July 05, 2011

Evans the master in Mur-de-Bretagne

For a number of years, you wouldn't have raised an argument saying Cadel Evans was Australian for ‘Levi Leipheimer.’ Like the Montanan, Evans could keep it close in the mountains and gain time in the time trials, but he seemed to lack panache, racing defensively with his head instead of his legs.

The last few years, Evans has become a rider with some brio, winning the world championships with a perfectly timed attack in 2009, and taking Fleche Wallone and a powerful stage win at the Giro in 2010. On Tuesday, he again showed power and grit, climbing to a stage win ahead of Alberto Contador and Alexandre Vinokourov, and picking up time on most of his rivals for the overall win in this year's Tour.

Jeremy Roy of FDJ spent another long day in a doomed break, today with Movistar's Imanol Erviti, Vacansoleil's Johnny Hoogerland, Euskaltel-Euskadi's Gorka Izagirre, and AG2R's Blel Kadri. The five escaped about 9 kilometers/5.5 miles into the stage, and were captured with about 4.5 kilometers/2.7 miles to the finish.

Omega Pharma's Philippe Gilbert, the winner of Stage 1, was the pre-stage favorite to double up on his 29th birthday, and Omega Pharma did a lot of work to pull back the break and set Gilbert up for the climb of the Mur-de-Bretagne, but with less than 4k to the finish, BMC took over, with George Hincapie playing locomotive, as he has for hundreds of miles through the French countryside in July in 16 Tours.

At 1.5 kilometers to the summit, Saxo Bank's Alberto Contador was the first to attack, followed by Gilbert and Evans. Thor Hushovd, holding the yellow jersey by a narrow second over Evans, battled onto the back of this high-octane group as rider after rider put on a burst to try to break clear for the win. Jurgen van den Broeck, Rigoberto Uran, and Gilbert all pressed attacks, but Contador and Evans matched them all, and Evans led in the final 100 meters as Contador quickly closed the gap.

At the line, there was no telling who had won. Contador gave a celebratory fist pump, but the photo finish cameras showed it was Evans at the line by a tire's width. Evans had taken the stage, but Hushovd finished 6th in the same time, so the big Norwegian holds the leader's jersey for another day.

While Evans's victory shows style and form, it also may signal that Evans thinks he'll have trouble in the high mountains, and needs to make time wherever he can from now until then. Contador, finishing alongside Evans, put at least a few seconds into everyone but Evans, and showed he's far from conceding, despite trailing by 1:42 after 4 stages.

In the green jersey competition, Tyler Farrar took the intermediate sprint for 6th, picking up 10 points ahead of José Rojas, Borut Bozic, and Mark Cavendish, but the pure speed riders were shut out of the finish, where Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd picked up 22 and 20 points, respectively, with high finishes. Here are the overall standings in the geen jersey competition so far. Cavendish seems bound to pop through for a stage win soon, but the Wenatchee Wonder looks fast enough to limit the damage from the Manx Missile this year.

Stage 4 Top 10:

1) Cadel Evans, BMC, in 4:11:39
2) Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank, same time
3) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, s.t.
4) Rigoberto Uran, Sky, s.t.
5) Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma, s.t.
6) Thor Hushovd, Garmin, s.t.
7) Frank Schleck, Leopard, s.t.
8) Samuel Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
9) Jurgen van den Broeck, Omega Pharma, s.t.
10) Andreas Klöden, Radio Shack, s.t.

In the overall, there was a bit of a shakeup, as a number of riders lost a few seconds, including Andy Schleck, who was in a group of 28 riders eight seconds back.

GC, after Stage 4

1) Thor Hushovd, Garmin, 13:58:25
2) Cadel Evans, BMC, at :01
3) Frank Schleck, Leopard-Trek, at :04
4) David Millar, Garmin-Cervelo, at :08
5) Andreas Klöden, Radio Shack, at :10
6) Brad Wiggins, Sky, at :10
7) Geraint Thomas, Sky, at :12
8) Edvald Boasson-Hagen, Sky, at :12
9) Andy Schleck, Leopard-Trek, at :12
10) Jakob Fuglsang, Leopard-Trek, at :12

More:

VeloNews | Cadel Evans wins stage 4 of the 2011 Tour de France, Hushovd retains overall lead | Video: Finish-line analysis: tenacity and surprise on stage 4

cyclingnews.com | Evans takes photo finish over Contador | photos

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2011 in 2011 Stage 4, Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, David Millar, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Frank Schleck, Jurgen van den Broeck, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stage 4 Preview: Lorient to Mur-de-Bretagne

Today's 172.5-km stage is classified as a flat stage, but Mur-de-Bretagne translates to “Wall of Brittany,” so we'll finish with a quick, 2-kilometer climb of around 200 meters, which is the first 3rd-Category climb of the Tour. There's also another 1-point 4th-Category climb at the 79-kilometer mark.

Just as we did Monday, we have a stage favorite with motivation from a national holiday. Today, that favorite is Philippe Gilbert, and the Belgian national holiday celebrated today is Philippe Gilbert's birthday. Gilbert is a heavy favorite to take a second victory in this very young Tour. Other stage favorites include Cadel Evans, who might be able to grab seconds and yellow with a high placing, Sammy Sanchez, or Damiano Cunego.

The intermediate sprint comes 92.5 kilometers into the stage in Spézet.

All 198 riders who started the Tour are expected to make the start.

Thor Hushovd races in the yellow jersey, José Rojas in the green jersey, Gilbert in the polka-dots, and Geraint Thomas in the white jersey.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2011 in 2011 Stage 4, Cadel Evans, Damiano Cunego, Philippe Gilbert | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 03, 2011

Garmin takes narrow TTT win, puts Hushovd in yellow

Garmin's riders have been no stranger to the podium since the team debuted in the Tour in 2008, but the team has never taken the top step. Sunday, in a nail-biter team time trial in Les Essarts, Garmin-Cervelo got the monkey off their back, taking a 4-second stage win and putting world champion Thor Hushovd in yellow.

Alberto Contador, the overall race favorite, saw his chances take another blow, as his Saxo Bank team lost time against many of his rivals, notably both Schlecks, Cadel Evans, Brad Wiggins, Robert Gesink, and Radio Shack's Four Horsemen of the Cyclopalypse, Andreas Klöden, Jani Brajkovic, Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer.

On the other hand, Cadel Evans again took advantage of a chance to make some time, leading his BMC squad to a smooth and surprising 2nd on the day, and missing the yellow jersey by just one second.

Team Leopard-Trek had a rainbow-striped lion among its smaller cats, and world TT champion Fabian Cancellara looked strong enough to drag 4 men and their bikes to the finish. Leopard-Trek was 4th on the day, one of 3 teams (with BMC and Wiggins' Team Sky) to finish 4 seconds back of Garmin.

HTC-High Road was just one further second off the win, likely on Bernhard Eisel's fall in the first turn that left them one rider down for the stage.

Hushovd becomes the first Garmin rider in yellow.

Even before the stage started, there was controversy, as the UCI decided to interpret its geometry regulations to mean that all riders had to race with their saddles level to the ground, apparently a change to how rules were enforced at the recent Tour de Suisse and Criterium du Dauphiné Libéré. Saxo Bank director Bradley McGee and Radio Shack director Johan Bruyneel were fined for “improper conduct” toward officials in the bike check area. Even recreational riders will notice a change to normal saddle position, and take some time to adjust to a new position.

Also:

Reuters | Blazing row over saddles on the Tour de France

Bicycling.com | Joe Lindsey: Garmin's Gamble Pays Off

Posted by Frank Steele on July 3, 2011 in 2011 Stage 2, Alberto Contador, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Chris Horner, Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, Fabian Cancellara, Levi Leipheimer, Philippe Gilbert, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 02, 2011

Stage 1: Gilbert win brings early Tour chaos

For a long time, Saturday's Stage 1 looked like a parade, with three drum majors leading the team floats on a quiet (if speedy) processional. Sure, there might have been a Shriner or two who tore their fez, but everyone would stay in line, there would be a quick performance for the stage win, and we would move on to the Stage 2 Team Time Trial for the first blows in the overall competition.

Late in the stage, though, we discovered it was really the parade from Animal House, with Alberto Contador and Sammy Sanchez among the hapless ROTC cadets mowed down by 10,000 marbles, the early unveiling of Leopard-Trek's Fabian “Spartacus Deathmobile” Cancellara, and a swashbuckling appearance from Philippe “Sen. John Blutarsky” Gilbert.

It was Jérémy Roy of FDJ, Perrig Quemeneur of Europcar, and Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil who built a gap that, at times, stretched out to more than 6:00, but were pulled back by long leading pulls by riders from Garmin-Cervelo, Omega Pharma-Lotto, and finally Quemeneur's own Europcar team.

The first appearance of the mid-race intermediate sprint meant that American Tyler Farrar was the first true sprinter to score green jersey points ahead of Andre Greipel, with green jersey favorite Mark Cavendish putting his team on the front but not effectively competing in the sprint.

After the leading trio were absorbed with about 19k in the stage, the pace remained high to the finish. With less than 9 kilometers to ride, an Astana rider trying to widen the narrow French road met up with a spectator trying to widen the quaint French roadside, and the resulting pileup left most of the GC contenders riding in a group of around 40. Caught behind were Alberto Contador, Sammy Sanchez, and Garmin-Cervelo all-rounders Ryder Hesjedal, Christian Vande Velde, and Tom Danielson.

Radio Shack and BMC immediately moved to the front and lit the afterburners, but Contador's former DS, Radio Shack's Johan Bruyneel told reporters after the stage he didn't know Contador was gapped. A further crash inside of 3 kms to the line made a gumbo of the stage standings, with riders caught in the later crash given the time of the group they were with at the time, and riders caught in the earlier crash losing time picking through the later crash.

Cancellara launched a fierce attack with about a kilometer to ride, but the favorite for the day, Omega Pharma's Philippe Gilbert followed the move he later said he had expected, and pulled away from Cancellara over the last 500 meters, with BMC's GC hope Cadel Evans closing the gap off the front of the field. At the line, Gilbert finally took his first Tour stage, Evans was second, showing he's brought great form to the race, and world champion Thor Hushovd of Garmin-Cervelo took third.

In the end, Contador and Sanchez are 1:20 back on the Tour's very first day. That isn't so much for an unheralded rider, who might sneak into a break and make up a handful of minutes, but Contador is the overall favorite, and can't make a move without 10 very strong shadows. Unless Saxo Bank has an unbelievable team time trial tomorrow, Contador will have to make this time up in the mountains.

More:

VeloNews | Philippe Gilbert wins stage 1 of 2011 Tour

CyclingNews | Gilbert conquers Mont des Alouettes

Posted by Frank Steele on July 2, 2011 in 2011 Stage 1, Cadel Evans, Christian Vande Velde, Fabian Cancellara, Thor Hushovd, Tom Danielson, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 11, 2010

Stage 8: Le Morte d'Armstrong

July 11, 2010 - Station Des Rousses, FRANCE - epa02244899 Radioshack team rider Lance Armstrong of the US cycles during the eighth stage of the 97th Tour de France 2010 cycling race between Station Des Rousses and Morzine-Avoriaz, France, 10 July 2010.The first big mountain stage at the Tour is always revelatory. The early time trials and lower climbs allow classics and TT men to sit at the Tour's grown-up table for a week or more, but those names begin to fall off the leaderboard when the race moves to the mountains.

Sunday's Stage 8 ran true to form, and then some. Sky, Saxo Bank, and Astana spent miles at the front, keeping the pace high enough to shed rider after rider, until on the day's final climb, only a dozen riders still had a chance for the stage win, including Cadel Evans, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre, and Levi Leipheimer. With teammate Daniel Navarro taking a pull worthy of Amtrak, Contador looked safisfied to ride to the line with that group.

With less than 2k to ride, Roman Kreuziger of Liquigas was the first man to launch, covered quickly by Contador. Just inside the last kilometer, Andy Schleck sprinted away from the group, and only Euskaltel-Euskadi's Samuel Sanchez matched him. Behind, a move from Gesink was covered, but Contador was content to let Sanchez and Schleck sprint it out for the stage win. The sprint, reminiscent of Barredo-Costa in its precision and ferocity, went to Schleck, his first Tour de France stage win.

World Champion Cadel Evans takes over the yellow jersey for the first time since 2008, when Evans lost it after being isolated on the climb to Prato Nevoso.

Seven-time winner Lance Armstrong suffered a key accident a few kilometers before the day's first big climb, chased back to the field, but was dropped on the Ramaz and lost almost 12 minutes on the day. He's in 39th place, 13:26 back of Evans. If Armstrong's announcement that this will be his last Tour is true, this was the end of his last chance to win the race. Armstrong says he'll stay in the race and work for the team, which is good news for Levi Leipheimer, sitting 8th overall.

The team that did most of the damage to Armstrong's chances also badly damaged their own leader's Tour hopes. Sky set a blistering pace on the Ramaz, shedding teammates, and their Bradley Wiggins was dropped on the climb out of Morzine, the day's second big challenge. He would finish at 1:45, and now sits 14th at 2:45 on the overall.

Evans becomes the first world champion to wear yellow since Boonen in 2006 and if he could win, would be the first world champion to win the Tour since LeMond in 1990.

Also:

VeloNews | Lance Armstrong: 'This Tour is finished for me'

CyclingNews.com | Armstrong's Tour challenge collapses

Posted by Frank Steele on July 11, 2010 in Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Stage 8 on the road

With some major attacks expected, the peloton rolled out nervous this morning, likely contributing to a crash with just 5 kilometers ridden.

VS predictions: Hummer - Contador; Roll - A. Schleck; Sherwen - Armstrong; Liggett - Evans.

Caught in the crash were a couple of notable jerseys, the polka-dot King of the Mountains jersey of Jerome Pineau from QuickStep and the world champion's rainbow jersey of Cadel Evans. Pineau rode on, but clearly suffering at the back and off the back of the main field. The race doctor has taken a look at Evans' left elbow.

Côte de Petite Joux:
1) Taaramae +3 pts
2) Fröhlinger, Milram, +2 pts
3) Moreau, Caisse d'Epargne, +1 pt

A seven-man break finally got established with around 30k ridden. It included both Minard and Moinard from Cofidis, which will challenge my typing skills, Vaugrenard of FDJ, Moerenhout from Rabobank, Erviti of Caisse d'Epargne, and Riblon from AG2R. With 140 kilometers to ride, their gap was 3:50.

Côte de Gresin:
1) Riblon, AG2R, +3 pts
2) Morenhout, Rabobank, +2 pts
3) Moinard, Cofidis, +1 pt

Vulbens sprint:
1) Aerts, Omega Pharma-Lotto, +6 pts
2) Riblon, AG2R, +4 pts
3) Erviti, Caisse d'Epargne, +2 pts

At 95k to ride, the gap was 6:37.

Viuz-en-Sallaz sprint:
1) Moerenhout, Rabobank +6 pts
2) Minard, Cofidis +4 pts
3) Aerts, Omega Pharma +2 pts

Posted by Frank Steele on July 11, 2010 in Cadel Evans | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 03, 2010

Where are they from, 2010 edition

Each year, I take a look at where the Tour's riders are from, with special attention to the traditionally English-speaking countries.

Here's this year's rundown:

Australia
Cadel Evans, BMC
Simon Gerrans, Sky
Adam Hansen, HTC-Columbia
Brett Lancaster, Cervelo
Matthew Lloyd, Omega Pharma-Lotto
Robbie McEwen, Katusha
Stuart O'Grady, Saxo Bank
Mark Renshaw, HTC-Columbia
Luke Roberts, Milram
Michael Rogers, HTC-Columbia
Wesley Sulzberger, Française des Jeux

Eleven! Up from 6 last year, and it's largely a return of the “Lone Australian” phenomenon -- only HTC-Columbia, with Hansen, Renshaw, and Rogers has more than one Aussie on the squad. Every 2009 Aussie returns, and add Gerrans and Hansen, alternates last year, plus Roberts, Sulzberger, and perennial sprint threat McEwen.

US
Lance Armstrong, Radio Shack
Brent Bookwalter, BMC
Tyler Farrar, Garmin
George Hincapie, BMC
Chris Horner, Radio Shack
Levi Leipheimer, Radio Shack
Christian Vande Velde, Garmin
David Zabriskie, Garmin

Eight is up from seven last year, and four in 2008. First-timer Bookwalter is here, Garmin's Danny Pate is not, and Chris Horner returns. The excellent showings of both Farrar and Bookwalter at today's prologue are great news for US cycling, which has a glut of over-30 Tour riders, essentially everybody else on the list above.

Canada
Michael Barry, Sky
Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin

Canada climbs from one to two, and long-suffering Michael Barry finally gets a Tour start at 34.

Great Britain
Mark Cavendish, HTC-Columbia
Stephen Cummings, Sky
Jeremy Hunt, Cervelo
Daniel Lloyd, Cervelo
David Millar, Garmin
Geraint Thomas, Sky
Charlie Wegelius, Omega Pharma-Lotto
Bradley Wiggins, Sky

Great Britain doubles up, with eight riders versus last year's four. Cavendish and Wiggins have dreams of winner's jerseys.

New Zealand
Julian Dean, Garmin

Hayden Roulston wasn't invited by HTC-Columbia, Greg Henderson wasn't invited by Team Sky.

Ireland
Nicolas Roche, AG2R-La Mondiale

Roche repeats as the only Irish rider.

South Africa
Robbie Hunter, Garmin

Up from an unusual zero last year.

Other countries (2009 in parentheses):
35: France (40)
31: Spain (doesn't count Florencio, pulled by Cervelo before start) (28)
17: Italy (16)
15: Germany (15)
12: Belgium (11)
11: Australia (6)
8: Netherlands (11), USA (7)
6: Russia (8)
5: Denmark (3), Switzerland (3)
4: Slovenia (1)
3: Austria (2), Belarus (2), Kazakhstan (1), Portugal (2), Ukraine (2)
2: Canada (1), Luxembourg (3), Norway (2)
1: Czech Republic (1), Estonia (0), Ireland (1), Japan (2), Lithuania (0), Moldova (0), New Zealand (2), Poland (1), South Africa (0), Sweden (1)

Also:

TdFblog.com | Where are they from, 2009 edition

TdFblog.com | Where are they from, 2008 edition

Posted by Frank Steele on July 3, 2010 in About the Tour, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Chris Horner, Christian Vande Velde, Danny Pate, Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Robbie Hunter, Robbie McEwen, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 27, 2009

Cadel Evans attacks to world road title

Evans Races Home
Evans Races Home,
originally uploaded by Dot Cycling.
Maybe Australia's Cadel Evans was just waiting for the right moment.

Evans, who has earned a reputation as a GC rider who is content to ride within himself and wait for others to fail, launched a brilliant attack from about 4 kilometers out, then fought off a counter by Alexander Kolobnev and Joaquin Rodriguez to take the biggest win of his road career.

Fabian Cancellara, a fatally marked man racing on Swiss soil, laid waste to a quality escape group including Tom Boonen, defending world champion Alessandro Ballan, Michael Rogers and others with about 2 laps to ride. Cancellara brought Evans, Alejandro Valverde, and a number of other strong riders along and may have dulled his amazing afterburners before the decisive move came on the final lap.

With no one in his group (including Basso, Pozzato, Valverde, Sanchez) willing to chase, Cancellara finally went after the 3 men up the road with only a little more than a kilometer to race, and by then the race was over. Adding insult to injury, Sammy Sanchez outsprinted the newly minted world TT champion to the line to take 4th overall at :30.

Australia has never had a world road race champion, despite world titles in most other cycling disciplines, and the win by Evans is the perfect prelude to the 2010 World Championships, to be held in his hometown of Geelong, Australia.

Also:

grahamwatson.com | 2009 World Road Championships photo gallery

cyclingnews.com | Evans becomes road World Champion in Mendrisio

Posted by Frank Steele on September 27, 2009 in Cadel Evans, Fabian Cancellara, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 25, 2009

Stage 19: Cavendish takes five on day for breakaway

Tour de France 2009 Stage Nineteen

Columbia-HTC's Mark Cavendish got schooled on Thursday, with Thor Hushovd launching a long solo attack that netted 12 points in the green jersey competition. Hushovd looked to be reacting to comments from Cavendish that a Hushovd green jersey would be stained after Cavendish was relegated back in Stage 14.

Saturday, Cavendish responded, as his squad shepherded their sprint ace over the day's biggest climb, the 2nd Category Col de l'Escrinet, despite losing Michael Rogers and Mark Renshaw to the fast finishing pace. Cavendish launched his sprint from a long way out, but held off Hushovd and Gerald Ciolek all the way to the line, to take his 5th stage of the 2009 Tour. No sprinter has won 5 Tour stages since Freddy Maertens in 1981, and Cavendish still has a chance in Sunday's Stage 21 to the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Cavendish also becomes the all-time British leader in stage wins, surpassing Barry Hoban with his 9th career stage win in just two Tour starts.

The day started like a typical transitional stage, with a large group of strong riders away, including Yaroslav Popovych, David Millar, Cadel Evans, José Gutierrez, Leonardo Duque, and 15 others. Rabobank did most of the chasing, since they were one of the teams absent in the break, and first 5 riders, then just Leonardo Duque, would escape the break in an attempt to stay clear of the peloton, riding way ahead of the projected arrival times along the route.

On the day's final climb, the Col de l'Escrinet, Laurent Lefevre launched from very low on the climb, and was matched by world champion Alessandro Ballan, who would survive until the final 2 kilometers, before being reeled in by the surviving 3 Columbia-HTC riders, trying to set up Cavendish, who survived the climb, shadowed by Hushovd.

Hushovd's 2nd place finish limits the damage to his green jersey lead, where he leads Cavendish now 260-235, with 35 points to the winner in Paris on Sunday. Even if Cavendish wins there, Hushovd will be safe in green if he can finish in the first 10 or 15 riders at the finish.

Lance Armstrong was attentive at the finish, and picked up 4 seconds when a gap formed in the field, with Klöden, Wiggins, both Schlecks, and Contador on the wrong side. It's unlikely that 4 seconds will make a difference, but it points up how Armstrong rides this race, always aware of every chance to make or lose time.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 25, 2009 in 2009 Stage 19, Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, David Millar, Frank Schleck, George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 21, 2009

Armstrong attack highlight of Stage 16

Lance Armstrong looked exhausted at the end of Sunday's Stage 15. After his teammate Alberto Contador launched what would be a winning attack, Armstrong couldn't follow attacks through the gap by Wiggins, Nibali, Sastre, or Evans, and finished 9th at 1:35, hanging onto 2nd place, but by a bare 9 seconds.

What a difference a (rest) day makes! On today's Stage 16, when Andy Schleck went off the front, Armstrong was again dropped, this time by teammates Contador and Andreas Klöden, the Schleck brothers, Bradley Wiggins of Garmin-Slipstream, and Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas.

Armstrong rode within himself, and found shelter briefly in a group of GC hopes, including Vande Velde, Sastre, Evans, and Kreuziger. With a little less than 5k to ride, Armstrong launched a very 2003-era Armstrong attack. Kim Kirchen and Christian Vande Velde briefly tried to follow, but couldn't. When he flew by Frank Schleck, Schleck gave it just about one second's thought before he thought better of it.

With Armstrong back alongside Contador, Astana had 3 riders in a 6-man group, and once again, they were content to conserve energy and wait for Schleck or Nibali (or Wiggins, but he doesn't really need the time) to attack, but neither wanted to take on Contador, Armstrong, and Klöden. At the lower pace, all the GC candidates but Cadel Evans rejoined, and then coordinated to put serious time into Evans.

Astana continues to ride a very smart race, running out the clock for the climbing specialists, with just two big Alpine climbing stages left.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 21, 2009 in Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christian Vande Velde, Frank Schleck, Lance Armstrong, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2009

Contador takes Stage 15, race lead

Tour de France 2009 Stage Fifteen

Alberto Contador showed why he's the dominant stage racer of the moment on the climb to Verbier Sunday.

On the day's final climb, Saxo Bank and Garmin came to the front and Saxo Bank took charge. Jens Voigt did a withering 1.5 kilometers, forcing a major selection and putting the yellow jersey of Rinaldo Nocentini in jeopardy.

When Voigt was caught, Fränk Schleck came to the front, but soon after, the contenders reached Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara, part of the day's breakaway, and Cancellara pulled so strongly that he briefly shattered the GC group, dispatching Nocentini. When he was done, he was really done, and there were only 5 men left standing: The Schleck brothers, Astana's Cane and Abel Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, and Bradley Wiggins. That's what I said, Bradley Wiggins.

After a couple of quick feints, Contador did his thing, almost instantly putting 10-15 seconds into the chasers. Andy Schleck set out in pursuit, while Armstrong tended Wiggins and Fränk Schleck. As Contador pushed his lead, some of the other GC hopefuls started to come back onto the Armstrong group, including Cadel Evans, Christian Vande Velde, Andreas Klöden, Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger. Noticeably absent was Carlos Sastre, who was riding at his own pace well behind the leaders.

Vande Velde struggled at the rear of this elite group, and as he fell off, he was passed by none other than Carlos Sastre! Sastre, looking recovered now, bridged up to Armstrong's group.

By now, Contador had :45 on the Armstrong group, and Bradley Wiggins was the first to try to join Andy Schleck up the road. Frank Schleck bridged, matched by the rest of the Armstrong group, then attacked toward his brother. Contador was getting a little too much love from some of the fans, and swatted at them with about 2.5 kilometers to ride.

Wiggins was still feeling strong, and attacked out of the Armstrong group, with Nibali on his wheel. When they caught Frank Schleck, the three rode together, with Wiggins (Wiggins!) doing the majority of the work.

Sastre then attacked out of the Armstrong group, and Evans, who later said it was his worst day ever on the Tour de France, followed, leaving Klöden and Armstrong behind. Sastre would catch what protocol demands I call “the Wiggins group” in the final k, but nobody was going to pull back significant time on Contador on today's course.

He would cross the finish line in 5:03:58, enough to put him more than 90 seconds clear in the overall. As the stage winner, he also won a Saint Bernard.

Afterward, Lance Armstrong said Contador had shown he was the strongest rider in the race, and that Armstrong and Klöden would ride in support of Contador for the rest of the Tour.

Top 10:
1) Alberto Contador, Astana, 5:03:58
2) Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, at :43
3) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at 1:03
4) Frank Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 1:06
5) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, same time
6) Carlos Sastre, Cervelo Test Team, s.t.
7) Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, at 1:26
8) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at 1:29
9) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at 1:35
10) Kim Kirchen, Columbia-HTC, at 1:55

General Classification after Stage 15:
1) Alberto Contador, Astana, in 63:17:56
2) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at 1:37
3) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:46
4) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at 2:17
5) Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 2:26
6) Rinaldo Nocentini, AG2R-La Mondiale, at 2:30
7) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at 2:51
8) Tony Martin, Columbia-HTC, at 3:07
9) Christophe Le Mevel, Française des Jeux, at 3:09
10) Fränk Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 3:25

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2009 in 2009 Stage 15, Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christian Vande Velde, Fabian Cancellara, Franco Pellizotti, Frank Schleck, Jens Voigt, Lance Armstrong, Rinaldo Nocentini, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 16, 2009

Sorensen adds some sizzle in Stage 12 win

Sørensen
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Saxo Bank's Nicki Sørensen used his head and his legs to outfox 7 breakaway compatriots and take Stage 12 of the 2009 Tour de France.

The breakaway that mattered featured Sørensen, Sylvain Calzati of Agritubel, Milram's Marcus Fothen, Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas, Laurent Lefevre of Bbox Bouygues Telecom, Egoi Martinez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, and Remi Pauriol of Cofidis. Each rider took out one team for chase purposes, and it soon became apparent that Columbia-HTC, which has been chasing breaks to set up Mark Cavendish, had no interest today, so the pool of riders to drive the capture was pretty small, and never brought the gap inside of about 3:30.

With 22.5k to ride, Sørensen decided he didn't like his chances against his breakmates, attacked, and was joined by Calzati. The pair rotated smoothly and built a gap of almost 20 seconds, but the 5 behind slowly closed the split.

Nearly caught with around 5.5k to ride, Sørensen turned his guts absolutely inside out, dropping Calzati, and briefly throwing the chase into disarray. Within a kilometer by himself, he had built a 22-second lead, which he stretched to 34 seconds with 1k to ride. At that point, it was a done deal, and Sørensen saluted the crowd as he crossed the line with a victory for the often-unheralded “pack fodder” of the Tour.

Sørensen's primary role for Saxo Bank at the Tour was expected to be taking long pulls on the front of the peloton, hunting down breaks to protect Andy Schleck's race lead. Today, he took a turn as the hunted, and took home the stage win.

With no General Classification risks being taken, the green and polka-dot jerseys each took a turn in the limelight today, with Cavendish and Hushovd going head to head at the day's 1st intermediate sprint, won by Cavendish, and in the field sprint, led out by Cervelo, but still won by Cavendish. Cavendish had been reluctant to name the green jersey as a goal here, but if he's chasing intermediate points, there's no doubt.

Pellizotti and Martinez engaged in a few rounds of sprint the mini-mountains, with Pellizotti getting the upper hand, and moving within 18 points of Martinez in the competition. It's still very possible that someone else entirely takes the climber's jersey with a long Alpine escape, but it looks like Pellizotti and Martinez plan to cover those moves.

Levi Leipheimer was involved in a late crash that also claimed Michael Rogers and Cadel Evans, but all three continued. Leipheimer was banged and scraped up, and should be able to continue, but there could be lingering effects as the Tour heads to the Vosges tomorrow.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 16, 2009 in 2009 Stage 12, Cadel Evans, Egoi Martinez, Franco Pellizotti, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Nicki Sørensen, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 11, 2009

Assessing the GC threats

VeloNews | Inside the Tour - Marginalizing the Tourmalet

John Wilcockson dismisses the Tour hopes of Carlos Sastre, in an article explaining how race ornanizers have taken the sting out of the Pyrenean stages by adding long descents (which encourage regrouping) after the marquee climbs.

To me, It seems like this works to Sastre's advantage, since, if he survives Stage 9 on Sunday, he's got almost a week to find his best legs before the stage through the Vosges on Friday.

It also complicates Alberto Contador's efforts. His best opportunity to make time is an uphill finish, and there are just two left: Verbier on Stage 15 and Ventoux on Stage 20. I think that's the main reason Contador decided to go on Stage 7, because he doesn't want to be in a position where everything rides on the Ventoux climb.

I may disagree that Sastre's out after his problems Saturday, but it's impossible to disagree with Wilcockson's list of top GC threats:

  • Andy Schleck
  • Fränk Schleck
  • Alberto Contador
  • Lance Armstrong
  • Levi Leipheimer
  • Andreas Klöden
  • Christian Vande Velde
  • Bradley Wiggins
  • Cadel Evans
  • Tony Martin
  • Vincenzo Nibali

With Pereiro's exit from the race today, it will be interesting to see if Caisse d'Epargne turns to Stage 8 winner Luis Leon Sanchez, who sits 11th at 2:16, or if they hunt stages.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 11, 2009 in Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Andy Schleck, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Frank Schleck, Lance Armstrong, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stage 8: Sanchez loves Saint-Girons

Sanchez
AP Photo by Bogdan Cristel

Today's Stage 8 was one for the breakaway men, while two contenders launched testing attacks that ultimately came to nothing.

On the day's first big climb, right out of the gate, Cadel Evans set off, with Vladimir Efimkin, David Zabriskie, Egoi Martinez, and Christophe Kern in pursuit of Sandy Casar. The group would grow to include Fabian Cancellara, George Hincapie, and Thor Hushovd, who had seen Mark Cavendish off the back, and collected enough intermediate sprint points to take the green jersey for tomorrow.

The presence of Evans in the break put Astana on the defensive, and they slowly reeled it in. Cancellara exchanged words with Cadel Evans, and the broadcasters felt he was accusing Evans of not working, but I think Cancellara wanted Evans to go back to the field, and give the fairly strong escape a chance to make a break that could stick (Evans confirmed on his site: “Pro cyclists start carrying on like 3 y.o's in a temper tantrum when a G.C contender in their break is no longer to their advantage. Oh well, that's racing, and a little bit to do with why you don't often see serious GC threats in breaks - usually a waste of energy... Landis and Rasmussen have been the exceptions in the last few years.”) As Evans was recaptured, Luis Leon Sanchez and Mikhail Inatiev bridged to the escape, which was finally given some room to roam by the peloton.

Later, early on the climb of the Col d'Agnes, Andy and Frank Schleck turned up the heat, shedding riders faster than Rock Racing, Yellow jersey Rinaldo Nocentini was among those dropped, but none of the overall contenders, so the Schlecks came off the front and the peloton reformed.

As the climb progressed, the leading group shrank, until over the top, 4 riders rode alone at the front of the stage: Sanchez, Efimkin, Mikel Astarloza, and Sandy Casar. Efimkin refused to work in the break, since his teammate Nocentini could potentially lose his race lead if the break gained 4:10 on the field, so he looked to the freshest on the run-in.

With 5k, Astarloza was the first to attack. When Sanchez responded, Efimkin went hard up the left curb, and gained about 5 seconds on his former breakmates. Closing to the line, it looked like Efimkin might have the stamina to hold the trio off to the line, but well into the final kilometer, Sanchez finally got across.

As he did, Casar attacked hard, but Sanchez expected it, grabbed his wheel, checked the back door for Astarloza or Efimkin, and powered by for the stage win.

The field came in at 1:54, led in by Sanchez teammate Jose Rojas.

Stage 8 Top 10
1) Luis-Leon Sanchez, Caisse d'Epargne, 4:31:50
2) Sandy Casar, Française des Jeux, same time
3) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, same time
4) Vladimir Efimkin, AG2R-La Mondiale, at :03
5) Jose Rojas, Caisse d'Epargne, at 1:54
6) Christophe Riblon, AG2R-La Mondiale, same time
7) Peter Velits, Team Milram, s.t.
8) Sebastien Minard, Cofidis, s.t.
9) Jeremy Roy, Française des Jeux, s.t.
10) Thomas Voeckler, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, s.t.

General Classification
1) Rinaldo Nocentini, AG2R-La Mondiale, 30:18:16
2) Alberto Contador, Astana, at :06
3) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at :08
4) Levi Leipheimer, Astana, at :39
5) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, at :46
6) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at :54
7) Tony Martin, Columbia-HTC, at 1:00
8) Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:24
9) Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 1:49
10) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at 1:54

The King of the Mountains jersey also changes hands, moving over to Christophe Kern of Cofidis.

Astana falls out of the team classification lead, now trailing AG2R-La Mondiale by a scant 3 seconds.

Also:

CyclingNews.com | Sanchez wins Tour's second day in Pyrenees | photo gallery

GrahamWatson.com | 2009 Tour de France Stage 8 photo gallery

Posted by Frank Steele on July 11, 2009 in 2009 Stage 8, Andy Schleck, Cadel Evans, Dave Zabriskie, George Hincapie, Luis Sanchez, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories, Tour de France 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 07, 2009

Stage 4 TTT: Astana firing on all cylinders

If yesterday's Stage 3 was The Columbia Show, today was Astana Hour. Whatever the situation on the team bus, they worked as a single cohesive unit on the twisties around Montpellier, and built time gaps on many of the Tour's GC threats.

Early on, some big names hit the pavement, including Rabobank's Denis Menchov and Lampre's Alessandro Ballan. Four Bbox Bouygues Telecom riders misjudged a bend, and wound up in the rough. Later, Skil-Shimano's Piet Rooijakers broke his arm and left the course, leaving 178 riders in the race.

After the stage, many riders complained that the course was too technical for a TTT.


Saxo Bank's Jens Voigt, one of the hardest men in the sport, said he saw Quick Step take a spill even before they had reached the start line:

“We have bikes worth 10,000 Euro, and in the end we can't use them properly because we're just busy trying to hold balance instead of putting our power on the pedals."

Cadel Evans, who has made a point in the press how much more relaxed he is in this year's Tour, sprinted away from his squad as they approached the finish, leaving his teammates struggling to the line in 49:05, which would be 13th best on the day.

Garmin lost 4 riders in the first 12k, but were left with their five best TT men, who set new best times at the final three intermediate checkpoints, and finished in 46:29.

Saxo Bank, with yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara doing long, draft-horse quality pulls, turned in a very strong 47:09.

Columbia, possibly feeling the effects of that 30k race to the line on Stage 3, came in with a respectable 47:28, but trailed Garmin, Liquigas, and Saxo Bank at every intermediate check.

And then there was Astana. Leading the team competition, they were last to start, and they rotated smoothly with big pulls from Klöden, Leipheimer, Contador, and Armstrong. At the first time check, they were a little slower than Caisse d'Epargne, which had kicked the day off with a jackrabbit start they couldn't maintain, but Astana led at every later checkpoint. Once Saxo Bank finished, everyone was looking toward 46:29, the time that would put 7-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong back into yellow.

In the last few k, it became clear it would be pretty close. In the final k, it looked very close. In the last meters, it looked insanely, ridiculously close, until Astana came through in … 46:29. The Tour's offical website put Armstrong into yellow (and I followed suit), but not so fast. That 46:29 put Cancellara and Armstrong in a tie, so officials looked at the fractions of a second in Stage 1, and found that Cancellara had held the race lead by .22 second.

Officially, the leaderboard shows Cancellara first, with Armstrong second “at :00.” There was a suggestion (notably from Robbie McEwen via Twitter) that Armstrong sat up to leave Cancellara in yellow; I've watched it a couple of times, and can't see why you would go that hard to the line if you were that close to taking a yellow jersey you didn't want.

Of note: Liquigas was 4th, a big boost for Roman Kreuziger; my apologies to the Euskaltels, who were middle of the pack, finishing 10th at 2:09. Sastre ends the day 29th at 2:44, Evans 35th at 2:59, Pereiro 40th at 3:03. Menchov, who looked invincible in May, is in 72nd, 3:52 back.

Top 10:
1) Astana, in 46:29
2) Garmin-Slipstream, at :18
3) Team Saxo Bank, at :40
4) Liquigas, at :58
5) Team Columbia-HTC, at :58
6) Team Katusha, at 1:23
7) Caisse d'Epargne at 1:29
8) Cervelo Test Team, at 1:37
9) AG2R-La Mondiale, at 1:48
10) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 2:09

GC after Stage 4:
1) Fabian Cancellara, Team Saxo Bank, in 10:38:07
2) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at :00
3) Alberto Contador, Astana, at :19
4) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at :23
5) Levi Leipheimer, Astana, at :31
6) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, at :38
7) Haimar Zubeldia, Astana, at :51
8) Tony Martin, Columbia-HTC, at :52
9) David Zabriskie, Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:06
10) David Millar, Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:07

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2009 in 2009 Stage 4 TTT, 2009 Tour de France, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Denis Menchov, Fabian Cancellara, Garmin-Chipotle, Jens Voigt, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tour de Twitter

Slipstreaming
JV on the Crackberry,
originally uploaded by Frank Steele.
This is the third Tour de France I've Twittered. In 2007, it was pretty lonely. Last year, we had a core group of fans using the service. This year, Twitter has exploded. Lance Armstrong has been one of the top celebrities to adopt Twitter, alongside Stephen Fry, Ashton Kutcher (I almost typed “Astana Kutcher”), and Barack Obama.

I've developed quite a list of riders, journalists, bloggers, and photographers in preparation for the Tour, and thought I would share it with you.

I started with Carlton Reid's massive, 600+ strong list of “Bike Trade Tweeps”. As I've found more, I've been adding them. I left off a few that appear inactive, like @carlossastre, who has nearly 4,000 followers awaiting his first tweet (what pressure!); likewise Denis Menchov and Robert Gesink, and a few fakes.

Also, these are all in English. Please send me additions, either on Twitter (@TdFblog) or by commenting this post. Thanks!

Riders/Teams

Astana

Garmin-Slipstream

Columbia-HTC

Silence-Lotto

Cervelo Test Team

Quick Step

Skil-Shimano

Saxo Bank

Rabobank

Press

VS broadcasters

Photographers

Pros not racing this year

Bloggers

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2009 in About the Tour, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Chris Horner, Christian Vande Velde, Danny Pate, Dave Zabriskie, George Hincapie, Ivan Basso, Janez Brajkovic, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Robbie Hunter, Robbie McEwen, Tour news, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 06, 2009

Stage 3: Columbia puts on a show

Columbia-HTC showed off Mark Cavendish's new green jersey on Monday, shelling most of the race's GC men with a powerful 20-mile effort that culminated in a 2nd straight victory for Cavendish.

Early on, the stage showed all the cliché elements of the early-Tour sprinters’ stage. A four-man breakaway featuring two French riders was allowed to take more than 12 minutes out of a field that didn't want to chase. Samuel Dumoulin would end the day with the “most agressive” red race numbers for his hours in service to this break and 4th place at the finish.

Finally, with 50 miles/80 kilometers to go, the field started slowly reeling in the break. With the expectation of a sprint finish and the prospect of a difficult team time trial tomorrow, few teams were willing to cooperate with Columbia, which was heavily favored to take the stage. It looked like a formula chase, with the capture to come in the final 10 kilometers, unfolding to another sprint showdown.


But steaming along the Mediterranean coast in the Camargue, the winds can be stiff, and with about 20 miles to ride, a crosswind forced a gap near the head of the peloton. Ahead of the break was the entire Columbia squad, which hit full gas to widen the breach. Michael Rogers said after the stage he asked his teammates to give “5 kilometers as hard as they could,” and by that point, Carlos Sastre, Denis Menchov, Frank and Andy Schleck, and Alberto Contador were almost 30 seconds off the pace.

Not so Lance Armstrong. Armstrong found himself with 26 other riders ahead of the split, with longtime teammate George Hincapie and current teammates Yaroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia. Also in the lead group was yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara, whose Saxo Bank team initially chased, then seemed satisfied to hold the Columbia bunch at around 30 seconds.

When it was time to deliver the goods, Thor Hushovd kept it close, but Cavendish found that green suits him, and took his second straight stage win. Matching last year's four wins looks in reach for Columbia's sprinter, and he may not have enough top tube for all the “kill” decals he's going to need on that frame.

The field rolled through 41 seconds behind the escape, and the contenders who were caught out commented to a man that this is a three-week race, and that a small gap on the road like this won't make a difference in the overall. We'll know in 3 weeks.

So Columbia, like Nuke LaLoosh, has announced its presence with authority. To show for a ton of effort, they have a second stage win, and the white jersey, which moves over to Tony Martin, after Roman Kreuziger was also caught out. We'll see tomorrow what those cost them.

Stage 3 Top 10:
1) Mark Cavendish, Columbia, 5:01:24
2) Thor Hushovd, Cervelo Test Team, same time
3) Cyril Lemoine, Skil-Shimano, s.t.
4) Samuel Dumoulin, Cofidis, s.t.
5) Jerome Pineau, Quick Step, s.t.
6) Fabian Cancellara, Saxo Bank, s.t.
7) Fabian Wegmann, Milram, s.t.
8) Fumiyuki Beppu, Skil-Shimano, s.t.
9) Maxime Bouet, Agritubel, s.t.
10) Linus Gerdemann, Milram, s.t.

General Classification
1) Fabian Cancellara, Saxo Bank, in 9:50:58
2) Tony Martin, Columbia-HTC, at :33
3) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at :40
4) Alberto Contador, Astana, at :59
5) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin, at 1:00
6) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at 1:03
7) Linus Gerdemann, Milram, at 1:03
8) Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, at 1:04
9) Maxime Monfort, Columbia-HTC, at 1:10
10) Levi Leipheimer, Astana, at 1:11

Jussi Veikkanen holds the polka-dots of the King of the Mountains, Martin takes over the white jersey, Cavendish holds green, and Astana hangs onto the team classification lead.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 6, 2009 in 2009 Stage 3, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Fabian Cancellara, Frank Schleck, George Hincapie, Haimar Zubeldia, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Tony Martin | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 05, 2009

Stage 2: Cavendish strikes first for green

Mark Cavendish delivered the goods Sunday, easily outsprinting the field in Brignoles.

Cavendish won four stages in last year's Tour, but didn't win the overall green jersey because he dropped out to concentrate on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. That didn't work out so well. Cavendish has said his goals for the Tour are just to win a stage and make it to Paris, but wearing the green jersey tonight, he's got to be thinking bigger.

The victory was Cav's 15th this season, and continues the Columbia team's amazing run -- they won 6 stages of the Tour de Suisse (with 5 different riders) in June.

Garmin-Slipstream's Tyler Farrar played the sprint just right, finding and holding Cavendish's wheel, but just couldn't find the terminal velocity to stay with the Manx Express. Romain Feillu was 3rd, Thor Hushovd 4th, and Bbox's Yukiya Arashiro, one of two Japanese riders making the start this year, was 5th.

No sign of Tom Boonen, who may have been caught by a crash in the final kilometer, and was 174th on the stage.

For much of the day, four riders: Jussi Veikkanen of FdJeux; Stef Clement of Rabobank; Stéphane Auge of Cofidis; and Cyril Dessel of AG2R, rode alone, and Veikkanen collected enough King of the Mountain points to take over the lead in that competition. That makes him the first Finn ever to wear the polka-dots in the Tour.

Stage 2 Top Ten:
1) Mark Cavendish, Team Columbia-HTC, 4:30:02
2) Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Slipstream, same time
3) Romain Feillu, Agritubel, s.t.
4) Thor Hushovd, Cervelo Test Team, s.t.
5) Yukiya Arashiro, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
6) Gerald Ciolek, Team Milram, s.t.
7) William Bonnet, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
8) Nicolas Roche, AG2R La Mondiale, s.t.
9) Koen de Kort, Skil-Shimano, s.t.
10) Lloyd Mondory, AG2R La Mondiale, s.t.

General Classification, after Stage 2:
1) Fabian Cancellara, Team Saxo Bank, 4:49:34
2) Alberto Contador, Astana, at :18
3) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, at :19
4) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at :22
5) Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, at :23
6) Levi Leipheimer, Astana, at :30
7) Roman Kreuziger, Liquigas, at :32
8) Tony Martin, Team Columbia-HTC, at :33
9) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at :37
10) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at :40

Also:

VeloNews | Cavendish wins second stage; Cancellara keeps lead

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2009 in 2009 Stage 2, Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Romain Feillu, Stage results, Tom Boonen, Top Stories, Tour de France 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 04, 2009

Stage 1 preview: 15.5-km Monaco TT

Well, we're certainly going to kick things off with a bang. Today's course is both longer and harder than a Tour prologue, with about a 5-mile/7.5-km incline on the front end, and some technical bits on the back end. The climb to 205 meters is officially a 4th Category climb, so we'll get a King of the Mountains for tomorrow, as well.

To claim the race's first yellow jersey, riders will need to put out the power to get up that rise, without going anaerobic, or they'll find themselves losing time on the flatter, power-friendly final 4 kilometers.

You can't run a Tour time trial without anointing Fabian Cancellara the favorite, but it takes a lot of watts to drive Cancellara uphill, so maybe he'll leave an opening for another rider. TTs with climbing tend to reveal the GC threats, so Alberto Contador's got to factor in. Bradley Wiggins has made his career out of shorter TTs, so keep an eye on him, as well. I'll be pulling for David Zabriskie, whose climbing has improved tremendously in the last 4 years, sometimes to the detriment of his TT'ing; here, that could make for a competitive combination.

And it's not a given that everybody lines up as expected. In 1989, defending Tour champion Pedro Delgado missed his prologue start time, finally leaving the starthouse 3 minutes behind schedule. In 2004, current Garmin-Slipstream director Matt White, then a Cofidis rider, broke his collarbone in a spill while warming up on the morning of the prologue, and had to be replaced by Peter Farazijn.

VS broadcaster picks:
Hummer - Cancellara
Sherwen - Contador
Roll - Armstrong
Liggett - Evans

Also:

VeloNews | Andrew Hood pre-rides the Monaco TT with Bobby Julich

CyclingNews.com | Armstrong and Leipheimer to start early

LeTour.fr | Stage 1 - Monaco -> Monaco 15.5 km

Posted by Frank Steele on July 4, 2009 in 2009 Stage 1, 2009 Tour de France, Alberto Contador, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Fabian Cancellara, Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 02, 2009

Where are they from, 2009 edition

Every year, I run down the riders' countries of origin, with special attention to the English-speaking countries. Here's last year's, for comparison.

USA
Lance Armstrong, Astana
Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Slipstream
George Hincapie, Columbia-HTC
Levi Leipheimer, Astana
Danny Pate, Garmin-Slipstream
Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Slipstream
David Zabriskie, Garmin-Slipstream

Seven is up from four last year. Gone is Will Frischkorn, left off the Garmin team, but back are Armstrong, Zabriskie, and Leipheimer. Tyler Farrar starts his first Tour. Not just more riders, but riders with more chances -- 3 guys with Top 5 hopes, and Farrar stage-hunting.

Australia
Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto
Brett Lancaster, Cervelo
Matthew Lloyd, Silence-Lotto
Stuart O'Grady, Saxo Bank
Mark Renshaw, Columbia-HTC
Michael Rogers, Columbia-HTC
Allan Davis, Quick Step

Down from 9 last year, with Robbie McEwen recovering from surgery, Baden Cooke riding for the Continental Vacansoleil team, Trent Lowe home, and Simon Gerrans and Adam Hansen alternates. Michael Rogers is back. Matthew Lloyd makes his first Tour start. 7/3 Update: With Tom Boonen back in the Tour, Allan Davis stays home, reducing Australia's count to 6. And a half, given Heinrich Haussler, who lives and trains in Australia.

Great Britain:
Mark Cavendish, Columbia-HTC
David Millar, Garmin-Slipstream
Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream
Charly Wegelius, Silence-Lotto

Chris Froome's Barloworld squad is not in the Tour this year, back is Bradley Wiggins, and Wegelius returns thanks to Dekker's EPO positive. Cavendish has to be the pre-Tour favorite for green, and his success or failure will be one of this Tour's major plotlines.

New Zealand
Julian Dean, Garmin-Slipstream
Hayden Roulston, Cervelo

Tour rookie Roulston joins the returning Dean.

Ireland
Dan Martin, Garmin-Slipstream
Nicolas Roche, AG2R

With Martin's tendinitis, Roche will be the first Irish participant since Mark Scanlon in 2004. Roche is reigning Irish road champion, having dethroned Martin last weekend.

Canada
Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Slipstream

After ending a 10-year Canadian drought last year, Hesjedal returns.

With no Barloworld participation, Robbie Hunter and John Lee Augustyn won't make the start for South Africa.

All nations breakdown:
40: France (2008 count in parentheses: 40)
28: Spain (30)
16: Italy (21)
15: Germany (16)
11: Netherlands (10)
11: Belgium (12)
8: Russia (4)
7: USA (4)
6: Australia (9)
4: United Kingdom (3)
3: Denmark (1), Luxembourg (2), Switzerland (4)
2: Austria (2), Belarus (2), Colombia (3), Japan (0), New Zealand (1), Norway (2), Portugal (0), Ukraine (2)
1: Canada (1), Czech Republic (1), Finland (0), Ireland (0), Kazakhstan (1), Poland (1), Slovakia (1), Slovenia (1), Sweden (2)

Posted by Frank Steele on July 2, 2009 in About the Tour, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Christian Vande Velde, Danny Pate, Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, George Hincapie, Julian Dean, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Robbie Hunter, Robbie McEwen, Stuart O'Grady, Top Stories, Tour de France 2009, Will Frischkorn | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 13, 2008

Cancellara golden in Beijing; Kristin Armstrong takes women's gold

BBC SPORT | Olympics | Cycling | Cancellara seals time trial glory

Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara, twice world champion in the discipline, took Olympic gold on Wednesday.

The TT course was a single lap of the road race course where Cancellara took bronze on Sunday, and Cancellara rode the 47.3 kilometers in 1:02:11. Sweden's Gustav Larsson, a teammate of Cancellara's at CSC, took silver, with American Levi Leipheimer in bronze.

"I pictured myself on the top step but whether you win gold, silver or bronze, it's the Olympics. It's important," said Leipheimer. "It's a lifelong dream to get a medal at the Olympics. I fought really hard and in the end it paid off."

Cancellara had marked Larsson as a threat back at training camp, when CSC's riders shared their season goals:

"At training camp in America everyone had to write what they wanted to win this year. I said (the Tour of) Flanders and (Paris) Roubaix and Larsson said he wanted to be Olympic champion in the time trial!"

Alberto Contador took fourth, the bitterest placing at the Olympics, while Cadel Evans was fifth.

On the women's side, 35-year-old American Kristin Armstrong was class of the field, overcoming an early deficit to Emma Pooley of Great Britain, who took silver. Switzerland also took a medal in the women's discipline with triathlon specialist Karin Thurig.

Also:

VeloNews | Armstrong, Cancellara win time trial gold

NBCOlympics.com | Armstrong, Leipheimer win time trial medals

Posted by Frank Steele on August 13, 2008 in Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Fabian Cancellara, Levi Leipheimer, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 26, 2008

Schumacher takes 2nd TT as Sastre holds yellow

Team CSC has been the best-ranked team in the world for years, but has never taken the sport's biggest victory. Today, Carlos Sastre nailed down his first Grand Tour victory, and his team's first TdF win, with a 12th place in the longest time trial of the 2008 Tour.

Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher, who won the Stage 4 TT and has been active in attacks throughout the Tour, was the stage winner today, clocking a 1:03:50, again beating out world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara and Team Columbia's Kim Kirchen.

Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto, widely expected to put serious time into Sastre, was unable to gap the Spaniard. At each time check, Sastre trailed Evans by less than 30 seconds, and Evans would finish in an unspectacular 7th on the stage, in 1:05:56. Combined with Bernhard Kohl's 1:06:11, Evans will move up to 2nd, with Kohl falling to 3rd. Kirchen climbs to 8th overall, while Garmin-Chipotle's Christian Vande Velde moved into the Top 5 overall.

