Sunday, 22 July 2012

Hollywood Ending

Stage 20

I am going back to my regular blog after this.

Politics and Cycling in the South of France

It is over. On the other hand, the Tour 2013 has just begun. Its like that.

The final sprint played out exactly as I thought it would, to the finest detail. Mind you, I expect several thousand people also thought exactly as I did. It was EBH for the last leadout. He really is good EBH, although it is shame he was born at the same time as Sagan. Same thing happened to people born at the same time as Merckx or others. One deals with it. Maybe Sagan will win a few Classics before he decides to lose weight. Be interesting to see him take on Boonen and Cancellara while he learns about the Classics. I think EBH is the highest quality rider to lead out someone for the victory in the Champs for some time. And just before that, to help Cav out, straight up the Rue de Rivoli (a more or less flat surface), who can actually ride faster than Bradley Wiggins? Answer, maybe Cancellara, but today Bradley had the Yellow Jersey on. It was rather cool. A bit of panache to end it. If the French can get it.

But Cav took it. He seemed to go from a bit too far out for my taste, but still. First guy to win four in a row on the Champs. First guy to win it with the rainbow jersey. To be honest, it has so much a touch of Hollywood that I am glad I watched it live. It was live, right? I bet Cav is a happy guy. Bradley is a happy guy, which makes Froome a little happier, and with Millar (and Stannard) they seem ready for the Olympics. That is only six days from now. Bradley said he is going home immediately, and then doing the last preparations. He does the time trial too. It would be a bit much if Cav won the road race and Bradley won the time trial. Actually it would be TOO much in some sense that I am only beginning to think about. Although very solidly English/British people will almost certainly not like to admit that Sky riders are winning too much. A great British accomplishment, or at least a Welsh accomplishment, as that is what Brailsford is. You get loads of money from the Lottery, set up a programme to win loads of medals. Done. Then you try to win the Tour “with a British rider”. Although along the way this year, the only Englishman on the Sky team won Paris-Nice, Tour of Romandie and Criterium Dauphiné. You see my point. Should anyone or any team be that good? Even USPostal just did Tour/Lance, and then pretty much vanished. In addition, Cav keeps winning, when he is allowed by the Sky people. In fact the same people run the Sky Team and the GB Team. That confusion of roles, personnel, organisational structure and money always seemed a bit confusing. For example, who is going to do what EBH does on Sky? If it is a big sprint, most sprinters have a lead out guy. I ramble, but the point is that Cav is having a totally excellent year, no matter how you look at it. He wanted to make the Rainbow Jersey proud, he said that many times. He has. He even won, most of you won't know this, just before the Tour, some small Belgian flat stage race, which I had never heard of. He might have won one stage, maybe not. But he won the entire stage race. He has never won a stage race before. As I said, it was dead flat.

Lame French interviews on the sports programme after. Asked Brad if he had done this for his father. Really stupid and tactless question, if they had been prepared properly. Maybe it was one of those “tough questions” you thrust at a sports personalty in the studio about some difficult part of their life. But Bradley was just off his bike, just off the podium, totally spaced having won the Tour de France, and they ask him about his father. Any bike journalist knows that his father, an Australian cyclist, buggered off very early on, and Bradley does not have anything to do with him. He was raised by his mum. Bradley brushed off the question by sitting upright, making brushing motions with his arm and not even responding much. Someone's idea of how to try to bring guy down at a moment of fulfilment. That Stade 2 guy went way low in my estimation. Anyway shortly after that, the same guy tried to emphasize how much Bradley must feel good to be the first British rider to win, and how proud of him the country would be. Bradley did a double take and said, pointing to himself, I won the Tour de France. My country didn't win it, I did. Interesting. Terribly tasteless stupid interview. I think it might take a bit longer for the true intercultural understanding to happen. They have done it with Cav, but Bradley is trickier.

