - Photo Credit: Bike Radar
Kreuziger kept the pressure on: Roman's ride to fourth place kept his podium dreams alive, and as I stated earlier, the tension in the Saxo Tinkoff team bus at a moderate level. He finished only 13 seconds behind his team leader on the stage and though he'll no doubt be saddled with the responsibility of riding for Contador, should the Spaniard falter in the mountains, he'll be ready to step up. 
Bauke on his way up the hill, and down the leaderboard - Stage 17 - Photo Credit: Roadcycling UK
Bauke bombed: Much like his Belkin teammate Laurens Ten Dam did yesterday, Bauke Mollema blinked on the big stage and was the days big loser.  He rode shaky and even crashed into a retaining wall within 1 km of the finish. The result was that he dropped second place down to fourth. He still has a great chance to gain it back thanks to his climbing abilities and having the support of a teammate like Ten Dam who can climb well in his own right. He'll have his hands full with a group of Spaniards intent on disrupting things over the next three days. 
The young guns - totally forgot to get the photo credits and now it's late and I'm tired - apologies if these were yours.
The future is bright: Nairo Quintana in 6th, Michal Kwiatkowski in 7th, Andy Talansky in 9th and Teejay Van garderen in10th place are all riders aged 24 years old or less. After todays stage only Teejay sits outside of the top 15 in the overall GC. These kids are for real and they are very arguably riding clean - it speaks volumes about the direction the sport is going and the amazing racing that we'll have presented to us fans for years to come. 
Cadel Evans reading the writing on the wall - stage 17 - Photo Credit: Christopne Ena/Ap photo
It's over for Evans: Cadel had another awful day on the bike. The pride of Australia finished over eight minutes behind the was so bad for him that even Mark Cavendish bested him... and he was just trying to make the cut. I don't know if Evans will retire after this year, but if he does he can depart the sport he loves with head held high and secure in knowing that he did great things for the sport as the first tour winner from down under. He also would leave with what would appear to be a clean conscience of having ridden clean...not something too many of his peers can claim. 
Couldn't find a good picture of Andy from today, so I used this one from the 2010 TDF where he's riding next to some dude wearing a yellow bikini - Photo Credit: Bernard Papon/POOL
Andy is alive: Last but not least there was a Shleck sighting in the top 15 of a stage for the first time in I can't tell you how long. It would seem that he is finding a sliver of his old form and that the challenges of the broken pelvis are finally fading into the past. There's no telling exactly how much of the old Andy will be able to be reclaimed, but at only 28 years old he still has time on his side. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What's his name breaks from the break.

Rui Costa and all his names going over the line on stage 16 - Photo Credit: Laurent Rebours
Rui Alberto Faria da Costa has a lot of names. I wonder how long it took him to learn how to write them when he was a kid. I had a hard enough time learning to spell two names, but five? Ok, I guess the "da" isn't really a name, but you still have to spell it...but I digress. Rui Costa as he is more commonly and efficiently known put together a great ride today and slipped away on the days last climb to claim his first stage of this years tour. The Portugese grimpeur has been overshadowed by his teammates Quintana and Valverde this month...but he showed today that Movistar is more than a two man show.

A strong climber and consecutive winner of 2 Tours de Suisse, Costa played his hand perfectly today working his way into the 26 man breakaway which grew its lead to over 12 minutes at one point. When the road started up the Col de Manse he attacked and separated from the others. His move was measured but effective and as he rode over the summit he had 48 seconds on the chasers and over 11 minutes on the field. Once on the descent he put his time trialing skills to the test (he is the national time trial champion of Portugal) and maintained the lead and down the hill and all the way to Gap. 

Meanwhile, back in the GC group the sparks were flying. Contador may have conceded that Froome was stronger in this years tour, but he will not go down without a fight. It was vintage Contador as they raced up the category 2 Col de Manse and he attacked over and over again in an attempt to put Froome under pressure. Froome did not panic, and why would he with his strongman Porte still there to protect him? Porte again put in a brilliant ride in support of his team leader and managed to cover every attack the the Spaniard threw at them. At one point he even had to slow up a bit so Froome could grab back on to his wheel and then he led him back up to Contador. 

