Thursday, 24 July 2008

St. Etienne – 24 July

St. Etienne – 24 July

NOTE. I am posting this now, unfinished, as there is a bit of thunder in the distance and I might not be able to post it later. We unplug during thunderstorms. Maybe that’s it until tomorrow. I might not have edited all that well, please forgive me. I will do it later.

Very busy tonight checking out a concert in an hour. I really am ready for the Tour to be over. It was a treat to watch three finishes tonight. That’s it really. Thought it was alert of Andy S. to notice that Kreuziger was gone, then to follow him to make sure he had the same grip on the white jersey as before.

Toward the end of the stage Laurent Fignon said it was a transitional stage. There was a flurry of argument among the lads, as they could not figure out what it was a transition TO. Finally they agreed that it was a transition to Paris. But that is not how the notion is used. What it means is that nothing happens that affects anything, that there are no great difficulties and other than the stage finish, which is usually interesting, nothing happens. That is what happened today.

The concert was not that great, I can write a bit more.

In l’Equipe, today or yesterday, and in a Bernard Hinault special they sold for the Tour, Hinault said he is back on the bike. A Hinault bike of course, carbon. No more details given. He famously stopped riding altogether and worked on his farm for many years. Although of course he worked for the Tour as well, part-time. Recently he sold the farm and moved into somewhere near Dinard, I figure, although its not clear. He goes out for sure twice a week (sometimes three), with two of his buddies. Although maybe more buddies, the details were not clear. His hairdresser, and an old pal who is something in the cycling organisational world in Brittany. They go a hundred k in three hours. Elsewhere he mentions 30kph average. That is why he looks a little bit fitter on the podium. I reckon that’s a pretty good rate of speed for three hours. Brittany can either lumpy or flat depending on your exact route. One of the guys in the club did the route of the Tour near us, Narbonne to Nimes. He averaged 32k, on his own. So Bernard is getting pretty fit. Apparently he has done one and intends to do two more, cyclosportifs in his area, in August. When he retired, I wondered about the “hanging up the wheels” that he was so into. Really loud about it. It’s good to see the bike come back into his, or for that matter, anyone’s life. They asked him what jersey he wore when he went out. He claimed it was a non-descript jersey. He even expressed some disdain for guys who wear the jerseys and ride along at 15kph. I think it’s a good story.

The feature for the “Legends of the Tour” series of shorts was Yvette Horner. Jean Paul Olivier does this short bit on whatever bit of history he has found film for. I must have seen the Hinault Lemond Alpe finish five times this year. Have not seen much of Lance yet. But today’s story was about Yvette Horner, who nearly everyone of a certain age knows about. In what seemed to be the early years of the caravan, she rented or bought a small car, cut a hole in the roof, built a metal sun shade and was part of the caravan. She played the accordion the whole way. Obviously she might have stopped and sat in the car during the long bits of countryside between towns. I think the “chicks” on the other caravan vehicles stop waving for most of the route too. She was a great accordion player, really classic French with terrible fast fingers. Everybody knew her. I can imagine, although the clip did not show it, that she might stop in a town to play a song everyone knew and could sing along with. She was a bit older for the interview, but still looked fine. You don’t get this if you watch the Tour live.

Having been a bit snappy with the stage, it did provide four finishes in one day. At the front was the choice between

Next was the minor escape that Schleck bridged to when he saw Kreuziger in the break. They are the only two left in the young jersey competition. Still left, usually by now it is well sorted. I am sure Andy will not lose enough time on Kreuziger in the Individual Time Trial, but no one knows. In fact this time trial will become a reference for the two for a couple of years. Neither of them have done one in the Tour, the last long one. And they both have something ride for. So for a few years this will be the reference for both of them. As for anyone in the top fifteen or anyone who thinks they can win. I am sure guys like Schumacher, Kirchen, Millar, Cancellara and Voigt might give it go. Although if Cancellara or Voigt does well it will be a miracle. Mind you they are all pretty tired. It will be a reference for any of them really, but I have got off the topic. Every one is talking about the TT and speculating about who will gain how much on whom. I will no doubt watch the last hour at least, maybe with friends since there is not really any “action”, just guys riding around alone.

