Tuesday, 8 July 2008

July 8, post time trial

Post time trial – 8 July

Today I will start with results and comments, as I seem to have been treating the results a bit casually for the past few days. This 30k individual time trial, often called the race of truth, is the first “big rendezvous” of the Tour. This is the first time that the vague shape of the final hierarchy is beginning to emerge. Of course there are also some surprises, people who are not where they “should” be. So it is a good time to begin to be serious. Although I must quickly comment on what huge crowds there were today. If anyone thinks all the drug stuff has kept the punters away, I think they are just plain wrong.

Two passing observations. Valverde was wearing a yellow band on his wrist. That used to be a Livestrong Foundation (as in Lance Armstrong) bracelet, although since then nearly anyone can buy one for nearly anything. I thought that was interesting. And if you want to see a picture of Millar’s very cool bike and a few other little design tricks riders pull off to display their individuality, go to the cyclingnews.com site (link on blog) and look for “Tour Race Tech: Personalisation at the Tour” on the upper left or click on http://www.cyclingnews.com/road/2008/tour08/tech/index.php?id=/tech/2008/features/tour_personalisation_tdf08

So the big surprise, predicted by absolutely no one whatever, is that Stefan Schumacher, the German rider for the Gerolsteiner team, won the time trial. He is the rider who was caught with amphetamines in his blood after a car accident last December. He still was allowed to ride the Tour. Boonen was not. This inconsistency will be a minor embarrassment for the businessmen running the Tour. But a totally excellent thing for Stefan. His team is also losing their sponsor next year, so good for them too. A minor comment … this makes three guys wearing the yellow this year. The record is eight. It is doubtful that Schumacher will keep the jersey longer than the finish at Super Besse, but good for him. To beat Cancellara and Millar and Evans and the rest is a feat that no one could have predicted, although he is recognised as a serious “puncheur” type rider. We do like surprises. Kim Kirchen was also a bit better than many thought, although he has also been tipped as an outsider for the yellow jersey. We shall see how he does in the mountains. But both of them must be taken seriously for a bit longer.

I have to be really happy that Hincapie, Millar and Voigt did so well, as they have been some of my favourite riders for years. And they are still up there. Respect. Speaking of respect, I notice that Mauricio Soler, last year’s mountain king, the guy who had the bad crash, is STILL THERE. Riding through pain I imagine, but still there. I am delighted. So many little minor joys in the Tour.

Among the losers, the guys who really could have done a bit better, we find Valverde. Although he is not a time trial guy, he seems to have lost a few too many seconds on all his serious adversaries for yellow. This is not a good ride for his morale, and it will be very interesting to see if he tries to attack in the next four or five days to get back some time. Although Sastre, A. Schleck and Cunego lost time, they did not lose all that much. You could say they lost too much, but we await the mountains, as all of them can climb very well indeed. In some ways I don’t think anyone lost that much time, even Valverde. A possible exception might be Ricco, who had a terrible time trial and is already nearly four minutes down. He cannot possibly win the Tour now, but he sometimes claims he was not trying to anyway. He is an attacking climber, so no big deal. He has mentioned that the stage to Super Besse appeals to him, as well as Alpe d’Huez. If he is way down the GC, they might let him go. He is not stupid. The Tour is long, anything can happen.

For the sake of completeness, we should also notice that the four escapees from yesterday have disappeared completely. They had their moment of glory, got totally whacked, and none of them are that high calibre. But Romain Feillu will always know he wore the jersey, something that Raymond Poulidor never did, even though he was a truly great rider. I am sure we will hear from Romain again, although perhaps as a sprinter more than a Tour winner. And “little” Samuel Dumoulin will never be just “little” again. He will be a “stage winner on the Tour de France”. Happy memories to them both.

I have been forgetting to mention Thomas Lovkvist and Vincent Nibali, two young riders who have often been talked about as future big names. Their tenth and eleventh place in the TT, and their high placing in the young jersey competition makes it certain that I should now mention them. Who knows how they will do, but they can time trial and also climb. Will my dream come true and see several young riders high in the standings in a few days? Nibali had a long feature article in the French Velo mag recently. He does seem really good. Lovkvist is a proven winner already. They can both climb and time trial. We WILL hear of them again.

The two top teams so far, Team Columbia and Garmin-Chipotle are both the “clean teams”. Could there be a change in the air?

Speaking of changes, there is no way that someone like Kim Kirchen should be at the top of the Green jersey standings after four stages. Maybe the GC, where he is second, but even that is odd. By now the first six guys in the green jersey standings should be sprinters, but that isn’t the case at all. This is not the “usual Tour”. Kirchen might even be thinking that, in view of the next few stages, then the mountains, where he is not that bad, he might break the hold of the sprinters on the green jersey; Worth watching as a competition, I hope.

When all is said and done, the only guy who was a possible contender for the Tour who has lost enough time to write him off is Ricardo Ricco and he might not really have had those ambitions. So we can be sure that a guy like him, highly talented with a huge ego and mouth, will try to make a big move that will be remembered. All the rest have lost only two minutes or so and the Tour has many stages to go.

I should remind you that this year I really have not had time to consult any other sites at all, so if you have comments, or suggestions for good sites to visit or good stories, please add them in the comments after each entry. For me, if for no one else. Thanks.

In fact, tonight I went to the reunion de quartier where the mayor gives a free meal and drink to everyone, and where there is music. Two person group that did a combo of Edith Piaf songs and rock and roll rhythm and blues. It is nearly midnight now, and I have to get to bed so I can get up early tomorrow and go for a ride with some old geezers in the club. So that’s all for tonight.

Vive le vélo, slow or fast.

1 comment:

kim m said...

Hiya, Tom

No mention of my fellow aussie for July 8???

I just skimmed , so maybe i missed it?

Liked Greg Lemond's comments on Cadell's spotless reputation re drugs. He's a big fan.

And Cadell is right where he wants to be....