Saturday, 20 July 2013

Quintana Wins at Last

20 July 2013

The Tour is nearly over. I admit this last stage worked out nearly perfectly. Very good racing from several riders. Rolland did not get the KOM jersey, which will upset some French people, but one of the two best climbers in the race won it. Nairo Quintana. Stage win, young rider's white jersey and KOM jersey. Quite a debut. No one will say “who?” after this performance. He is now going to be one of the favourites for any stage race he enters, and any mountain stage he rides. Rolland gave it a try, but he simply is not the best climber. Full stop. Not even by the slightly warped system that is used by the Tour to determine that jersey. In my mind, he lacks any sort of racing intelligence. And somehow his directors do not tell him what to do. It was rather apt, almost poetic to watch the three podium finishers ride up the last hill together, with Valverde trailing slightly and Talansky trying really hard to make the top ten. Rodriguez made some effort to drop the other two, but they were as good as he was. Froome made an attack to clean out the rest of the riders, or for some reason that I don't understand. I am pretty sure he did not want to win the stage, even if he could have. Bad taste. Rodriguez led them up the climb trying to find a few seconds to get hm on the podium. Quintana waited until the end, then simply accelerated to win the stage. Valverde never gave up, and got fourth. Contador just did not have that little bit extra today, or even during most of the Tour. That is, he was as good as anyone but the very best, but he was not the very best. We even saw young Talansky dig deep, so he caught and passed Contador. Tejay should have been there too, but the young have to learn somehow.

Before I go into any details, I LOVED seeing Jens Voigt out in front for so long. The guy is the oldest guy in the peloton and he simply rides like the wind forever. Admittedly he can't climb like the actual climbers, so we knew he would probably get caught. But if he had won, it would have been ever better. Quintana has many years to win stages, and he will. Jens, he went out on a high. Although for all we know, he will be back next year. What team would leave him out of the Tour. He could ride for anyone.

The results of the stage followed the previous patterns. More an evolution that a big change all at once. Quintana and Rodriguez moved up one and two places respectively to make the podium. Contador dropped down two place to make room for them. Alberto was one of the losers of the day, and as far as I can tell, he ought to change his training methods. The idea that he was constantly saying he would be strong in the third week was silly. He should be ready the first week, and get stronger as time goes on. He was badly prepared. He should be ready and strong in the first week. I am beginning to believe he really is not serious enough and spends too much time at home with his family. He is so good he will win a bit here and there, but until he buckles down and gets serious, his glory days are over. Maybe he does not care. His teammate Kreuziger dropped one place, but he was helping Alberto at all times. So it is very that he finished that well, overall and on the day. He will be one rider who might wonder what would have happened if he had been free to go on his own. Mollema and Fuglsang both kept their places. I hope they confirm their level in the near future, and this is not just a one off. Mollema no doubt will, I am not so sure about Fuglsang. Valverde moved up one place to be solidly anchored in the top ten. He must still be slightly annoyed about his wheel, and the wind at the exact moment he needed a new one. Andrew Talansky moved up two places to join the top ten. Navarro dropped one place, but he also made the top ten.

Other small losers of the day were Laurens ten Dam who dropped another two places to what I think is his rightful level, 13th. Rogers also dropped two places, but he had a simple job this year, and finishing in the top ten was not part of the job description. Helping Alberto win was his job. Everyone else in the top twenty pretty much stayed the same. Andy Schleck finished in the top twenty. Bravo. I surely hope he gets his act together, and gets serious about training and riding at the top level. Otherwise he is a has-been, even a rider who never was what he could have been.

As far as the jerseys go. Quintana won the spotted jersey and the young jersey, both throughly deserved. That guy is going to make cycling history. As the older cyclists fade a bit, it is always reassuring to see the new ones move into the limelight. Sagan and Froome have not really been threatened since they took their jerseys. That's about it.

Just as they would wish, I want to visit that area for sure one day. The lake was lovely, and my wife loves that area, so it will happen, one day. And tomorrow we get Versailles and the Champs Elysée at dusk. I am hoping for a Cav win. He might not win that many more stages in the Tour with all the young guys coming up. Today one of his rivals, Sagan, did a one handed wheelie and a back wheel skid as he came over the line with his four teammates. I suppose Sagan will try to win on the Champs, but he does not have to bother, maybe he will let the true sprinters duke it out.

The flops this year were guys like Evans (perhaps the biggest flop of all), Hesjedal, Dan Martin (illness?), Matthew Goss (who never even showed up for a decent sprint), Pinot and Bouhanni (both for injury or illness reasons, but also because they were not ready for action), Tejay van Garderen (who showed he could have been a player, but was not), Voeckler (who was invisible) and Schleck (who promised a bit, but never even delivered on that). The riders who either surprised or confirmed what we already knew, especially the young ones, were Quintana, Fuglsang, Mollema, Kwiatowski and Talansky. But I also think that many were surprised by the “best French rider”, who was Romain Bardet. Those of us who follow cycling closely knew about him, but he did show us he can ride a three week Tour pretty well. Not as well as Quintana's first Tour, and he will never beat Quintana, but still, good job.

From another blog, Inring. And if you want to know the difference between the pros and the amateurs, Ramunas Navardauskas was the last finisher on Mont Semnoz was still faster than the winner of the Etape du Tour, the cyclo event held on the same course two weeks ago. Navardauskas has been racing almost every day for the last three weeks.”

Still too early to say how my various fantasy teams did, but I have hunch two of them did very well indeed, one was very mediocre, and the other slightly above average. In any case, they really do add a bit of interest. What can I say about my abilities in that direction? Above average maybe, but not all that wise, knowledgable or careful in my choices. It would be so much easier if I had a pal who also was picking teams, someone I could talk to about it. But most of my pals would not waste their time on such trivial useless stuff. Still.