Monday, 2 July 2012

Cancellara Attacks in Yellow

I am going to be a bit pressed tonight, as I would like to watch most of the Final of Euro 2012, even though I think it is more important for world history for me to write rather than watch. Still, we live with our contradictions and tensions. Most of the race, as a race, was boring. Not much happened. So even though I only watched from 75k remaining, I still managed a couple of emails some tidying up on the computer, while watching the TV. That's what I do, watch the French commentators, Thierry Adam and Laurent Jalabert, on the big screen downstairs with the laptop on my lap. Laptop to chat to my “pals” on the cycling forums, “with” whom I watch the Tour. HD makes the passing countryside look better. You could easily see how rich Belgium once was by the architecture. Lovely chateaux everywhere, or at least in the area. One spectacularly pretty village attracted my attention. It is, apparently, a “city”, by some medieval power politics move. I do know that when Jean-Paul Olivier's distinct voice comes on, I can just listen and watch a helicopter circle over some incredible geography, built or “natural”. Sometimes the camera on the motorcycle turned the camera on the watchers. Some of the spectators were dressed to get on TV. Some dressed that way long before TV. Anyway I like the outrageous, the families, the picnics, the clubs standing on farm machinery. There are quite incredible people on the road, wherever the Tour goes. Why not. It is free. It costs absolutely nothing to see the Tour live, on the day. I forget if they say eleven or fifteen million people see it live every year. That's fifteen million possible nitwits standing in the road with the video or camera in the road, beyond the barriers to get a badly shot unfocussed bunch of bike riders. Why not knock them over and keep filming? Guys like the one who caused a crash today, trying to record the greatest video on earth for his family or Facebook page, should be … badly done by. I love watching the peloton, stop, turn, go fast, dow up, go down. “Decide”. I shall comment a bit later on how the peloton “behaves”. The end result of the long stage was that they nearly all got to the last hill, pretty much at the same time. Two and half, fairly steep kilometres. Nothing happened until the last 1500 metres. Chavanel tried a wee attack, got brought back. Then Fabian Cancellara attacked. Just rode away up a steep hill like he has done on a cobbled flat roads, or once, I remember, on a flat road. That's what he did today. Immediately, only Sagan, the young wonderboy, latched onto his wheel. IN fact Sagan never left that wheel until he came around Fabian at the end, and won the stage. His first stage win on the Tour. Probably not the last. EBH tried to catch those two, reacting a second or two late. After a hard effort, he finally did. EBH was the only other rider who could follow immediately. But EBH is not as good as Sagan or Cancellara. Normally, he will not beat either of them on that finish, much less both of them. I guess we will have a rematch on stage three. The next stage is flat and we will see the flat fast guys out in force. Which will also include Sagan and Fabian (who wants to keep the jersey). EBH will also be there, leading out the slimmed down Cavendish and his opponents. That should be a very good sprint finish. I realised today that the Tour sprint finish is pretty much like the 100 metre sprint in athletics. Sort of. As with the Olympics, everyone who can possibly get an invite will come. If you can, you ride. But the final sprints, the ones that can make the career of a rider, happen maybe eight or nine times during three weeks I heard the French commentators say that Bernard Eisel, Cav's roomate, the long distance pilot for Cav and best team buddy, was NOT on the first draft of the Tour Team. I can't even believe that is possible. Anyway the story says Cav made a fuss and Bernie was back. No idea where the commentators got the story. Probably part of the “destabilise Sky” prejudice that is starting to bother me. More on that later. Still, Sky brags a bit, so people want them to put up or shut up. If Wiggins does not win the Tour, the Sky bubble will deflate. The old cycling hands will rub their hands with glee. The “newest methods”, measurements, data, detailed plans, strict diet, bike design, etc were always suspected by the old guard. Wiggins is the “new guard”. For example, Wiggo is trained by a guy from a swimming background. And he has a rather dry sense of humour. They are just a bit too extreme and anglo-Saxon at Sky. I notice that Mollema and Gesink, the two youngish Dutch riders that are meant to upset things and do really well, finished in the top ten today. I think they must be feeling their oats. There were no time bonuses, so the guys who wanted to win, just wanted to win, no yellow jersey comes with. In my view, it is very cool when the yellow jersey attacks the peloton. That particular kind of attack has photo op and historical meaning. It means that not only does the rider have the yellow jersey, but rather than play safe, they are going to attack to save it. Not just hang on to save it. Panache or what? Even if Sagan, who didn't help out at all, gets the stage. I watched, near the end, as Hincapie skilfully and powerfully overtook half to peloton with Evans in tow. Evans could then finish it off as best he could, which was pretty good. Evans is ready. But what I liked is seeing the 39 year old Hincapie, riding his last Tour, just sweeping past other riders, riding faster, towing his boss up to the best spot. Nice craftsmanship. I would love a video clip of “Hincapie bringing up Evans” on this stage. It would be really pretty to watch. Certainly the few seconds I saw on the box were fantastic. My wife finds the Tour a bit samish at present. I am lucky that she is a bit of semi-serious fan. Until we are further along, going through countryside she likes, she might give it a lesser quality of attention. I think hundreds of thousands of French people must be doing that. Maybe millions, when you think of all the screens. Even I sometimes drift for a bit. It is, after all, in the end, a bunch of guys riding bikes through really nice countryside. We await the feats. Today the lads gave us a few minutes of good racing. I am happy. Looking at the GC after this first stage, other than Cancellara, who will not be in the top ten, nearly all those names could be in the top ten. What I mean is that unless there is some strange break, like Voeckler last year, the GC is already quite respectable. Nearly everyone in the top ten is a possible GC contender. This does not usually happen until after the first mountain stage. However I have no idea what this means, just that is is unusual. End result of the stage? Nothing much changed in the GC, except the exit of a coupleof riders who eventually would have left the top ten any, as it was entirely based on a 6k ride on a flat road in a time trial. We can certainly look forward to the next three stages which should be fascinating, even if nothing really crucial for the GC will happen until the mountains. Although the story of how Fabian kept or didn't keep his yellow jersey should be interesting in itself. Should be a good week actually. Chavanel said Menchov for yellow, and Merckx said Nibali, in an interview on Stade 2, the French Sunday sports show. Until tomorrow.

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