July 05, 2004
Petacchi the Ale-Jet misfiring?
"I can't seem to sprint as I really want to, there's always somebody in the way or something happens," the 30-year-old Fassa Bortolo rider said on Monday.
"I touched the wheel of my team mate in front of me four or five times because other riders tried to push me out of the way, it was incredible."
That, my friend, is what they call bike racing. One of the most incredible things about these sprint finishes is the aggressive jockeying the riders do to get an advantageous position for the sprint.
In the Giro d'Italia, Petacchi's “Silver Train,” the Fassa Bortolo team, would turn up the heat a little at a time until very few riders from other teams could hang, and all the while, Petacchi was sitting in the rocking chair, ready to scorch the last 200 meters.
Here in the Tour, the level of competition is much higher, every team with a strong sprinter has a couple of guys who can hang at almost any speed, and the sprinters themselves are masterful at finding the wheel of opposing sprinters, and using them as a lead-out.
Quoth Robbie McEwen, at Eurosport.com:
"Everybody said at the Giro d'Italia that Alessandro Petacchi couldn't be beaten. But here at the Tour it's a different story. There are a lot of other stronger teams here and they're prepared to go over the top of Fassa Bortolo."
"[Petacchi] is beatable. Everybody's beatable. It just has to be the right circumstances."
Asked to describe his favourite sprinting conditions: "Any sprint I win is one I like."
Armstrong adds to 3rd-stage jitters
A lot of the riders are very nervous about the 2+ miles of cobblestones on tomorrow's Stage 3 of the Tour de France.
Lance Armstrong spoke for the peloton:
"I think everybody is worried about the cobbles - even the riders who are good on them are worried," Armstrong said.
"You could be involved in a crash and that would mean the end of your Tour. Somebody's Tour will be over on Tuesday and I could be one of those people."
The second stretch of cobbles are part of Paris-Roubaix, the spring classic also known as "The Hell of the North." Magnus Backstedt won the 2004 edition, but their inclusion on the Tour is controversial, because it's not that big a deal to lose 5 minutes in a classic; you're just smoked for the day. In a grand tour, you can be hosed for 3 weeks.
Armstrong acknowledged the historical place of the pavé:
"At the same time, the cobbles are a big part of French cycling. If you look at Paris-Roubaix, they are a beautiful thing, if you look at it like that, you should say they should be part of the Tour."
Some teams will likely want to conserve effort in advance of Wednesday's team time trial.
All I wanna do, is drive some traffic...
It's really gratifying to start seeing referrers from big sites like BoingBoing and anil dash's daily links, but up until the start of the Tour, the site got by on traffic from Google, and about 75 percent of it was looking for tidbits about Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow.
Even with the race underway, it's about 5-10 percent of search engine traffic, I would estimate.
I liked to imagine I was keeping the site pure by not creating a Sheryl Crow category, but I can't swim upstream, so here you go.
The story: Sheryl thinks the Tour is dreamy:
“Whatever I thought before the race, you can multiply it by a thousand — that’s pretty much what I am experiencing here,” the singer told journalists.
“It’s a helpless feeling,” she said of following her new partner on nervous opening stages of the Tour. “You know, you can either stay in front of a TV to watch the race, where you see all of it, or run around the route where you only see a second of it. But Lance knows what he’s doing.”
Riders' diaries update: Dean, Hamilton, Backstedt
Dean provided the leadout for Thor Hushovd today, and Thor looked, well, thunder-ific, and Dean gives you a look inside the head of a lead-out man:
The sprint was crazy, crazy, crazy. It was a case of quack or be quacked. So I quacked a lot to get Thor to the front with 300m to go. It was a little too early but at around 700m to go we were pretty far back and Fassa Bortolo were going all out for Petacchi. I had to move Thor up so I went around the outside as the road curved gently to the left. As we came up beside the Fassa train, it began to die. Next thing I knew, I had blown straight past them and was at the front. All I could do was keep going. I wasn’t really sprinting but in the saddle powering it. At around 350m to go I began [to] blow up. The last of the Fassa Bortolo lead-out guys came underneath me with Thor on his wheel. Perfect. I had done my job and I was done.
Tyler's clearly on eggshells about tomorrow's pavé:
Tomorrow will be another difficult day. It's the Paris-Roubaix stage of the Tour this year. I'm not a big guy so I'm not really looking forward to riding the cobblestones. I'm glad we had a chance to preview the roads before the start of the race. So we know what's ahead, and what we have to do to stay out of trouble. Now it's just a matter of doing it. Wasn't I just saying something about stress?
One of my favorite riders isn't going so well in the early stages:
These are supposed to me my kinds of days and, as I said, I am sort of on home turf, but it was all I could do just to stay in the field. If I knew what was wrong with me, I'd be a happy man, because I could do something about it. As it is, I have no idea why I feel like I lack power and struggling on the bike.
It's really tough on my head. I want to get my body to do more, but it just doesn't seem to want to follow through.
