Saturday, 11 July 2009

Stage 8
11 July 2009

I had to do some errands after the race ended, I have something to do tonight (optional) … it is now two hours after I wrote that, remembered what it was I was meant to attend, darted out to my meeting (late), then made a quick supper and sat down to write. It is clear that to really take this seriously, I would have to leave home with a laptop. There is always someone to see and something to do when you stay at home. Combined with my lack of discipline, of course.

The meeting I can hardly tell you about, although it was rich in anecdotes. It was a kind of emergency, but not binding, meeting of the cyclo club given that the president has resigned. One guy wants to bring the club in to the 21st century, and the others are quite happy that it rests in the 20th. Some want to do loads of things, and others are really quite happy with “The Sunday Ride”, plus one or two events. The discussion was fascinating, but way too complex to report on here. But it is cycling at the grass roots. You don't get more grass roots than our club.

Not a whole lot happened today in terms of racing. There was a break, it stayed away and Luis Leon Sanchez, (NOT the current Olympic champion, Samuel Sanchez, who is not riding the Tour) took the stage win. He is a youngish guy, but unlike some of the other “young guys” he has won quite a few races, including the last Paris-Nice. Maybe he is leader of Caisse, replacing Valverde. He was having a mediocre Tour. He was no doubt the “right one” to win the stage, although at the end, with four guys, you can't tell. Sandy Casar got his fifth second place in the Tour. The French commentators think that is a shame and very sad and unjust. But the truth is that he is the kind of guy who will (nearly) always have someone in the break stronger than he is. He is about where he should be. High level, but not the best. LL is on “my team”, so I am happy.

Speaking of my teams, they are doing average or a bit worse at the moment. I am getting beaten by a lot of people who had Cancellara on their teams. And who picked some other riders better too. I am 13 out of 21 on our “cycle forum sub league”, and 629 out of 1015 in the entire game. Mediocre. I have hopes that I might do better, but some of my picks are not doing me much good so far. Schleck, Kreuziger, Haussler, Vande Velde and Tony Martin have not been scoring me many points. If they don't have a better Tour soon, I am in trouble. My other team is in a badly run game, where, for example, they failed to score the Giro, for which I had built a totally focussed team. No idea how well I might have done. Not so many people in this one, but a few from the forum. I am in the top ten but there are not more than fifty people playing. Enough of that. If you are curious who I picked, then write me, I won't mention it too much.

The Polka Dot jersey changed backs today. It is now on the back of a French climber called Christophe Kern. He is 28, not at all young, and should be in his prime. In fact, I have never heard of him, which means that he probably does not win anything but small French races. Actually I just looked him up and he has won several time trials, so I am not sure how he is a “climber”. He just picked up enough points to make himself the “best climber”. So far, no one has used the “cross many peaks in a day” strategy, except by accident. Unless of course Casar was trying this today, and failed. More visibility for non- GC cyclists. I hope this does not go on forever, or I am going to find it annoying that the “better known ones” don't win stages or jerseys, only the lesser known ones and the sprinters. The lesser known ones are the ones doing the racing. By the way, I have found no clues whatever as to who has a real and persistent desire to take this jersey into Paris. Maybe no one does. Two stages in the mountains and we still have no idea.

Thor Hushovd made a good move, nipped ahead, since he can climb a bit, and snatched the extra points for the green jersey. These intermediate sprints are how you normally win the jersey in a close race. Cavendish is trying the more direct method which is to win every “sprinter's stage”. They do say the boy is tired. Maybe there will be more than a cakewalk for this jersey.

The white jersey usually ends up being one guy way ahead. Maybe this year it will be different, but we just have to wait since several rider have good chances. I picked Schleck in case you wondered.

The yellow jersey stayed the same, mostly because Astana did not want it yet, and they didn't really want any strong team to have it. The breaks by Evans and by Schleck were shut down eventually. I find it simply un-interesting when the Dictator's Team (Bruyneel, Lance, who runs the place anyway?) just rides across the landscape trailing the race behind them. It's not their fault, they have a winning strategy and simply apply it. Unless they implode or some rider figures out how to crack them, they win. But it would be too embarrassing to the rest to have a Astana 1-2-3, so I am sure someone will attack and crack them. I hope I don't have to wait until 23 July to find out who else has a chance to win it on Ventoux. I think I might. Astana, one of the A4, will follow any attack. They ride as if they have yellow already, although they are perfectly happy to have any other team ride, for any other reason, as long as they are serious and not just messing about. If not Astana will take over the “break limiting”. Powerful demonstration of an essentially boring strategy to win the race. Hope someone attacks successfully, I don't care who.

It was a funny day at first, a little bit chaotic and hard to control. Looked like it might be interesting. Then I took my nap, woke up, and suddenly it was not all that interesting. “Will the break stay away” “will anyone attack” is fun for an hour or so, but it wears thin.

There was a great argument between Fignon, Jean-Paul Olivier (the older, nice guy who does buildings and monuments) and Thierry Adam (the guy who fills in the empty space for hours a day). Fignon was being his usual critical, observant, straight talking self. He was talking about the racing, and was a bit fed up, both with “the French” and with “everyone but Astana” for not making the race more fascinating and complicated and surprising. The others were talking about how wonderful the spectacle was, Casar leading at that time, a French lad in spots, a French team in yellow, hey, life looks good. The people on the road, the guy riding in the car giving inside coverage, the lovely scenery. They liked the spectacle, the Tour as spectacle. Absolutely fascinating discussion went on for fifteen minutes or so. I am luckier than them, I can get into both. The “crying brother on the podium”, “the young lad who wins for the first time” AND the actual racing, even if the racing is a bit boring for “the mountains”. The Tour is a spectacle, and those who see it ONLY as a competitive race, are often very disappointed, since the spectacle part sometimes overwhelms the racing. Not like at some point in the past before commodification and global penetration of the racing business. When men were men and so forth. Bartali, Anquetil, Bobet, Coppi ...

They went 110 kph on that descent. Imagine that. I have never gone faster than 67 and that is on a good road, no traffic, no wind and downhill. I cannot even imagine going 110 on a bike. That's what Jalabert said, descending from the second last climb, I think it was.

The race itself was so boring that the the TV guys discussed whether you pronounce Col de Agnes like ahn-yeh, or ahn-yes. Jean-Paul Olivier claimed local knowledge and said “without the s”. Others used the s. In any case, however you pronounce it, nothing much happened.

Bit sad about Casar though. Instead of realising he made an obvious mistake in the sprint or that he was the second best rider, he made excuses, blamed everyone else, and really seemed very French. They tend to do that the French, they never think they are the problem.

That's it for tonight. So much more to say, so much more I read and saw. But I get up early tomorrow to see how long I can keep up with the club. I put a new wheel on today and never even got a chance to test it. Front wheel though, so it should work fine. Noticed the rim was a bit wider, even though I don't seem to have to adjust the brakes. An old Mavic A40, with these strong tandem hubs I bought many years ago. They say the real wheels I should get are a pair of lightly used Campagnolo Neutrons. One guy in the club knows someone with a pair for sale. Same guy might lend me a freewheel too. He has moved to ten cogs and I use nine. Mine is the old type of freewheel not the “new” (last twenty years) type.

Anyway, good night.