With just over 5 km to go, Porte finally cracked and Froome was left alone with a select group of GC podium contenders. As he had in every other stage, the leader of the race neutralized every attack thrown at him by the movistar boys and then the chase was on down the other side. Contador remained on the rivet and flew like Paolo Savoldelli in attempt to break away from Froome and the others. His exuberance got the best of him however, as he lost his wheel and slid out on a right hand bend. His crash force Froome off the side and into the grass where he had to unclip to maintain his balance. It was an eerily similar situation to the famous crash of Joseba Beloki as he tried to break from Lance Armstrong in the 2003 tour. The results were not nearly as bad for Contador as they were for Beloki (who broke his hip in the crash) and he was able to get back into the group and continue to fight as they rode past the spot where Beloki lay in agony on that fateful day a decade ago. Contador and Froome worked together and bridged up to the rejuvenated Richie Porte who again pulled his leader back to the other 6 riders...another MVP performance by the Australian.

The attacks came fast and hard for the rest of the race but Froome had no problems covering all of them and the group finished together over 10 minutes back of Costa. There was some finger wagging (or rather thumb upping) and discussion between Contador and Quintana, who did not attack after Contador's crash. The Spaniard did not believe it however and ruffled a few feathers with his animated response to the reaction from the other riders in their select group. He took big chances today on the descent and props to him for doing so, but to expect every one else to wait when you make a mistake is pushing it a bit...more than a few riders let him know it. 

The big loser of the day was young Laurens Ten Dam who missed the cut on the Col de Manse and dropped out of the top 5 in the overall standings. Quintana took his place and Purito moved up to 7th on the eve of the final individual time trial. With three challenging mountain stages remaining from Thursday to Saturday, tomorrow's stage will be crucial to those who aren't as strong on the climbs to try and stretch whatever leads they may have on the 30 km ITT. With a thousand meters of climbing on the stage, there will also be a chance for the non time trial specialists to keep their losses at a minimum before the final big stages in the Alps. 

I couldn't help but notice the resemblance...

When I saw this pic of Froome grimacing in Wednesday's individual time trial, I couldn't help but think he looked like Ridley Scott's Alien. Even his ungainly position on the bike resembles the brutal, emotionless killing machine from the movie series... elbows out, shoulders hunched and long lanky legs that seem to bend in multiple directions. 

I'm guessing right about now that most of the peloton would probably agree that there is more than just a passing resemblance. His performance has been nothing short of an otherworldly effort. He has shown no sympathy, no remorse, given no quarter and has in fact ferociously attacked his rivals at every turn.

On the climb up to Mont Ventoux it appeared that he would be the benevolent tour leader and let Quintana have the stage in exchange for working together...then he promptly chewed him up and spit him out over the last 1.2 km. No gifts... The Badger must have been loving it. 

I just hope his blood doesn't contain acid like the move monsters does...or any other unnatural substance for that matter.

There seems to be a nickname here somewhere, but I haven't come up with one yet - when I do you'll be the first to know. 

The First Annual Bike Life Second Rest Day awards.

Let's do this:
OPQS leading the pack - Photo credit: Graham Watson
Best team - Omega Pharma Quickstep: A win for Martin in the Time trial, A second sprint victory for Cavendish and a great breakaway triumph for the young Matteo Trentin all in the second week prove without a doubt that they were the best team. 2 of the wins were on consecutive days and all 3 were within four days. Add to their success the amazing overall performance of Michal Kwiatkowski and they may hold this prize all the way to Paris. 

The famous locks of Marcel Kittel - Photo credit: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images Europe
Best young rider - Marcel Kittel - Team Argos Shimano: Two more sprint victories against the best of the best - including one in a head up sprint against Cavendish - bring his stage tally to 3 for the race, the most of any rider to this point. In addition to his performances on the bike, his hair has become something of a celebrity of it's own...

