June 30, 2012

Where are they from, 2012 edition

Every year, I run down the countries represented by Tour racers, with special attention to the English-speaking countries.

Australia

Cadel Evans, BMC
Jonathan Cantwell, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff
Baden Cooke, Orica-Greenedge
Simon Gerrans, Orica-Greenedge
Matthew Goss, Orica-Greenedge
Adam Hansen, Lotto-Belisol
Brett Lancaster, Orica-Greenedge
Matthew Lloyd, Lampre-ISD
Stuart O'Grady, Orica-Greenedge
Richie Porte, Team Sky
Mark Renshaw, Rabobank
Michael Rogers, Team Sky

With the advent of Orica-Greenedge, Australia jumps from six to 12 riders; there were 11 in 2010. All six of last year's riders are back, plus Rogers, Lloyd, Lancaster, Cantwell, Hansen, and Cooke.

Canada

Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Sharp

Just one again, but that one just happens to have won the Giro d'Italia in May.

Great Britain

Mark Cavendish, Team Sky
Stephen Cummings, BMC
Chris Froome, Team Sky David Millar, Garmin-Sharp Bradley Wiggins, Team Sky

No Ben Swift or Geraint Thomas this year, but Cummings and Froome keep the overall count steady at five.

Ireland

Nicolas Roche, AG2R La Mondiale
Dan Martin, Garmin-Sharp

Roche finally gets company from Garmin's Dan Martin.

New Zealand

Greg Henderson, Lotto-Belisol

Henderson in, Julian Dean out, so still one from New Zealand.

South Africa

Robbie Hunter, Garmin-Sharp
Daryl Impey, Orica-Greenedge

South Africa jumps from zero to two.

USA

Tom Danielson, Garmin-Sharp
Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Sharp
George Hincapie, BMC
Chris Horner, Radio Shack-Nissan
Levi Leipheimer, Omega Pharma-Quick Step Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Sharp
Tejay Van Garderen, BMC
David Zabriskie, Garmin-Sharp

After 10 riders in the 2011 Tour, the US drops back to 8 with Brent Bookwalter and Danny Pate at home this year. Every other US rider that started last year's Tour is on hand for this year, as well.

An interesting sideline to "where are they from?" this year is "when are they from?" as we see the aging of the English-speaking riders continue, with a few youngsters, including Van Garderen, Farrar, and Porte overbalanced by a lot of riders nearing retirement, like Hincapie, Rogers, Horner, Hunter, Leipheimer, and Vande Velde.

My count is off by one somewhere (my country totals only come to 197), so corrections welcome, but here's the rundown for other countries, with 2011 in parentheses:

44: France (40)
21: Spain (26)
18: Netherlands (12)
16: Italy (17)
14: Belgium (15)
12: Germany (12)
5: Denmark (5), Russia (9)
4: Belarus (1), Kazhakstan (5), Slovenia (4)
3: Slovakia, Switzerland (4), Ukraine (3)
2: Portugal (2), Sweden (0)
1: Croatia (0), Estonia (1), Japan (0), Poland (3), Luxembourg (2), Argentina (0), Norway (2), Austria (1)

Posted by Frank Steele on June 30, 2012 in Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 13, 2011

Cavendish takes 3rd victory, green jersey on Stage 11

HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish continued his reign as the Tour's dominant sprinter, riding clear of André Greipel and Tyler Farrar for his 18th career Tour stage win.

The day's breakaway, and a competing effort to set up their sprinter by Garmin-Cervelo, splintered HTC's leadout train, but Cavendish and Mark Renshaw followed Sky's Geraint Thomas (rumored to be a teammate of Cav's in 2012), with Renshaw, then Cavendish going hard up the right side of the road. Stage 10 winner André Greipel and Stage 3 winner Tyler Farrar couldn't bring the speed to close down the Manxman, and Cavendish had his third stage win of the 2011 Tour.


The win gave Cavendish the lead in the green jersey contest, which up to now had favored Belgium's Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma-Lotto. There are two likely sprint
stages still to come, Stage 15 and the Stage 21 finale.