I keep realising what a management task it must be to keep the group sweet, the world champ, the yellow jersey, and the only guy who might beat the yellow jersey, plus two or three who could be leaders on another team (EBH, Porte, at least). Then there are the Sky guys left home, including some young ones who did rather well in the Giro. Brailsford seems quite clear, if someone wants to leave, they leave, get a buyer for their contract and they leave. I actually think he knows that a team of relatively happy people are more likely to win. Everyone has a chance. I was a little bit surprised that Froome behaved so badly. But he has not been at this high level for long, as Bradley suggested at one point. One reason I don't think there is a problem is that if Froome wants to leave, no one much will care. It is up to Froome to make sure he does what he is told. I mean the guy is team leader for the Vuelta. Mostly likely there will be some very classy younger riders to give him support. Not only to give him support, but to take his job if he leaves. They finished seventh and ninth in the Giro, and are called Henao and Uran. The Sky team is really very well constructed. I should think having loads of money does make it way easier. But you have to have the staff. The Katusha staff clearly did not do much to get Menchov and his support team ready. And they have the second biggest budget. BMC, probably the third richest, did get a consolation prize, but not even close to the big yellow. Money is not quite all there is.

The final time gaps were rather huge for recent Tours. I am afraid I am not going to look up how long is has been since such and such a gap existed between the first guy and the tenth or the second or whatever. But big gaps, really quite big. And NOT a mountainous Tour. Interesting.

Just so I say it in one sentence, in spite of the fact that their sponsor is a super-rich liar, and cheat, and truth distorter, that Sky team said they would do something and they just went and did it. Bravo.

Not a lot I need to say really. I could tell you how I did on the Fantasy teams. Me and my Lancaster friend lost interest and never even used up all our rider change options during the Tour. I am not going to do that kind of league, it just silly. You got what you got. There are no substitutes in the the Tour. Don't know if I beat her or not. We were pretty much even. On the cobblestone Fantasy League (all year round), I have been trying to beat this guy from one of my forums. I seldom if ever manage it. I am always second, sometimes third in our forum sub-league. Looks like I might whip his ass on the Tour. A minor delight. As far as the season-long, outside run fantsy league that many of my forum people enter, I am much as usual. It appears that one of our guys, who also wins the winter quiz, might have won the entire global competition. I think there are about a thousand in that league. I am about 250th, and within my forum, I am about sixth or so. My usual. Still good, but I am not often lucky as well as skilful. Through injury, I lost Sanchez and Gesink from my team this year. But it turns out Gesink might not have done a thing this year anyway. To win or do well in a Fantasy Game, you have to do the right thing and not lose anyone. So a good team would have Sagan, Cancellara, Wiggins, Tejay, Greipel and Cav for sprinters, Evans and Froome, with careful use of extra credit on certain stages, and that is exactly what our guy did. Actually he had Voeckler and did not have Nibali. So the overall verdict on the fantasy league is as usual. Not that bad, not that good, with rare moments of excellence. After picking Cancellara for double points, and having two or the top four riders and whatever, I was eleventh for the first day of the Tour. Cancellara … I guess we could hope that he disrupts the pattern of Sky domination a bit. Bradley has won enough this year. Unless he wants to go and ride for Chris Froome in the Vuelta. (laughing out loud icon). My performance was about like finishing 47th in GC and 21st in the mountains competition. A cross between Nerz and Fedrigo. Moments, but not a great performance.

Tejay is the third Etats Unien to have the young rider's jersey after Greg and Andy Hampsten.

Apparently Sagan had more points than anyone since Sean Kelly. Sagan really did wipe them all out. No contest. Came second on the Champs in case anyone forgot him in all the Sky glory. The guy is nearly flawless. Nice shy smile. Modest in his Italian speech. Probably speaks English too, certainly can understand French. Assuming he does not get corrupted by the high life, fall in with the wrong crowd, use drugs, get injured badly, stop training to have holidays with models, transfer teams who promise him everything …. then he should be one of the greatest race winners there have been. He does have to lose weight if he is going to keep up in the mountains. Oops he already can in the high mountains, until the heat is turned up. I will have to look up who else besides, Merckx and Bartali had any kind of record equal to his. He really is just a few months older that Thibaut Pinot. And Tejay.