Chava looking cool pre stage - Photo Credit: Cycling Weekly
Most Combative - Sylvain Chavanel - Omega Pharma Quickstep: While Bakelants has still been taking the fight to the peloton, this week Chavanel was constantly out front bringing pain to his competition. Though none of his work resulted in victories for himself, 2 of the wins for his teammates can definitely be traced back to his selfless riding. Also - his valiant attempt to break away and win on the slopes of Mont Ventoux will not soon be forgotten. 
Let's get together - Photo credit: NOS
Best Crash - Tom Veelers - Team Argos Shimano: Easily the most talked about crash in the race. Veelers drifted right as Cavendish veered left and with a hard shunt from the Missiles upper body Veelers was down - hard. Debate raged on the internet about who was at fault, with most of the pros calling it just an unfortunate accident. The fans however had a different opinion with most spitting vitriol at Cav. One idiotic fan took things too far however and threw urine on him as he waited for the time trial start on Wednesday. An awful act and one of the only black marks on the tour thus far. 

The lankey leader at the summit of Mont Ventoux - Photo credit: ASO
Best Climber - Christopher Froome - Team Sky: Only one choice here. Others have ridden well but Froome's dominance has been unquestioned. His historic ride up Mont Ventoux to win on the Giant while wearing yellow will go down in history as one of the best rides in modern times. He is simply in a class by himself so far in this year when the roads start to rise. 

Froome looking a bit like an alien - Photo Credit: Getty images
Best Rider - Chris Froome - Team Sky: This week Peter Sagan was doing his best to upstage the new Boss of le peloton by upping his podium total to 7, but there really is only one choice for the best rider of the last week and of the tour so far. With a second place in the ITT and the resounding victory on stage 15 to Mont Ventoux, he claimed the polka dot jersey as best climber to go along with another Maillot Jaune to add to his growing collection. His performance was masterful and should go down as one of the best ever. I say "should" because as his lead in the GC increases, so does the speculation about how such performances are possible. It's a sad state of affairs that is the reality of the current culture of cycling. You simply cannot help but be skeptical... I hope for him and for the sport that what we are witnessing is a victory for the history books, and not another awful chapter in a beautiful sport that has been riddled by cheats for years.

Update - July 17th, 2013: I can't believe I forgot about the toughest rider award when did the second rest day post on Monday. Without further ado, the hardest man in the peloton for week two is:
GT, still riding with a pulverized pelvis - stage one 2013 TDF - Photo Credit: Eric Gaillard/Reuters
Geraint Thomas- Team Sky: He's still riding and his pelvis is still broken - 'nuff said.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Feux d'artifice pour la fete national

Fireworks at the Eiffel Tower - Photo credit: Celeste Hutchins
For those who don't parler Français, or don't have access to Google translate like I do, the title of this post is 'Fireworks for French National Day" - or Bastille day as it is known in the English speaking parts of the globe. It happens every year on July 14th and is meant to commemorate the 1790 Fete de la Fédération - not the storming of the Bastille as most people today think. There are major celebrations all over the country, and none bigger than where ever Le Tour happens to be on that day. Every year hundreds of thousands of revelers line the stages in the hopes that one of their countrymen will slip away and claim the top step of the podium on the biggest holiday of the year.

Bjarne Riis taking a moment to connect with the fans! - Fans on Mont Ventoux - Photo credit: B.Blade/ASO
This year was no exception - over three hundred thousand rowdy fans lined the final 20 km of the route hoping to see one of the french riders pass through at the téte de corse and reach the summit first to the raucous cheers of the adoring French fans. Would every French houswive's favorite - Tommy Voeckler be the one to come by bobbing and weaving like a boxer with jersey filleted and tongue flapping in the wind? Or perhaps one of the young climbers who show so much promise - Gadret, Rolland, Pinot or Bardet? 

The always impressive strongman Sylvain Chavanel showed promise and lit up a break with Peter Sagan and 8 others from very early on. their lead stretched to over 7 minutes at one point before Europecar upped the ante and the gap started to fall. By the feedzone the lead had shrunk to 4:35 and it looked like the group would be caught before the real climbing even started. At 29 km to go Chavanel took matters into his own hand and broke from the group. chases ensued but he hit the foot of the Giant of Provence clinging to a 28 second lead. Peter Sagan was the first of the leaders to fall back to the field and the Slovakian took a second to delight the fans with one of his patented wheelies as the peloton bore down on him:

Chavanel continued his valiant effort but once the road turned skyward and the true climbers started to get antsy his dreams of Bastille glory quickly faded, much like the fireworks that would soon be lighting up the night sky. The first to attack were Portugal's name collector - Rui Alberto Faria da Costa and Belgium's feisty Jan Bakelants, Costa faded back quickly but then Euskatel's Mikel Nieve bridged up to Bakelants and he and the Belgian worked together. 