Graham Watson Stage 2 photo gallery posted
Again, Watson has a separate photo gallery over at VeloNews:
2007 London Tour start moves forward
London is bidding to host the opening weekend of the Tour "sometime after 2006." London officials have been in Belgium, visiting the Tour start and talking with Tour officials, this weekend.
Their bid is interesting partly because it's being led by Trasport for London (TfL), the umbrella organization for the Tube, London ferries, and other public transit in the city, with a goal of increasing bicycle transport in the UK:
“The Tour is a fantastic spectacle and will be a fantastic weekend for London,” said Hickford [of TfL], “but what the Mayor really wants to promote is more people cycling generally. We want to get more people cycling as a form of transport, not necessarily racing.
“When the Tour people, including Jean-Marie Leblanc came over they were very enthusiastic about the idea of using the Tour to tackle things like childhood obesity,” said Hickford. “We’re talking about a cultural change in the UK, and the Tour coming over will be a big part of that. We think we’ll get fantastic crowds and that it will be a huge economic boost to London. Our latest estimate gives a spend of about £75 million additional revenue on restaurants, hotels and so on. ”
The rumored stages would be a gorgeous prologue on the Mall, Hyde Park Corner, and Buckingham Palace; a Stage 1 from Greenwich to central London, and a Stage 2 traveling to England's South Coast, for a transfer across the English Channel.
London officials expect official notification next summer.
Bradley McGee was able to finish the 2nd stage in the field, after a chiropractor was able to straighten out the back problem that kicked McGee off the back yesterday.
"Thanks to the work of the chiropractor I was a lot straighter on the bike, that's the important thing but unfortunately I still haven't got a lot of power and so I couldn't help Baden Cooke in the sprint and I was just another number in the main field ... I'm a lot happier now and should be okay to carry on," he said.
McGee could be the Tyler Hamilton story of this year's Tour, if he can ride back into the conditioning he showed in the Route du Sud.
BBC Sport Stage 2 photos posted
Stage 2 wrap-up and a look at Stage 3
A good look at Robbie McEwen, and what his win for the Belgian Lotto-Domo team will mean in Belgium:
The 32-year-old Australian has spent the bulk of his eight-year career riding for Dutch and Belgian teams, and his current squad, Lotto-Domo, is sponsored by the Belgian national lottery. He lives in Brakel, the city regarded as the hub of the country's cycling, and is married to a local ophthalmologist.
As if that were not enough to make him Belgian by adoption, McEwen rattled off most of his explanations for the fourth Tour stage win of his career in high-speed Flemish, a language he dominates so well he sometimes has problems remembering the equivalent word in English.
This AP story outlines the results in today's Stage 2, and looks ahead to tomorrow's Stage 3, which might make or break a few riders' Tours. A little more than 2 miles of the course tomorrow travels over traditional Belgian pavé, cobblestones that can be very treacherous, even more so in the rain.
A couple of teams will be riding wider wheels for the stage, inclding Tyler Hamilton's Phonak squad.
Hamilton says he would have avoided the stones had he designed the Tour route.
"But that's what bike racing is all about, different terrain, mountains, flat stages, crosswinds and this year cobblestones," he said. "We'll obviously try to stay toward the front and try to stay upright, obviously. Our goal for that day is just safety."
McEwen takes Stage 2; Hushovd in yellow
Robbie McEwen took the stage today, and Thor Hushovd took second on the stage to move into the Tour de France's maillot jaune.
It was McEwen's 4th career stage win. He dedicated the win to teammate Nick Gates, who yesterday hurt his knee, limped into Charleroi, but was eliminated on time; and to Stive Vermaut, a former rider for Lotto and for US Postal, who died last week of complications from a congenital heart problem and who was buried this morning.
Rounding out the stage Top 10, it's a who's who of top sprinters:
3) Jean-Patrick Nazon
4) Danilo Hondo
5) Stuart O'Grady
6) Jaan Kirsipuu
7) Erik Zabel
8) Alessandro Petacchi
9) Gerrit Glomser
10) Mario Cipollini
Out of the Top 10 were Tom Boonen at 12th and Baden Cooke at 15th.
A dramatic crash in the last 300 meters affected only Jimmy Casper of Cofidis and Kurt-Asle Arvesen of CSC, "the other Norwegian" in the 2004 Tour with Hushovd.
Hushovd becomes the 1st Norwegian to lead the Tour. He'll start tomorrow in both green and yellow jerseys, but McEwen will wear green, since he's in 2nd on points.
Paolo Bettini retained the polka-dot jersey by beating Janeck Tombak to the top of the first climb of the day, a 4th-category.
The new GC:
2) Fabian Cancellara, at 8"
3) McEwen, at 17"
4) Lance Armstrong, at 18"
5) Jens Voigt, at 23"
6) José Ivan Gutierrez, at 24"
7) Oscar Pereiro, at 27"
8) Christophe Moreau, at 28"
9) Bobby Julich, at 28"
10) George Hincapie, at 28"
Cancellara took a parade lap in the yellow jersey, setting up teammate Alessandro Petacchi in the last kilometers. Tomorrow, he'll wear the white jersey of the best rider under 25, a competition he leads by 26 seconds over fdjeux.com's Bernhard Eisel.
