July 18, 2006
Stage 15 profile
The time for defense is over. With today's mountain stage finishing atop l'Alpe d'Huez, it's time for the strong riders to throw down a showdown.
They can't go all-out, though, because tomorrow's stage is even harder, and Thursday's is about the same, with more but smaller climbs.
As a result, I think today's stage may very well be won by an early breakaway, possibly including some teammates of the GC riders, who can be sent up the road to provide some help on the final climb if necessary, or to compete for the stage win if not. If it's Michael Rasmussen, this would also serve his interest in the climber's jersey.
There are 156 riders still in the race. Six teams are riding with every rider who started the race: T-Mobile's 7, AG2R's 8, and Française des Jeux, Gerolsteiner, Lampre, and Phonak with 9.
VeloNews offers a good riders' roundup of Stage 15, focusing on 7 riders: Floyd Landis, Denis Menchov, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Andreas Klöden, Michael Rogers, and Levi Leipheimer. They're the guys who don't want to get dropped during the next 3 days. If they are, their finishing places could be completely wiped away.
PezCycling instead looks at today's course to l'Alpe d'Huez itself, discussing what it's like to be on the course with hundreds of thousands of people lining every one of the climb's 21 switchbacks.
July 08, 2006
Stage 7 ITT preview
Riders will be rolling out at 2-minute intervals until 10:30 a.m. Eastern, on a course that should see a winning time around 1:02:00. It's a fast course from Saint Gregoire to Rennes, where Greg Lemond won a 73km TT in the 1989 Tour.
Among the stage favorites are a mix of GC contenders and time trial specialists: overall hopefuls Floyd Landis, Michael Rogers, Cadel Evans, George Hincapie, Carlos Sastre, and Vladimir Karpets and TT specialists Dave Zabriskie and David Millar.
One thing to watch for today is the biggest test yet of the “Praying Landis,” the high, steeply angled position Landis is using for time trials this year. Landis and his coaches believe it's significantly cleaner aerodynamically than a lower, more traditional position, but Landis says he has to practice it every week, since the position is so different from his regular position.
You can track the intermediate checkpoint timing, and current standings, at letour.fr.
July 01, 2006
Time to stop the gossip and start the racing.
Today's prologue is dead flat, 7.1 kilometers or almost 4.5 miles. It's a loop course around downtown Strasbourg.
CSC's David Zabriskie is the consensus favorite, and he took an even shorter prologue at the Dauphiné Libéré. Other riders to watch are David Millar, coming back very motivated from a 2-year ban for EPO, and Brad Wiggins, who way back in April told the BBC this was his stage.
Live coverage on OLN starts at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.
July 22, 2005
Stage 19 profile
Today, the riders climb up to the Col des Pradeaux, then gradually descend to Le Puy-en-Velay.
It's 153.5 km, with 2 intermediate sprints, 3 4th-Category climbs, and the 2nd Category Pradeaux.
A lot of riders will be looking to rest up for the long time trial tomorrow, which favors the breakaways. It's also the last chance for riders to make up ground in the overall classification. It seems like the sprinters are all content to wait for Sunday's stage in Paris to finalize the green jersey, but any of them would be happy to grab a few sprint points at an intermediate sprint.
July 21, 2005
Stage 18 profile
Today's kind of a sneaky-hard stage thrown in between the Pyrenees and the time trial.
The Tour visits France's other mountain range, the volcanic Massif Central, which isn't nearly so high as either the Alps or the Pyrenees, but which offers a few tactical opportunities, and a finish just below a steep uphill.
It's 189 km from Albi-Mende with two intermediate sprints and 5 categorized climbs: two 2nd Category, 2 3rd Category, and a 4th Category. Two of the climbs are in the last 20 kms, so this is not a stage for the sprinters.
If the breakaway is caught, this is a stage where one of the team leaders could take a victory (including Armstrong, who would extend his remarkable July 21st streak), or Alexandre Vinokourov, who excels on explosive climbs like this.
July 20, 2005
Stage 17 profile
Your key tactical feature is a 3rd Category climb 7 km from the finish, which looks like a springboard for a classics-style rider, or a Kazakh.
July 19, 2005
Stage 16 profile
It's the 2005 Tour's final day in the Pyrenees, with two big climbs, the 1st Category Col de Marie-Blanque and the HC Col d'Aubisque. They'll top out on the Col d'Aubisque at 198.5 kilometers, then have more than 70 mostly downhill kilometers to the finish in Pau.
Tactically, it's a wide open stage. A strong breakaway has a chance, or we may see a field sprint among strong riders. That could provide a bit of a shakeup in the green jersey competition, since Robbie McEwen usually spends the hard stages in the back of the field, where Thor Hushovd and Stuart O'Grady are better climbers, and often survive in a stronger group. There are two intermediate sprints, one on the way down into Pau.
July 17, 2005
Stage 15 profile
It's a day with 6 climbs, and only one of them is as small as a 2nd Category: The Col du Porte d'Aspet, where Fabio Casartelli died in 1995. That one is 85 kilometers into the 205.5 kilometer stage, and it's the day's first climb. After that, it's one after another 1300- to 1500-meter climb: The Col de Mente; the Col du Portillon; the Col de Peyresourde; and the Col de Val Louron-Azet. All are 1st Category climbs, and they'll take the riders from around 90 kilometers to around 190 kilometers on the day.
And then there's the finishing climb, the hors categorie climb of the Pla d'Adet up to Saint-Lary-Soulan (and what did Saint Larry do?), which tops out at 1,669 meters. It's the last uphill finish of the Tour.
Based on yesterday, we can look for T-Mobile to attack, and for Discovery to try to redeem themselves a bit. There may be, like yesterday, an early breakaway: I wouldn't be surprised to see a Discovery rider or two in that break, to help ensure that Armstrong has a teammate up the road.
This is the kind of stage Lance Armstrong has won throughout his yellow jersey reign; he'll certainly be looking to get his first stage win of 2005.
July 16, 2005
Stage 14 Profile
It's the 2nd uphill finish of 3 in this year's Tour, and the finish features a 1-2 punch: The hors categorie Port de Pailhères, and the 1st Category Ax-3 Domaines. Getting to the first big climb, there are 3 4th Category climbs and a 3rd Category.
From Port de Pailhères, at 2,001 meters, riders will fly down a steep 20 kilometer descent, then hit 9.5 kilometers up to the day's finish line.
We'll see if any of the early GC contenders can ride themselves back into this race, and whether Michael Rasmussen has a legitimate chance at challenging for the overall race title.
July 14, 2005
Stage 12 Profile
An easier day today in advance of an easy day tomorrow. Should be a major day for breakaways, as some of the riders who are poorly placed start looking to salvage their Tour with a stage win.
The toughest climbs are a couple of 2nd Category efforts, along with a 3rd Category and two 4th Category climbs.
And, of course, it's Bastille Day. Clearly, French riders and teams will be looking for a stage win. Recent French victories on July 14th include Richard Virenque last year, Laurent Jalabert in 2001, Laurent Brochard in 1997, and Jalabert in 1995.
This is the stage about which OLN has repeatedly quoted Lance Armstrong that it's an unexpectedly difficult day, and that some people might get caught out by it.
Tom Boonen (with his withdrawal, no one is wearing the jersey today)
July 13, 2005
Stage 11 Profile
The Tour de France tackles three of its legendary climbs in a single stage today: the hors categorie Col de la Madeleine, the 1st Category Col du Telegraphe, and the hors categorie Col du Galibier, the highest point of the 2005 Tour.
After the Galibier, there's a 40 kilometer descent to Briançon.
From a pure energy expended standpoint, this is a harder stage than yesterday's, and there have got to be some tired buckaroos in the peloton. Look for one or more of the pre-Tour favorites to have surprisingly large time losses.
Discovery is likely to spend the whole day dictating the race's terms; we'll see if anybody wants to go off the front after the display yesterday.
July 12, 2005
Stage 10 profile
From the transitional Stage 9 to the Alpine Stage 10: It's out of the frying pan and into the fire for the riders, as the Tour faces its hardest day yet, and the first mountaintop finish of the 2005 Tour de France.
Lance Armstrong has built his Tour de France record on time trials and stages like today's: His explosive climbing style, and his status as a marked man, means he likes his stages hard all the way to the end.
Alexandre Vinokourov is a similar climber: witness his win on Mont Ventoux in this year's Dauphiné Libéré.
A protest by French farmers, who want to be able to hunt wolves, has led organizers to reroute today's race a bit, shortening the stage from 192 kilometers to 181.
The two big obstacles of the day are the Cormet de Roselend, whose summit is 74.5 kilometers from the end, and Courchevel, a 22.2-kilometer climb at 6.2 percent.
July 10, 2005
Stage 9 profile
Stage 9 travels from yesterday's finish town of Gérardmer to Mulhouse. Three early 3rd Category climbs set up the 2nd Category La Grand Ballon, a 20-kilometer climb to 1338 meters. Another 3rd Category climb, the Col de Bussang, is followed by the Tour's first 1st Category climb, Le Ballon d'Alsace, and a 56-kilometer descent and run-in to Mulhouse.
Should be a good chance to see whether yesterday's "Discovery crisis" was really a crisis at all.
There are three intermediate sprints; with Tom Boonen complaining of back problems, we may see Thor Hushovd try to gain ground in the green jersey competition.
July 08, 2005
Stage 7 profile
Today's the last chance for the sprinters for a few days, as the race covers 228.5 kilometers from Lunéville down to Karlsruhe. The riders will cross the Rhine into Germany, the second of only three countries the Tour visits this year (Spain is the third).
Thor Hushovd of Credit Agricole hasn't given up on the green jersey. Yesterday, he got clear of the wreck to take 5th on the stage, getting 22 sprint points, and closed within 7 points of sprint jersey leader Tom Boonen, so Hushovd may look for some intermediate points today.
Your jersey leaders:
July 07, 2005
Stage 6 profile
Stage 6 rolls 199 kilometers, from Troyes to Nancy. Three intermediate sprints and four 4th-category climbs could provide a little mid-stage interest, but it looks like another day for the sprinters before the race hits the mountains on Saturday.
Keep your eyes peeled, as well, for Discovery to try to get George Hincapie some time on Armstrong, giving him a day in the yellow jersey; Armstrong mentioned after the TTT that the jersey would probably stay within the team for a few days.
Same jersey lineup as yesterday:
July 05, 2005
Stage 4 Preview: 67.5 km Team Time Trial, Tour-Blois
Julich, CSC will try to hold yellow
Photo by Frank Steele
Today's TTT is a 67.5 kilometer ride, about a 42-mile day. The TTT relies on careful orchestration of the whole team, as teams adjust the length of time that riders spend on the front of the pack to try to bring everybody in equally exhausted. Some teams will drop riders if they have a mechanical or if they just can't hang, but the leading group is given the time to the line of their 5th rider, so you can't drop too many.
Phonak is widely considered the third contender for podium space, and Gerolsteiner won the ProTour's team time trial at Eindhoven in June (but that squad was all specialists, no climbers along). It's clear that Armstrong and Discovery want to take the race lead with today's performance.