That's when the real fireworks started...for the next rider to take his shot was the newest pride of Colombia, Nairo Quintana. He rode away with 12.4 km to go smoothly, effortlessly and with no visible emotion on his face...a trait that is making him famous all across the social media world. There was almost no response from the field, but I'm willing to bet there was a collective gasp from living rooms all over the world to the effect of "too soon Nairo!". 

Behind him the devastation to the field was well underway. In a sadly too common sight these days, Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans were the first big names to be unhinged. More followed including Valverde, Fuglsang and Nieve (who could not maintain Quintana's pace) as Team Sky took to the front and started the charge that would be the decisive move of the day. Peter Kennaugh and Richie Porte - in what I consider the ride of the day - turned themselves inside out for Froome and decimated the field. Within a few kilometers only the maillot Jaune, Porte and a struggling Contador were left together to chase down the Colombian Quintana. With 7.5 km to go Porte's heroic effort ended and Froome made his move. the lanky South African who spent his first 14 years in the thin air of Nairobi, Kenya showed the mettle of a man who wanted to not only cement his place at the top of the leaderboard, but to make history while doing it.

Porte with the ride of the day - photo credit: Christiophe Ena/AP photo
He quickly caught Quintana who struggled for a moment before catching back up to his wheel. It stayed that way for the next 2 km as they continued to distance the chase group which included just about everybody else who still had a shot a podium. Then there was a clear conversation between the two leaders which ended when Nairo took to the front and pushed the pace again. The twittersphere erupted with talk of an agreement being made and the stage being gifted by Froome to the Colombian for his help in extending the lead over the others.

The twitter experts could not have been more wrong however, as Froome began working to drop Quintana and finally did so with 1.2 km to go. He continued the torrid pace and finally crossed over the line, striking a triumphant (if somewhat awkward) pose a full 29 seconds ahead of Quintana who had been on his wheel only a thousand meters before. Then the wait was on to see how much time Contador would lose. As the camera steadied in anticipation of the Spaniards appearance around the last curve the surprise of the day occurred. It was not Contador that came into view next, but a resurgent Nieve and the previously M.I.A. Purito - A.K.A. Jaoquim Rodriguez. Another 17 seconds later the Saxo Tinkoff jersey finally appeared, only it was Kreuziger first with his team leader (for now?) clinging to his wheel in an effort to stay relevant in the overall GC.

A jubilant Froome doing the safety dance as he crosses the line - Photo credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty images
The parade of the days best riders continued, as the impressive tours of Belkin duo Bauke Mollema and  Laurens Ten Dam came through in in 8th and 9th place. Jean Christophe Peraud took home the honors as the best Frenchman on Bastille day with a great effort to come in 10th, just over 2 minutes down. Richie Porte's amazing day finally ended with a 15th place ride that added to the already strong impression he is making this month as a future contendor for the Maillot Jaune.

Just a little over 2 minutes separated the 18 riders who came in from 3rd place to 20th, but the riders reactions might as well have been from different worlds depending on your standing in the peloton. For riders such as Michal Kwiatkoski, Dan Martin and Laurens Ten Dam, their placings were further confirmation of the bright futures in store for these young men. For others like Contador and Valverde however, the minutes lost and places counted ahead were bitter indications of GC hopes that are fading further and further away...not only for this year, but perhaps for their careers as well.  This race is a cruel mistress to those who try to tame her, she continues to send one brutal stage after another to shatter the hopes and dreams of the men who give everything, every day for that one fleeting victory.. and for the accolades that define the winner as one who beat the best up the lonely road to Mont Ventoux.   

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Giant.

This amazing print was created by Le Rouleur Lent - you can buy it here and here.