Then there was the sprint for the few points left for the peloton, after both breaks finished. Freire beat them all, scoring ten pints, but ore importantly, more than Zabel and Hushovd who each got one point less. There will come a time when Freire logically and mathematically will be unable to be beaten. I suspect that will be after the TT. People do the maths, but I am not really into it tonight. There are so many points left, if Zabel wins all the sprints he can or at a given moment cannot beat Freire. But if Freire just finishes behind Zabel every day, he has it locked. I think Freire can even finish 30th one day. In any case we don’t want any bad luck to any of them. If no bad luck then Freire has it. I notice that Duque is still trying. Good for him. I figure they all will be serious on the Champs, including Robbie. I am looking forward to that sprint. Freire has won enough prizes that he should be searching for an ultimate aesthetic move, winning on the Champs with the green jersey on. Very cool. Zabel will want to win one more big one before he goes. The Champs is as big as it gets for a sprinter. I mention no one else, as I want Zabel to take it. Then retire.

The last race was whether Cunego would make it. He crashed heavily at the beginning of the stage. He was severely knocked about. He got back on the bike and three or four of his teammates helped him ride the whole distance, losing only 12 minutes on the last of the buses, and 20 minutes on the winner. I don’t fully grasp why he didn’t lose more time, as he only had his colleagues there to push him up hills. They did show shots of just this happening. I noticed they pushed him on his saddle. When guys in my club push me up a hill or when a gap has appeared in the bunch, they push my lower back usually. I like that, I bet Cunego did. Anyway he has gone down in the annals of Tour history for that. He will always be referred to as a guy who can endure plain, who can suffer, who has character. I reckon he does. He is often referred to by the commentator who fills up space, as “the great failure of the Tour”. I am not sure this is true, but he did hope to do a lot better. He will be back. It’s a good crop of riders, and if none of them get caught doping and keep riding well, there should be some good classic confrontations over the next five or six years. I doubt that anyone will be able to dominate like Miguel or Lance did. Cunego wil be a player someday, for the GC. But he will be a wiser man for all this. He won the young rider two years ago, and I think he thought he had the Tour figured out. If he is not already humble, he might be now. It helps. There is no doubt that the Tour is the hardest race on earth. Not for the route or the climbs or whatever. One could argue other tours are harder. But because everyone is there. Every one. The riders make the tour. All the chief strategists are there, the first team is in play, the stakes are global. More now than ever.

So four races in one. I guess I could reluctantly admit that something happened, even though nothing really did. Know what I mean?

Note what happens to Columbia team standing when they have one guy who gains lots of time on one stage, with a couple of other guys finishing with everyone else. They win the competition of the day. Or draw, as Quick Step is equal for the exact same reason, they had one guy way ahead, and no one is the second group. The prize is the cumulative time of the first three team riders on each stage. Note that AG2R and CSC stayed exactly the same as all their riders were in the third group, same time for the first three.

1 Team Columbia                                               13.44.43
2 Quick Step                                                          
3 Credit Agricole                                                 3.33
4 Agritubel                                                           
5 Euskaltel - Euskadi                                             3.35
6 Cofidis Credit Par Telephone                                    6.39
Ranking yesterday
1 Team CSC Saxo Bank                                         223.50.44
2 AG2R-La Mondiale                                                9.27
3 Rabobank                                                     1.01.06
4 Euskaltel - Euskadi                                          1.11.01
5 Caisse d'Epargne                                             1.11.45
6 Silence - Lotto                                              1.13.29
7 Lampre                                                       1.18.05
8 Credit Agricole                                              1.28.33
9 Gerolsteiner                                                 1.29.03
10 Team Columbia                                               1.29.48
Ranking today

1 Team CSC Saxo Bank                                         237.42.06
2 AG2R-La Mondiale                                                9.27
3 Rabobank                                                     1.01.17
4 Euskaltel - Euskadi                                          1.07.57
5 Caisse d'Epargne                                             1.11.56
6 Silence - Lotto                                              1.13.29
7 Lampre                                                       1.18.16
8 Team Columbia                                                1.23.09

No comments: