20 July 2011
Unless you have found and used the SRM reporting URL I sent early on, you might not know that up the hills today, most of the riders (sampled by wearing computer thingamajigs that measure), went up at 140-150 beats per minute. I was testing you, by starting with a geeky sentence, wondering if you would stop reading.
On more important matters, it was another stage that apparently began with 100 kph of deciding which break was “the good one”. A break that had enough teams represented, nobody terribly dangerous to the GC, no huge imbalances. By the time I turned up, the break had six minutes and the rest of the day was sorted. It was pretty clear, fairly early on, that the break would stay away. Although Europcar tried to make sure that the highest ranked man in the break did not threaten the yellow jersey, it was also Garmin who rode. They were trying to protect the ninth place of their man Tom Danielson. In other words, there was no panic, nothing much to lose, nobody who mattered. Having said that, the Tour organisers managed to produce a very exciting spectacle at the end. They have done that a few times. Just to make me happy, it was EBH of the Sky team who won. I have been a fan of his for some time. Nice young Norwegian lad, room-mate of that other nice Welsh lad, Geraint Thomas. Watching the moves of the breakaway as the riders tried to sort out who would win the stage was very entertaining. EBH now has two stages (and a second) in the bag. This haul would make any rider's career. So if anyone doubts it, EBH is now a officially certified ace rider. He is also a massive descender. He really does rank up with Thor, Nibali, Fabian, S. Sanchez as one of the smoothest and fastest descenders in the peloton. Only a short descent, but a tricky one, even dangerous. Good ending to a stage that didn't change much, yet. Foundations have been laid for changes in the next three days.
The second part of the stage race was between the GC guys. There were half hearted attacks on the last climb, but toward the end, Sanchez followed Contador on an attack, and they slipped down that descent quite quickly. Behind them I saw at least three guys go off the road. Tricky. The camera was mostly on the two escapees, riding like blazes for the time gain on the rest. But the last few k were flat, and the two (both of whom will finish in the top ten ITT standings on Saturday) we simply overpowered by the guys they dumped on the descent. There were seven, containing at least two who are also among the best TT guys as well. Plus five helpers. Evans pretty much saved the Schlecks today, I guess.
Did you notice Fort de Fenestrelle, built on a kind of high island in the middle of a mountain valley in Italy just over the border. Incredible structure. Incredible site. Sooner or later it will become a movie set or a holiday resort.
Reporting on the jerseys, not much to say. The white, mountain and young jersey are all pretty much the same. Other than the two leaders, Vanendert and Sanchez, not many other guys are getting ideas about the mountain jersey. It is clear that Sanchez has bigger fish to fry, and will pick up points simply because he is a good climber. Chavanel is showing interest, but is neither good enough, nor soon enough to win. Suddenly it seems to be Vanendert who will win in Paris. I personally had never heard of two weeks ago (even though he has a good classics record this year and I might have known about him). Saw an interview where he said he was thinking of going for the jersey. Kind of accidental. He has to make some effort, since it looks as if Sanchez will always finish ahead of him. So he needs to stick with Sanchez and sprint ahead once of him once or twice at the top … or attack early to get the points ahead of Sanchez. There are only two more days he has to do it, so watch for him popping out. He didn't make the break today, he really just fell into the jersey. No one tries for it any more.
The white jersey is interesting, for the first time in years. It should be fun to keep track of the whereabouts of the white jersey of Uran, mostly red one of Rein Tarramae (Estonian?), the FDJ one (the one with the clover) of Jeannesson, the nondescript blue and white one of
Jerome Coppel (failed pick for today) and the Green of Pierre Roland. That is a great subs-tory that should run until Paris. Very exciting really, the white jersey competition would normally be over by now. Allez the young lads. The Belgian whose name I can't spell Ruijgh has fallen back too far and probably can't gain back enough time. White jersey turned out to be quite interesting, even if nothing happened today to the top five. Or you could say that the finest riders in the world, on this particular finish, were not really able to totally drop these young lads. Oh I forgot, one of them, not the top five, won the stage, his second. The young lads are GOOD. So far. Tarramae gained a bit on Uran, Coppel is about the same, but he is in fifth place. It is a race, each day there will be gains and losses. I hope Uran gets it. It would be good for French cycling is Coppel, Rolland or Jeannesson got it. Even Tarramae since he rides for a French team.
This is a very good little video that I got sent twice today http://vimeo.com/21306164 Old time tour stuff, all sorts of people and riders and situations. A wee gem.
There is a phrase, amongst many, that is used to indicate that while pedalling as fast as you can down a hill, wanting to go faster, but being unable to spin your legs any faster, you've run out of gears. These guys go so fast down hills that they cannot pedal faster and so just move into some kind of scary looking aerodynamic position and just glide. Really is quite wonderful to watch. I never run out of gears. And I have smaller ones than they do. They go really fast. EBH was a great example today, since we already knew about Contador and Sanchez. So smooth, so safe, so right, as they glided around those corners. I would watch a race with the ten best descender in the peloton. As long as I knew beforehand that none of them crashed, I could really get into it. I don't like that element of fear. Mine, I mean.
I liked seeing Thor, World Champion and winner of two stages, holder of the yellow jersey for some days this year, the guy with probably the best Tour of his life and of anyone this year, being the water bottle carrier to his team in the front as they tried to save the ninth place of Tom Danielson. Which they did.
As for tomorrow, it should be some kind of fun to watch at least from about 1200 CET on. That is, all day. No idea how I shall fit in my nap. The climb of Agnel should be hard. Maybe the GC guys will stay grouped, but surely the others won't. So we are almost sure to have two races again tomorrow. Unless one or two of the GC guys get really frisky. Most of you have NO idea how awesome these riders are, all of them, even the slow sprinters and the guys who are just plain tired. To give you a perspective on what they are doing, the highest mountain in all of England is Scafell Pike. 978 metres high. They begin this stage at 355 metres and climb steadily until about 13.30, at which time they are at the height of Scafell Pike. For the next three and a bit hours, they climb, descend, climb, descend and climb again, NEVER lower than the highest mountain in England. My guess is that they will spend maybe even an hour over 2,000 metres, either up or down. That is when your physical body is actually seriously affected. Things will happen. We just don't know what. So I guess Contador is the best bet for this stage. Or if A. Schleck has anything to show. Or maybe someone else. I picked Coppel for yesterday in the end. Missed, but got the idea right. I think Coppel and the French young riders are going to come out of this Tour feeling pretty perky, even though none of them will come close to winning, and some might not even finish in the top ten. So if I don't pick Contador, I will tell you tomorrow.
Haven't mentioned my fantasy teams much. Mainly as none of them are doing all that well. Basically I got a bit unlucky, as did some real teams. Most of my teams had guys who crashed out or were injured. Too many. And maybe I picked some of the wrong guys too. Not a good year.
"I don't like a lot of attacks, it's better with one pace," Boasson Hagen said of his decision to punch his way clear of his companions. "I saw Chavanel attack so I had to close that down. I didn't want to stop because the attacks would start again, so I just kept going and nobody followed. On the downhill, I did it in training and I knew it, I knew I could go quite fast and nobody could catch me."
“The Team Sky rider, who finished alone after countering an attack from French champion Sylvain Chavanel on the Cote de Pramartino climb, said he was eager to get stuck into the descent alone because he had ridden the climb twice in training and watched it several times on video.
"I was looking forward to the descent," he said. "I wanted to go up the climb alone and not have any more attacks, so I bridged up to Chavanel and then went on my own to do the descent at my own rhythm."” Let me tell you, the bits I saw, he was doing it so smoothly I was stunned. My man Eddie.
A story about the rich guy who built or rebuilt Pinarelo and lobbied for a stage should be here. Got his dream. Very interesting, but I don't have time tonight to look up stuff and write it.
A reminder that you can always find pretty good photos of the race, stage by stage, on http://www.steephill.tv/2011/tour-de-france/photos/stage-16/ There is also a very good site for photos on Boston.com, the Big Photo area, but I often can't find it, like today.
Good night. And Thursday and Friday should be long days too. Whew.