Friday, 20 July 2012

Cav IS fast, Sky Preparing Three in a Row

Stage 19

Before you continue reading this, due to a visit by some French family, I did not actually see more that a few live minutes of the race today. Just after they left, and just before I took my nap, I saw a bit. The escape was away, looked like my pick for the day was not in it. I drifted off, but clearly underestimated the finish time. They must have ridden faster than predicted. Later I found out they had indeed ridden really fast. Still, I got the idea, saw the replays. Watched the interviews, and am pretty well convinced I missed nothing much. Sorry about that. Read on if you wish.

Those people with dogs really piss me off. Not the dogs, the people. There are somewhere between 11 and 15 million people who watch the Tour, live, free, on the road. Some of them put their folding chairs actually in the road, on the road side of the curb. I saw some yesterday. Some race across the road seconds before the riders arrive, thinking they are somehow clever to have done so after the motos have passed to put things in order for the riders. Some stand in the road or poke their body and camera into the road to get “a good photo”. I have seen dozens of such Tour photos and they are usually complete rubbish. In fact, I used to take them. The people would be better off to use their eyes, ears and memories. This bad behaviour always happens. Happened once with a cop even, Jalabert got wiped out. There are always photos on the web. Good ones. Then there are the people with dogs. Dogs NOT on a lead, which they should always be on in such situations of crowds, noise, action, movement, and vehicles. Most of the time, for say 10,999,999 spectators, or whatever, nothing happens. So their complete ignorance and/or stupidity goes a bit unnoticed. This time that nice family of two plus two, and their unleashed fluffy huge dog caused a chute. If I were Gilbert, and that crash deprived me of the Olympics, then I would sue the incompetent, ignorant, irresponsible people. But he won't. Neither would I. Those Twinkies won't get anything but a bit of sympathy from their neighbours about how they must have been frightened when it all happened and that they hoped the dog was OK. There is utterly no way at all to prevent this happening, cannot ever be stopped. As the riders would say, and did say in interviews, “That's the Tour”. Rant over. You are lucky I have not felt overwhelmed this year by the drunken lads who run along with the riders. I think they should … stop … one rant per blog.

So the break is away. Looks like they might make it. They tried hard, some of them, including Nicolas Roche, who looked like he might have the edge on Luis Leon Sanchez, the last two of the break. “Suddenly”, although they had obviously been working on this the entire stage and most of the break must have known, the bleedin' yellow jersey sweeps into vision, leading out EBH and Cav. Except you can't always see Cav is he is low down and small. This just what I thought I would see in Paris. Exactly. But with more Sky guys, there were only Cav, EBH, Wiggo and Froome. Then Brad peels off, no idea exactly how long he had been racing to catch the break at the front. Froome even did his bit. Then you can see the distinctive white jersey of EBH, and you know exactly what is happening. So then EBH peels off, and suddenly you can't really see Cav, at least I could not. Then he is eighth back, then he is behind one wheel, then another, just riding up to the front. Alone. Then he begins to sprint, a good deal sooner than usual. He gets up to the last wheel, Sanchez, and just swings across half the road in a legal, “not impeding anyone” way. In the last fifty metres he must have gained five metres on the rest. The rest including Sagan and Goss, who were both left for dust. I don't remember a more dramatic last few metres, in terms of brute speed. Cav seems to have lost no speed at all. Sagan knew all about this move. Sagan was on Cav's wheel a few hundred metres earlier. Goss had his leadout and was still surprised. So Cav is tied with Andre Darrigade and Lance Armstrong for the fourth place in number of Tour stage victories. Six more in his lifetime and he passes Andre Leduq and draws even with Bernard Hinault. Ahead of him, of couse is Merckx with 34. Cav might not make 34, but he should make 29 which will make him second in human history. How many years can Cav keep winning? No one knows. Cav was recently elected best sprinter in Tour history by a team of cycling people put together by L'Equipe. Today was remarkable. If you put it with his win on the second stage with no help, and then compare it with the Sky train on the Champs on Sunday, you have an excellent short film to demonstrate the nature of sprinting. You pause it to give the lessons. Stupendous.

Jalabert was discussing the victory and moaning a bit after the race. Partly his cycling views, and partly his intense anti-Sky or British prejudice led him to say that the riders in the break had worked hard, some of them have not won a stage and this might their only chance. So what Sky should have done, (and the whole peloton in fact, as there were two other known sprinters just behind Cav, Goss and Sagan), was to slow down so Roche and Sanchez could duke it out for the stage win. I love the escape and nearly always hope it eludes the clutches of the powerful peloton. But today, the catch and sprint was lovely see. During this Tour, the escape has often got away. But seeing it caught only a hundred or so metres from the line is fairly normal, I have seen it before. LL Sanchez pounded his fist on his handlebars once before, when the peloton, led by Bradley caught him in Agde. In between then and now, he won a stage, so I have no idea why he must be so demonstrative. Good theatre I guess, like Froome. I miss Fignon.

I was wrong. I said the winner would be someone from the break. But in my daily competition, I picked Sagan, so I am not complaining.

The very sad thing is that nearly everyone expects Froome or Bradley (my money is on the guy from London) will win the TT tomorrow and Cav will win the sprint on Sunday. Three in a row. Have they won too much? I have the impression that Sky is one of the least-liked team in the peloton. Respected. Imitated. Good place to work maybe. But not liked. Add up how many stage victories for Sky this Tour. Might be too many. Riders have to earn their keep. Between French wins and Sky wins, there might have been a bit more left for the other teams. But I guess those other teams just weren't up to it. Training and support methods?

All jerseys remain on the same shoulders. Pending a disaster, all of them will be worn by the same people in Paris. What’s left? Hmmm. Seeing the cathedral on TV? What will be the exact order of Bradley, Froome, Evans, Tejay and maybe one other, in the ITT tomorrow? Will anyone beat the Sky train and Cav on the Champs Elysée? Although I love watching a time trial live, and might try to do it again, watching it on TV is slightly boring for me. I will no doubt dip in and out. Its just a question of who rides fastest, and then some interviews. I will watch the arrival on the Champs of course. I like seeing those streets, many of which I have myself walked on or near. I like when the TV cameras see the Eiffel Tower. Second or third most visited place in Paris, therefore France. Notre Dame and the Louvre are first and second, I think. I suppose the most common thing for a cycling fan of any sort is to walk up the Champs Elysée, just like it is on TV. I feel like I have LIVED on the Rue de Rivoli, leading across Concorde and into the last few metres on the Champs. I love it. But like any sprint stage, only the last fifteen k really matter or are interesting for racing. Do you think Vino will try to duplicate history? No way.

“What the French make of a cycling hero” Not all that bad.