Fränk Schleck had a rough day, finishing in 1:09:28 and getting caught by Sastre on the road, and falling to 6th overall.

Stage 20:
1. Stefan Schumacher, Gerolsteiner, Germany, 1:03:50
2. Fabian Cancellara, CSC-Saxo Bank, Switzerland, @ :21
3. Kim Kirchen, Team Columbia, Luxembourg, @ 1:01
4. Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Chipotle, USA, @ 1:05
5. David Millar, Garmin-Chipotle, Great Britain, @ 1:37
6. Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, @ 1:55
7. Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, Australia, @ 2:05
8. Sebastian Lang, Gerolsteiner, Germany, @ 2:19
9. Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, Austria, @ 2:21
10. George Hincapie, Columbia, USA, @ 2:28

General Classification, after Stage 20:
1. Carlos Sastre, CSC-Saxo Bank, Spain, 84:01:00
2. Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, Australia, @ 1:05
3. Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, Austria, @ 1:20
4. Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, @ 2:00
5. Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Chipotle, @ 3:12
6. Fränk Schleck, CSC-Saxo Bank, Luxembourg, @ 4:28
7. Samuel Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ 6:32
8. Kim Kirchen, Columbia, Luxembourg, @ 7:02
9. Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 7:26
10. Tadej Valjavec, AG2R-La Mondiale, Slovakia, @ 9:12

Posted by Frank Steele on July 26, 2008 in Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christian Vande Velde, David Millar, Denis Menchov, Fabian Cancellara, Frank Schleck, Stefan Schumacher, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Cadel Does Attack!

YouTube videos of Cadel attacking . . . reporters. There's Don't Touch Me, I Cut Off Your Head, and the head butt:

We heard about a finger to a reporter, a thrown helmet, but haven't seen it. Aussies defend him: maybe his shoulder, the pressure, or he's just an ass.

Update

A reporter interviews Cadel's thrown helmet and Bike Radar reports on Cadel losing it.

Also:

NYTimes.com | Mind Games Precede Tour’s Pivotal Time Trial

Posted by Byron on July 26, 2008 in Cadel Evans | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Stage 20 ITT underway

So the whole Tour comes down to today's TT. Silence-Lotto's Cadel Evans needs 1:34 to overtake yellow jersey Carlos Sastre for the race lead. Sastre will have the advantage of starting last and the mythic power of the maillot jaune on his side.

The battle's not only for the top spot today. Bernhard Kohl, Denis Menchov, Fränk Schleck, and Christian Vande Velde all hold hopes of making the podium, and will burn their last matches to try to get there today.

It's a pity they can't borrow matches from Wim Vansevenant and Bernhard Eisel, locked in a struggle to be the lanterne rouge of this year's Tour. Vansevenant was last-placed overall in the 2006 and 2007 Tours, and can become the first man ever to finish last in three Tours. Vansevenant took advantage of starting second on the TT and rolled in 2:00 behind Eisel to retake the cellar.

    Vs. Broadcaster Picks:
  • Hummer: Cadel Evans
  • Sherwen: Fabian Cancellara
  • Liggett: Christian Vande Velde
  • Roll: Kim Kirchen

They also discussed the overall podium: Roll wouldn't commit on placings, but tipped Menchov, Sastre, and Evans as the podium. Sherwen picks Sastre to win, Evans second, then Vande Velde; Liggett and Hummer both say Evans, then Sastre, then Menchov.

Danny Pate of Garmin-Chipotle was an early leader, finishing in 1:06:45, but his teammate David Millar and world TT champion Fabian Cancellara are on the road now, beating Pate's time at each Time Check.

At the finish, it's David Millar in 1:05:27, and Cancellara coming just behind, looks like he's got time to take the lead; he comes in with a 1:04:11.88! There are a lot of strong riders left to ride, but that's an impressive time that could easily take the day.

Out on course, Stefan Schumacher, who won Stage 4's 29-km time trial, equals Cancellara at TC1, loses 12 seconds at TC2, but finishes in 1:03:50.48. That's going to be tough to beat.

Vande Velde hits TC1 with the 4th best time, a 21:58. Menchov is next, it's a 21:52. Evans is coming , and puts up a 22:08. He's got a little more than a minute on Menchov on GC, but he's already lost 16 seconds of that. Now Bernhard Kohl comes through in a 22:06. Things are looking tight!

    Time Check 2
  • Fabian Cancellara 42:38
  • Stefan Schumacher 42:50
  • Kim Kirchen 43:35
  • Christian Vande Velde 43:35.13
  • Denis Menchov 43:46.50
  • Cadel Evans 44:08
  • Bernhard Kohl 44:11.77
  • Carlos Sastre 44:31.23
    Finishing times, riders of note:
  • Schumacher 1:03:50
  • Cancellara 1:04:12
  • Kim Kirchen 1:04:51
  • Christian Vande Velde, 1:04:55
  • Millar 1:05:27
  • Menchov 1:05:45
  • Cadel Evans 1:05:55.54
  • Bernhard Kohl 1:06:11.01
  • Hincapie 1:06:19
  • Carlos Sastre 1:06:24.79
  • Pate 1:06:45
  • Andy Schleck 1:07:52
  • Voeckler (last placed today) 1:15:09

Andy Schleck was caught by Bernhard Kohl, who started 3 minutes behind him, but held off Roman Kreuziger to hold on to his white jersey.

Cadel Evans never was able to put serious time into Carlos Sastre, finishing in 1:05:56. Sastre, for his part, reeled in teammate Fränk Schleck on the road, limiting his losses to Evans to only about 30 seconds, and Carlos Sastre and CSC will take the 2008 Tour de France.

As always, you can follow these updates and more at my Twitter feed.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 26, 2008 in Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christian Vande Velde, Fabian Cancellara, Stefan Schumacher | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 23, 2008

Sastre takes stage, yellow jersey on l'Alpe d'Huez

CSC-Saxo Bank struck the Luxembourg flag, posted Spanish colors, and opened up on the field on the Tour's queen stage today.

Yellow jersey Fränk Schleck played the loyal lieutenant as Carlos Sastre put 2 full minutes into the whole field, with a dominating climb of l'Alpe d'Huez, the Tour's most famous climb. Meanwhile, Fränk and Andy Schleck shadowed Cadel Evans, covering every attack through switchback after switchback.

Sastre launched immediately as the field left Bourg d'Oisans at the base of the climb. He was briefly joined by Rabobank's Denis Menchov, but a second attack dropped Menchov not only from Sastre's wheel, but from the yellow jesrsey group, as well. Menchov would claw his way back into that group well up the climb.

While first Valverde, then Efimkin, then Vande Velde would try to escape the gravitational field around the Schlecks, every attack was pulled back while Sastre continued to climb into the yellow jersey, steadily building a lead of more than a kilometer on the road that was worth 2:15 to Evans, Menchov, and Kohl on the line.

Even though Sastre looks to be in command right now, with the stage win and the leader's jersey, it seems unlikely he can hang within 1:35 of Cadel Evans on Saturday's long 53k/33-mile time trial. In the final TT last year, Evans made 2:33 on Sastre, even more than Sastre's winning margin today.

Stage 17 Top 10:
1. Carlos Sastre, CSC-Saxo Bank, Spain, in 6:07:58
2. Samuel Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain @ 2:03
3. Andy Schleck, CSC-Saxo Bank, Luxembourg, same time
4. Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 2:13
5. Fränk Schleck, CSC-Saxo Bank, Luxembourg, same time
6. Vladimir Efimkin, AG2R, Russia, @ 2:15
7. Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, Australia, same time
8. Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, s.t.
9. Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Chipotle, USA, s.t.
10. Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, Austria, s.t.


General Classification after Stage 17:
1. Carlos Sastre, CSC-Saxo Bank, Spain, in 74:39:03
2. Fränk Schleck, CSC-Saxo Bank, Luxembourg, @ 1:24
3. Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, Austria, @ 1:33
4. Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, Australia, @ 1:34
5. Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, @ 2:39
6. Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Chipotle, USA, @ 4:41
7. Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 5:35
8. Samuel Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ 5:52
9. Tadej Valjavec, AG2R-La Mondiale, Slovakia, @ 8:10
10. Vladimir Efimkin, AG2R-La Mondiale, Russia, @ 8:24

Also:
VeloNews | Who won: Sastre or Evans?

Posted by Frank Steele on July 23, 2008 in 2008 Stage 17, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christian Vande Velde, Denis Menchov, Frank Schleck, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2008

Schleck in yellow as Gerrans takes Stage 15

It was a day for the breakaway, as the overall contenders had bigger fish to fry, with the Tour climbing into the Alps.

Credit Agricole's Simon Gerrans, who fell off the breakaway but battled back to Egoi Martinez and Danny Pate, found a second wind on the mountaintop and easily dropped Martinez and Pate for his first career stage victory.

Back in the field, CSC again stamped a jackhammer tempo at the front to shatter the field, leaving Cadel Evans without teammates on the day's last climb, up to Prato Nevoso, and putting three CSC men -- both Schlecks and Carlos Sastre -- in the final group of 10 that included Evans.

Andy Schleck did the lion's share of the pacesetting on the 11-kilometer final climb, and Sastre, Menchov, Kohl, Alejandro Valverde and Fränk Schleck forced a gap to Evans, who tried to keep his head and ride to the summit with Christian Vande Velde,

Oscar Pereiro left the race after a tumble over a guardrail from the top to the bottom of a hairpin turn. Pereiro, who was awarded the 2006 Tour when Floyd Landis was disqualified, injured his shoulder and couldn't continue.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2008 in 2008 Stage 15, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christian Vande Velde, Denis Menchov, Egoi Martinez, Frank Schleck, Oscar Pereiro, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 14, 2008

Saunier Duval 1-2 for Piepoli and Cobo

Team CSC shook up the standings today, setting a blistering pace on the Col du Tourmalet, and putting the Luxembourg national champion Fränk Schleck just 1 second out of the overall race lead.

But it was Saunier Duval who came out with another stage win, as their Leonardo Piepoli and Juan José Cobo tag-teamed Shleck on the day's final climb, the Hautacam.

We finally had a glimpse of contenders and pretenders, as well, with some big surprises. Alejandro Valverde and Damiano Cunego crumbled on the Tourmalet, losing almost 6 minutes by stage's end. Kim Kirchen lost the yellow jersey, falling to 7th overall, and Stefan Schumacher tumbled to 18th overall.

On the other hand, Christian Vande Velde rode axle-to-axle with the best riders of the Tour, and gave as well as he got. Denis Menchov shadowed Cadel Evans all day, and Carlos Sastre rode comfortably among the overall leaders, as well.

Piepoli completes the set, now with a victory in all three Grand Tours.

Stage 10 Results
1. Leonardo Piepoli, Saunier Duval, Italy, in 4:19:27
2. Juan Jose Cobo, Saunier Duval, Spain, same time
3. Frank Schleck, CSC-Saxo Bank, Luxembourg, @ :28
4. Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, Austria, @ 1:06
5. Vladimir Efimkin, AG2R-La Mondiale, @ 2:05
6. Riccardo Ricco, Saunier Duval, Italy, @ 2:17
7. Carlos Sastre, CSC-Saxo Bank, Spain, same time
8. Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, Australia, s.t.
9. Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, s.t.
10. Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Chipotle, USA, s.t.

Evans just barely held off Schleck in the overall, with Vande Velde and Ricco's sprint to the line probably saving his first-ever yellow jersey. Kohl's attack took him up into the top 5 overall.

General Classification, overall after Stage 10
1. Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, Australia
2. Fränk Schleck, CSC-Saxo Bank, Luxembourg @ :01
3. Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Chipotle, USA, @ :38
4. Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, Austria @ :46
5. Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, @ :57
6. Carlos Sastre, CSC-Saxo Bank, Spain, @ 1:28
7. Kim Kirchen, Columbia, Luxembourg, @ 1:56
8. Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval, Spain, @ 2:10
9. Riccado Ricco, Saunier Duval, Italy, @ 2:29
10. Vladimir Efimkin, AG2R-La Mondiale, Russia, @ 2:32

Ricco takes the KoM lead with the double points on the final climb today, and takes over the white jersey lead on a day that was tough for Andy Schleck.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 14, 2008 in 2008 Stage 10, Alejandro Valverde, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christian Vande Velde, Damiano Cunego, Denis Menchov, Frank Schleck, Kim Kirchen, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stage 10: The climb to Hautacam

At the base of Hautacam, 24 riders are chasing Remy de Gregorio:

  • Evans, Silence-Lotto
  • Sastre, Cancellara, A. Schleck, F. Schleck, Voigt, CSC-Saxo Bank
  • Kirchen, Columbia
  • Duenas Nevado, Barloworld
  • Nibali, Liquigas
  • Fothen and Kohl, Gerolsteiner
  • Menchov and Freire, Rabobank
  • Ricco, Cobo and Piepoli, Saunier Duval
  • Vande Velde, Garmin-Chipotle
  • Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi
  • Dupont, Efimkin and Goubert, AG2R
  • Roy, Française des Jeux
  • Duque, Cofidis

Cancellara and Voigt are quickly dropped, Di Gregorio is swept up, and Piepoli attacks. Schleck matches, then Sastre tries a testing attack. Kirchen is dropped from the leaders group. Sastre caught and Fränk Schleck attacks, followed by Piepoli and Efimkin. Cadel Evans, Denis Menchov, and Christian Vandevelde, ride alongside Carlos Sastre, Cobo, and Kohl.

Kohl launches, matched by Cobo, and there goes Christian Vande Velde, riding away from Sastre, Evans, Menchov.

Valverde, already well behind the leaders, has a mechanical.

Vande Velde can't make it up to Schleck's group, and comes back to the Evans/Menchov group. Kohl and Cobo successfully bridge up to Piepoli, Schleck, and Efimkin.

Kirchen begins to make up time on the Evans group, and Evans attacks! It's not enough to drop his group, but it does increase the gap to Kirchen. Evans rides with Vande Velde, Menchov, Nibali, Sastre, and Ricco.

Up front, Schleck's group begins to splinter. Cobo launches off the front, and Piepoli and Schleck are the only riders who can bridge up.

Nibali yo-yoes off the back of the Evans group. Valverde and Cunego ride together, about 4:30 back of Piepoli, and abut 3:00 behind Sastre, Evans, Menchov, and Vande Velde. Kirchen is 1:00 down on Evans.

Schleck, who started the day 1:50 behind Evans in GC, has build enough of a gap that he's riding (barely) in the virtual yellow jersey, with less than 4km to ride.

In the final 3km, Cobo and Piepoli lift the pace, and Schleck can't match the teammates. They ride together to the finish, with Schleck alone, and the remnants of the Schleck group (Kohl, Efimkin) spread out back toward Evans.

At the line, it's Leonardo Piepoli taking the stage, with Cobo on his wheel, and Schleck about 26 seconds back. It's going to be close for Evans...

As the Evans group comes into the final km, Christian Vande Velde goes to the front and raises the pace, then Riccardo Ricco comes by. Evans bumps the tempo to hold contact, and the group holds together to the line, coming in at about 2:15, giving Evans the yellow jersey by 1 narrow second.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 14, 2008 in 2008 Stage 10, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christian Vande Velde, Denis Menchov, Frank Schleck, Leonardo Piepoli | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 13, 2008

Stage 9 on the road

You can follow these updates (and more) in near-real-time at Twitter.

Three riders went out with about 20 kilometers ridden, and have led since: Nicolas Jalabert of AG2R, Sebastian Lang of Gerolsteiner, and Aleksandr Kuschynski of Liquigas. They've collected the day's early premiums.

Sprint 1
1) Kuschynski +6 pts
2) Jalabert +4 pts
3) Lang +2 pts

Climb 1, 4th Category
1) Lang +3 pts
2) Kuschynski +2 pts
3) Nicolas Jalabert +1 pt

Climb 2, 4th Category
1) Lang +3 pts
2) Jalabert +2 pts
3) Kuschynski +1 pt

The gap went out to 14:20, but Euskaltel-Euskadi moved to the front of the peloton and have been slowly closing it down.

Climb 3, 4th Category Cote de Mane
1) Lang +3 pts
2) Jalabert, +2 pts
3) Kuschynski +1 pts

Sprint 2
1) Jalabert +6 pts
2) Kuschynski +4 pts
3) Lang +2 pts

Climb 4, 4th Category
1) Lang +3 pts
2) Kuschynski, +2 pts
3) Jalabert +1 pt

Cadel Evans was mixed up in a fall with Gorko Verdugo with around 111 km to ride. His jersey and shorts were torn, and his left elbow bleeding, but his team quickly gathered to shepherd him back to the field.

Climbing up to the Col des Ares, a 3rd Category climb, the gap is about 11 minutes to the 3 leaders.

Col des Ares, 3rd Category
1) Lang +4 pts
2) Kuschynski +3 pts
3) Jalabert +2 pts
4) Samuel Dumoulin, Cofidis, +1 pt

Dumoulin attacked from the field to deny David de la Fuente the opportunity to extend his lead in the polka-dot jersey competition over Dumoulin's teammate Sylvain Chavanel.

On the Col de la Peyresourde, the field was whittled down to around 40 riders, inclduing all the big contenders, while Lang, Kushcynski and Jalabert separated. Felix Cardenas of Barloworld tried an attack, but was quicly reeled back in. On the upper few kilometers, Maxime Monfort of Cofidis attacked, matched by current KoM David de la Fuente, who took 4th over the top of the Peyresourde to hold the jersey, pending results on the Col d'Aspin.

Col de Peyresourde, 1st Category
1) Lang +15 pts
2) Kuschynski +13 pts @ :40
3) Jalabert +11 pts @ 3:40
4) de la Fuente +9 pts @4:50
5) Monfort +8 pts same time
6) Luis Sanchez +7 pts @5:25
7) Mikel Astarloza +6 pts same time
8) Matteo Carrerra +5 pts s.t.

On the Col d'Aspin, a number of testing attacks went off, but nothing stuck until Saunier Duval's Riccardo Ricco turboed off the field, streaking past the chase groups, then Lang like he was in reverse.

