16 July 2013
Ed note. Sorry, I was so tired last night I forgot to post this.
Perhaps you think that I am a died in the wool Francophile. Whatever I may say about living here and the rest of life here, the countryside they are taking us through is simply mind blowing. I will stop there, because in the next few days, I won't have to tell anyone who watches about that. One thing that makes it better than anywhere else (except maybe Italy) is that those roads have been there for centuries in some cases. They wander around, with incredible density, all over the place. And the surfaces are mostly excellent. So for riding a bike, or inventing a course for a bike race, you really just can't beat them. They have not been made for cars or lorries, so they are not easy to use for exploring all the bits of the landscape. Except where you have to walk. They are tricky. Plus they go up to ski stations. The combination makes the infrastructure superb, unmatchable really.
As for the racing, Rui Costa made a lovely move, timed perfectly, and executed with skill and guts. I felt really sorry for him the other day when he was force to work for Valverde (uselessly in the end) and dropped out of the top ten. This stage win makes up for that and I am really pleased. In addition, the break won! I always like that. Even if one could say the GC peloton “allowed” them to win. Makes it two races in one day, which doubles the pleasure. The dynamics of constructing the escape, and the way they do or do not work together, and the way it falls apart at the end, either on a climb or a sprint, is fun to sort out for a passionate, geeky spectator. This was no exception.
As for the GC competition that was not quite so interesting, although there were some moments. Contador seemed keen to attack, but Sky just kept pulling (or Porte did) and the brief attacks came to nothing. Movistar seemed to be keeping their powder dry for the next few days, but still made some moves.
Sky quite specifically train for attacks of some duration in the high mountains (they say 25 minutes). Michael Rogers talked about this a bit on a cycling news video. Sky continues to talk about it. I do really wonder if ALL the other teams use this method of training as rigorously as the Sky team. There are still riders, like Gadret, who admitted he sometimes takes six hour rides without looking at the computer on his bike. You can be sure Thibaut Pinot trains on “instinct” although he really means intuition. Brailsford said he was in no way surprised about the attacks of Froome, they practice all the time and Sir Dave says he could have gone faster. The attack that dropped Contador was only a few seconds of standing on the pedals, then settling down for one of the fastest cadence on a bike I have ever seen. The two attacks with Quintana had Froome standing up for much longer, and Quintana answered. The final attack seemed to just be Froome moving away and Quintana not keeping up. Frankly, it is my view that the old method, typified by Contador standing up constantly is a waste of energy. If you have the power sitting down is much better. I know this because when I stand up my heart rate always goes up, even if I don't go too much faster. I think we shall see more of this style of attack as soon as the other teams figure out how to train for it. I think the people who criticise it and are amazed by it just have no idea what it is like, cycling up a hill fast. Mind you, sometimes I wonder if I do anymore.
The French still have not won a stage, but they did get 2-3-4 today, which is close. I have no idea how they are going to take a stage, and am already feeling a sorry for them. Wait til next year. They have some very fine young riders. Even if none of them win much yet.
As far as the standings, not much change. Quintana leapt over ten Dam. Martin is now in tenth place. Talansky is creeping up a bit and might end up quite respectably. Just needs one escapein the mountains.
My French TV coverage never mentioned the notorious curve when Beloki came off and Lance rode over the field. I saw it twice. Never a mention. I heard the British coverage did mention it.
Froome and Contador crashing or riding off the road a bit was a quick reminder that anything can happen, on any day, at any time. But I am utterly delighted that there appear to be no serious injuries, at least at first glance with Contador. To have the top two wiped out for no really good reason would be a total drag. There are some very dicey descents to come, especially on Thursday coming off the Col de Sarrene. I think the other riders did slow down a bit and waited for the yellow jersey and the second place rider to catch up. The correct thing to do.
Although I missed it, there was a very good, long, and fairly deep interview with Brailsford after the French coverage. So far, everyone I know who has seen it, several guys on my forum and my wife, were all impressed. One day we will find out, but they were pretty well convinced that Sky is hiding nothing. And that Froome and his team are riding on legal stimulants.
There was a big thunderstorm here, which was not meant to happen. So we unplugged everything and I was unable to do much surfing today. I didn't even really look at the GC closely. After tomorrow and for every day after this, the GC will be changing here and there, so we will examine it more closely. I could not find Brailsford's interview although Idid check the French Channel 3 sports show and some of the British ITV 4. No luck. It will be in l'Equipe tomorrow for sure.
Looking forward to seeing a pal of mine from New Zealand tomorrow. So I might find it harder to write much. Some things are more important the Tour blogs. Assuming I wake up and the back feels a bit better. Three hours driving tomorrow morning, then three hours back the next morning is not to be taken lightly. This back flareup is a drag. Haven't even been on the bike for ten days or so. Although I have been swimming three times.