The team time trial continues a rule introduced last year that I hate as much as any sports rule other than possibly the NCAA football overtime rules: The time gaps between the teams are not actually the time gaps that will be awarded to the riders. In every other Tour situation, the time you earn is the time you get, but in the face of US Postal's domination of the TTT, organizers introduced a rule that limits the possible damage by setting maximum time gaps based on a team's placing in the stage.
The 2nd place team, for instance, will lose no more than 20 seconds on the leaders, 3rd is limited to 30 seconds, and so on, except that eventually the maximum gap between teams drops to 5 seconds. Cyclingnews.com explains the time trial rules or you can read it in the official rules (.pdf file). Don't spend too long thinking about this rule, or your head may explode.
"We will leave as favourites, I think, along with Phonak and Discovery, but I am sure that we will beat them. If not, I'll be very disappointed," continued Riis, throwing down the gauntlet.
"If we can take back a little time, it will allow us to reduce Ivan [Basso]'s deficit on Armstrong (1'24" after Saturday's ITT)," Riis added, before admitting that "beyond keeping the yellow, Basso remains the priority."
Quotes Bluesq.com that "Discovery ... their odds-on favourites, CSC at 7-4 and Phonak at 9-2."
July 04, 2005
Stage 3 profile
Today, 212.5 km, from La Châtaigneraie to Tours, the finish line for the fall Paris-Tours race, considered a sprinter's classic and won last year by Erik Dekker.
It's likely to be another day for the sprinters, but unlike yesterday, it's a broad, straight run-in to the finish. If it gets dicey, it's going to be from somebody getting in somebody else's way.
There are three 4th-category climbs on the day, so a long break, even an unsuccessful one, could net a rider a cheap day in the polka-dot jersey.
Likely stage-winners: Robbie McEwen, trying to atone for miscalculating the sprint yesterday, Thor Hushovd, Tom Boonen.
Live text feeds:
July 03, 2005
Stage 2 underway
We have the 2005 Tour's first doomed break! Out in front Sylvain Calzati, Thomas Voeckler, Laszlo Bodrogi, and David Canada flew their team flags, at one point around 3:30 up on the field.
Voeckler is the rider who got into an opportunistic break in last year's Tour (while the French national champion, no less) and wore the yellow jersey for 10 days, fighting and scratching to hold on to it as the race headed into the Alps. He then held the young rider's white jersey until the final TT, when Vladimir Karpets took over the lead in that competition.
Lance Armstrong is wearing the green jersey today, since David Zabriskie can only wear one jersey at a time. Whoever wins the stage today will become the first real green jersey.
It's a very easy course profile today, and only 181 kilometers, or around 110 miles.
Everybody and his brother is predicting McEwen today; I'm going to be contrarian, and go with Quick Step's Tom Boonen. McEwen will be adjusting to a new lead-out man, American Fast Freddie Rodriguez. Other sprinters to watch: Baden Cooke and Thor Hushovd.
There's a 4th category climb coming up, and if the break can survive to the top, one of its riders will wear the mountain jersey for at least tonight.
The breakaway has survived, and will contest the polka-dot jersey; David Cañada launched an attack and gapped the group, and now Voeckler slingshots off of Calzati, bridges up to Cañada, and sprints away from him with 50-75 meters to ride. At the top, he's over first, so he'll wear his third different Tour jersey (yellow, white, polka-dot).
Bodrogi falls back into the field, leaving three leaders to catch. Erik Dekker tries a late attack, but FdJ puts Carlos da Cruz on his back wheel, and he can't make it stick.
With 6 kms to ride, the breakaway is absorbed. It's a sprint finish with some turns; could get dicey.
In the last 2 kms, a couple of opportunistic attacks from Beneteau and Zaballa, but for nothing.
It's the big boys for the sprints: McEwen may have jumped a little early, and Tom Boonen gets his back wheel and comes around him for the win. Thor Hushovd is right there.
July 02, 2005
It's on: Stage 1 underway
Time for the talking to stop and the stomping to start.
Stage 1 is too long to be a prologue, but shorter than a usual time trial at 19 kilometers, or about 12 miles. The course profile would be familiar to anyone who rides in Florida: It varies by 3 meters other than a climb over the Pont de Noirmoutier, a bridge onto the island where most of the time trial will be ridden.
The riders will go off at 1-minute intervals all the way to the end; in longer time trials, they'll sometimes vary the rider intervals at the end. Eurosport has a compressed start list that's very easy to scan; Armstrong goes off last at 6:48 PM local time, or 12:48 PM Eastern. Interestingly, Ullrich is riding in 2nd position, rather than last year's 2nd place finisher Andreas Klöden.
July 25, 2004
Stage 20:163 km Montereau to Champs-Elysees
Let's wrap this one up. It's a fairly flat stage, full of photo opps and clowning, where the 147 riders who have survived all 3 weeks celebrate their achievement.
Lance Armstrong will be riding a new gold and black bike that recognizes the "LiveStrong" campaign. Last year, US Postal paid a fine for wearing grey jerseys on the last stage; they'll likely do something similar to commemorate Armstrong's 6th consecutive Tour championship.
Starting Stage 20, it's:
There will be no changes in the yellow, polka-dot, or white jersey contests; Armstrong, Virenque and Karpets can relax and enjoy their overall champion status.
McEwen, on the other hand, has an 11-point lead on Thor Hushovd, and Erik Zabel and Stuart O'Grady still have a mathematical chance at taking his green jersey. There are two intermediate sprints on the day, at 86.5 km and on the first circuit of the Champs-Elysees at 115.5 km. There are 35 points for the finish, so these guys will be dicing all day.