Caught in a late accident, Cofidis rider Frederic Bessy takes over the lanterne rouge, last place in the Tour, 9:31 behind Hushovd.
Bradley McGee lives to fight another day, finishing deep in the pack, 171st with the same time as the leaders.
Fagnini abandons after crash
Domina Vacanze's Gian Mattea Fagnini of Italy abandoned the Tour de France this afternoon, after a fall in the back of the pack with about 22 miles to go. Race doctors were checking his collarbone, and reports are that it was broken.
Fagnini was a teammate of Mario Cipollini, and one of his lead-out men. We're down to 186 riders, with Nick Gates and Fagnini abandoning, and Euskaltel starting one rider short. Bradley McGee is soldiering on with his back pain, and is apparently safely ensconced in the field.
Stage 2 Preview: Charleroi to Namur
Today's stage is about 121 miles, with a 50-kilometer introduction to France before returning to Belgium for what's very likely to be a sprint finish.
There are just two climbs, both 4th Category, on the course, and the finish in Namur is the first there since 1959.
The course has a sharp turn 200 meters from the line, which might interrupt the Fassa Bortolo train, and disrupt Alessandro Petacchi's chance to get a sprint win.
VeloNews tips Baden Cooke or Robbie McEwen, but I'm picking Tom Boonen, who pulled off in the last meters of yesterday's stage when he threw a chain, but looked to be in good position and riding well. McEwen will be motivated because he rides for a Belgian team, but Boonen is Belgian himself.
Look for green jersey Thor Hushovd to contest a few intermediate sprints, trying to get enough time on Cancellara to take over the yellow jersey.
At Stage 2's start, it's:
Jens Voigt will ride in the red race numbers of yesterday's most aggressive rider.
Riding the Tour on tubeless tires
Lennard Zinn files a report on Hutchinson's tubeless tires, being ridden by 3 teams at this year's Tour: Saeco, RAGT, and Brioches La Boulangére.
Traditionally, the pros have ridden tubulars, tires that were sewn around an inner tube, then glued directly to the wheel's rim. More recently, many have adopted clinchers, the tire most of us ride, with an inner tube, and a tire that hooks to the wheel's rim.
These new tubeless tires have a combination of the advantages of tubulars and clinchers; like clinchers, they won't roll off the rim, but like tubulars, they don't have a separate inner tube adding friction and stiffness to the tire.
The tires still require professional mounting, so they're not available to the public, at least not yet.
Graham Watson Stage 1 photo gallery posted
Looks like Watson is doing defferent photo galleries for his own site and for VeloNews. The VeloNews gallery is focused on prerace and non-race photos. The VeloNews gallery for Stage 1 is here.
I think I've coughed up a Cyclysm
I'm watching Late Night with OLN, the midnight showing of Stage 1, and it's the first time I've watched the taped coverage.
For the prime-time race coverage, all of the play-by-play is by Bob Roll and Al Trautwig. It's interesting to watch the footage in real-time (not compressed), but not being called by Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. Are Bob and Al sitting in a trailer taping their footage at exactly the same time as Phil and Paul call it live? Or, more likely, are they taping their comments after the stage finish, and taking advantage of hindsight to improve their coverage?
Trautwig is clearly enthusiastic, but most of my cringes have come at his hands: "Why don't they drop back a motorcycle to show Lance Armstrong; we haven't seen him on screen for a long time..."; "wouldn't it be great if the rain picked back up as the pack heads into town?"; "Why do these riders break away if they know that 90 percent of the time, it will fail?"
Bob is fun, as always, but I think I may tape the live coverage when I have to go back to work on Tuesday.
Separated at birth?
Battle of the Belge
A column in the UK Guardian outlines what the author calls the "sorry state" of Belgian cycling. He points out that the cycling-mad country hasn't won the Tour since Lucien van Impe in 1976, and that there are only 8 Belgians in the race (initially 7, bolstered by Peter Farazijn's emergency start).
There are high hopes of a young man called Tom Boonen, riding here for the Quickstep team, but his rather lame attempt to win the final intermediate sprint of the day suggests he is some way from fulfilling them.
If he was a football coach talking about my team, this comment would go up on my bulletin board. I'm picking Tom Boonen to win tomorrow's stage; he's got plenty of talent, the motivation of home turf, and it's a slightly technical finish that I think works against Alessandro Petacchi.
Of Belgium's welcome for the Tour:
The hamlet of Saint Denis la Bruyere had put up a huge model of the Titanic, although they did not make it clear what it symbolised: possibly the apparently unsinkable Tour foundering on the largely unseen iceberg of doping - of which the current cases are merely the visible tip - or the painful shipwreck of Belgian cycling in the post-Merckx era.
Interestingly, the same topic came up during OLN's coverage, and the best reason Bob Roll could come up with was the pressure on young Belgians with cycling potential.