11 July 2013
For those who like the Chateaux on the Loire, today's stage was excellent. You just can't beat the helicopters circling. For those who like sprint stages, it was instructive, even though, and we might be getting tired of this, there was a crash inside 3k … again. The riders must be getting a bit weary of it too. Especially EBH and Sky, as it seems the only serious injury is EBH's fractured, with word that he probably won't start tomorrow. With Kiryienko and EBH gone, Sky have lost a couple of valuable members of their team. Thomas is still lingering at the back of the peloton as well, so a team claimed by some to be “weaker than last year” is not still weaker. EBH is a stalwart for sure. Now there is no excuse for not attacking in the mountains. We might well be in for a fine last few days. Since EBH was one of my long time favourites I am particularly sad he is gone.
So there was a break, not a bad one really, and after many k the last guy, Flecha, was caught a few k from the finish. It must be said that everyone on earth knew it would be caught and that almost certainly there would be a sprint. Every team got lined up, but the second string sprinter form FDJ, William Bonnet, touched someone's wheel (Sagan I think) or whatever happens in a fast moving very close packed peloton, and he came down, bringing down maybe twenty riders. Other than EBH looks like no one got hurt badly, but I expect the start list tomorrow will have at least another rider missing. Andre Greipel was caught in the crash and was absent from the sprint.
The sprint itself was clean and tidy. Omega gave Cav a perfect leadout, with Steegman possibly leaving Cav a little far to go. On the other hand, usually when Cav is in front 200 metres from the end, no one can go past him, especially with his “double kick”. But maybe he left that kick in the Giro d'Italia, or maybe he just does not have it this year. In any case, Kittel took his wheel, and came from behind to beat him by half a wheel. Not a lot, but it was a clean win. That made three wins for Kittel, more than any sprinter in the pack. One more sprint stage tomorrow and then that could be it for the sprinters until the Champs. My opinion, worth very little since I have no inside information is that it is way too early to think that Cav is finished as a sprinter. He will win many races in the years that come, and he will certainly beat Kittel. Although Kittel will certainly be another “revelation” of the Tour. BUT when everyone is there, or when one or two of the very best sprinters are present with their trains, Cav is not the cast iron guarantee he once was. He is showing a little public annoyance (for me bad behaviour for a 28 year old) at being beaten so often, but also gives credit to Kittel for being a fine sprinter. But the era of the all-conquering Cavendish is over. Hope he does it on the Champs though. Although I think his record of four wins on the trot will take some beating, long after he stops riding. It does look like beating Merckx for total stage wins in the Tour might not be so easy to do. Probably get past Hinault on 28, but 34 might be hard. Reminds me of Federer chasing Sampras and Woods chasing Nicklaus.
None of the jerseys changed, no one lost time on the GC. So nothing to report, probably nothing tomorrow. And Saturday looks like a day when a break might finally make it to the end. A bit hilly. Having said that, the last sixty k or so don't have any big hills, just a few fourth category. So if the break doesn’t get a gap of ten or more minutes by then, they might finish in a sprint if the sprinters' teams want the victory. Most of those sprinters' teams have no one for the GC, and won't have to perform on Ventoux or in the Alps, so a bit of work might gain a stage for one of the sprinters. But it does look like a stage for the break to succeed.
I do apologize, but unless I get around to reading a bit and finding out about things I didn't see or know about, that really is all I have to say.
Now then, I could update you on how my fantasy teams are doing. OK, I hear a burst of enthusiasm (not really). Those who don't care how I am doing, just skip this bit. There is the competition within my cycling forum, picking winners or rather first through sixth for all the big races all during the year. There is a complicated system which I don't do well with, but in any case I usually am right I the middle of the pack. That is about where I am, although in the Tour itself, at this moment, I am eighth. About right for the year. In another league, where six of the forum participate I am, for the first time in three years, almost leading with the year well over halfway. On the Tour itself, I am currently third. In another league where most of our forum are playing, I am currently leading our forum in the Tour itself with an unlikely team which will not win in the end. Seven sprinters and Froome and Valverde. I am also 37th out of 1047 overall. My proper, more balanced team is actually in the bottom third of the our forum in the league. I was highly affected by my sprinters (Greipel and Cav), not act actually sprinting for some stages. Plus Bouhanni dropped out, and van Garderen vanished. The truth of the matter is that I don't read the rules very carefully, and am not that good at picking teams or winners on the day. But not that bad either. Medium to good.