Jimmy Casper of fdjeux.com is the lanterne rouge for this year's Tour. He has now finished the Tour twice, and finished last twice. Talk about unstoppable!
Also to be awarded today is the new award for most aggressive rider in the overall Tour. Jens Voigt is a candidate here, but my vote goes to Thomas Voeckler, who scrapped his way through 10 days in the yellow jersey.
July 23, 2004
Stage 18: 166.5 km Annemasse to Lons-le-Saunier
The Tour works its way out of the high Alps, with the last significant climbs of the Tour.
There's a single 2nd Category climb, two 3rd Category, and two 4th category. It's the kind of stage that's friendly to breakaways. Intermediate sprint points are available at 43.5 km and 144 km on the stage.
Starting Stage 18, it's:
Armstrong and Virenque are seemingly locked in to their jerseys. Robbie McEwen could see a challenge today, if one of the stronger general riders who sprint (Zabel, O'Grady) could get on the front side of a split field.
Thomas Voeckler has got to feel like there's a big target right in the middle of the young riders' white jersey. He leads by 45 seconds over Vladimir Karpets, but it looks likely Voeckler will lose it in the time trial tomorrow.
July 22, 2004
Stage 17: 204.5 km Bourg d'Oisans to Le Grand Bornand
This should be a day full of fireworks, as it's the last really mountainous stage, and the last real chance to make up big time gaps.
I believe Ivan Basso's grip on 2nd is tenuous, and he could easily fall off the podium if he doesn't put some time into T-Mobile's Andreas Klöden and Jan Ullrich. Remember, Armstrong was looking to put 4 minutes into Ullrich before the long time trial, and Basso currently leads the resurgent Jan by 4:07.
Keep an eye on the other specialist jerseys, as well. Richard Virenque hasn't yet nailed down the King of the Mountains, but didn't lose points to anyone who is likely to compete for it (Armstrong moved up to 2nd in the competition, 40 points behind Virenque).
Robbie McEwen is likely to finish today in the gruppetto, the bunch of riders trying to survive without getting eliminated, so his rivals could gain a few points at the last intermediate sprint of the day.
Thomas Voeckler is in white, but needs to keep an eye on Vladimir Karpets and Sandy Casar. Karpets looks to be a threat to take the white jersey in the last time trial on Saturday.
Starting Stage 17, it's:
July 20, 2004
Alpe d'Huez start times
They'll go off at 1-minute intervals until the top 23, then 2-minute intervals after that, starting at 2 p.m. in Bourg d'Oisans or 8 a.m. Eastern. Armstrong should depart at 10:58 Eastern.
Times are 6 hours ahead of US Eastern time, full list linked above:
181 MC EWEN Robbie (AUS, LOT) 14:33:00
013 BOTERO Santiago (COL, TMO) 15:18:00
118 VANDEVELDE Christian (USA, LST) 15:34:00
064 JULICH Bobby (USA, CSC) 15:48:00
111 HERAS Roberto (ESP, LST) 15:53:00
023 GONZALEZ Santos (ESP, PHO) 16:01:00
006 LANDIS Floyd (USA, USPS) 16:02:00
014 GUERINI Giuseppe (ITA, TMO) 16:03:00
005 HINCAPIE George (USA, USP) 16:04:00
108 ROGERS Michael (AUS, QSD) 16:10:00
029 SEVILLA Oscar (ESP, PHO) 16:16:00
162 CASAR Sandy (FRA, FDJ) 16:22:00
141 BROCHARD Laurent (FRA, A2R) 16:24:00
009 RUBIERA José Luis (ESP, USP) 16:26:00
101 VIRENQUE Richard (FRA, QSD) 16:28:00
051 MOREAU Christophe (FRA, C.A) 16:30:00
158 RASMUSSEN Mickael (DEN, RAB) 16:32:00
027 PEREIRO SIO Oscar (ESP, PHO) 16:34:00
171 SIMONI Gilberto (ITA, SAE) 16:36:00
067 SASTRE Carlos (ESP, CSC) 16:38:00
151 LEIPHEIMER Levi (USA, RAB) 16:40:00
134 CAUCCHIOLI Pietro (ITA, ALB) 16:42:00
129 VOECKLER Thomas (FRA, BLB) 16:44:00
081 TOTSCHNIG Georg (AUT, GST) 16:46:00
002 AZEVEDO José (POR, USP) 16:48:00
011 ULLRICH Jan (GER, TMO) 16:50:00
071 MANCEBO Francisco (ESP, IBB) 16:52:00
017 KLÖDEN Andréas (GER, TMO) 16:54:00
061 BASSO Ivan (ITA, CSC) 16:56:00
001 ARMSTRONG Lance (USA, USP) 16:58:00
A quick rundown of everyone who has ever won at Alpe d'Huez, and the 6 fastest unofficial times.
More than 7/10 tomorrow
Here's a first-person account of climbing l'Alpe d'Huez, site of tomorrow's individual time trial, and its famed 21 switchbacks. Lots of photos, and the rider/author gives something of an idea of what parts of the climb are hardest, where things ease up a bit, etc.
He ranks it a 7 out of 10, but I doubt he was riding it all-out.
July 18, 2004
Stage 14: 200km Carcassonne to Nîmes
Today's a flat stage along the Mediterranean coast. The biggest technical difficulty is likely to come from the strong coastal winds and the heat.
These coastal stages often lead to successful breakaways, but the sprinters' teams may work to keep that from happening, since this is the flattest stage until Paris a week from today.
Intermediate sprints at 53km and 166.5km, and sprint points at the finish, could shake up the green jersey race, currently led by Robbie McEwen.
