After a little reflection, I will give this year’s Tour a B+

July 29, 2008

This was tough.  There were plenty of “A” moments but on the whole, I think I’ll stick to the B+.  Here is my quick breakdown.

Course. This year showed some inspiration on behalf of the ASO. Flat stages were never really flat, mountains were challenging and given the exhausted state of the peloton, I think the course tested everyone from sprinters to climbers. Grade A

Competitiveness.  At a late stage, having six riders within a minute of the lead was very exciting.  The only improvement I could wish for is to have the final time trial go to the wire.  Picky, Picky.  Grade A- 

Doping. This was handled appropriately.  Cases were handled in a way that demonstrated the importance of a clean race without overwhelming the race itself.  The withdrawal of two sponsors (BarloWorld, Saunier Duval) created some distraction however. Grade C-

I am encouraged by the next generation of cyclists who are poised to take this sport into the future.  Looking at the list of White Jersey contenders in addition to Alberto Contador leaves me with a good feeling regarding the future.


Sastre wins yellow

July 27, 2008

The yellowjersey either lifts you or breaks you.  For Sastre, he turned in a strong performance on Saturday.  Today’s performance made clear the Strategy of team CSC on Wednesday when Sastre attacked his own teammate of L’Alpe.  Sastre had the better chance to to time trial to victory than Frank Schleck.  I was asking myself if Schleck was that tired or did he drop back to provide a target for Sastre once Menchov and Kohl knocked him off the podium.  Probably not since once he was in Sastre’s sights, he didn’t stay there too long.

I’ll have to disagree with Paul Sherwen that Sastre rode an unbelievable time trial.  While it was strong, Sastre placed where he normally places.  I think it was Cadel who showed either the effects of defending his jersey in the mountains or the weight of yellow.  Cadel should have put in a top 5 performance.  His performance should have been on par with Christian Vande Velde which would have put him within 5 seconds of yellow.  At that point, things would have gotten very interesting.

I’ll lean towards the latter reason, yellow weighing heavily.  Take a look at Cadel losing his temper in a post stage interview.

Versus on the web

July 26, 2008

Here is another interesting interview with Garmin-Chipolte’s Jonathan Vaughters.

Versus puts content online

July 26, 2008

Versus which has really begun to try to embrace Web 2,0 to broaden it’s reach, is making some content available online such as this interview with Christian Vande Velde.

Mano a mano and mano a mano

July 25, 2008

In the game of musical chairs for the Tour podium, it seems that Christian Vande Velde was the first out when the music stopped.  Tomorrow, we’ll see two more retired.  In my opinion, Bernhard Kohl will be next but who will be last to the exit door?

Look for two races within the time trial.  The first is to sort out first and second.  Sastre vs. Evans.  Cadel is spotting the Spaniard more than a minute and a half.  Too much?  The second race will be for the third step on the podium  This is between Frank Schleck and Denis Menchov.  Menchov is too far (2:39) from Sastre to threaten him for one of the top two but the Russian sits just 1:15 behind Frank. 

My prediction? 1) Evans 2) Sastre 3) Menchov.  While My heart has the two CSC boys first and third, I just can’t bank on that.

Sorry for the bad pun.

Something from our useless trivia department

July 24, 2008

I may not remember to pick up milk on my way home from work but I am the partner of choice in Trivia games.  And cycling trivia is my favorite category.  So, when looking at today’s stage finish in St. Etienne, I flashed back to the Time Trial in St. Etienne back in 2005.  I remember that vividly since my wife and I were in Paris on that day and we watched the time trial with a small group that included Dave Zabriskie.  Remember, Dave Z. crashed out of that tour on the Team Time Trial.

My first memory was the horrific time trial ridden by Mickel Rasmussen that year.  It was like seeing a bad accident on the side of the road.  I was hard to watch but even harder to not watch.

Then I thought about Saturday’s TT.  How did our protagonists do that day.  Take a look.

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel (46.4 km/h)     1.11.46
2 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                         0.23
3 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team                1.16
4 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC                             1.33
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                               1.54
6 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems               2.02
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                       2.06
8 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel                 2.25
9 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne  2.51
10 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne  3.05
11 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel              3.09
12 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                           3.10

It seems that Cadel finished 1 minute 4 seconds ahead of Sastre.  Given that he is currently 1 minute 34 behind, what does that say.

I know, the profile is completely different the 2005 course was much hillier thus playing to Sastre’s strengths.

Compared to 2008.

For you Evans fans, there are a hundred reasons why this means nothing.  For Sastre fans, there are probably a hundred reasons this means everything.  For me, this means one thing.  It’s going to be fun to watch.

Epic Battle

July 23, 2008

Today showed why cycling is a team sport.  We saw that a strong rider with a weak team is at a distinct disadvantage to a rider who may be weaker but is surrounded by a strong team. 

Team CSC destroyed Cadel Evan’s support on the Col de la Croix-de-Fer.  Then in a three pronged attack, Carlos Sastre leapt forward and the two Schleck brothers picked on Evans like school yard bullies.  The younger Schleck kept Evans from settling into a rhythm where he could focus on bringing Sastre back.

It was interesting to hear Garmin Chipolte’s Matt White disagree with CSC’s strategy saying that a constant tempo on the Croix-de-fer was not hurting Cadel.  Then we watched CSC deploy a variable speed strategy on L’Alpe d’Huez. 

 Andy Schleck showed why he is being tapped as the next Tour phenom by dancing around the world’s best cyclist like a moth circling a flame. 

Alas, it may not be enough since Saturday will swing the advantage back to Cadel who is a strong time trialist and in a TT, you don’t need a team.