Ricco is first to the top of the Col d'Aspin, collecting double points. Lang survives to take 2nd at the top, but the field is close behind.

Col d'Aspin, 1st Category 1) Riccardo Ricco +30
2) Sebastian Lang +26 @:35
3) Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner +22 @1:15
4) David de la Fuente +18 5) Vincenzo Nibali +16
6) Oscar Pereiro +14
7) Denis Menchov +12
8) Luis Sanchez +10

David de la Fuente saves his polka-dot jersey lead for at least one more night.

Ricco bombs the downhill. The peloton hasn't made a dent in his lead. A couple of attempted breaks from the chase failed, until AG2R's Vladimir Efimkin attacked through one, and slowly built a gap.

Ricco takes his 2nd stage, ahead of Efimkin.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 13, 2008 in 2008 Stage 9, Cadel Evans, Riccardo Ricco | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 08, 2008

Schumacher takes the time trial!

Classics specialist Stefan Schumacher of Gerolsteiner turned in a head-turning performance to dominate the Stage 4 time trial at the Tour.

Schumacher was the only man to go under 36:00 on the day, finishing in 35:44. Team Columbia's Kim Kirchen just edged Garmin-Chipotle's David Millar, both in 36:02 to round out the stage podium.

Stage 4 results
1. Stefan Schumacher, Gerolsteiner, Germany, 35:44
2. Kim Kirchen, Columbia, Luxembourg, 36:02
3. David Millar, Garmin-Chipotle, Great Britain, 36:02.53
4. Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, Australia, 36:11
5. Fabian Cancellara, CSC-Saxo Bank, Switzerland, 36:17.22
6. Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, 36:18.01
7. Jens Voigt, CSC-Saxo Bank, Germany, 36:19
8. Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Chipotle, USA, 36:21
9. George Hincapie, Columbia, USA, 36:25
10. Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, Italy, 36:31

Among the overall GC threats, Cadel Evans had the best day, finishing 4th on the day in 36:11, better than world champion Fabian Cancellara, who finished in 36:18. Denis Menchov showed he's here to win, only 7 seconds slower than Evans, while riding from a very early start, without benefit of many time checks.

Damian Cunego scored a 37:10, Alejandro Valverde a 37:18, while Carlos Sastre managed only a 37:27. Mauricio Soler, tipped by some as a longshot, must still be suffering from his accident on Stage 2, and was 161st on the day in 40:24, already 17:46 back of the race lead.

Overall standings mirror the stage finish, with Schumacher taking the overall race lead.

Overall after Stage 4:
1) Stefan Schumacher, Gerolsteiner, Germany, in 14:04:41
2) Kim Kirchen, Columbia, Luxembourg, @ :12
3) David Millar, Garmin-Chipotle, Great Britain, @ :12
4) Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, Australia, @ :21
5) Fabian Cancellara, CSC-Saxo Bank, Switzerland, @ :33
6) Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Chipotle, USA, @ :37
7) George Hincapie, Columbia, USA, @ :41
8) Thomas Lövkvist, Columbia, Sweden, @ :48
9) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, Italy, @ :58
10) José Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 1:01
11) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, @ 1:12

Columbia's Kirchen leads the green jersey competition, teammate Thomas Lövkvist leads in the white jersey competition, Thomas Voeckler holds the polka-dots, and Garmin-Chipotle extends its team competition lead, now leading Team Columbia.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 8, 2008 in 2008 Stage 4, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christian Vande Velde, Damiano Cunego, David Millar, Denis Menchov, Fabian Cancellara, George Hincapie, Mauricio Soler, Stefan Schumacher, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 05, 2008

Where are they from?

I always review the nationalities breakdown for the Tour, with a special eye toward the English-speaking countries. Here's last year's, for comparison.

USA
George Hincapie, Team Columbia
Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Chipotle
Will Frischkorn, Garmin-Chipotle
Danny Pate, Garmin-Chipotle

This is the least in years, with Freddie Rodriguez riding in the U.S., Bobby Julich not selected, Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer barred with Astana, and David Zabriskie nursing a back injury.

Australia
Baden Cooke, Barloworld
Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto
Simon Gerrans, Credit Agricole
Adam Hansen, Team Columbia
Brett Lancaster, Milram
Trent Lowe, Garmin-Chipotle
Robbie McEwen, Silence-Lotto
Stuart O'Grady, CSC-Saxo Bank
Mark Renshaw, Credit Agricole

Baden Cooke is back; Adam Hansen, Trent Lowe, and Mark Renshaw are new, and Michael Rogers is out.

Great Britain:
Mark Cavendish, Team Columbia
Christopher Froome, Barloworld
David Millar, Garmin-Chipotle

Out are Geraint Thomas, Bradley Wiggins and Charlie Wegelius. I've got Christopher Froome as being from Kenya, which isn't in the list below. Put him there, and Great Britain drops to just a pair.

New Zealand
Julian Dean, Garmin-Chipotle

As last year.

South Africa
Robbie Hunter, Barloworld
John-Lee Augustyn, Barloworld

Adds Augustyn.

Canada
Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Chipotle

First Canuck since 1997. Maybe Michael Barry will join him one year.

Here's the official breakdown, according to the Tour website:

40: France (2007 count in parentheses: 35)
30: Spain (42)
21: Italy (18)
16: Germany (19)
12: Belgium (13)
10: The Netherlands (7)
9: Australia (6)
4: USA (6), Russia (6) and Switzerland (5)
3: Colombia (3), Great Britain (5) and Luxembourg (2)
2: South Africa (1), Austria (3), Belarus (2), Norway (2), Sweden (1) and Ukraine (2)
1: Brazil (1), Canada (0), Denmark (1), Kazakhstan (4), New Zealand (1), Poland (0), Czech Republic (0), Slovakia (0) and Slovenia (1)

Spanish representation drops from 42 riders last year to 30 this year, with France jumping from 35 to 40.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2008 in About the Tour, Baden Cooke, Bobby Julich, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Chris Horner, Christian Vande Velde, Danny Pate, Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, Fred Rodriguez, George Hincapie, Julian Dean, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Robbie McEwen, Stuart O'Grady, Tom Danielson, Top Stories, Will Frischkorn | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Valverde makes a statement in Stage 1

Spanish champion Alejandro Valverde showed tremendous power in closing down late attacks by Kim Kirchen and Stefan Schumacher and smoking to the first stage victory and overall leadership.

Stage 1 Results and Overall Classification (updated)
1) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne
2) Philippe Gilbert, Française des Jeux, @ :01
3) Jerome Pineau, Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
4) Kim Kirchen, Team Columbia, s.t.
5) Riccardo Ricco, Saunier Duval-Scott, s.t.
6) Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, s.t.
7) Fränk Schleck, CSC-Saxo Bank, s.t.
8) Filippo Pozzato, Liquigas, s.t.
9) Oscar Freire, Rabobank, s.t.
10) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, s.t.

It's the first day in yellow for Valverde, in his 4th Tour. He also leads the green jersey competition, which Philippe Gilbert will wear tomorrow. Valverde made time on all the contenders, from 1 second on Evans, 7 on Sastre and Menchov, up to 3:04 on Mauricio Soler, who crashed late in the stage.

Thomas Voeckler takes the first King of the Mountains jersey, by finishing ahead of Bjorn Schroeder, with whom he's tied on points.

Riccardo Ricco is the first leader of the white jersey competition.

Lillian Jegou was awarded the red most combative race numbers for tomorrow.

First lanterne rouge is Aleksandr Kuschynski of Liquigas, 4:56 back.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2008 in Alejandro Valverde, Cadel Evans, Filippo Pozzato, Frank Schleck, Oscar Freire, Oscar Pereiro, Riccardo Ricco, Stage results, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 04, 2008

Final rosters and race numbers released

Tour de France 2008 | Riders' list

Silence-Lotto's Cadel Evans starts the 2008 with the big fat bullseye of race number 1 on his back. Evans was 2nd in last year's Tour, and organizers gave him the easiest number in the race to spot after prohibiting the Astana team of last year's race winner, Alberto Contador, from competing in this year's race.

Garmin-Chipotle's Danny Pate sits at the other end of the train, wearing rider number 199.

Mauricio Soler of Barloworld, the defending King of the Mountains, starts in “lucky” number 51.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 4, 2008 in Cadel Evans, Danny Pate, Mauricio Soler | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 29, 2007

Stage 20: Bennati the sprint, Contador the Tour

Lampre's Daniele Bennati disrupted Tom Boonen's leadout train, taking a big pull from Sebastien Rosseler up to victory on the Champs-Elysees.

Boonen was surrounded by the other green jersey hopefuls, and the leadout men were scrambled. Bennati found himself behind Rosseler, pulling hard, with about 250 meters to ride, and when Rosseler pulled off to his left, Bennati had an unimpeded line to the finish, and just hammered. Robbie Hunter went hard up the right, with Hushovd and Zabel in between, but it was Bennati on the line, ahead of Hushovd, Zabel, Hunter, and finally Boonen. It's Bennati's 2nd stage win after Stage 17.

The slight loss of points won't take the green jersey of Boonen's shoulders, so he'll finish in the final points lead with 2 stage wins.

Cadel Evans chose not to go hunting for bonus seconds, and he and Contador finished safely in the peloton, giving 24-year-old Alberto Contador his first overall Tour de France title. It's by far the closest Tour podium in history, eclipsing Stephen Roche's 1987 victory, where the 3rd-place rider, Jean-François Bernard, was 2:13 behind Roche.

Stage results
1) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, Italy, 3:51:03
2) Thor Hushovd, Credit Agricole, Norway, same time
3) Erik Zabel, Milram, Germany, s.t.
4) Robbie Hunter, Barloworld, South Africa, s.t.
5) Tom Boonen, Quick Step, Belgium, s.t.
6) Sebastian Chavanel, Française des Jeux, France, s.t.
7) Fabian Cancellara, CSC, Switzerland, s.t.
8) David Millar, Saunier Duval, Great Britain, s.t.
9) Robert Förster, Gerolsteiner, Germany, s.t.
10) Manuel Quinziato, Liquigas, Italy, s.t.

Overall final standings:
1) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, 91:00:26
2) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, @ :23
3) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, @ :31
4) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, @ 7:08
5) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ 8:17
6) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 11:37
7) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, @ 12:18
8) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, @ 12:25
9) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ 14:14
10) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 14:25

Contador becomes the first rider since Jan Ullrich in 1997 to take the white and yellow jerseys. Discovery Channel wins the team competition. Barloworld's Juan Mauricio Soler wins the King of the Mountains, and Euskaltel's Amets Txurruka was named the most agressive rider of the entier Tour.

Tom Boonen takes his first career overall green jersey.

It's another indicator of the arrival of a new generation of riders, as Contador, Soler, and Txurruka are 24, while Boonen is 26.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 29, 2007 in 2007 Stage 20, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Daniele Bennati, David Millar, Erik Zabel, Fabian Cancellara, Juan Mauricio Soler, Robbie Hunter, Tom Boonen, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Stage 20 on the road

It's the closest Tour de France final stage in history, with only 31 seconds between 1st and 3rd.

Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador is the golden boy, dressed in yellow and riding a yellow bike. Riding through the neutral zone, French national champion Christophe Moreau and the 4 jersey wearers (Contador, Tom Boonen in green, Mauricio Soler in polka-dots, and Amets Txurruka in white, where Contador and Soler lead the competition) go off the front of the field for pictures. Txurruka has also been named the most combative rider of the entire Tour.

VS. broadcaster picks:
Liggett: Boonen
Trautwig: Hushovd
Sherwen: Hunter
Roll: Contador

Sherwen has wrapped up the VS. competition.

We'll see whether Cadel Evans wants to contest today's stage. Levi Leipheimer won't attack his own teammate, and it's hard to see any way for him to make time on Evans without threatening Contador. CyclingNews.com yesterday reported on the possibility of a “spectacular” rider demonstration during the stage.

Should the gaps hold, we'll have the closest podium in Tour history. The current closest was in 1987, when Stephen Roche beat Pedro Delgado by :40 and Jean-François Bernard by 2:13. Also close was Greg Lemond's final win in 1990, where he beat Claudio Chiappucci by 2:16 with Erik Breukink at 2:29. (In 1989, when Lemond beat Fignon by :08, Delgado was 3rd at 3:34.)

We've got two 4th Category climbs before the first intermediate sprints, where those all important bonus seconds are on offer.

1st climb, Cote de Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuse, 4th Category:
1) Gert Steegmans, Quick Step, +3 pts
2) Thomas Lovkvist, Française des Jeux, +2 pts
3) Frederick Willems, Liquigas, +1 pt

Gert Steegmans has launched a campaign to win the King of the Mountains jersey. Unfortunately, it looks as if Tom Boonen's big leadout man may have waited a bit too long.

2nd climb, a 4th Category:
1) Gert Steegmans, Quick Step, +3 pts
2) Michael Albasini, Liquigas, +2 pts
3) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, +1 pt

And that does it for the KoM competition for the year. Just two intermediate sprints and the finish on the Champs-Elysees are left.

So, will he or won't he? The big question as the race approaches the Châtenay-Malabry intermediate sprint is whether Cadel Evans will be hunting for bonus seconds on the course. Discovery Channel puts 3 men at the front of the field, and Evans moves up near the front, while Quick Step, protecting the green jersey of Tom Boonen, has 4 men up front.

With a kilometer to the line, Quick Step's Carlos Barredo and Steven de Jongh ride off the front of the field to take the points (and therefore the bonus seconds) off the board. Française des Jeux's Lilian Jegou tries to bridge up, and as the line nears, he comes around the Quick Steps, who don't contest the sprint. Evans stays in the field. Looks like he's content with 2nd.

1st intermediate sprint:
1) Lilian Jegou, Française des Jeux, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Carlos Barredo, Quick Step, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Steven de Jongh, Quick Step, +2 pts/2 secs

Coming onto the Champs-Elysees, Discovery Channel moves to the front, and it's George Hincapie, who may switch teams in the off-season, who leads the field onto the finishing laps, ahead of the 8 surviving Discovery Channel riders.

Agritubel's Freddy Bichot launches the first real attack of the stage, quickly matched by Chris Horner. They're pulled back.

A big group gets away with 40 kilometers to ride. It's Caisse d'Epargne's José Ivan Gutierrez and Nicolas Portal, Rabobank's Juan Antonio Flecha, Milram's Christian Knees, AG2R's Simon Gerrans, Lampre's Alessandro Ballan, Liquigas' Maurilo Fischer, Credit Agricole's Anthony Charteau, Gerolsteiner's Ronny Scholz, and Française des Jeux's Mickael Delage. Flecha's a former stage winner, and Fischer a sprint specialist. Their gap quickly grows to around 30 seconds, and they take the points at the 2nd intermediate sprint.

2nd intermediate sprint:
1) Gerrans, AG2R, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Ballan, Lampre, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Portal, Caisse d'Epargne +2 pts/2 secs

Barloworld, looking to set up Robbie Hunter for a 2nd sprint stage win, moves to the front to bring the 10 men back, but to little effect, and with 3 laps to ride, the gap was out to :45.

Finally, Credit Agricole joined in the chase, and the lead started to fall. With 15 kms to ride, the gap was 30 seconds. With 9 kms/5.5 miles to ride, it was 18 seconds. With 7.5 kilometers to ride, Gutierrez attacked from the leaders group, matched by Flecha, avoiding the recapture of the 8 surviving members of the escape group, but they were quickly overtaken, and the field rode as one with 5.5 kilometers to the finish.

Lampre moved to the front, trying to set up Daniele Bennati for the win, and all the sprinters' teams started to try to set up their lead-outs. As they came back up out of the tunnel and onto the finishing straight with 250 meters to go, Lampre had a man at the front, Quick Step had a lead-out behind him, Robbie Hunter was set up ahead of Tom Boonen, and here we go! Hunter swings way to his right, Bennati is the man behind the Quick Step leadout, and he's got an unimpeded line, going hard, there comes Zabel, Huter's going hard, here comes Hushovd, where's Boonen, and it's Bennati taking the stage!

Bennati leads Hushovd then Zabel, Hunter and Boonen to take his 2nd stage win of the 2007 Tour.

Back in the field, there are no time gaps, no miracle attacks by Cadel Evans, and Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador has nailed down the overall victory in the Tour de France at 24!

Posted by Frank Steele on July 29, 2007 in 2007 Stage 20, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Daniele Bennati, George Hincapie, Tom Boonen | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2007

Stage 18: Casar outsmarts the veterans

Française des Jeux's Sandy Casar showed some brilliant tactics in winning the Tour's 18th stage, into Angoulême. With 3 kms to ride, Casar split from his 3 breakaway companions, going left around some traffic furniture when they went right, and just hammering until he was reeled in with a little more than 1 kilometers to ride.

Rabobank's Michael Boogerd was ideally situated, riding behind Casar, monitoring T-Mobile's Axel Merckx and Bouygues Telecom's Laurent Lefevre, but while Boogerd watched his back, Casar launched off the front, as Merckx gave his all to the right, and Boogerd couldn't respond.

It's Casar's first stage win, after 3 career 2nd places, including a very narrow loss to Cedric Vasseur back on Stage 10.

For Boogerd and Merckx, it was likely their final chance at a Tour stage win, with an ITT tomorrow, and the final stage Sunday likely to be controlled by the sprinters' teams. Both are retiring, with Merckx possibly doing so Sunday.

Tom Boonen extended his points jersey lead by leading in the field for 5th on the day, just ahead of Robbie Hunter.

A gap in the field cost yellow jersey Alberto Contador 3 seconds, seconds he can ill afford before tomorrow's time trial showdown with Predictor-Lotto's Cadel Evans.

Top 10:
1) Sandy Casar, Française des Jeux, France
2) Axel Merckx, T-Mobile, Belgium, at :01
3) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, France, same time
4) Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, Netherlands, s.t.
5) Tom Boonen, Quick Step, Belgium, at 8:34
6) Robbie Hunter, Barloworld, South Africa, same time
7) Erik Zabel, Milram, Germany, s.t.
8) Sebastien Chavanel, Française des Jeux, s.t.
9) Bernhard Eisel, T-Mobile, Austria, s.t.
10) Thor Hushovd, Credit Agricole, Norway, s.t.

Overall Standings after Stage 18:
1) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, in 86:04:16
2) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, at 1:50
3) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at 2:49
4) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 6:02
5) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel, Spain, at 6:29
6) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 10:18
7) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, at 11:36
8) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukrain, at 12:47
9) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, Colombia, at 13:31
10) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel, Spain, at 13:42

Posted by Frank Steele on July 27, 2007 in 2007 Stage 18, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 25, 2007

Stage 16: Rasmussen unstoppable

Rasmussen  wins on AubisqueAlternate title: Chicken Run 4: The Dane, in Spain, derails Discovery's train

Michael Rasmussen took full ownership of this Tour de France today, outriding the entire field and pushing his overall lead out to more than 3 minutes on Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador.

It looked like Discovery Channel had played their cards to perfection. On the day's last climb, Yaroslav Popovych absolutely slayed an elite group that had been riding with Rasmussen, leaving three Discos in a 5-man group: Popovych, Leipheimer and Contador vs. Rasmussen and Cadel Evans. His job done, Popovych fell away, and Contador and Leipheimer looked to make the race.

Each would attack Rasmussen, who repeatedly led the other Disco and Evans back onto the attacker's wheel. Late in the climb, Leipheimer looked cracked, and the field was whittled down to three, then two as Evans couldn't stay with probably the two strongest climbers in this year's Tour.

I say probably, because Barolworld's Juan Mauricio Soler, who had taken the lead in the King of the Mountains competition while riding in an early breakaway, was gaining time on Contador and Rasmussen and passing men who had earlier dropped him.

Back on the front, Leipheimer somehow scratched his way past Evans and back up to the leaders, and even launched an attack when he got there, but none of the trio wanted to attack as the stage wound down into its last kilometers. Then, with just over 1 kilometer to the summit, Rasmussen put on a yellow-jersey worthy display, dropping the Discos, and riding solo to the summit of the Col d'Aubisque for his second stage win of this Tour and 4th ever.

Leipheimer shepherded Contador briefly, then made haste to try to gain some time on Cadel Evans, currently sitting on the bottom step of the podium, where Leipheimer wants to be in Paris. He finished 26 seconds back, and picks up some bonus time, so he now sits 4th overall, :56 behind Evans.

Carlos Sastre, who went in a long early breakaway with Soler, takes the most aggressive rider recognition, while Soler takes over the King of the Mountains competition lead.

Stage 16 Top 10:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, in 6:23:21
2) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at :25
3) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, at :35
4) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Astralia, at :43
5) Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, Colombia, at 1:25
6) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, at 1:52
7) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval-Prodir, Spain, at 1:54
8) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 2:12
9) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 2:27
10) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, same time

Overall Standings after Stage 16:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark
2) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, at 3:10
3) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, at 5:03
4) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at 5:59
5) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 9:12
6) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, in 9:39
7) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 13:28
8) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, at 14:46
9) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, at 16:00
10) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, at 16:41

Posted by Frank Steele on July 25, 2007 in 2007 Stage 16, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Juan Mauricio Soler, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Stage 16 on the road

It's here. The ultimate Mountain Showdown of the 2007 Tour. Michael Rasmussen is looking to survive without losing time on a stage that looks made for him. Alberto Contador seems likely to attack on the day's last climb, using that explosive jump to break Rasmussen and move up at least within striking distance.

Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer, who haven't looked quite as strong, need to find some time, but that's going to be hard with the support Rasmussen has been getting from Denis Menchov, Michael Boogerd, and Thomas Dekker, and perhaps complicated for Leipheimer by Contador's position in 2nd overall.

It's a 218.5-km stage, with two hors categorie climbs, a 3rd-Category, and two 1st Category. The race will visit Spain, so look for the roads to be swathed in orange-clad fans.

Racing kicked off early, with 4 riders getting almost 9 minutes: Stephane Auge (Cofidis), Vincente Garcia-Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Christophe Rinero (Saunier Duval).

At the day's first sprint:
1) Christophe Rinero, Saunier Duval, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Stephane Auge, Cofidis, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel, +2 pts/2 secs

On the day's first climb, the HC Port de Larrau, Cardenas and Soler of Barloworld went right to the front and decimated the field. Yaroslav Popovych, Manuel Beltran, and most notably Carlos Sastre hooked on and rode away from the yellow jersey group. Iban Mayo saw the move and bridged to Soler and Sastre. Sergio Paulinho of Discovery also tried a move, but he and Popovych fell back to the yellow jersey group. Michael Rasmussen climbed with Dekker, Boogerd, and Menchov.

1st Climb, Port de Larrau (HC)
1) Vicente Garcia-Acosta, Caisse d'Epargne +20 pts
2) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel, +18 pts
3) Rinero, Saunier Duval, +16 pts, at :55
4) Stephane Auge, Cofidis, +14 pts, at 1:05
5) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, +12 pts, at 3:05
6) Carlos Sastre, CSC, +10 pts
7) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, +8 pts
8) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, +7 pts, at 4:35
9) Thomas Dekker, Rabobank, +6 pts
10) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, +5 pts

Next up, the little 3rd Category Alto Laza climb, where again Garcia-Acosta leads Verdugo to the line. Riders continue to catch onto the back of the yellow jersey group.

2nd Climb, 3rd Category Alto Laza
1) Vicente Garcia-Acosta, Caisse d'Epargne +4 pts
2) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel, +3 pts
3) Stephane Auge, Cofidis, +2 pts, at 2:00
4) Rinero, Saunier Duval, +1 pt, at 2:10

Next up the Col de la Pierre St. Martin, a 1st Category. The leaders mostly coalesced into a group including Soler, Sastre, Verdugo, Garcia-Acosta, and Mayo, with Auge and Rinero suffering between those 5 and Rasmussen's group. At the summit, Jens Voigt (of all people) sprints out of the yellow jersey group to deny Rasmussen mountain points.

3rd Climb, the 1st Category Col de la Pierre St. Martin
1) Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, +15 pts
2) Carlos Sastre, CSC, +13 pts
3) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel, +11 pts
4) Vincente Garcia-Acosta, Caisse d'Epargne, +9 pts
5) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, +8 pts
6) Stephane Auge, Cofidis, +7 pts, at 3:55
7) Christophe Rinero, Saunier Duval, +6 pts, at 4:10
8) Jens Voigt, CSC, +5 pts, at 4:50

Rasmussen's group arrived at 4:55. At this point, Soler would take over the lead in the King of the Mountains competition, but the 1st Category Col de Marie Blanque and the HC Col d'Aubisque (with points doubled) remain.

Again on the Marie-Blanque, Rabobank kept the pace high enough to discourage attacks, and brought back more than 2 minutes of the Sastre group's lead.

4th climb, the 1st Category Col de Marie Blanque
1) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, +15 pts
2) Carlos Sastre, CSC +13 pts
3) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, +11 pts
4) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +9 pts
5) Vicente Garcia-Acosta, Caisse d'Epargne, +8 pts, at 1:25
6) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, +7 pts, at 2:25
7) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, +6 pts
8) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, +5 pts

Rasmussen's group amounted to only 12 at the climb; a few will likely chase back on the descent before the Col d'Aubisque.

Rabobank continued to reel in Sastre, whose group survived through the day's last intermediate sprint at around 200kms ridden.

2nd (final) intermediate sprint:
1) Sastre, CSC, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Soler, Barloworld, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Mayo, Saunier Duval, +2 pts/2 secs

It looks like that will be all Sastre takes away from today's breakaway - the gap is down to 40 seconds. Menchov and Boogerd still shepherd Rasmussen as the riders hit the day's final climb, the Col d'Aubisque, with about 16 kilometers/10 miles to ride.

Sastre refuses to be captured, and attacks out of his group. Soler and Mayo match him, then Soler can't hang, and Mayo crosses the gap to rejoin Sastre. Sastre and Mayo got their gap almost out to a minute, but as Menchov and Horner fell out of the yellow jersey group, Yaroslav Popovych brought the pain at the front of the group.

Through his efforts, the group was whittled down to only Popo, Contador and Leipheimer from Discovery Channel, Cadel Evans, and Michael Rasmussen. Popovych faded with 9.5 kilometers/6.1 miles to ride.

Leipheimer then moved to the front, and he and Contador took turns attacking Rasmussen. Each would get 10-20 meters, then Rasmussen would tow his teammate and Evans back up to his wheel. At one point, Leipheimer fell away, leaving Contador, Rasmussen and Evans, who was struggling to match the climbers. Finally, Evans fell away.

Leipheimer caught and passed Evans, then started to claw back the advantage of Contador and Rasmussen. Back in the field, Soler was making great time, and eventually would pass Sastre, to move into 5th on the course.

Rasmussen grew more and more distracted by the race motorcycles, which he apparently thought were providing the Discos a draft, but over the last 4 kilometers or so, the Discovery Channel duo looked content to ride with Rasmussen, refraining from attacks. Are they saving one of Contador's vicious strikes for the final stretch of the day?

Just outside the last kilometer, Rasmussen went hard, and Leipheimer and Contador had to watch him ride away. Leipheimer briefly squired Contador toward the line, then rode away in search of time that might move him nearer the Tour podium, as Evans chased solo :45 behind the leaders.

Rasmussen comes to the line, looks back to make sure, zips the jersey, and takes his 2nd stage win of this Tour, and more importantly closes the books on the Tour's high mountain stages with a healthy gap on 2nd place Alberto Contador.

Leipheimer came in 2nd, 26 seconds back, with Contador 3rd at :35.


Posted by Frank Steele on July 25, 2007 in 2007 Stage 16, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 24, 2007

'Jesus Christ, I'm speechless': Vinokourov positive, Astana out

Vinokourov's bodyguard packs to leave TourRTE Sport | Vinokourov fails dope test

Astana leader Alexandre Vinokourov apparently tested positive for homologous blood doping (receiving a transfusion of someone else's blood) after Saturday's time trial victory, and the entire Astana team has withdrawn from the Tour immediately.

David Millar was in the midst of a press conference when the news spread. Asked about the story, he said, “Jesus Christ, I'm speechless. It makes me sad. I have the impression the riders will never understand.”

From an AP story in the International Herald Tribune:

A senior French anti-doping official confirmed to The Associated Press that there was a positive test for a blood transfusion taken from a rider at the Tour on Saturday, but said he didn't know the name of the cyclist involved. He said the test found two different types of blood, one from the rider, one from a donor.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made.

The B-sample will be tested, but Astana policy is that riders are suspended immediately on notification of a positive A-sample. Astana management notified Tour officials, who “invited the team to withdraw.”

Vinokourov would be the first rider positive for homologous doping since Tyler Hamilton and Santiago Perez in 2004.

Also:

L'Equipe | Vinokourov positif

Once again, L'Equipe breaks a doping story from Châtenay-Malabry's lab.

cyclingnews.com | Vinokourov positive for transfusion, Astana quits Tour

VeloNews | News Flash: Vinokourov tests positive; Astana withdraws from Tour

spare cycles | Welcome to the post-Astana order

Ken Conley looks at who stands to gain from Vino's ejection and Astana's withdrawal from the Tour. Notably, Cadel Evans would take the stage win from Saturday's ITT, and Kim Kirchen for yesterday. I bet Zubeldia would have sprinted it out if he had known the stage win was up for grabs yesterday. Tour officials haven't yet announced any action resulting from Vinokourov's positive.

cyclingnews.com | Millar speaks out on Vinokourov

Times Online | Change of gear for sport of lost souls (July 8, 2007)

Paul Kimmage reports on his questioning (back in London) of Vinokourov on his relationship with Michele Ferrari.

VeloNews.com | Police search Astana vehicles and hotel

Posted by Frank Steele on July 24, 2007 in Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Doping, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (33)

July 23, 2007

Stage 15 on the road

VS. broadcaster picks:
Roll: Schleck
Liggett: Klöden
Trautwig: Contador
Sherwen: Valverde

The early story is the big 25-man breakaway including a couple of former GC candidates. Denis Menchov of Rabobank is there, as is Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana). George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) and Christian Vande Velde and Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC) are here, as are Caisse d'Epargne's David Arroyo, Euskaltel's Haimar Zubeldia, Inigo Landaluze and Ruben Perez; T-Mobile's Kim Kirchen; FdJeux's Benoit Vaugrenard; Quick Step's Juan Manuel Garate; Saunier Duval's Juan José Cobo; Bouygues Telecom's Laurent Lefevre and Johann Tschopp; AG2R's Ludovic Turpin; Liquigas' Michael Albasini; Patrice Halgand of Credit Agricole, Daniele Bennati and Patxi Vila of Lampre; Bernhard Kohl of Gerolsteiner; Christian Knees of Milram; Vino's Astana teammates Serguei Ivanov and Daniel Navarro.

2nd Category Col de Port:
1) Juan Mañuel Garate, Quick Step, +10 pts
2) Johan Tschopp, Bouygues Telecom, +9pts
3) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel, +8 pts
4) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval, +7 pts
5) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, +6 pts
6) Stephane Goubert, AG2R, +5 pts

1st Intermediate Sprint:
1) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Serguei Ivanov, Astana, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, +2 pts/2 secs

2nd Category Col de Portet d'Aspet:
1) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, +10 pts
2) Patrice Halgand, Credit Agricole, +9 pts
3) Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step, +8 pts
4) Serguei Ivanov, Astana, +7 pts
5) Ruben Perez, Euskaltel, +6 pts

The 25 have led the way over the day's first two climbs, but today's sting is in the tail, as we finish with a 1st Category, then the hors categorie Port de Bales, then the Col de Peyresourde. It's not a mountaintop finish -- there's a descent of almost 12 kilometers after the top of Col de Peyresourde.

The gap is just under 8 minutes, with 108 kilometers/67 miles ridden and 88 kilometers/55 miles to go.

On the way up the Col de Mente, Rabobank continues to lead the peloton, and the gap is up around 8:29. Near the summit, Juan Manuel Garate outsprinted Laurent Lefevre for max points.

1st Category Col de Mente
1) Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step, +15 pts
2) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, +13pts
3) Patrice Halgand, Credit Agricole, +11 pts
4) Daniel Bennati, Lampre, +9 pts
5) Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, +8 pts
6) Juan Jose Cobo, Saunier Duval, +7 pts
7) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel, +6 pts
8) Christian Knees, Milram, +5 pts

2nd (final) Intermediate Sprint, Marignac
1) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Kurt-Asle Arvesen, CSC, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Benoit Vaugrenard, Française des Jeux +2 pts/2 secs

Just before the start of the HC climb, 5 riders rode away from the 25-man breakaway: Inigo Landaluze of Euskaltel, David Arroyo of Caisse e'Epargne, Johan Tschopp of Bouyges Telecom, Serguei Ivanov of Astana, and Bernhard Kohl of Gerolsteiner quickly built a lead of more than a minute to the 20 other break survivors, and 8:20 to the peloton.

On the climb, everything splintered. Kirchen bridged to the leaders, then Vinokourov attacked, again splitting the lead breakaway, and briefly catching the inital split. Riding with Vinokourov were Menchov, Turpin, Zubeldia, Cobo, and Garate. This group caught the initial attack, then fractured. Tschopp, Kirchen and Arroyo went off the front, while Vinokourov's group shed riders.

Back in the peloton, the pace and the climb cooked Pereiro, Moreau, and others. Rasmussen's group looked much like it did yesterday: Evans, Leipheimer, Contador, Soler, Boogerd, Mayo, Sastre, Chris Horner, Frank Schleck, Michael Boogerd, and a few others. Klöden and Kashechkin ride just behind.

Freddie Rodriguez abandoned today on the road.

Port de Bales (HC)
1) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, +20 pts
2) David Arroyo, Caisse d'Epargne, +18 pts
3) Johan Tschopp, Bouygues Telecom, +16 pts
4) Juan Mañuel Garate, Quick Step,+14 pts, at :45
5) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +12 pts
6) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval, +10 pts
7) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, +8 pts
8) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, +7 pts
9) Ludovic Turpin, AG2R, +6 pts
10) Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, +5 pts, @1:35

On the descent, with Rasmussen: Boogerd, Contador, Popovych, Leipheimer, Evans, Horner, Mayo, Soler, Klöden, Kashechkin, Sastre, Schleck, Astarloza, Valverde. Others are joining, and Denis Menchov has slipped back to help Rasmussen on the final climb.

Vinokourov attacked at the base of the Peyresourde, matched by Zubeldia, Garate, and Cobo, and they're only 20 seconds behind Arroyo and Kirchen. Garate's dropped. Vinokourov kept attacking, and only Cobo could match, and the pair have caught Kirchen and Arroyo, as the 4 riders lead the race, while the yellow jersey rides 7:15 back.

Zubeldia rides back up to Vinokourov, and in the yellow jersey group, Yaroslav Popovych has attacked off the front. Moreau has caught back on to the yellow jersey group.

Vino goes again, and Kirchen can't match the new pace. Vino sits up, and Kirchen rejoins Cobo, Zubeldia, Arroyo, and Vino.

As they near the steepest part of the Peyresourde, Zubeldia attacks from Vino's group, Cobo drags Vino back to him, and Vino goes hard again! He quickly gets a gap, Kirchen is dropped. Vinokourov rides alone, with Cobo and Zubeldia chasing less than 20 seconds behind. Vinokourov would die before he would be caught on this descent. He's flying.

Back in the field, Contador attacks, Rasmussen slowly matches, but he's working hard. Contador gets a gap, but Rasmussen slowly pulls it back. Evans, Klöden, Sastre, Leipheimer, Astarloza can't handle this pace on the climb, and fall back.

Contador and Rasmussen ride alone toward the summit. Contador launches a couple of tests, but Rasmussen matches every one. As Contador and Rasmussen reach the summit, there's George Hincapie, waiting to escort Contador to the finish, and maybe gap Rasmussen.

Hincapie nails the descent. There's still a small rise at about 2k to go -- Will Contador try to get time on the finish? He does! He attacks again, and Hincapie falls away, but Rasmussen again is able to match his move.

Vinokourov comes to the line with a healthy victory margin, after an epic stage win.

More than 5 minutes later, Contador and Rasmussen came to the line, with Contador leading. They tripped the lights at 5:25, with Leipheimer, Klöden, Sastre, Valverde, and Evans more than a minute behind at 6:27.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 23, 2007 in 2007 Stage 15, Alberto Contador, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Chris Horner, Christian Vande Velde, Christophe Moreau, Denis Menchov, Filippo Pozzato, Frank Schleck, George Hincapie, Haimar Zubeldia, Iban Mayo, Juan Mauricio Soler, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Oscar Pereiro, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 22, 2007

Stage 14: Contador opens Tour account

Travel day yesterday, so I'm catching up tonight.

Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador took an aggressive stage win as the Tour moves into the Pyrenees, and elevated himself from 1 of 10 candidates to win this year's Tour to one of the two favorites.

Contador, just 24 and riding in the white jersey of the race's best-placed young rider, waited as teammate Yaroslav Popovych reduced the group riding with race leader Michael Rasmussen, then launched a blistering attack, initially answered by Rasmussen and Evans, that only Rasmussen could ultimately match. By doing so, Rasmussen moved one stage nearer a possible win in Paris, and Contador took his 1st career Tour stage win.

Many of the pre-race favorites lost buckets of time today: Alexandre Vinokourov, who won on Saturday, lost 28:50 to Contador today. Christophe Moreau lost 34:52. Iban Mayo lost 9:31. A few riders managed to limit their losses to Rasmussen and Contador, who dominated the field today: Juan Mauricio Soler, riding in his 1st Tour, lost only 37 seconds; Levi Leipheimer and Carlos Sastre were close behind.

Evans finished with Andreas Klöden at 1:52. Caisse d'Epargne's two leaders, Oscar Pereiro and Alejandro Valverde, finished together at 3:45.

A lot of discussion has resulted from a brief discussion between Contador and Rasmussen in the climb's last kilometers. Rasmussen came up to Contador, and Contador pointed to himself twice. The riders differ on the discussion: Contador said Rasmussen promised the stage win for Contador's cooperation to the finish, while Rasmussen echoed Lance Armstrong: “This is the Tour de France -- you don't give any presents here.”

Possibly the dumbest move of the day came from Saunier Duval, which sent David Millar to set a fast pace few riders could match, only to find team leader Iban Mayo was among the riders who couldn't.

Stage 14 Top 20:
1) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, in 5:25:48
2) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, same time
3) Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, Colombia, at :37
4) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at :40
5) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at :53
6) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, at 1:52
7) Cadel Evans, Predictor - Lotto, Australia, same time
8) Antonio Colom, Astana, Spain, at 2:23
9) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, same time
10) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, at 3:06
11) Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, Netherlands, same time 
12) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel - Euskadi, Spain, s.t.
13) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 3:45
14) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, same time
15) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, s.t.
16) Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, Austria, s.t.
17) David Arroyo, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 3:47
18) José Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 4:04
19) Amets Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, same time
20) John Gadret, AG2R, France, at 4:48

Major changes in the GC; Rasmussen gets a cushion on everyone but Contador.

Overall Standings after Stage 14:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, in 64:12:15
2) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, at 2:23
3) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, at 3:04
4) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at 4:29
5) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, at 4:38
6) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 5:50
7) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, at 6:58
8) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 8:25
9) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, at 9:45
10) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, at 10:55
11) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 11:01
12) Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, Colombia, at 11:31
13) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, at 12:15
14) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, at 13:16
15) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d'Epargne, Russia, at 14:58
16) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, Spain, at 15:31
17) Chris Horner, Predictor-Lotto, USA, at 17:23
18) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, at 18:57
19) David Arroyo, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 19:19
20) José Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 19:33

Posted by Frank Steele on July 22, 2007 in 2007 Stage 14, Alberto Contador, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Chris Horner, David Millar, Denis Menchov, Haimar Zubeldia, Iban Mayo, Juan Mauricio Soler, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Top Stories, Vladimir Karpets, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stage 14 on the road

The race enters a new phase, as yesterday's TT reorganized the standings, creating some interesting tactical possibilities.

Race leader Michael Rasmussen has to be glad to have escaped with the yellow jersey, but looks like he has to find more time in the Pyrenees before the Tour's 2nd individual time trial. Valverde, Mayo, and Sastre must also look for time after disappointing TTs, while Vinokourov must look for more time despite an awesome TT.

Astana and Discovery Channel both have 3 riders within 8 minutes of the overall lead, one of them -- Yaroslav Popovych -- apparently chasing the King of the Mountains title. Discovery Channel looks more likely to switch off leaders than Astana (would Astana really let Klöden win while Vinokourov is still in the race?), which may give them more options in the mountains.

VS. broadcast picks
Sherwen: Contador
Liggett: Rasmussen
Roll: Vinokourov
Trautwig: Klöden

1st climb, the 2nd Category Cote de St. Saraille:
1) David De La Fuente, Saunier Duval, +10 pts
2) Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, +9 pts
3) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, +8 pts
4) Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step, +7 pts
5) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel, +6 pts
6) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, +5 pts

Soler moves into a tie atop the King of the Mountains standings, for now.

A 6-man breakaway formed about 30 kilometers into the stage, just as Predictor-Lotto reeled in a 26-rider escape that included race leader Michael Rasmussen. In the breakaway are Ruben Perez and Amets Txurruka of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Antonio Colom of Astanta, Aleksandr Kuschynski of Liquigas, José Ivan Gutierrez of Caisse d'Epargne, and Carlos Barredo of Quick Step. Their gap went out as high as 11:20.

1st intermediate sprint:
1) Aleksandr Kuschynski, Liquigas, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Ruben Perez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Jose Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, +2 pts/2 secs

2nd intermediate sprint:
1) Carlos Barredo, Quick Step, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Aleksandr Kuschynski, Liquigas, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Jose Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, +2 pts/2 secs

With the Port de Pailheres looming, the peloton has brought the leaders back to 9:45. The gap continued to fall, and on the climb, David Millar set a tempo that quickly shed riders from the yellow jersey group. Tom Boonen and Thor Hushovd were predictable early exits, but Christophe Moreau fell back just after Boonen.

Late in the climb, yesterday's hero, Alexandre Vinokourov was dropped. He briefly visited the race doctor and rode with teammate Daniel Navarro. Near the top, Saunier Duval's leader, Iban Mayo was dropped, but may chase back onto the field on the descent.

The breakaway survived over the top of the Port de Pailheres, and Juan Mauricio Soler, racing in a borrowed King of the Mountains jersey that rightfully belongs to Michael Rasmussen, sprinted ahead of the select group to take 10 points at the summit. Rasmussen moved to the lead of his group to be next across, taking 8 points.

HC Port de Pailheres
1) Ruben Perez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +20 pts
2) Amets Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +18 pts
3) Antonio Colom, Astana, +16 pts
4) José Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, +14 pts
5) Carlos Barredo, Quick Step, +12 pts, @1:05
6) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, +10 pts, @ 2:45
7) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, +8 pts - @ 2:55
8) Thomas Dekker, Rabobank, +7 pts
9) Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, +6 pts
10) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, +5 pts

Vinokourov crossed the summit 8:16 behind Perez.

On the descent, Mayo, Hincapie and Popovych caught back onto the leading group.

As the group started up Plateau de Beille, Ruben Perez quickly fell off the lead group, then Carlos Barredo, who battled on and off the leaders.

Meanwhile, George Hincapie spent miles leading the 40-strong yellow jersey group. On the Plateau de Beille, Rabobank briefly led, and then Yaroslav Popovych just redlined the front of the group, and riders started to fall.

Valverde, Pereiro, and Mayo were among the first dropped. Then Denis Menchov and Michael Boogerd, leaving Rasmussen without teammates. Only 9 riders remained: Popovych, Rasmussen, Soler, Sastre, Contador, Leipheimer, Evans, Kashechkin, and Klöden, and Klöden looked to be suffering at the back. Klöden was finally gapped.

After reeling in José Ivan Gutierrez from the early break, Popovych was done, and Levi Leipheimer attacked, quickly matched, and Contador hit the turbos, and Sastre matched the attack, but Kashechkin was dropped.

As Txurruka was caught, Rasmussen attacked, matched by Contador and Evans, and the survivors were split into 2 trios: Rasmussen/Contador/Evans and Sastre/Soler/Leipheimer. Sastre pulled the group back together, then Soler went hard. Rasmussen sprinted up to him, then Contador and Evans, and finally Sastre and Leipheimer.

Soler attacked again, and Contador attacked past the Colombian, Sastre passed Soler, Rasmussen and Evans came by. Leipheimer struggled back onto the tail, and Contador hit the turbos, quickly gaining 30-40 meters. Rasmussen and Evans tried to cross to Contador, but Sastre and Soler were gapped, and Leipheimer yet another gap behind.

Evans couldn't stay with Rasmussen, and Rasmussen captured Contador, only about 30 seconds behind Antonio Colom, last survivor of the early breakaway. Evans, Leipheimer, Sastre, and Soler worked briefly together. Then Sastre attacked, and Evans was parboiled. Leipheimer and Soler matched CSC's leader. Leipheimer refused to work with Sastre with a teammate up the road.

With Colom captured, it appeared the stage win would go to Contador or Rasmussen, but then Soler attacked into the :25 gap. Rasmussen wanted the stage win, but Contador sat in the draft, wisely letting Ras do the work for a larger GC gap, and conserving his energy for the finish.

With about a kilometer to ride, Leipheimer dropped Sastre, chasing Soler. As the leaders came to the line, Contador sprinted around Rasmussen to take the stage win.

Soler was 3rd, just a little ahead of Leipheimer, while Sastre was 5th at about :52. Klöden and Evans finished around 1:52.

A sign of the day's high pace: Only about 20 riders finished within 20 minutes of Contador. Vinokourov appears not to have been among them.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 22, 2007 in Alberto Contador, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Juan Mauricio Soler, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 21, 2007

Stage 13 ITT: Vino, Astana awesome in Albi

Vinokourov not out of the Tour yetAstana's Alexandre Vinokourov smoked the first long time trial of the 2007 Tour, and his Astana team nearly took all three podium places.

Vinokourov, with only his right knee bandaged, led at every time check by healthy margins to clock a 1:06:34.

Predictor-Lotto's Cadel Evans slotted in 2nd, 1:14 back, ahead of Vinokourov's teammates Andreas Klöden, at 1:39, and Andrey Kashechkin, at 1:44.

Bradley Wiggins of Cofidis set the early standard and finished 5th, at 2:14.

Michael Rasmussen of Rabobank rode a creditable TT, passing his 3-minute man, Alejandro Valverde, and finishing 11th on the day to retain the yellow jersey.

For Valverde and Mayo, starting the day in 2nd and 3rd, it was a disastrous day: Mayo was 6:04 slower than Vino, Valverde 6:08 down on the stage winner.

Top 20:
1) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, Kazakhstan, in 1:06:34
2) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, @ 1:14
3) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, @ 1:39
4) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, @ 1:44
5) Bradley Wiggins, Cofidis, Great Britain, @ 2:14
6) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, @ 2:16
7) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, @ 2:18
8) Sylvain Chavanel, Cofidis, France, @ 2:38
9) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, @ 2:39
10) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ 2:42
11) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, @ 2:55
12) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel, Russia, @ 2:56
13) Leif Hoste, Predictor-Lotto, Belgium, @ 2:56
14) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, Germany, @ 3:09
15) Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step, Spain, @ 3:12
16) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval, Spain, @ 3:13
17) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d'Epargne, Russia, @ 3:17
18) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, @ 3:18
19) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 3:23
20) David Millar, Saunier Duval, Great Britain, @ 3:27

Major shakeups in the GC:

Overall standings after Stage 13:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, in 58:46:39
2) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, at 1:00
3) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, at 2:31
4) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, at 2:34
5) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at 3:37
6) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, at 4:23
7) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 4:45
8) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, at 5:07
9) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, Kazakhstan, at 5:10
10) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, at 5:29
11) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, at 5:48
12) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, Spain, at 4:48
13) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, Germany, at 6:59
14) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 7:04
15) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, at 7:37

There was a 4th-Category climb on the stage, and max points (3) go to Alberto Contador of Discovery Channel, with Cadel Evans taking 2 points and Michael Boogerd of Rabobank a single point as the 3 fastest riders on the climb.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 21, 2007 in 2007 Stage 13 ITT, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Chris Horner, David Millar, Iban Mayo, Levi Leipheimer, Linus Gerdemann, Michael Rasmussen, Oscar Pereiro, Sylvain Chavanel, Thomas Dekker, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Stage 13 ITT on the road

VS. Broadcaster Picks:
Trautwig: Klöden (per Hinault)
Sherwen: Cancellara
Roll: Evans
Liggett: Leipheimer

Bradley Wiggins of Cofidis is the early leader in the first long individual time trial of the 2007 Tour.

Over the up-and-down 54 km course in Albi, Wiggins finished in 1:08:48.
David Millar has come through the time checks as high as 3rd, and finishes in 3rd at 1:10:01.

World TT champion Fabian Cancellara was 2nd-fastest at the 1st time check, then faded, finishing in 1:15:19. Cancellara had bike handling problems on the wet roads, and crashed in a 90-degree left-hander.

Yaroslav Popovych is followed onto the course by Alexandre Vinokourov. Vino has a bandage only on his right knee today.

Vinokourov is scorching the course. He's fastest at the first two time checks, by 52 seconds at the 2nd. He's closing on Popovych, even though Popovych is racing the 4th best TT so far.

At TC 3 (38.5 km), Vinokourov came through at 50:06, 1:19 faster than Wiggins. Popovych finished almost even with Wiggins, but Vinokourov still finished close behind, with Vino setting the standard at 1:06:34.

Discovery's Levi Leipheimer was 19th at the first time check, and Carlos Sastre passed TC1 1:41 slower than Vinokourov.

Popovych appeared to have fallen on the course, and Klöden slid out on what seemed a tame right-hander.

Kashechkin also had an early accident, but kept improving at each time check, finishing 2nd only to Vinokourov in 1:08:19.

Christophe Moreau's early time checks put him many minutes behind Vinokourov. He finished in 1:16:01, 9:26 down to Vino.

Cadel Evans was 2nd best at the 3rd time check, just 1:01 behind Vinokourov.

Klöden hit the line in 1:08:13, putting Astana in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place on the day, but Cadel Evans broke up the set, coming in at 1:07:48, 2nd at that point.

Levi Leipheimer and Alberto Contador, Discovery's supposed two leaders, finished 21 seconds apart, in 1:09:13 and 1:08:52, respectively. Teammate Yaroslav Popovych was better still, in 1:08:50.

The time checks were cruel to Alejandro Valverde, sitting in 2nd overall -- he was 46th at the 4th check, 4:34 down on Vinokourov. In fact, race leader Michael Rasmussen passed Alejandro Valverde late in his ride, rocking more like a duck than a Chicken.

Iban Mayo struggled to the line in 1:12:38, a disappointment for the rider who started in 3rd today.

Rasmussen fights all the way to the line, finishing in 1:09:29. That will save the yellow jersey for Rasmussen, and the race returns to the high mountains tomorrow.

Current Top riders:
1) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, 1:06:34
2) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, 1:07:49
3) Andreas Klöden, Astana, 1:08:13
4) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, 1:08:19
5) Bradley Wiggins, Cofidis, in 1:08:48
6) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, in 1:08:50
7) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, in 1:08:52
8) Sylvain Chavanel, Cofidis, in 1:09:12
9) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, in 1:09:13
10) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, 1:09:16
11) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, 1:09:29
12) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel, 1:09:30
13) Leif Hoste, Predictor-Lotto, in 1:09:30
14) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, in 1:09:43
15) Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step, in 1:09:47
16) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval, 1:09:47
17) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d'Epargne, 1:09:51
18) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile 1:09:52
19) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, 1:09:57
20) David Millar, Saunier Duval, in 1:10:01
21) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, 1:10:04
22) Sébastien Rosseler, Quick Step, in 1:10:09
23) Markus Fothen, Gerolsteiner, in 1:10:14
24) Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, in 1:10:16
25) George Hincapie, DSC, in 1:10:19
26) Carlos Sastre, CSC, in 1:10:35
27) Thomas Dekker, Rabobank, in 1:10:39
28) Andrey Grivko, Milram, in 1:10:51
29) Kanstantsin Siutsou, Barloworld, in 1:10:54
30) Chris Horner, Predictor-Lotto, in 1:10:56

Posted by Frank Steele on July 21, 2007 in 2007 Stage 13 ITT, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christophe Moreau, David Millar, Fabian Cancellara, Iban Mayo, Michael Rasmussen, Oscar Pereiro | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 19, 2007

Stage 11: At last, Robbie Hunter

Barloworld's Robbie Hunter took advantage of a late-stage crash to win his first Tour stage in his 6th career Tour appearance. It's the first Tour stage by a South African, or any African.

Hunter had been following Tom Boonen in the last kilometers, but went to the front in time to miss a crash that took out Boonen, Credit Agricole's Julian Dean, Predictor-Lotto's Fred Rodriguez, and others. Hunter then outcornered two Liquigas riders on the right-hander with 500 meters to ride. From there, he kicked all the way to the line, and Murilo Fischer and Filippo Pozzato of Liquigas and Fabian Cancellara of CSC couldn't close him down.

The biggest action of the day was an all-out assault by Astana, who set a blistering pace in a stiff wind that split the field, with AG2R's Christophe Moreau, Erik Zabel, and Thor Hushovd among the riders caught behind the gap. Astana did most of the work to grow the gap, and Moreau crossed the line 3:20 behind Hunter. Astana's attack helped push the average speed for the stage to 48.061 kms/h (29.86 mph), the fastest of this year's Tour.

Hunter now trails Boonen by 11 points in the green jersey competition, 5 points ahead of Erik Zabel.

Two riders pulled out during the stage: Sylvain Calzati of AG2R and Igor Anton of Euskaltel-Euskadi.