Mont Ventoux is and isn't one of Le Alps. Geographically it is considered part of the Alps, but  many consider it separate because there are no other mountains of similar height any where near it. It stands seemingly alone to the north of the Luberon range with a perfect peak reminiscent of a typical child's drawing of a mountain. There is nothing childish about this mountain however and it in fact has served to separate the boys from the men every time it has been ridden as part of Le Tour de France. 

Tomorrow's stage 15 of this centenary tour will be no exception. Taking the harder route via Bedoin to the summit, the race is a long one - 242.5 km, with the final ascent to the summit being the only really tough climb of the day - but what a climb it is. From that side it is 21 km of climbing that rises 1912 meters from the valley floor. Though the average gradient of 7.43 percent may not seem so challenging when compared to some of the steeper climbs in the Alps... it is the totality of the experience that grinds you down. 

It is a war of attrition for 21 km where there are no hairpins to break up the relentless climbing, for the 11 km up to Chalet Reynard the average gradient increases to nearly 10 percent. There is a slight let up at the chalet but then it kicks up again the rest of the way to the finish. Adding to the demoralizing experience is the fact that the summit has no vegetation or trees - only a barren limestone landscape with one road leading to the peak which is highlighted by the strange coexistence between a 500 year old Holy Cross chapel and a 50 year old 60 meter high telecommunications mast. An additional hurdle are the devilishly strong winds that hit you once you come out of the trees and hit the bald slopes. The direction of the wind is crucial, with a tailwind helping to lighten both the physical and mental loads - or a headwind hitting you in the face like a ton of bricks. 

Tom Simpson - photo credit: Krieger Roger/L'Equipe
But perhaps nothing is more unsettling than the history of what this climb has done to others in the past. Most notably Tom Simpson, the British cycling legend who's life tragically ended on the slopes of the Giant during stage 16 of the 1967 tour. To be fair to the mountain it has been widely reported - and generally accepted - that Simpson was using amphetamines on the day of the climb. He was reportedly seen ingesting pills at the start of the climb to counter act a lingering sickness he had been battling that week and one km from the finish fell of his bike for the first time. His team mechanic tried to tell him that his race was over, but Simpson would have none of it. He simply said "on, on, on" and they sat him up and strapped him back in. He rode a further 460 meters before collapsing again for the last time. A nurse and others took turns giving him mouth to mouth until a helicopter arrived to take him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Sadly, they found in his jersey pockets two empty tubes of amphetamines and a third that was half empty. 

The official cause of death was listed as heart failure due to dehydration and heat exhaustion with the addition of drugs being a contributing factor. There are a number of factors that would drive one to act so recklessly, for some it was an obsessive desire to be the best, for others it is simply a need to perform at a certain level to keep ones job and food on the table. In the 60's cycling was not a profession that would yield a pot of gold for most riders. Only the best were rewarded so handsomely and many others  may have felt the need to do whatever possible to get the most out of their short careers on the bike  - Simpson was not immune to this stress. An interesting side note: The words "put me back on my bike" are widely accepted as Tom Simpsons last words, but they were not. Those words were actually invented by a British reporter following the race and reporting for The Sun who was not actually on the scene. The aforementioned "on, on, on" was actually the last sentence he uttered and was confirmed by the two men who were actually there with him.

Whatever he said the outcome was the same, and there is now a solemn memorial at the very spot where he fell - 1 km from the summit of the Giant in his honor. It is somewhat of a shrine to road racing fans who leave tributes to the fallen rider after making their own cycling pilgrimages up the slopes of the Mountain. Though Mont Ventoux is not responsible for the death of Simpson, it is one more part of the myth that surrounds the Giant of Provence and should be a warning to today's young riders who push themselves beyond their limits for success - sometimes naturally and sometimes artificially - that it is just not worth it. 
Tom Simpson memorial - Photo credit: MARKA/Alamy
I can't imagine the level of anticipation the riders must be feeling right now. They are prepared for sure - prepared for the intimidation that the sight of the Giant brings. Prepared for the physical toll it will take on their bodies. Some are prepared only to survive, while others are prepared to grab glory in their hands and stand on the top step of one of the most sought after podiums in the history of cycling. Tomorrow's racing coverage starts at 5:00 a.m. in my neck of the woods and when it is done we will know a ton more about where this tour is heading...and who will be leading it to that destination. 