Yesterday's stage was a bloodbath, with 1 rider not starting (Marinangeli of Domina Vacanze) and 5 not finishing (Tyler Hamilton, Haimar Zubeldia, Denis Menchov, plus Gerolsteiner's Fabian Wegmann and Saeco's Gerrit Glomser) the stage. There are 160 riders left at today's start of 188 in the prologue.
Thomas Voeckler is likely to hold the yellow jersey at least through tomorrow's rest day.
Starting Stage 14, it's:
Mickael Rasmussen wears the blue number tag of the most aggressive rider.
The battle for the lanterne rouge is heating up. Credit Agricole's Sébastian Joly has been in last place overall for days, but yesterday, could manage only 2nd-to-last, as Jimmy Casper of Cofidis lost 5:35 or more to the entire rest of the field, coming in 47:55 behind Armstrong and Basso.
July 16, 2004
Stage 12: 197.5 km Castelsarrasin to La Mongie
Today's stage is a very gradual climb toward the Pyrenees for first 160 km/100 miles. Then it's two 1st Category cimbs, each around 12 km/7 miles, with a 12 km/7 mile descent in between.
Two sprint stages on the day, the first at 21.5 km, the second at 153.5 km.
It seems unlikely that any early breaks will stay away, as the climbers will finally have a chance to see some time gains in the general classification.
Starting Stage 12, it's:
David Moncoutié's breakaway and clever escape from the 3-man break are being recognized today by the blue race number tag of the most aggressive rider.
July 15, 2004
Stage 11: 164km Saint-Flour to Figeac
It's another up-and-down day for the riders, but nowhere near as hard as Wednesday. The hardest climb of the day is a 2nd Category starting about 91 km/56 miles into the stage.
1 2nd Category
1 3rd Category
3 4th Category
The intermediate sprints are late today, which should help Stuart O'Grady and Erik Zabel in their pursuit of green jersey points. The first, especially, is only 4 kilometers after the day's hardest climb. If the pace is fast, green jersey Robbie McEwen could be comfortably ensconced in the gruppetto by then, riding with the other sprinters trying to avoid elimination.
The stage ends with a 500 meter uphill stretch that would influence the sprint if the pack gets to Figeac together.
This is, however, the kind of stage that often creates small breakaways of 3-10 riders low in the overall standings that stay away to the end.
Starting Stage 11, it's:
Richard Virenque will naturally wear the red race numbers of the most aggressive rider for his 125-mile+ breakaway yesterday, atop his familiar polka-dot jersey.
July 14, 2004
Stage 10: 237 km Limoges to Saint-Flour
Today is the first stage of the rest of your life.
Stage 10 brings the Tour's first 1st-category climb and 8 compatriots:
1 - 1st category
2 - 2nd category
5 - 3rd category
1 - 4th category
It's also Bastille Day, so expect a little extra motivation from the French riders.
Starting Stage 10, it's:
Inigo Landaluze has never won a professional race, but he'll wear the red race numbers of the day's most aggressive rider for the 80-mile breakaway he and Simeoni almost pulled off yesterday.
July 13, 2004
Bruyneel: Not expecting GC attacks on Stage 10
Tomorrow's stage is the longest of the 2004 Tour, and features 9 categorized climbs, although the hardest is a single 1st Category. Despite the difficulty, USPS director Johan Bruyneel doesn't think we'll see a major move tomorrow:
“I don’t expect anything special from tomorrow,” said Bruyneel. “The climbs are too far from the finish. I don’t think we’ll see any splits between the main leaders. But they are good breakaway roads.”
That suggests we might see some action on the polka-dot jersey tomorrow. Paolo Bettini has been holding the jersey on the basis of some early low-category climbs, but Richard Virenque has been going after single King of the Mountain points, and is looking for his record 7th KoM victory in the Tour. Last year, Virenque claimed his polka-dot jersey (and the yellow) on Stage 7 to Morzine, the first stage with serious climbs, and held it all the way to Paris.
If he could pull off a similar escape tomorrow, he could eliminate the pretenders from the top of the GC, establish himself as the primary KoM contender, and maybe wear yellow on Bastille Day.
There are also rumors that Phonak scouted this stage, and has something on tap. In cyclingnews.com's First Edition Cycling News for Wednesday, they suggest "Wednesday evening may see Jose Gutierrez of Phonak or his teammate Santos Gonzalez changing jerseys."
Back to procycling:
Maybe the truth will be revealed tomorrow on the steep grades of the Puy Mary, but it seems more likely that the first real body blows will come at La Mongie on Friday. “The first big showdown will be La Mongie,” Bruyneel confirmed before adding: “At least, I hope so.”
Stage 9: 160.5 km Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat to Guéret
VeloNews predicts Petacchi for this stage. I'm predicting that won't happen.
The start town, St. Léonard, is the hometown of Raymond Poulidor, the "eternal second" who was 2nd 3 times, and 3rd 5 times in 14 Tours. He NEVER WORE the yellow jersey, even for a day.
Two Category 4 climbs offer points down to 3rd place, and 3 intermediate sprints could factor in the green jersey race, which Robbie McEwen leads:
1) McEwen 158
2) O'Grady 149
3) Zabel 148
4) Hushovd 147
5) Hondo 139
With the race for green so close, I doubt the sprinters' teams will let a break stay away, so look for a field sprint to the line, and so far, it's looked like Robbie McEwen is the flat-out fastest man in the race.
Starting Stage 8, it's:
Jakob Piil is in the red race numbers. Again. This year, Tour organizers will award an overall combativity award, but not until Paris. Piil's the early nod — he's never met a crazy flyer he wouldn't take.
July 11, 2004
Stage 8: 168 km Lamballe to Quimper
It's the Tour's last stage before Monday's rest day, and the geography is starting to change. The roads are starting to roll a bit, and today's stage sprinkles in 3 fourth-category and a 3rd category climb.