Stage Top 10:
1) Robbie Hunter, Barloworld, South Africa
2) Fabian Cancellara, CSC, Switzerland, same time
3) Murilo Fischer, Liquigas, Brazil, s.t.
4) Filippo Pozzato, Liquigas, Italy, s.t.
5) Alessandro Ballan, Lampre, Italy, s.t.
6) Paolo Bossoni, Lampre, Italy, s.t.
7) Claudio Corioni, Lampre, Italy, s.t.
8) Philippe Gilbert, Française des Jeux, Belgium, s.t.
9) William Bonney, Credit Agricole, France, s.t.
10) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, s.t.

GC Top 20:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, in 53:11:38
2) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 2:35
3) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, Spain, @ 2:39
4) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, @ 2:41
5) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, @ 3:08
6) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, @ 3:39
7) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, @ 3:50
8) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, @ 3:53
9) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, @ 5:06
10) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ 5:20
11) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, @ 5:34
12) Frank Schleck, CSC, Luxembourg, @ 5:56
13) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 6:36
14) Christophe Moreau, AG2R, France, @ 6:38
15) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ 6:42
16) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, Germany, @ 6:45
17) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, Colombia, @ 6:49
18) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, @ 7:10
19) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, Kazakhstan, @ 8:05
20) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, @ 8:16

Posted by Frank Steele on July 19, 2007 in 2007 Stage 11, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christophe Moreau, Fabian Cancellara, Filippo Pozzato, Frank Schleck, Fred Rodriguez, Iban Mayo, Julian Dean, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Robbie Hunter, Thor Hushovd, Tom Boonen, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 18, 2007

Stage 10: Vasseur victorious

The Tour youth movement stepped aside for at least one last stage as a veteran took a smart breakaway victory.

Cedric Vasseur, 36, of Quick Step gave France its first Tour victory of 2007 ten years after his other Tour stage win.

Vasseur was in an 11-man group that was the most powerful breakaway of the Tour so far, but with all more than 45 minutes behind Michael Rasmussen. Over the day's penultimate climb, the group was whittled down to 3, but Jens Voigt and Vasseur were able to chase across to join Patrice Halgand of Credit Agricole, Michael Albasini of Liquigas, and Sandy Casar of Française des Jeux.

Halgand tried to shed the others on the day's final climb, but every attack was matched, and the 5 came down into Marseilles together. Albasini shadowed Voigt, while the three Frenchman rode offset in a line, with Vasseur at the back as they came into the final kilometer. With less than 300 meters to ride, but a little beyond sprint range, Vasseur went full throttle along the right barricades, and the surprise was enough to take the win ahead of Sandy Casar sprinting left of the centerline and Albasini in between.

Tom Boonen showed he's serious about defending his green jersey, riding near the front of the field all day, and winding up the Quick Step train to launch him in the field sprint for 12th place on the day. Boonen was outfoxed by Sebastien Chavanel, but clipped Erik Zabel, his primary competition, taking 13th on the day to Zabel's 16th.

Top 20:
1) Cédric Vasseur, Quick Step, France in 5:20:24
2) Sandy Casar, Française des Jeux, France, same time
3) Michael Albasini, Liquigas, Switzerland, s.t.
4) Patrice Halgand, Credit Agricole, France, s.t.
5) Jens Voigt, CSC, Germany, s.t.
6) Staf Scheirlinckx, Cofidis, Belgium, @ :36
7) Paolo Bossoni, Lampre, Italy, same time
8) Marcus Burghardt, T-Mobile, Germany, @ 1:01
9) Aleksandr Kuschynski, Liquigas, Belarus, @ 2:34
10) Juan Antonio Flecha, Rabobank, Spain, same time
11) Andriy Grivko, Milram, Kazakhstan, @ 3:42
12) Sébastien Chavanel, Française des Jeux, France, @ 10:36
12) Tom Boonen, Quick Step, Belgium, same time
14) Francisco Ventoso, Saunier Duval, Spain, s.t.
15) Robbie Hunter, Barloworld, South Africa, s.t.
16) Erik Zabel, Milram, Germany, s.t.
17) Thor Hushovd, Credit Agricole, Norway, s.t.
18) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, s.t.
19) Christophe Rinero, Saunier Duval, France, s.t.
20) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, Spain, s.t.

Overall Standings after Stage 10:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, in 49:23:48
2) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, at 2:35
3) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, at 2:39
4) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, at 2:41
5) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, at 3:08
6) Christophe Moreau, Ag2R, at 3:18
7) Carlos Sastre, Team CSC, at 3:39
8) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at 3:50
9) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, at 3:53
10) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, at 5:06
11) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 5:20
12) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, at 5:34
13) Fränk Schleck, Team CSC, at 5:56
14) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, at 6:36
15) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 6:42
16) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, at 6:45
17) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, at 6:49
18) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, at 7:10
19) David Arroyo, Caisse d’Epargne, at 7:33
20) Tadej Valjavec, Lampre, at 7:45
21) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, at 8:05

CSC moves back into the lead in the team competition, courtesy of Voigt's long day in the break, and Halgand takes the most aggressive rider jersey.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 18, 2007 in 2007 Stage 10, Alberto Contador, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Cedric Vasseur, Christophe Moreau, Denis Menchov, Frank Schleck, Iban Mayo, Jens Voigt, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Oscar Pereiro, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Projecting TT time gaps

Podium Cafe | TT Number Crunching

Over at PodiumCafe, Kevin Kimmich took each GC contender's prologue average speed, estimated that riders could maintain 95 percent of the prologue pace over the 110 kilometers of time trialing that remain, and projected likely time gaps among the GC contenders just on the 2 TTs.

With prologue winner Fabian Cancellara now 80 minutes back, Andreas Klöden was the strongest contender in the London prologue, followed by his Astana teammates Alexandre Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin. Worst of the bunch is, unsurprisingly, Michael Rasmussen, who rode the worst TT in recent Tour history in 2005. Klöden was also very strong on the long TTs in last year's Tour, overshadowed somewhat by T-Mobile teammate Sergei Honchar.

As a commenter has already pointed out, this is the simplest possible projection of times, but it's a fun bit of speculation. If he's right, Evans needs a 5:34 cushion on Klöden, Leipheimer 6:32, and Rasmussen 15:29. Note that Christophe Moreau, not on the list, was 6 seconds behind Valverde and 7 seconds ahead of Sastre in the Prologue, so he would slot in somewhere around 9 minutes behind Klöden.

Kimmich also ignored two riders who placed highly in the prologue and still sit near the leaders: Mikel Astarloza of Euskaltel was 2 seconds faster than Kashechkin, and Alberto Contador matched him within a fraction of a second, so Astarloza might be projected to lose as little as 4:35 or 4:45 to Klöden, and Contador projects to about 5:20.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 18, 2007 in Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christophe Moreau, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 17, 2007

Stage 9: Soler streaks to stage win

Tour first-timer Juan Mauricio Soler of Barloworld launched an audacious attack on the Col du Télégraphe and fighting all the way to Briançon to take the win for Barloworld.

Colombia's Soler, the rider with the highest Tour race number (219), was shadowed for a time by Discovery Channel's Yaroslav Popovych, but no one could hold Soler's wheel today.

Back in the main field, Cadel Evans and Alejandro Valverde pushed the pace, and Alexandre Vinokourov couldn't hang. Today, it was Kashechkin who shepherded Vinokourov to the line while Andreas Klöden matched the GC riders.

Christophe Moreau dropped repeatedly off the back, but fought back again and again, while Rabobank's Denis Menchov couldn't stand the heat, and finished with Vinokourov. Levi Leipheimer, with 2 teammates up the road, was again content to let the race unfold and shadowed the yellow jersey of Michael Rasmussen.

Discovery's Alberto Contador, however, launched a withering assault on the Col du Galibier, and only Cadel Evans chased. When Contador met up with teammate Popovych at the summit, the two launched a chase of Soler, then 2 minutes up the road, and slowly closed the gap.

Meanwhile, the yellow jersey group split in two, with Valverde, Rasmussen, Kim Kirchen, David Arroyo and Mikel Astarloza ahead, and Moreau, Sastre, Evans, Klöden, Leipheimer, Cobo, and Mayo behind.

Rasmussen's group swept up Contador and Popovych, then were finally recaptured by the Leipheimer/Klöden/Sastre group, with all still closing on Soler.

The gap was down to 49 seconds in the last kilometer, and Alejandro Valverde attacked, splintering the yellow jersey group and taking 2nd on the stage, with Cadel Evans just behind.

1) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, Colombia in 4:14:24
2) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at :38
3) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, same time
4) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, @ :40
5) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, Spain, @ :42
6) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, same time
7) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, s.t.
8) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, @ :46
9) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, same time
10) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, s.t.
11) Christophe Moreau, AG2R, France, @ :54
12) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, same time
13) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, @1:33
14) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval, Spain, at 1:36
15) José Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 1:49
16) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 3:24
17) Chris Horner, Predictor-Lotto, USA, same time
18) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, s.t.
19) Patrice Halgand, Credit Agricole, France s.t.
20) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, Kazakhstan

Overall Standings after Stage 9:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, in 43:52:48
2) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 2:35
3) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, Spain, at 2:39
4) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, at 2:41
5) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, at 3:08
6) Christophe Moreau, AG2R, France, at 3:18
7) Carlos Sastre, Team CSC, Spain, at 3:39
8) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, at 3:50
9) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at 3:53
10) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, at 5:06

Schleck is 13th at 5:56, Vinokourov is 21st at 8:05. Gerdemann loses the white jersey to Contador. Soler is now 2nd in both the Mountains jersey and Young Riders jersey competitions.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 17, 2007 in 2007 Stage 9, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christophe Moreau, Iban Mayo, Juan Mauricio Soler, Levi Leipheimer, Linus Gerdemann, Mauricio Soler, Michael Rasmussen, Oscar Pereiro, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stage 9 on the road

A rude beginning to the stage today, as riders immediately start up the hors categorie Col de l'Iseran, followed by a long descent to St. Michel-de-Maurienne. Then, the double whammy of the Col du Télégraphe (a 1st Category) and the Col du Galibier, another hors categorie. Finally, a 37.5 kilometer/23 mile descent into Briançon.

VS. broadcaster picks:
Trautwig: Contador
Sherwen: Valverde
Roll: Sastre
Liggett: Mayo

Discovery's Yaroslav Popovych attacked up the Col de l'Iseran, and led the field by 30 seconds over the top:

Col de l'Iseran (HC):
1) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channe, +20 pts
2) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, +18 pts, @ 30 secs
3) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, +16 pts, same time
4) Anthony Charteau, Credit Agricole, +14 pts, @ 35 secs
5) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +12 pts, @ 40 secs
6) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel, +10 pts, same time
7) Francisco Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +8 pts, s.t.
8) Christophe Moreau, AG2R, +7 pts, s.t.
9) Stef Clement, Bouygues Telecom, +6 pts, s.t.
10) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, +5 pts, s.t.

1st Intermediate Sprint:
1) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Jose Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Stef Clement, Bouygues Telecom, +2 pts/2 secs

Popovych has been joined on the descent by teammate Vladimir Gusev, Caisse d'Epargne's Jose Ivan Gutierrez, Bouygues Telecom's Stef Clement, Benoit Vaugrenard of Française des Jeux, and Mikel Astarloza of Euskaltel-Euskadi. They've got 2:45 on the peloton with more than 55 kms/34 miles ridden.

T-Mobile's troubles continue, as Marcus Burghardt tacoed his front wheel hitting a dog wandering unleashed across the road. Both dog and rider appeared unhurt.

At the day's 2nd and last sprint, the 6 riders don't even break their rotation:

2nd Intermediate Sprint:
1) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel, +4 pts/4 secs
3) José Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, +2 pts/2 secs

At the base of the Col du Télégraphe, Astarloza, Clement, Gusev, Gutierrez, Popovych, and Vaugrenard have 3:25 on the peloton, with Rabobank leading the field.

Early in the climb, Mikel Astarloza attacked, and Clement and Vaugrenard couldn't counter. Gusev was first to rejoin, then Gutierrez leading Popovych. Astarloza went again, and quickly built a lead of 10, then 20, seconds.

Meanwhile in the main field, David Millar was setting a fast pace alongside the Rabobanks, and Sandy Casar, Stefan Schumacher and the usual sprinters (including Zabel) are all dropped. The main field is down under 60 riders, about 2:55 behind Astarloza, with more gradually falling by the wayside.

When Millar popped, his place was taken by teammate Iker Camano. Over the top of the Col du Telegraphe, Mikel Astarloza still had a healthy 3 minutes:

1) Astaloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi +15 pts
2) Popovych, Discovery Channel, +13 pts, at :21
3) Clement, Bouygues Telecom, +11 pts
4) Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, +9 pts
5) Gusev, Discovery Channel, +8 pts
6) Soler, Barloworld, +7 pts, at :55
7) Vaugrenard, Française des Jeux, +6 pts, at 1:05
8) Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, +5 pts, at 2:45

The peloton was at 3:12.

At the beginning of the climb to the Col du Galibier, Astarloza was recaptured by Gusev, Popovych, and Gutierrez, with Clement suffering a few seconds behind.

Camano fell off, and Thomas Dekker and Michael Boogerd are the last Rabobank teammates left for yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen.

Juan Mauricio Soler attacked out of the peloton, and quickly worked his way through the leaders and led at the summit:

Col du Galibier
1) Soler, Barloworld, +40pts
2) Popovych, Discovery Channel, +36 pts, at 2:05
3) Contador, Discovery Channel +32 pts, same time
4) Evans, Predictor-Lotto, +28 pts, at 2:20
5) Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +24 pts, at 3:00
6) Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, +20 pts, at 3:15
7) Rasmussen, Rabobank, +16 pts, same time
8) Moreau, AG2R, +14 pts, s.t.
9) Klöden, Astana, +12 pts, s.t.
10) Cobo, Saunier Duval, +10 pts, s.t.

Astana's Alexandre Vinokourov was at 4:55, 1:40 behind Rasmussen's group, which also included Carlos Sastre and Levi Leipheimer.

Contador caught Popovych just over the top of the Galibier, and the pair have made up about 40 seconds on Soler, and ride 1:25 back with 25 kilometers to the finish.

But the yellow jersey group was gaining, as well, catching Evans, then splitting in two when Evans let a gap form. Rasmussen, Valverde, Kim Kirchen, David Arroyo, and Astarloza made the front group, which captured Popovych and Contador, while Moreau, Mayo, Leipheimer, Klöden, Sastre, Evans and Cobo chased ineffectually behind.

Finally, Klöden pulled his group back into contact with Rasmussen's group, still closing on Soler with a 1.5-kilometer/1 mile climb to the finish.

The gap dropped to :58, then :49, but Soler made it stick, finishing it with :38 seconds on Alejandro Valverde, who attacked looking for a time gap and bonus points, but was matched by Evans, then Contador at :40, with Mayo, Rasmussen, and Leipheimer at :42.

Alexandre Vinokourov finished at 3:24.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 17, 2007 in Alberto Contador, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christophe Moreau, David Millar, Denis Menchov, Iban Mayo, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 15, 2007

Stage 8: Chicken Run 3: The Dane Reigns

Michael Rasmussen surprised absolutely no one with a long breakaway, but no one could counter the Tour's double King of the Mountains, who climbed right up to the podium's top step, taking over the race lead before tomorrow's rest day.

Rasmussen attacked from more than 80 kilometers/50 miles, and was shadowed for much of the day by David Arroyo, who started the day 2 seconds behind Rasmussen in the GC. It was his 3rd career Tour stage win, after a long escape on Stage 16 in the Alps last year (the day Floyd Landis lost so much time) and a long escape on Stage 9 in the Alps in 2005.

Out of the race is T-Mobile's team leader Michael Rogers, who overshot a lefthander on the day's longest descent, injuring his chin, wrist, and knee. Rogers, who had matched Rasmussen stroke for stroke, climbed back on the bike, then drifted back through the field before finally pulling off the road and out of the race. His teammate, sprinter Mark Cavendish, had already abandoned on the day after Linus Gerdemann's big stage win.

Another Australian, CSC's veteran hard man Stuart O'Grady, also crashed out of the race today.

Other than Rogers, the GC men were content to sit in, awaiting the day's last climb, where Christophe Moreau and then Iban Mayo finally threw down the gauntlet. Alejandro Valverde, Alberto Contador, Fränk Schleck, and Cadel Evans mixed it up at the front, while a second group of team leaders hovered a minute behind, featuring Alexandre Vinokourov, Andeas Klöden, Levi Leipheimer, Haimar Zubeldia, and Manuel Beltran.

Top 20:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, in 4:49:40
2) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, Spain, at 2:47
3) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 3:12
4) Christophe Moreau, A2R, France, at 3:13
5) Fränk Schleck, CSC, Luxembourg, at 3:13
6) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, at 3:13
7) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, at 3:13
8) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, at 3:31
9) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, at 3:35
10) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 3:35
11) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, at 3:59
12) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at 3:59
13) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval, Spain, at 3:59
14) Manuel Beltran, Liquigas, Spain, at 4:13
15) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 4:13
16) Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step, Spain, at 4:29
17) David Arroyo, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 4:29
18) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, at 4:29
19) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, Kazakhstan, at 4:29
20) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, Germany, at 5:05

Overall standings after Stage 8:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, in 15:37:42
2) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, Germany, at :43
3) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, Spain, at 2:39
4) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 2:51
5) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, at 2:52
6) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, at 2:53
7) Christophe Moreau, AG2R, France, at 3:06
8) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, at 3:10
9) Fränk Schleck, CSC, Luxembourg, at 3:14
10) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, at 3:19
11) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 3:35
12) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, at 3:46
13) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, at 3:53
14) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 3:54
...
22) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, Kazakhstan, at 5:23
...
25) Chris Horner, Predictor-Lotto, USA, at 6:29

Posted by Frank Steele on July 15, 2007 in 2007 Stage 8, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Chris Horner, Christophe Moreau, Frank Schleck, Haimar Zubeldia, Iban Mayo, Levi Leipheimer, Linus Gerdemann, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rasmussen, Michael Rogers, Stuart O'Grady, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (1)