Green jersey:
1) Cavendish, HTC, 251
2) Rojas, Movistart, 235
3) Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 231
4) André Greipel, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 164
5) Thor Hushovd, Garmin-Cervelo, 163
6) Romain Feillu, Vacansoleil-DCM, 141
7) Cadel Evans, BMC, 135
8) Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Cervelo, 106
9) Sébastien Hinault, AG2R, 82
10) Denis Galimzyanov, Katusha, 81

The overall race leadership was unchanged. Here it is before the big changes that are likely to begin tomorrow:

GC, after Stage 11:
1) Thomas Voeckler, Europcar, in 4:52:39
2) Luis-Leon Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 1:49
3) Cadel Evans, BMC, at 2:26
4) Frank Schleck, Leopard-Trek, at 2:29
5) Andy Schleck, Leopard-Trek, at 2:29
6) Tony Martin, HTC-Highroad, at 2:38
7) Peter Velits, HTC-Highroad, at 2:38
8) Andréas Klöden, RadioShack, at 2:43
9) Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 2:55
10) Jakob Fuglsang, Leopard-Trek, at 3:08

Basso's at 3:36, Cunego 3:37, Roche 3:45, Gesink at 4:01, Contador 4:07, Danielson 4:22, and Samuel Sanchez at 5:01.

In the KoM, Johnny Hoogerland's time in the lead will soon come to an end:

KoM, after Stage 11:
1) Johnny Hoogerland, Vacansoleil, 22 pts
2) Thomas Voeckler, Europcar, 17 pts
3) Tejay Van Garderen, HTC, 5 pts
4) Marco Marcato, Vacansoleil-DCM, 5 pts
5) Rui Costa, Movistart, 5 pts
6) Sandy Casar, FDJ, 5 pts

Gesink holds the white jersey for at least another day. Europcar holds the team lead, while Mickael Delage of FDJ took the combativity prize for his role in the break on Wednesday.

More:
VeloNews.com | Mark Cavendish wins stage 11 of the 2011 Tour de France, takes over green jersey

cyclingnews.com | Cavendish gets stage win number three and green jersey in Lavaur

Posted by Frank Steele on July 13, 2011 in 2011 Stage 11, Andrei Greipel, Mark Cavendish, Philippe Gilbert, Thomas Voeckler, Top Stories, Tyler Farrar | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 12, 2011

NBC Sports All Access iOS app gets on-demand stages

I typically watch Tour stages with one display on Versus, and a second showing the English-language video stream they provide, with commentary by Matt Keenan, then Phil and Paul once the on-air broadcast is underway.

I have paid for the Flash-based video stream to my Mac, but last year, I used the Versus iPhone app on my iPhone and iPad (using the iPhone app double-sized) to track the race during broadcast commercials or when I was away from a TV. Updated iOS Tour app

This year's app is much better, with far more video, at least a dozen good quality photos per stage, full iPad support, and fewer crashes. In one way it was worse, however. Last year's app allowed (and still allows, if you've got the 2010 Tour app installed) you to go back and watch the full video of the stage, while this year's offered only highlights (typically, crashes and finishes) once the live video was done.

Until today, that is. There's a new version 1.2.0 of the iOS app that allows subscribers to go back and watch previous Tour stages in their entirety. For now, the full stream goes back to Stage 6, but it's promised that previous stages will be available soon. It's done through a browser window, launched by the app, and allows you to scrub through the video to look for your particular highlight. Stage 6 and Stage 8 have about 3:20 of video, Stage 7 and Stage 9 around 4:15. As I write this at 7:25 Eastern on Tuesday, Stage 10 hasn't yet appeared.

Video quality may be a bit lower than the initial stream -- I'm not in a position to test it with a good quality broadband connection right now.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 12, 2011 in About the Tour, Television, Top Stories, Tour Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 10, 2011

Stage 9: Luis Leon Sanchez wins ‘Tour de Fracture’

Stage 9 looked like one for the break, but no one could predict just how many breaks we would see.

Juan Mañuel Garate of Rabobank didn't make the start, leaving 188 riders active. Early in the stage, there were three more abandons: Pavel Brutt of Katusha, Wouter Poels of Vacansoleil, and Amets Txurruka of Euskaltel-Euskadi.