Pretty funny imitations of pro riders styles...

His Voeckler is hilarious...

Crankworx Les 2 Alpes.

There are other things happening on 2 wheels this month. Check out this amazing photoset from Crankworx Les 2 Alpes in Whistler!

13 Whiptastic Photos from Crankworx L2A | Vital MTB

Spoiler alert?

Since this is a new blog I'm kind of just having fun and learning as I go along. Things like photo credits and learning how to make gifs have just happened organically. Adding widgets, follow buttons and other added functionality may one day happen as well, but there is no master plan and definitely no schedule.

Internet etiquette is of paramount importance to me, and one thing I hadn't considered until my friend Tim brought it up the other day was that my posts may be spoiling the days racing for those who are recording and watching later. Being the obsessive cycling nerd that I am I've been waking at around 5 am everyday to get my fix, many times setting up the days post and then rechecking it for spelling and facts later in the morning when I am a little more awake and in my right mind...or at least as right as my mind gets.

As such I'll try to be a bit more careful in my approach to protect those who are working to stay in the dark on the days events until they can sit and watch in the proper setting, whatever that may be for each of you (not an easy task in today's over connected world). I'll be more thoughtful about my headlines and maybe even add in a break, it just might lead to more interesting posts...but we'll have to see about that. 

Until then, I thought I'd send this link for one of the best (if not the best) TDF spoiler repellers out can pick one up from the cool cats over at MashSF:

Give me a break.

Matteo Trentin Stage 14 2013 TDF - Photo credit: Laurent Cipriani AP
2013 has been a lean year for breakaway successes in Le Tour. Only stage 2's win by Belgian Jan Bakelants qualifies as a true breakaway win in my opinion, but if there was a stage set up perfectly for a break to was todays stage 14 to Lyon. 

After the battle in yesterday's phenomenal stage 13 it seemed like the wind battered peloton was more than happy to reign things back a bit and let the split grow to it's eventual 7 plus minute size. The excitement was started by - you guessed it - Jens Voigt. The popular 41 year old was riding in his 303rd stage of Le Tour and set out with his protegé Bakelants and 17 others including American Andrew Talansky, the highest placed GC rider in the group. The break survived a bridge attempt from Italian legend Damiano Cunego and Dutch hardman and barbed wire magnet Johnny Hoogerland and continued to apply the pressure. 

The pace eventually proved too much for the veterans Voigt and David Millar and they were dispatched before Frenchman Julien Simon put in a heroic effort and gained over 30 seconds on the others. Behind him the group worked haphazardly to bring him back, with TeeJay Van Garderen and the others taking turns surging and then following as the early cat and mouse games started to play out. The result was a lead that stayed at around 10 seconds and tantalized Simon with thoughts of maintaining it all the way to victory. 

One final push from Michael Albasini and it was over however. A spent Simon made a strong effort to stay with the breakaway all the way to the line and was rewarded with a more than respectable 11th place on the day. Up ahead of him Bakelants took a deep pull to try and distance the group but it was too little too late. The finish looked to be perfectly suited to Movistar's J.J. Rojas - easily the best sprinter in the group - but Albasini took the fight to him first and the Spaniard faded. Talansky also came around but it was a deep turn from far back in the group by the Italian Matteo Trentin that did in the others. He showed a great finishing kick that his teammate Mark Cavendish would be proud of and crossed the line with a salute that showed nearly as much surprise as it did celebration.

Matteo Trentin stage 14 2013 TDF - Photo credit: Laurent Rebours AP.
It was the first Tour victory for the 23 year old from Borgo Valsugana, and also the first for any Italian in over 3 years. He showed well for his country and for his Omega Pharma Quickstep squad. It is their second win in a row, third in the last four stages and fifth overall. Throw in the revelation that young Michal Kwiatkowski has been and it's easy to see that OPQS came to play, and has been a huge factor so far in this years tour. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Best stage yet.