The intermediate sprints are the most important element of today's stage. Stuart O'Grady is hanging on to the green jersey by a thread, after losing two intermediate sprints yesterday to Robbie McEwen, but beating McEwen by 3 places at the finish line. McEwen is clearly the quicker man, so O'Grady will have to be attentive to all the points up for grab if he's to take the final green jersey in Paris.
Today's sprints are at 14 km, 104 km, and 131 km.
Starting Stage 8, it's:
Thierry Marichal is wearing the red race numbers of most agressive rider for his part in yesterday's two-up breakaway. My vote would have gone to Erik Dekker, who pushed the break's tempo so hard he finished the stage dead last, at 13:49.
July 09, 2004
Stage 6: 196 km Bonneval to Angers
Another flattish day, more crappy weather expected.
US Postal should get a little rest, as Brioches la Boulangere will likely try to hold the peloton together and keep Thomas Voeckler in the yellow jersey.
Starting Stage 6, it's:
Sandy Casar also won the red race numbers for the most agressive rider on yesterday's stage.
July 08, 2004
Stage 5: 200.5 km Amiens-Chartres
Fairly straightforward stage for the sprinters. One 4th-category climb on the day, at about 70 kms. One possible gotcha is heavy crosswinds expected late in the stage, where it's possible the field could split, leaving some of the sprinters out of the lead group.
BBC Sport says the stage is well-suited to Alessandro Petacchi, and he's got to be just itching for a stage win; he hasn't even been that close yet this Tour. Robbie McEwen will also be looking for the stage win.
I'm still hoping for a successful break Bobke can use on Al Trautwig.
Starting Stage 5, it's:
Kessler is more than a minute ahead of former white jersey Fabian Cancellara.
July 07, 2004
Stage 4: 64.5 km TTT Cambrai-Arras
Last year's TTT was won by US Postal, the first win for the team in the discipline.
Each team is awarded the time of the 5th rider to cross the line. If a team drops a rider to improve the team's time, the straggling rider is awarded his actual time. This year, a rules change means there's a limit on time losses based on the team's placings. The maximum gap between 1st and 21st will be 3 minutes.
Most people give an edge to US Postal, CSC, T-Mobile, and Phonak. It will be interesting to see how the modified rules affect the standings. CSC director Bjarne Riis predicts his squad will win the stage.
It's highly unlikely Robbie McEwen's Lotto-Domo team will ride a strong enough TT to keep the yellow jersey, but the standings are still tight enough that a few riders have a shot. It looks like the best bets are CSC's Jens Voigt and Lance Armstrong, but if T-Mobile takes the stage, we could see Erik Zabel in the maillot jaune.
Update: cyclingnews.com reports weather conditions are predicted to worsen through the stage, with wind throughout and rain predicted from around 3 pm CEST.
Starting Stage 4, it's:
Red race numbers for the day belong to CSC's Jens Voigt, as the most agressive rider yesterday.
July 06, 2004
Stage 3 Preview: Waterloo to Wasquehal
The Tour leaves Belgium halfway through the stage to move into France. It's 121 miles in all, with a 4th-category and a 3rd-category climb in the first 40 miles, then very flat all the way to a 1400-meter closing straightaway in Wasquehal.
Many of the riders are antsy about two sections of cobbles on the race route, one with around 30 miles to ride, and another with 6 miles to go. If the peloton is tentative on the pavé, there's a chance that a good tactician could take advantage and make it to the line (and if so, maybe it will shut up Al Trautwig).
Some of the teams are likely to be looking ahead to the team time trial on Wednesday.
Starting Stage 3, it's:
Red race numbers for the day belong to Jakob Piil, as the most agressive rider yesterday.
July 05, 2004
Armstrong adds to 3rd-stage jitters
A lot of the riders are very nervous about the 2+ miles of cobblestones on tomorrow's Stage 3 of the Tour de France.
Lance Armstrong spoke for the peloton:
"I think everybody is worried about the cobbles - even the riders who are good on them are worried," Armstrong said.
"You could be involved in a crash and that would mean the end of your Tour. Somebody's Tour will be over on Tuesday and I could be one of those people."
The second stretch of cobbles are part of Paris-Roubaix, the spring classic also known as "The Hell of the North." Magnus Backstedt won the 2004 edition, but their inclusion on the Tour is controversial, because it's not that big a deal to lose 5 minutes in a classic; you're just smoked for the day. In a grand tour, you can be hosed for 3 weeks.
Armstrong acknowledged the historical place of the pavé:
"At the same time, the cobbles are a big part of French cycling. If you look at Paris-Roubaix, they are a beautiful thing, if you look at it like that, you should say they should be part of the Tour."
Some teams will likely want to conserve effort in advance of Wednesday's team time trial.
Stage 2 wrap-up and a look at Stage 3
A good look at Robbie McEwen, and what his win for the Belgian Lotto-Domo team will mean in Belgium:
The 32-year-old Australian has spent the bulk of his eight-year career riding for Dutch and Belgian teams, and his current squad, Lotto-Domo, is sponsored by the Belgian national lottery. He lives in Brakel, the city regarded as the hub of the country's cycling, and is married to a local ophthalmologist.
As if that were not enough to make him Belgian by adoption, McEwen rattled off most of his explanations for the fourth Tour stage win of his career in high-speed Flemish, a language he dominates so well he sometimes has problems remembering the equivalent word in English.
This AP story outlines the results in today's Stage 2, and looks ahead to tomorrow's Stage 3, which might make or break a few riders' Tours. A little more than 2 miles of the course tomorrow travels over traditional Belgian pavé, cobblestones that can be very treacherous, even more so in the rain.