Veteran escape artists Thomas Voeckler of Europcar, Luis Leon Sanchez of Rabobank, Juan Antonio Flecha of Sky and Sandy Casar of FDJ broke away with Vacansoleil's Johnny Hoogerland. All but Hoogerland are past stage winners, while Hoogerland, in his first Tour, was apparently in search of the King of the Mountains jersey, where he started the stage a point behind Tejay Van Garderen. They were initially joined by Quick Step's Nicki Terpstra, who faded back to the field when the group found the mountains. Hoogerland would take maximum points over most of the day's climbs, with Voeckler, best placed of the breakaway, looking to finally take the yellow jersey from Garmin-Cervelo's Thor Hushovd, who had held it since the team time trial last Sunday.


There were a few minor falls early in the stage, including one by defending champ Alberto Contador that looked like he had had been body-checked off the course Katusha's Vladimir Karpets. After the stage, Contador and Karpets agreed that Contador had caught his brake hood on Karpets' seat.

On the descent from the Puy Mary, the field carried too much speed into too little corner, and a number of riders went down. Astana's leader Alexandre Vinokourov tumbled down an embankement into some trees, and was helped back to the roadside by his teammates. Omega Pharma's GC hopeful, Jurgen van den Broeck, his teammate Frederik Willems, and Garmin-Cervelo's Dave Zabriskie were alll down in the same crash, and all would have to abandon the race. Zabriskie apparently fractured his hand, van den Broeck his shoulder blade, and initial reports were that Vinokourov had fractured his pelvis and femur, ending the Tour he had said would be his last.

Caught in the crash but continuing were Christian Vande Velde and David Millar of Garmin-Cervelo and RadioShack GC hopeful Andreas Klöden, who went to the hospital for X-rays after the stage. Klöden was heavily bruised on his back, but X-rays showed no breaks.

At the front of the pack, Cancellara and Gilbert neutralized the chase, allowing many of the downed riders to rejoin but also giving new life to the breakaway, which saw its lead balloon from around 4:00 to nearly 8:00 before the field could reorganize.

With around 43k to race, a television car tried to pass the lead group, cut back to avoid a tree, and took out Flecha and Hoogerland. Hoogerland was propelled off the road, into the air, and onto a barbed wire fence. After medical attention, and needing only to reach the finish line to take the King of the Mountains jersey, Hoogerland mounted up and rode, bleeding heavily from his left leg. Voeckler, Casar, and Sanchez considered waiting for Flecha, but finally had to continue as a trio, with Hoogerland, then Flecha being reabsorbed by the peloton and finishing with the laughing group, which was undoubtedly dire today.

The day's intermediate sprint came with only about 30 kilometers to ride, and Philippe Gilbert led the field in to hold the green jersey and widen his lead on Cavendish, Rojas and Hushovd. Garmin-Cervelo rode to limit Voeckler's gains until about 12k to the line, then handed the job over to BMC, then LeopardTrek.

Voeckler, who spent 10 days in yellow back in 2004, was clearly burying himself for a chance to repeat the experience. In the last kilometer, Voeckler tried to lose his passengers, but Luis Leon Sanchez was waiting for the move and easily distanced Voeckler, with Casar unable to even respond, to take the third Tour stage victory of his career. Voeckler would take yellow with a 1:49 advantage on Sanchez and 2:26 on Cadel Evans.

Philippe Gilbert would again lead in the field sprint, in a group with Evans, both Schlecks, Martin and Velits of HTC, Cunego, Contador, Danielson and Sanchez (among others) at 3:59 and Leipheimer, Gesink, Thomas, Basso, and Klöden (among others) at 4:07 down on Voeckler.

Stage 9:
1) Luis-Leon Sanchez, Rabobank, 5:27:09
2) Thomas Voeckler, Europcar, at :05
3) Sandy Casar, FDJ, at :13
4) Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 3:59
5) Peter Velits, HTC-Highroad, same time
6) Cadel Evans, BMC, s.t.
7) Andy Schleck, Leopard Trek, s.t.
8) Tony Martin, HTC-Highroad, s.t.
9) Frank Schleck, Leopard Trek, s.t.
10) Damiano Cunego, Lampre, s.t.

GC, after Stage 9:
1) Thomas Voeckler, Europcar, in 38:35:11
2) Luis Leon Sanchez, Rabobank, at 1:49
3) Cadel Evans, BMC, at 2:26
4) Frank Schleck, Leopard Trek, at 2:29
5) Andy Schleck, Leopard Trek, at 2:37
6) Tony Martin, HTC-Highroad, at 2:38
7) Peter Velits, HTC-Highroad, at 2:38
8) Andréas Klöden, RadioShack, at 2:43
9) Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 2:55
10) Jakob Fuglsang, Leopard Trek at 3:08

More:

VeloNews | Thomas Voeckler takes lead in 2011 Tour de France as Luis-Leon Sanchez wins stage 9
cyclingnews.com | Luis León Sánchez wins crash-hit stage
GrahamWatson.com | Tour de France: Stage 9

Posted by Frank Steele on July 10, 2011 in 2011 Stage 9, Alberto Contador, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, Fabian Cancellara, Jurgen van den Broeck, Levi Leipheimer, Luis Sanchez, Mark Cavendish, Philippe Gilbert, Thomas Voeckler, Thor Hushovd, Tom Danielson, Tony Martin, Top Stories, Vuelta a España | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 07, 2011

Boasson Hagen powers to Stage 6 win

Edvald Boasson Hagen won Stage 6 of the Tour on Thursday, holding off yellow jersey Thor Hushovd and Stage 1 winner Philippe Gilbert in the closing meters to take his first Tour stage and the first for his Team Sky.

The day's finish profile discouraged Cavendish, Farrar, and their ilk, favoring the torquier sprinters. With 1k to ride, Garmin-Cervelo's David Millar led the way, with Gilbert, Evans, and Hushovd close behind, and HTC trying to set up a leadout on the right of the pack, with Matthew Goss in its sweet spot. Astana's Alexandre Vinokourov tried to escape, but was countered by Rabobank's Bauke Mollema. With a few hundred meters to ride, Boasson Hagen launched off the wheel of teammate Geraint Thomas, outkicking Hushovd and Gilbert, stacked up behind him. At the line, in fact, it was Matthew Goss, closing fast, who would take 2nd on the stage, with Hushovd third.


Radio Shack's Levi Leipheimer suffered the only significant change in overall placing by a GC hopeful, limping in 1:05 back after falling on wet pavement late in the stage.

The break of the day at least factored in the jersey competitions, with Johnny Hoogerland of Vacansoleil taking 3 King of the Mountain points to take over the jersey through Saturday, at least. Also in the break were Leonardo Duque, Anthony Roux, Lieuwe Westra, and Adriano Malori. The break surrendered bit by bit, with Malori holding out to about the 15k mark, and earning the most aggressive award for the day.

HTC's Mark Cavendish came out to play at the intermediate sprint behind the breakaway, easily taking 6th ahead of José Rojas, who was looking to get back into the green jersey after a nullification of points in Stage 5.

The selection at the finish demonstrates why Philippe Gilbert may be entertaining thoughts of competing for the overall green jersey:

Green Jersey Competition (after 6 stages):
1) Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 144 pts
2) Jose Rojas, Movistar, 143 pts
3) Thor Hushovd, Garmin-Cervelo, 112 pts
4) Cadel Evans, BMC, 98 pts
5) Mark Cavendish, HTC-Highroad, 94 pts
6) Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Cervelo, 76 pts
7) Romain Feillu, Vacansoleil-DCM, 73 pts
8) Edvald Boasson Hagen, Sky, 51 pts
9) Sébastien Hinault, AG2R La Mondiale, 48 pts
10) André Greipel, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 48 pts

Cavendish complained after this year's course was unveiled that organizers included stages like today's to limit his opportunities for victory. That may be, but I would rather see a battle like today's than the HTC train catapulting Cavendish to a 5-bike-length victory, an all-too-common sight the last few Tours.

Tomorrow, look for the HTC train to catapult Cavendish to victory, as Stage 7 is the flattest of the Tour.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2011 in 2011 Stage 6, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Philippe Gilbert, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 06, 2011

Stage 5: Cavendish opens his account

Nobody was counting Mark Cavendish out of this Tour, except in Cav's imagination. But the well-oiled HTC-Highroad machine has sputtered at a couple of key junctures so far, and Cavendish has been unable to seal the deal.

Wednesday, the wheels again came off HTC-Highroad's leadout, but Cavendish wouldn't be denied, streaking easily through the competition to take his first win of the 2011 Tour.

The longest breakaway of the day featured José Ivan Gutierrez, Anthony Delaplace, Tristan Valentin and Sébastien Turgot, who escaped just after the racing began and were caught with about 45 kilometers to race. It was a nervous day in the field, with crosswinds threatening echelons that never quite formed, and narrow roads that wouldn't qualify as driveways in some parts of the United States.

The result was dozens of crashes. Radio Shack's Janez Brajkovic suffered a concussion and broken collarbone and abandoned the Tour after he was caught up in a crash that also injured Rabobank leader Robert Gesink. Sky's Bradley Wiggins and Quick Step's French road champion Sylvain Chavanel also spent time in the horizontal plane.

Defending champion Alberto Contador was down in two separate incidents, while Saxo Bank teammate Nicki Sørensen found his bike wedged against a photo motorcycle trying to edge past on a very narrow road. Sørensen flipped to the ground then slid to a stop in the roadside.

At the day's intermediate sprint, green jersey José Rojas and Tom Boonen got caught up and swept almost from edge to edge, leading Cavendish to gesture at what he thought was a flagrant foul. The pair were stripped of points earned in that sprint after the stage, dropping Rojas out of the green jersey lead (now led by Philippe Gilbert).

Boonen would also hit the deck quite hard and spent the rest of the stage fighting just to try to get in under the time limit for the stage.

The early capture opened the door for a pair of French opportunists, FDJ's Jeremy Roy and Europcar's Thomas Voeckler, who escaped with 32k to ride and yo-yo'ed off the front until less than 3k to ride.

HTC-Highroad throttled up its train, but the cars got scrambled late as Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen tried to escape. Separated from usual leadout man Mark Renshaw, Cavendish found the wheel of Geraint Thomas, then Philippe Gilbert and shot through the leaders in the final 200 meters to take the stage.

The stage had little impact on the overall race lead, but tossed the green a bit, with Gilbert inheriting the leader's jersey only late in the afternoon when Rojas was docked for the squirrely intermediate sprint, and Cavendish moving up to 4th overall.

Green Jersey (after Stage 5)

1) Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 120 pts
2) Jose Rojas, Movistar, 112 pts
3) Cadel Evans, BMC 90 pts
4) Mark Cavendish, HTC-Highroad, 84 pts
5) Thor Hushovd, Garmin-Cervelo, 82 pts
6) Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Cervelo, 68 pts
7) André Greipel, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 48 pts
8) Romain Feillu, Vacansoleil-DCM, 47 pts
9) Borut Bozic, Vacansoleil-DCM, 47 pts
10) Geraint Thomas, Sky, 44 pts

More:

Cyclingnews.com | Cavendish gets his win the hard way | photos

GrahamWatson.com | Tour de France Stage 5 Photo Gallery

Posted by Frank Steele on July 6, 2011 in 2011 Stage 5, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Janez Brajkovic, Mark Cavendish, Philippe Gilbert, Sylvain Chavanel, Tom Boonen, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Today's favorite Tour Twitterers

I'm working on an updated survey of all the Tour Twitterers worth following, but I wanted to give a nod to five who have already really added to my enjoyment of this year's Tour.

  • Craig Lewis, HTC-Highroad - Lewis is home recuperating from a crash at the Giro d'Italia. His loss has been our gain so far, as he's tweeting very actively, and giving a rider's perspective on stage tactics
  • Mark Cavendish, HTC-Highroad - Cav the Twitterer is like Cav the rider: brash and ready to go at the drop of a hat
  • The Inner Ring - Twitter feed for The Inner Ring weblog
  • Gerard Vroomen - The cofounder of Cervelo bikes has an interesting perspective, especially given Garmin-Cervelo's success so far this year
  • TdFLanterne - It's been a treat to watch @TdFLanterne morph from her single-purpose weblog to snarky crusader

Posted by Frank Steele on July 6, 2011 in Mark Cavendish, Top Stories, Tour Tech, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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

July 04, 2011

Stage 3: Garmin doubles up as Farrar brings the fireworks

Tyler Farrar has been the future of American sprinting for the last few years, notching victories at the Vuelta in 2009 and two stages each in the Giro and Vuelta in 2010. In America's favorite bike race, he had come close, but never edged HTC's Mark Cavendish.

Monday, with the team still aglow from its first Tour win in Sunday's TTT, Farrar finally sealed the deal, riding a beautiful leadout from world champion and yellow jersey Thor Hushovd and Julian Dean to a resounding Garmin victory. At the line, Farrar saluted his late friend and training partner Wouter Weylandt, flashing a "W" with his hands.

Cavendish, the favorite for the stage win, managed 5th on the day after the rails came off the HTC train in the final 2 kilometers of the stage. To add insult to injury, the 10 green jersey points Cavendish had won in the day's intermediate sprint (and 4 to Hushovd) were nullified by Tour commissaires for a fairly mild bump between Hushovd and Cavendish when both wanted Philippe Gilbert's wheel.

After the stage, Cavendish blamed Vacansoleil's Romain Feillu, who Cav said “causes havoc in every sprint.”

“He took me out in the last corner. I was 40 meters behind out the last corner with no speed whatsoever. I went full gas, I gained 40 meters and finished with the front four and I gained points and it just shows my form.”

José Rojas, who I think of as the Spanish Joe Rogan, took over the green jersey with his 3rd place finish on the day. Hushovd holds yellow, Geraint Thomas holds white, and Gilbert keeps the polka-dots, on the strength of a single point earned in Stage 1.

The sacrificial break of the day featured Nicki Terpstra, Mikael Delage, Maxime Bouet, Ivan Gutierrez, and Ruben Perez. Delage would take the red combativity race number and points in the sprint and mountains competition for his efforts.

With the win, Farrar joins two select clubs: Americans with Tour stage wins, and Americans with stage wins in all three grand tours (the only other member is Zabriskie, with an asterisk for Tyler Hamilton, who tested positive for blood doping during the 2004 Vuelta in which he won Stage 8).

Top 10 (all same time):
1) Tyler Farrar, Garmin, in 4:40:21
2) Romain Feillu, Vacansoleil
3) Jose Rojas, Movistar
4) Sebastien Hinault, AG2R
5) Mark Cavendish, HTC
6) Thor Hushovd, Garmin
7) Julian Dean, Garmin
8) Borut Bozic, Vacansoleil
9) André Greipel, Omega Pharma
10) Jimmy Engoulvent, Saur-Sojasun

Also:

cyclingnews | Farrar nabs his first Tour de France stage | photos

Posted by Frank Steele on July 4, 2011 in 2011 Stage 3, Julian Dean, Mark Cavendish, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories, Tyler Farrar | 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

Welcome to the 2011 Tour

I'm back again this year, trying to help people get the most out of the Tour de France on the web.

This weblog got started by accident. I had posted a guide to the Tour on my personal weblog in 2003 (here's the 2009 version), and a couple of posts noting who had won the day's stage, or what was on tap for the next day's stage. One morning, I woke up and went into my office, and realized the drive on the (AMD K6-2 350) Linux box that served my weblog was really laboring.

A few minutes later, I could see why the server was under load. Google's top result when you searched for "Tour de France update" was my weblog. I had been looking for a reason to try out the new hosted Moveable Type service at TypePad, so I spent about 45 minutes setting up a dedicated Tour weblog, and started publishing.

In the 9 Tours since, the cycling landscape on the web has shifted tremendously for the better. In the early years, I was pointing out just about everything of any value about the Tour on the web. Today, that idea seems preposterous. The websites that existed then, like VeloNews and CyclingNews have expanded tremendously, and been joined by fan-driven sites like PodiumCafe and literally dozens of enthusiastic fan weblogs. Average fans can go out and make terrific photos and videos, then share them on Flickr and other sharing sites, and the growth of Twitter means it's easy to find like-minded fans and trade snark while the race progresses.

So, this year, as in the last couple of years, I'll be very active on Twitter, and pointing out the best of the Tour de France web there and here on the weblog.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 2, 2011 in About the site, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Stage 1 Preview

The Tour rolls out today over the Passage du Gois, but with the risks controlled, as the Passage itself is neutralized.

The stage itself winds along the French coast, then turns inland to finish at Mont des Alouettes. It's 191 km (119 miles), with a sting in the tail that's likely to leave Cavendish, Petacchi, Farrar et al. out of the running for the stage win.

Look instead for a Classics-style rider, and none of them has had a season to match Philippe Gilbert this year, making him the day's favorite. With the first yellow jersey of the Tour on offer, Thor Hushovd, Matt Goss, or Fabian Cancellara could also take the stage.

