Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Stage 4 7-7-10

A short stage, the shortest in the Tour. Rather flat as well, it gave everyone a rest, until the sprint of course. There were some very fine cathedrals, I had never even heard of, a huge and lovely one at Laon, in fact I had never heard of Laon. The Tour allows us to discover France, as well as watch some racing. In fact, not a lot of racing today, or rather the kind where you could do something else as well as keep track of the goings on. Rest day for us after yesterday.

Thor Hushovd was clearly a bit tired today, as was Cavendish. That might explain their rather lacklustre performance in the sprint. Thor and Cav were both very well placed at the end of the leadout period. Pettachi was behind Thor who was behind Cav. About right for everyone's expectations. But when Pettachi made his move, Thor attempted to follow and could not, and Cav did the same and could not. In fact, Cav gave up completely when he realised he didn't have the legs, coasting in for a twelfth place. Thor did not give up entirely, as he is actually trying for the green jersey, which means you can't give up on any day. He finished ninth and kept the jersey. Pettachi is creeping up on him, but I doubt the Italian will pass through the mountains. So unless there is some very odd occurrence, Alessandro will quit sometime in the next week or ten days. He does finish the Giro, but somehow I don't think he will make that much effort in the Tour. In any case, with two stage wins, Pettachi has more than made his mark and more than fulfilled his contract. He has done better than anyone could have expected. Farrar was invisible today too, as one would expect with a bad wrist. McEwen was still in action though, he might prove a surprise by the end of the Tour. And I noticed that two of Farrar's team-mates were second and fifth. This does show that the leadout men are often pretty good on their own, capable of nearly winning if left to their own devices by the poor health of their leader, Farrar. It also means that the Garmin leadout train is pretty good this year and when Farrar is better, assuming he does get better, there might be some chances of a victory. Somehow a broken bone in the wrist does not sound like something that heals in a few days, while racing full on.

For me, the poor finish of Thor is not a big deal, I think he was just tired from yesterday. But Cavendish troubles me more, although he too could be tired, having ridden quite well yesterday. I really don't know if this is a permanent or temporary dip and exactly why this loss of form. Is it the loss of Hincapie in his train? He hardly ever lost when Big George led him out. Is it the cumulative effect of his terrible personal life over the last year? He was in a perfect position from which to win on this stage, he just did not have the legs. And when a win at all cost, arrogant sprinter just gives up and coasts in, beaten by guys like Dean, Hunter, Oss, Gil, Rojas and Ciolek, guys he would normally eat for breakfast without swallowing, then there is something wrong. On the other hand, his last leadout man, Mark Renshaw, says he is sure Cav will win a stage. But that is not quite like six stages, or even four. This is a new story for the Tour, and I think it will run until the final sprint on the Champs Elysées. In any case, the green jersey will not rest on Cav's shoulders this year. We just have to watch and see how he reacts to his first really major failure.

Let's see, anything else to report. Hmmmm. The breakaway was pretty much doomed, as the sprinters' teams were hungry for a win. But the escapees kept going until the end. The escape ;is the most important move in cycling, without it, we have utter boredom. They didn't go that fast though. In fact, Amets Txurruka, the tiny Basque climber, had a bad crash today, looked awful, got dropped early on, and still only lost four minutes. So no one was going fast. I watched a fair bit of the stage today, and really I just didn't notice much. I had a rest day too.

I really can't think of much more to say. Oh yes. Edvard Boasson Hagen, who you will remember is the co-star of Sky, with Wiggins, but who has had a bad year so far with injuries, seems to be in very good shape. He might be a sprinter, he might be a time triallist, he might be a medium mountains guy. In fact he seems to be all these. The only question of the Tour is how can he do in the High Mountains. If he manages those well, in support of Wiggins, then we have got, for sure, a new star. But pretty much everyone knows he is a great rider, with utterly no limits at present. In fact, if I am not repeating myself, an outside bet to threaten Thor for green, or at least finish in the top five, might be either of the young Sky riders, Geraint Thomas or Eddie. That could be a story which MIGHT run the length of theTour. But you never know with young guys. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to make their mark. Thomas already knows the Tour, but EBH is on his first go. Both can sprint, as we have seen, but both can also do something in hilly bits too. Thomas certainly can keep up with the best on the cobbles, as well. They are pretty good, AND BRITISH, like me.

Nothing much happening in the yellow jersey, young jersey or mountains classifications. We should begin to see how the injuries are affecting riders in the next day or two. Expect a few more abandonments. I can't believe how they ride with such nagging or even moderately intense pain. Remember if they have scraped skin on their ankles, or knees or hips, it is impossible to actually avoid pain. Those joints and skin moving all day long. And if they have sore arms, they still have to hold onto the bar all day. Not a picnic. These guys are serious.

Short stage, short blog.

By the way, the cold is almost gone. I should be back in full action, maybe even on the bike for a short ride, within a couple of days.


kim said...

...without the break we [would] have utter boredom.."

Well....even WITH the break, it can often be utter boredom. As far as the racing, itself, is concerned, anyway. I mean, you know, a bunch of riders take off and make a day of it, knowing they are on camera a lot, are the first to swoosh by the cheering roadside crowds, and they know, almost certainly - at least on a straightforward day like Stage 4 - that 98% of the time, they will be reeled in. It happens like boring clockwork. So i beg to disagree - well, you know, Tom, i'm just adding 'spice'! - and, instead i will posit that the sprint - on a regular old flat stage like this one - is the only excitement of the day.

So boring, boring...EXCEPT....we all agree that the Tour is so much more. The cathedral you never heard of in a town you never heard of (me either, actually), the travelogue, le paysage, the crowds, and all the tidbits of race knowledge from the commentary. C'est l'AMBIENCE, quoi!

Tom said...

Although he wasn't involved in yesterday's action, a face to watch is perhaps Nicholas Roche. Team leader this year and a top ten man in the Vuelta he's currently lying in 11th overall after coming through the cobbles in Contador's group. Father and son winners for the first time in the Tour's history anyone? We Irish have had a long wait since the days of Seán and Stephen...

Tom Cahill said...

I think you missed the vast depth and philosophical profundity of my comment. Without an escape you have a peloton which ends up with a sprint. Every day. Although a sprint is a kid of escape. The only time there CAN be excitement and interest is IF AND ONLY IF there is an escape, whether it succeeds or not. It is like prison and freedom. I guess I should have referred you to my not yet finalised draft of "The Escape", where I burble on about this with examples. I guess it is both obvious, and slightly profound. The essay tries to say just that. I do agree that some escapes can be not very exciting, mainly because they fail. BUT they hold within them the possibility of excitement. A peloton rolling along also has within it excitement. The escape has more possibilities. End of ramble.