The Split. Photo credit:
Mark Cavendish won his 25th stage of Le Tour de France today. He's a quarter of a C-note deep in top steppers although he's having to work harder for them these days. It was a chaotic finish to a chaotic stage and the Manx Missile made a great move to chase down Cannondale's Maciej Bodnar who was himself chasing down Cavendish's own teammate Niki Terpstra; and easily pulled away from the ever present Peter Sagan who gained his 7th podium of this tour. On any other day that would have been the story, Cavendish winning his second stage and quieting the growing rumble that is saying Kittel - and not himself - is the best sprinter in the world. On any other day it would have been, except today was not any other day and it wasn't a story...not by a longshot. 

No, the story today was about some of the most aggressive team riding the tour has seen this year, and maybe in a few years. I can't remember a more brutal flat, wind riddled stage since 2008 when Lance Armstrong worked like a boss to distance his main competition...who just so happened to be his teammate Alberto Contador. Contador would again be part of the story today, only this time he was the aggressor, and there would be no debating whether or not it was the right move, because he wasn't working against his own team, he was working against the number one squad in the world - Team Sky. 

It was a brilliant piece of tactical cycling that took place at the perfect moment. It was with approximately 31 km to go, long after the first fissures had started to show in a peloton that had been made fragile by some of the most brutal canicule crosswinds the tour has seen this year. The battles had started nearly 70 km earlier when the first breaks started to form. Valverde and Kittel among others were already in danger and working hard to catch back up to a break about 1/3rd the size of the peloton. Then Valverde punctured and his day (and his GC hopes) were done. The lead group which contained most of the Saxo, OPQS, Cannondale and Sky teams smelled blood in the water and attacked. for the next 60 plus km they formed hard working echelons which accordioned across the roads and created a multi minute split between the groups. 

Then when they sensed a relaxation in the lead pack, Contador and his Saxo Tinkoff boys attacked with a ferocity that was stunning. This time they had Belkin and OPQS there to help and they quickly distanced the now shrunken and hobbled Team Sky group still battling to maintain contact with 14 leaders. Sky had started the day with only seven riders and by this time had seen 2 miss the cut leaving only British strong man Stannard, Thomas and his pesky pelvis , Suitsou and Kennagh there to work for Froome. They fought valiantly and kept the lead at around 10 seconds for the first 10km. With no other teams willing to help however, the leaders pulled away and left Froome resigned to his fate and a loss on the day of over a minute. He maintains a 2:25 lead over second place - now filled by Contador. Still a large lead and one that should hold up through the mountains...but you never know. 

Valverde was the big loser today (did I say big? I meant monumental) losing nearly 10 minutes to the leader and over 8 to the yellow jersey. That is a perfect example of how brutally fast today's racing was. Dirty was in a group of FIFTY riders who all lost that much time to the lead pack on a stage flatter than a pancake...and they weren't even last! I've said it before and I'll say it again; these sprint stages are anything but rest days on wheels until they last few km before the sprint. For riders they can be some of the most hardcore days in the saddle...and can mean the difference between gaining or losing a lot of time, and a lot of places. For fans they can be some of the most exciting few hours of racing we'll ever see.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A new chapter...

Marcel Kittel's third victory in this years Tour de France was arguably his most impressive, and most important. Why this one more than his first? Because It was head up against the best sprinter in the world today, and possibly the best ever. 

The day started as many do, with a break. It was one that would last for most of the race, and nearly all of it as the always feisty J.A. Flecha of Vocansoleil made a valiant last ditch effort to get a heroic win only to be swallowed up by the peloton with under 6k to go. 

From then on it was all about maintaining an upright position as a huge crash took out a number of riders. Some of them, such as Sky's Edvald Boassen Hagen who broke his right scapula, sadly had their races ended completely. Cavendish and Kittels lead out men both made it through with their leaders on their wheels. At the end it was Steegmans leading out Cav in textbook fashion...a situation we've seen so many times end up a win for Cav that I'd be willing to bet my bike that he does it again... only today it was different. Kittel pulled a Dish on the Dish and waited just long enough to conserve enough energy to shoot around the Missile on the right and pip him for the win at the line. 