We may also get our first look at some teams' green jersey strategies. Organizers have changed the green jersey competition's rules, so the intermediate sprints, traditionally a non-factor in the competition, now are worth about half as much as a stage win. It's possible that we'll see competitors trying to wear the jersey by putting together a string of mid-stage placings.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 2, 2011 in 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

July 05, 2010

Stage 2: Chavanel survives to yellow

SPA, BELGIUM - JULY 05: After assisting injured cyclists, a medic cleans his case of blood along stage 2 of the Tour de France July 5, 2010 in Spa, Belgium. The 201km route with six categorised climbs travels from Brussels to the city of Spa. France's Sylvain Chavanel won the second stage, taking the overall leader's yellow jersey from Fabian Cancellara. The iconic bicycle race will include a total of 20 stages and will cover 3,642km before concluding in Paris on July 25. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)It must have seemed like a great idea to organizers. Run a stage of the Tour over some of cycling's hallowed ground, using parts of Liege-Bastogne-Liege for today's Stage 2, and 7 cobbled sectors that feature in Paris-Roubaix tomorrow.

Throw in rain, and the generally squirrely nature of a first-week Tour peloton, though, and you've got the recipe for a demolition derby. One of the riders who might reasonably have feared the day's profile was Sylvain Chavanel, who fractured his skull on this course a little more than 2 months ago.

Instead, Chavanel rode away from the field with only about 15 kilometers ridden on the day, joined by teammate Jerome Pineau, who would take max points over each of the day's climbs to take over the polka-dot jersey, Marcus Burghardt, Matt Lloyd, Reine Taaramae, and 3 others.

Behind, the descent of the Col de Stockeu looked like the train station scene of “Gone with the Wind,” with riders all over the roadside. Some reporters estimated 70-80 riders went down, and there were reports of soigneurs climbing out of cars to help their riders, then falling down themselves. Some riders (and Eddy Merckx) have suggested there must have been some sort of oil on the road (leading to my favorite tweet of the day), because the road seemed so much more treacherous than when it's been raced in LBL in the past.

Both Andy and Frank Schleck, Alessandro Petacchi, Robbie McEwen, Alberto Contador, George Hincapie, and Lance Armstrong spent time on the tarmac, with the largest crash occurring at around 30km to ride, when a photo motorcycle trying to avoid a downed rider became the first domino. With confusion reigning in the peloton, Chavanel's break, which had appeared doomed, had new life.

July 05, 2010 - 06134192 date 05 07 2010 Copyright imago Panoramic 05 07 2010 Tour de France 2010 2 Stage Brussels Spa Sylvain Chavanel FRA Quick Step Photo News PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxFRAxITAxBEL Cycling men Wheel Road Tour de France Award Ceremony Single Vdig xkg 2010 vertical Highlight premiumd o0 Stage victory cheering happiness Yellow Jersey Emotions.Armstrong and Contador found themselves allies on the road, as they were dropped from the yellow jersey group, but rode together back into Cancellara's company, as Cancellara and Riis calculated whether it was better for Cancellara to hold the yellow jersey, or to sit up and wait for the Schlecks. With Cancellara off the gas, the group mostly came back together, with a few notable exceptions.

Caught up in the many crashes were seemingly the entire Garmin-Transitions team, with Christian Vande Velde having to withdraw with two broken ribs, continuing his disastrous season. Nearly as bad were Tyler Farrar's injuries -- a fractured wrist, sprained elbow, and scratches and bruises suffered in two separate crashes. David Millar may have a broken rib, but didn't have x-rays. Julian Dean and Robbie Hunter also went down.

Cancellara spent a fair amount of time in discussion with the race director, apparently trying to get the day's GC losses neutralized. Barring that and apparently with the consent of other riders, Cancellara went to the front of the pack at the end of the stage, and decreed that no one would contest the sprint. Chavenel took the stage by 3:56 ahead of a 6-wide pack, which led race officials to withhold sprint points from everyone but Chavanel. This didn't sit too well with Norwegian champion and defending green jersey winner Thor Hushovd, who had apparently targeted today's stage, and hoped to improve in the points competition:

"I've been riding all day for the stage win and the green jersey and I end up with nothing," Hushovd continued. "This is not fair. Will the same thing happen tomorrow? Will the times for GC be taken before the pavés sections? If Alberto Contador or another big rider crashes tomorrow on the cobblestones, he's entitled to ask for the race to be neutralised too! So when will we race, really?"