Which reminds me of the young riders. I know I am always excited abut young riders coming up, holding their own. Because I live in France and know how much the French really would like a big winner, I find the new young lads quite exciting. Must check with my cynical clubmates to see what they think. Pinot is my guy. I have, sadly, come to dislike Rolland, even though he is a superb young climber, capable of winning a stage in any Tour he enters. Whoops, he already has done that. Thing about him is that he really can't time trial, in fact, Pinot can't yet either. They need to learn fast or they are only going to be an “occasional stage winner”, like the last generation of French heroes, Chavanel, Gadret, Pineau, Casar, Voeckler, Feillu, Casper and others. As a spectator, I am tired of those guys. They don't do much all year (except Chavanel) and put it all on theTour. Too French, not global enough. Too far down the top level. I want someone who can win a stage in the mountains by being clever and strong. And, in fact, both Pinot and Rolland have done this. Rolland twice. I have not even mentioned the young French sprinters who won't ride the Tour until next year or even later. I am not saying they will beat Cav, Goss, Greipel, Sagan in every race. They are young. But they have beaten serious opposition. We shouldn’t forget Tony Gallopin who was doing outstanding riding including some serious climbs, until his guy went wonky. Tejay and he are the guys for the future on that BMC team. The guys from the past, Gilbert, Evans, Hushovd have not really done very well at all this season. BMC have Taylor Phinney too, not in the Tour this year. Anyway, all we have to do is wait a bit and see how they do in the next few years. I think if I am lucky there will be another generation after them that I will have to get to know. Guys who are about 14-15 right now. Probably not even riding road bikes yet.

For some reason my wife (and I) decided to watch a bit of the English ITV4 coverage. We often turned it over to the French coverage, as the Brits have a huge number of adverts, really quite disruptive to view. Anyway we heard Bradley’s speech. The one that started with the joke about the raffle tickets being drawn now. He grabs a mike on the Champs Elysée, crowds of I don't know how many tens of thousands of people, and he cracks a joke about raffle drawing. The French won't even get why taking a mike for a simple guy from Kilburn would automatically turn his mind to that. Then he said banal things, then mentioned specifically his mum who was there and who would be totally happy, dream come true. Then at the end, he said drive carefully, don't drink too much tonight. All totally Bradley and he said it in english. Usually on French TV, in fact, ALWAYS, he speaks excellent French. Not perfect, but better than 90% of all English immigrants I have met here. Good street expressions too. Then we turned over to the French coverage and they were just translating the speech. Weird that. The French are behind the actual live event, I guess so they can take care of errors … Anyway, the translator is very good. I have listened to her voice for three weeks and am perfectly able to judge her work rendering the English into French. Although Brailsford, Millar and Bradley always speak good French. The translator is good. Could you believe it? They didn’t mention the raffle ticket joke, deleted. They mentioned something about his father, NOT his mother, and they just skipped the joke about not drinking too much tonight. His speech was really short. I got really upset about this. They just didn't mention don't get drunk. They claim he mentioned his father, when it was his mother. This is serious French messiness, the kind that blew up the Rainbow Warrior. I hope Hollande apologizes for the public TV station.

Later in Stade 2, the big sports Sunday show, they offered Brad a pint of some kind of amber liquid. Probably some French stuff. Bradley made a little automatic gesture, but said no thanks, he had the Olympics just around the corner. It wasn't a joke. I don't think the guy is going to get drunk to celebrate, until maybe after the Olympics.

Nice interview, or part of it, with Bradley.

Getting quite late. Must hit the hay. Sometimes I promise a wrap up reflection blog. But I have not written one for years. Time for the Tour to be over.

I am going back to my year round blog. Its been hectic, but fun. See you next year.
Politics and Cycling in the South of France.


Rick said...

Thanks Tom, your blog became part of my cup of tea in bed routine each morning during the Tour. Go well.

Tom Cahill said...

Thanks. I am delighted to be a small part of your life.

Fiddler's Green said...

Bit of a whimper of a real excitement in the mountains minus Voeckler.
As for Team Sky....

Tom Grosman said...

Voeckler this year
1st Brabantse Pil
4th Liege
5th Amstel
8th Flanders

And he'll be riding all year through Lombardie. He does not just target Le Tour.

The France Television commentators, other than Jaja and Jean Paul Ollivier are asses. I think they asked Wiggins about his father because they didn't know any better. They knew he was a 6 day racer and Brad was born in Belgium, but were too lazy or too uninterested to know any more. They were completely surprised by Wiggin's reaction to the question.

I agree that the woman who does the translations is probably the best. Some of the other translators on Francetv or Eurosport just make things up when they loose the thread. I've also heard translators state the exact opposite of what the rider said.