With the victory Kittel has managed to put the disappointment of last years injury ended tour to rest, and to cement his place next to the best sprinters racing in the pro peloton today. 

Oh - and let's not forget about Mr. Consistency. Peter Sagan picked up what I count as his 6th podium of the race as well. He saw his huge points lead drop to 94 points, but with only 2 true sprinting stages left, it would seem the green jersey is almost as locked up for him as yellow is for Froomey. With a couple more rouleur stages still to come, perhaps his Cannondale teammates can put in another effort like the one on stage 6, when they dropped the hammer for nearly 100 km to distance the other sprinters and deliver him to the line in first class style. 

Tomorrow is most likely the last chance for the pure sprinters to get a win before the Champs Elysees, so I'd expect some fireworks from the OPQS, Argos, Cannondale and Lotto boys as they try to get another win before the race heads to the heavens this weekend. 

Better late than never...

Busy busy busy. The last two days have been busy at the office and at home. So I missed my recap on the all important Time Trial to Mont Saint Michel. I'm sure you've read about it from someone else already so I'll just point out what I consider to be the interesting bits.

  • Mont Saint Michel seems like an incredible place, and what a backdrop for a bike race. As Liz Lemon would say: "I want to go to there". 
  • Tony Martin is still the best. True, without Fabs there his victory is a little scuffed, but it was a great performance, especially when you consider the injuries he's had to overcome after being flattened by the Greilla on stage one. 
  • Christopher Froome might as well have stood along the road and hit each one of his competition with a sledge hammer. His ride basically had the same effect - which was a thorough beatdown of anybody who was still harboring thoughts of wrestling the yellow jersey off of his back. With his nearest competition a whopping 3:25 back, he has a cushion the size of Wendy Williams booty to work with...which is to say, A lot. For now I'll enjoy it for the amazing performance that it seemed to be... and hope that the info in this article has some sort of plausible explanation,
  • Peter Sagan rode a great race. 17th place and 2:18 back of Martin, but only a minute or so back of everybody besides the winner and Froome. It bodes well for his future chances in some of the minor stage races in my opinion....if he could just work on his climbing!
  • Dirty Valverde put on a good show and limited his losses to remain in second place 12 seconds ahead of Bauke Mollema. Never a strong point for him, he pulled off one of his best efforts in this time trial and he heads into the Alps in a great spot for a podium. 
  • Richie Porte is the real deal. Sure he took a shellacking on Sunday's stage 8, but that was after putting in a monster performance up Ax 3 Domanes the day before in support of Froome. His 3rd place finish only 1:10 behind Martin speaks volumes for his future potential to be the next tour winner from Australia. 
  • Michal Kwiatkowski continues to wow. 5th place on the stage and 7th place over all with a shot at a podium. Omega Pharma has a real gem on their hands in this 23 year old, and they'd be wise to get him locked up to a long term contract asap. What a great GC balance he can be to Cav's championship level sprinting. 
  • Andy Talansky put in a strong ride to finish 12th. The Alps might hold the key to a possibly bright future for this young American...hoping for a continued strong finish for the kid from Miami...I'm sure JV feels the same way. 
  • Some big losers on the day:
    • Nairo Quintanana - That 2nd in the El Pais Vasco time trial was not to be repeated here.
    • Jaoqim "Purito" Rodriguez - He's gotta do better than 56th place if he wants to seriously challenge for a podium. 
    • Cadel - The days of the deisel chugging to good things in major time trials seem to have passed. 
    • Contador - For some 15th place would be great, but for a former TDF winner (ish) he needed to step up and battle with Froome here..but he couldn't. Is Kreuzinger the Saxoff team leader yet?
  • But the biggest time trial loser of all? As usual it's Andy Schleck. I know he's still working his way back from the broken pelvis, but this was a disaster. I'll never understand why he can't get better at this discipline. He has so much potential to be great...or does he? Maybe he's not meant to be a great time trialist...maybe he just is what he is and he's been over reaching this whole time? 
So there you have it. All the Stage 11 news that's fit to print regarding the first major TT of this tour. Can't wait for the weekend and the coming big battles in the high mountains.