A couple of teams will be riding wider wheels for the stage, inclding Tyler Hamilton's Phonak squad.
Hamilton says he would have avoided the stones had he designed the Tour route.
"But that's what bike racing is all about, different terrain, mountains, flat stages, crosswinds and this year cobblestones," he said. "We'll obviously try to stay toward the front and try to stay upright, obviously. Our goal for that day is just safety."
Stage 2 Preview: Charleroi to Namur
Today's stage is about 121 miles, with a 50-kilometer introduction to France before returning to Belgium for what's very likely to be a sprint finish.
There are just two climbs, both 4th Category, on the course, and the finish in Namur is the first there since 1959.
The course has a sharp turn 200 meters from the line, which might interrupt the Fassa Bortolo train, and disrupt Alessandro Petacchi's chance to get a sprint win.
VeloNews tips Baden Cooke or Robbie McEwen, but I'm picking Tom Boonen, who pulled off in the last meters of yesterday's stage when he threw a chain, but looked to be in good position and riding well. McEwen will be motivated because he rides for a Belgian team, but Boonen is Belgian himself.
Look for green jersey Thor Hushovd to contest a few intermediate sprints, trying to get enough time on Cancellara to take over the yellow jersey.
At Stage 2's start, it's:
Jens Voigt will ride in the red race numbers of yesterday's most aggressive rider.
July 26, 2003
Tour Today: Pornic - Nantes time trial
This is it. "You put down your rock, and I put down my sword, and we face each other, man against man, as God intended."
Looks like the weather will be rainy and windy, with some forecasts of 70-km/h gusts. Lance Armstrong takes off three minutes after Jan Ullrich, around 10 a.m. Eastern, and they should both cover the 49 kms in about an hour.
This one is for all the marbles. Armstrong would like to win the stage, stamp his mark on this Tour, and get to take it easy on Sunday. Ullrich would like to ride in yellow on Sunday. One of them is going to be mighty unhappy tonight.
Also keep an eye on Tyler Hamilton, who has a chance to move up from 6th to 4th in the overall classification.
Today's stage and Sunday's both count toward the 100,000-euro Centenaire competition, currently led by Baden Cooke. The winner will be the rider with the best average finish in the six cities that were on the 1903 Tour.
Lance Armstrong Robbie McEwen Richard Virenque Denis Menchov
July 25, 2003
Tour Today: Bordeaux - Saint-Maixent-l'Ecole
A near replay of yesterday's course profile, with today's stage going 203.5 kms, with 2 intermediate sprints, and 35 points for finishing the stage first. Bonus points are awarded down to 25th place.
Most of the action today is likely to surround the green jersey, as Baden Cooke, Robbie McEwen, Erik Zabel, and Thor Hushovd try to win the overall points title for this Tour. Stuart O'Grady is probably out of the mix, with Hushovd, his teammate, picking up more points in the field sprint yesterday.
Lance Armstrong Baden Cooke Richard Virenque Denis Menchov
Team CSC leads the team classification over Euskaltel-Euskadi by 16:54.
Servais Knaven will be wearing the red race number of the most aggressive rider.
July 24, 2003
Tour Today: Dax - Bordeaux
Flat, flat, flat. We've got two intermediate sprints and the finishing sprint in 181 km, as the Tour moves north, paralleling the Atlantic coast.
Most of the action today is likely to surround the green jersey, as Baden Cooke, Robbie McEwen, Erik Zabel, and Stuart O'Grady try to win the overall points title for this Tour.
There have been suggestions that Jan Ullrich might try to close the gap with Armstrong by contesting intermediate sprints, but I don't see it: Armstrong has a strong team that could chase down any such attempt, and with the closeness of the points competition, they would get plenty of help from the teams of the green jersey competitors. I think Ullrich is going to have to play his hand on Saturday, in the individual time trial.
With the abandonment of Australia's Nick Gates of Lotto-Domo and Rabobank's Remmert Wielinga of the Netherlands, 149 riders are left in the race.
Lance Armstrong Baden Cooke Richard Virenque Denis Menchov
Team CSC leads the team classification over Euskaltel-Euskadi by about 9 minutes.
Tyler Freaking Hamilton will be quite deservedly wearing the red race number of the most aggressive rider.
July 21, 2003
Tour Today : Bagneres-de-Bigorre - Luz-Ardiden
Three big climbs, the 1st Category Col d'Aspin, and two Hors Categorie climbs, the Col du Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden.
Lance Armstrong Baden Cooke Richard Virenque Denis Menchov
Team CSC leads the team classification over iBanesto by about 9 minutes.
Laurent Dufaux will be wearing the red race number of the most aggressive rider.
July 19, 2003
John Wilcockson weighs in that in his opinion, tomorrow's stage is one of the Tour's hardest, wtih a first category climb up Port de Pailheres that he thinks is both longer and steeper than Alpe d'Huez.
It climbs for 25 kilometers, with the final 15 kilometers on an extremely narrow, switchback road that tops out at 2001 meters (6565 feet) elevation. The climb has an average 7.8-percent grade, with three long stretches at 10 percent or more. After crossing the peak, there follows a harrowing 20-kilometer-long descent on narrow and tortuous roads, before an immediate 9-kilometer climb to the finish at Ax-3 Domaines on the Plateau de Bonascre.
July 18, 2003
Tour Today: Gaillac - Cap'Découverte
It's the first individual time trial, a 47 km stage that undulates between Gaillac and Cap'Découverte, and that's likely to shake a few climbers down the overall classification.
iBanesto.com moved ahead of CSC in the team competition thanks to Fecha's stage win, leading by 15 secs.
