Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Sagan Again

Stage 3 Those were rather heavy, rolling roads today. Loads of punctures, people crashing, riders out of the Tour, even a little rain near the end. Quite normal events of the Tour although no one really likes to see crashes. They always give me a bit of the willies, some kind of fear courses through my veins. If a rider then leaves the Tour, possibly for nothing he caused directly, I feel some incredible wash of injustice. He was just riding along, Constantine Sioutsou or JJ Rojas, and something happened. A wobble, a pebble, a water bottle, a tiny oil leak, anything, and their Tour is over. Sioutsou was one of Wiggins' big helpers in the mountains. “That's the Tour”. The first week is nervous. The Tour as a spectacle and show is immense. The whole thing is just set up to have crashes. In addition, we have Voeckler having trouble with his knee. Marcel Kittel, the ultra promising German sprinter, seems to be digestively unwell. Tom Danielson might be leaving with shoulder problems. Who knows who else is masking or hiding something, hoping they can “recover” after cycling 200k a day at the highest average speeds possible. Faster than my rides, in fact an average of just about double my speed. They average, when they ride the mountains, a faster average speed than I do on the flat. OK, it is easier in a big group with closed roads, but still … Hope those guys get better, and ride. But you have the beginnings of a cold or a terrific hand injury of some kind (LL Sanchez), is the best way to heal it is to get up and ride 200k at high speeds. Was it Valverde who blew it on the roundabout? Can't find out. All the the GC riders came through well. Cav got caught in the second group after an earlier crash, and looked very relaxed. Today was the day for EBH, his teammate, to have a go. The result is clear enough, on a hard uphill finish, Sagan can ride appreciably faster than everyone else. EBH can ride just a bit faster than everyone else, except Sagan. I always wonder what a guy like EBH will do when the reality hits. He has to rethink his bike career or he is going to be finishing second to this guy for years. Is he going to continue to NOT climb well in the high mountains oris he going to make changes? Sagan too has to make choices about how he sees his career. Does he lose weight or not? That must be the big question. Does Sagan want to climb well? Can EBH lose a little weight and see how well he can climb, knowing that he will be able to out-sprint anyone from a small group at the top of, say Alpe d'Huez. Glad to be around while they are figuring it out. One might overlook Fabian in all the Sagan-mania, but he still has the jersey. Meanwhile Sagan walked the stage. The guy is amazing. I will inform you if anyone comes up a story of a more explosive and rapid beginning of a career (Merckx excepted). Kelly, Boonen, Gilbert, for example, no contest. They had barely begun to win anything much at 22. Sagan has won 35 times or something. Stages in big races. I got my wish from stage one. A new version of uphill finish, different hill, same guys. Slightly different outcome. But Sagan was the best. Sadly, I think that might be it the end of the uphill finishes for the Tour. They do enliven things. I am hoping tomorrow will show Sagan can be beaten on the flat, in a mass of movement, either by a Lotto train, a Greenedge train or a butterfly Cav. Sagan might take another year or two to learn how to navigate all that. At this time last year, Cav was another kind of sprinter and Sagan was not quite such a force. By next year? I do hear Gilbert is not well, and anyway he has had a horrible year. Gilbert can start over next year and see if he can whup the young fellow. Although if it were Sagan and Fabian, escaped alone over the last fifty K of Paris Roubaix, I would put my money on Fabian. The difference between those two on a short hill is not much, especially if Sagan JUST follows wheels. But he does not. Today, he just attacked, and no one could follow. Noticed Cav won the intermediate sprint, beat Sagan, so who knows. Green shaping up as a contest between Sagan and … well, we don't know yet. Cav. Goss. Greipel should be ready. Freire is going to pop up for sure. We should have some good flat sprints and then just about when we are bored, the mountains will turn up. Today if you look at the finishing table, you see something that makes no sense unless you know the rules. Remember, anyone who crashes in the last 3k, gets the same time as the group they were in. So you can see that Tony Gallopin and Sandy Casar have finished 47 seconds after the winner. And yet right below them, starting with Burghardt and going just past Hincapie, the riders get only one second more than Sagan. The answer is that those riders after Burghardt, took more than 47 seconds to untangle and get back on on that steep hill, and finish. The guys who actually crossed the line 47 seconds after Sagan must have passed all those guys who only lost a second. They were untangling their bikes still. Keep looking down the standings and you can see who was in the first group, all given the same time (one second more than Sagan) but it took them longer to untangle and more riders passed them from the second bunch, the one Cavendish was in. You can see the possible confusion, Menchov rides over the line over a minute after Sagan, but only loses one second. It makes sense when you think about it, but it is not obvious. Noticed that Brice Feillu, the guy who won a huge mountain stage two years ago and has not done much since, is in “pack it in” mood. Feels awful. I did think he was a one trick pony with a bit of luck, when he won that stage. Good, but not that good. On the other hand, since he gets interviewed nearly every day, I am coming to like this Russian sounding Dane, Markov. He seems to ride out front every day and has managed to get enough points that he will keep his mountains jersey until, as he said, we get to the real mountains. He seems a mellow guy. The crash itself, on the last hill? I had been going to say Albasini was involved, but one of my forum guys says “Oh and who caused the crash? Quite clearly seen from the over head. Oscar Freire and Andre Greipel. Oscar tried to squeeze through a gap that Greipel closed and took out Rob Ruijgh...........just like in a flat sprint.” It is too late for me to look it over and find the right video, I have not seen the overhead view. When a fixed back wheel touched another rider's NOT fixed front wheel. the result is always obvious. Crash of the guy with the wheel that can move and wobble. It is forbidden for a rider to take shelter behind a motorcycle or a car during the race. However, the rule is interpreted loosely. Actually taking a tow by hanging onto a car for many minutes is way over the limit. But as all rules, there are exceptions. When working on a moving bike to fix some bit of the bike, or when medically treating a rider, the rider can hang on to the car. Even this rule is misused. After a puncture or a wee, the riders can take shelter for a moment or three behind the huge line of cars that follow the Tour, making it easier to return to the main group. Sometimes it is totally obvious that for several moments, a rider is taking shelter behind his own team car. Basically the cycling commissars, who cannot be with each rider, although all TV recordings are instantly available, and who are human, decide in the grey area whether the help a car gives rider is “too much”. Looking casually at the list of who lost lots of time, I noted that two Garmin riders, both of whom have finished in the top ten of the Tour, Tom Danielson and Christian Van De Velde have lost many minutes. In addition, so has Dan Martin. Simplifies matters for the Garmin team. Everyone now can help Ryder Hesjedal. But any of them can nip off and try to take a stage if they want to, as they are so far behind on GC now it doesn't matter. Anyway losing time gives you freedom for an exploit, as well as focussing the team on Ryder for GC. Just got my special Tour issue of Velo, actually the second special Tour issue of Velo. Strange, why can't one do the job. Cover pic of Voeckler and Rolland. Seems like Voeckler might be gone any day. Sad really. Tomorrow should be a sprint, but I notice there is a wee hill just before the end. I don't know how high it is or how hard, but it certainly would be a spot for someone to try to get away, whether from a small escape or a large peloton. Later.