Juan Antonio Fecha of iBanesto will be wearing the red race number of the most aggressive rider.
Thursday's stage counted toward the Centenaire classification, currently led by Baden Cooke.
July 17, 2003
Tour Today: Narbonne - Toulouse
Today's Stage 11 is the shortest road stage of the Tour at 153.5 kms.
Look for Lotto, FDJeux, and Telekom to jockey their sprinters into position at the intermediate sprints at 59 km and 126 km. There's a single categorized climb, a 3rd Category at 82.5 km, but that should leave plenty of time to reel in a rider or two on a flyer so the sprinters get a shot at the 35 points up for grabs at the stage finish. With Baden Cooke 9 points up on fellow Aussie Robbie McEwen, and 28 points up on Erik Zabel of Telekom, the points standings could be shuffled tonight.
Since Toulouse was a stage featured in the first Tour in 1903, today's finishing order will count toward the Centenary Tour centenaire classification.
Team CSC leads iBanesto.com in the team competition by a razor-thin 27 seconds.
José Enrique Gutierrez of Kelme will be wearing the red race number of the most aggressive rider for his 30 kms in front of the race on Tuesday.
Tomorrow is the first individual time trial.
July 15, 2003
Tour Today: Gap - Marseilles
Today's stage is about 220 km, from Gap down to the port of Marseilles, finishing with a circuit of the city.
There are two intermediate sprints, at 10.5 km and 138.5 km, and two 4th-category climbs, at 99.5 km and 170 km. Past finishes at Marseilles have generally produced long breakaways, and 2 of 3 Marseilles winners won on a solo break.
Wednesday is a rest/transfer day.
Yellow Jersey - Lance Armstrong (US Postal)
Green Jersey - Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com)
Polka-dot Jersey - Richard Virenque (QuickStep)
White Jersey - Denis Menchov (iBanesto)
Euskaltel continues to lead the team standings.
Jorg Jaksche will wear the red race number of the most aggressive rider, recognizing his breakaway from yesterday.
There are 172 riders left in the race.
July 14, 2003
Tour Today: Bourg d'Oisans - Gap
A stage with interesting geography: a first category climb, an haute categorie climb, a long descent into a valley, a 2nd category climb and a 3rd category climb. The hard climbs are front-loaded, so it will be interesting to see whether anyone tries or succeeds to generate a break on the early, harder climbs, with the risk that the peloton (or much of it) can build a pursuit during the 60 or so kms down from the Col d'Izoard. It seems more likely that a rider looking to move up in the King of the Mountains competition might try to get away over the big two climbs.
Four abandons during the stage yesterday:
Pierre Bourquenoud (Jean Delatour)
Antonio Tauler (Kelme)
Ignacio Gutierrez (Kelme team leader)
Nicola Loda (Fassa Bortolo)
One rider was eliminated for finishing outside the time limit:
Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel)
That leaves 179 riders to start Stage 9, although there are rumors that at least Glberto Simoni will not start today's stage.
Yellow jersey - Lance Armstrong
Polka-dot jersey - Richard Virenque
Green jersey - Baden Cooke
White jersey - Dennis Menchov
July 12, 2003
USA Today posts a look at "The Look", when Lance Armstrong checked the rear-view and motored away from Jan Ullrich in the 2001 stage to L'Alpe d'Huez:
Sports Illustrated columnist Austin Murphy declared afterward that Armstrong's audacious stare "was exactly when cycling officially lost its status as a fringe sport in this country."
Armstrong has always denied that there was any disrespect:
"I wasn't being arrogant or cocky," Armstrong said in a January 2003 interview. "I was looking to see his condition and that of the riders behind him. I had to examine the situation. But when I saw it on TV, I could see why people were talking about it."
The story also recounts "The Bluff", when Armstrong did his best to look beaten earlier in the stage.
Seen at LOGos Tour Blog.
Web tour of Alpe d'Huez
Like most of you, I will not be lining the 21 fabled switchbacks up to L'Alpe d'Huez on Sunday.
Here are a couple of web travelogues that are almost like being there yourself:
Well, it is not a "pass" it its real sense. But of course Alpe d'Huez is a legend for every cycling fan, even if there are steeper mountains, more beautiful streets and also more idyllic places. Often Alpe d'Huez is the aim of a Tour-de-France-stage, in these days there is an atmosphere like in a football stadium. 21 numbered hairpins lead upwards, each one with the altitude and the name of a former stage winner. The street was developed for the olympic winter olympic games in 1968. It is generally 9 m wide and open all year.
This site has some gorgeous pictures of the mountain, including some of the stage in 2001, which Lance Armstrong won.
Bicycle Ride up l'Alpe d'Huez is an account of one man's ride up the legendary mountain, with closeup pictures of most of the switchbacks.
And here's a Tour de France.cz photo gallery from the 1992 Tour, most of them of riders suffering up L'Alpe d'Huez, including Greg LeMond in the Z jersey which is still my all-time favorite, Miguel Indurain, Stephen Roche, Andy Hampsten, and Gianni Bugno. Text is in Czech, but it's almost all photos. There's also a link to this year's pre-Tour festivities.
Tour Today: Lyon - Morzine
Today is the longest day of the 2003 Tour, at 230.5 km.
There are two 3rd Category climbs, two 2nd Category climbs, and a 1st Category the Tour has never traversed: Col de la Ramaz.
Still 194 riders in the race
Yellow Jersey: Victor Hugo Peña
Green Jersey: Alessandro Petacchi
Polka-Dot Jersey: Christophe Mengin
White Jersey: Vladimir Karpet
Lanterne Rouge (last place overall): Jimmy Caspar