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2010 in 2010 Stage 2, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Christian Vande Velde, David Millar, Fabian Cancellara, Frank Schleck, George Hincapie, Julian Dean, Lance Armstrong, Sylvain Chavanel, Top Stories, Tyler Farrar | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 03, 2010

What's past is prologue: Cancellara, Armstrong star in Rotterdam

The Tour de France is all about control. Riders pre-ride key stages. Teams bring multiple spares for their protected riders, who have spent months tracking every calorie to make sure they're at their best race weight.

July 03, 2010 - Rotterdam, NETHERLANDS - epa02235688 Saxo Bank team rider Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland cycles during the prologue of the 97th Tour de France 2010 cycling race in Rotterdam, 03 July 2010. The 198 riders begin the 2010 Tour de France with an individual lap of the 8,9km circuit around Rotterdam.So it's always revealing when the uncontrollable rears its head. For Saturday's Prologue, it was the weather that shook things up. Many riders with overall hopes opted for early starts to try to beat expected afternoon rains, but the rain started earlier than expected, and cleared before the last riders started, so the strategy seemingly backfired for some of the early starters.

Not so for HTC-Columbia's Tony Martin, who was the 11th rider to start, and covered the 8.9-km course in 10:10, a time that wasn't even approached for more than three hours. Other outstanding performances early were Garmin-Transition's David Millar, in 10:20, Garmin's sprinter Tyler Farrar, whose 10:28 would place him 7th on the stage, and Sky's Geraint Thomas, who would wind up 5th on the stage.

On the other hand, Sky's Bradley Wiggins, who was once a prologue specialist, rolled in with a 10:56, while former teammate Christian Vande Velde clocked in at 11:00 flat. For Wiggins, especially in a Tour with only one long TT, that's a worrying result.

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JULY 03: Tony Martin of Germany and Team HTC - Columbia won the white jersey for the best young rider after finishing second in the 8.9km Prologue for the 97th Tour de France on July 3, 2010 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)Organizers managed a very TV-friendly end to the Prologue, with Armstrong, Cancellara, and Contador leaving consecutively as the day's final riders. At the first time check, Armstrong was just 5 seconds slower than Martin. Less than a minute later, Cancellara would obliterate Martin's time, 6 seconds faster than the young German. When Contador came through, no one expected him to rival Cancellara, but could he match Armstrong? Contador was laboring even on the short stage, but at Time Check 1, he was just 1 second behind Armstrong.

At the finish, Armstrong was a whisker slower than Millar, finishing in 10:22, with Cancellara closing. Spartacus would trip the guns at 10:00, leaving only Contador to finish, battling up the long final stretch. Contador would finish in 10:27, ceding 5 seconds to Armstrong, but making time on every other GC contender.

And among GC contenders, perhaps the most disappointing ride was Andy Schleck's, newly crowned TT champion of Luxembourg, who finished in 11:09, and effectively summed it up on his Twitter feed.

Nobody wins or loses the Tour in the prologue, but those small gaps over a short distance are a pretty good indicator of who has brought their best time trialing legs to the party, and more generally who is rocking the highest power-to-weight ratios in the peloton. First indication is that we might get the Armstrong vs. Contador battle that I'm sure Versus is hoping for.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 3, 2010 in 2010 Prologue, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Christian Vande Velde, David Millar, Fabian Cancellara, Lance Armstrong, Top Stories, Tyler Farrar | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shades of gray

Landis preparingThere are a lot of cycling fans who still believe in black and white.

Some rider or another, they'll say, has never tested positive, or is the most tested athlete in the world. Team X, they'll say, has the strictest anti-doping program in the peloton. Sure, there used to be a lot of doping in the sport, they'll say, but no sport has such extensive athlete testing, and the sport today is clean.

I've been following the sport for 25 years, through the mysterious deaths while riders slept, the 60 hematocrits, and now the biological passport, and I'm convinced the sport has never in that time approached clean. I don't believe in black and white.

The way I've come to see modern cycling is that every rider exists in a Heisenberg bubble, balanced somewhere on a scale between pure as the driven snow white and Floyd Landis “hell yeah I doped” black. As a fan, we all calculate the likelihood a particular rider is juicing, and all most of us have to go on is the rider and his team's public pronouncements, and the rider's race performance. How much you like a rider has to be balanced against how likely you think it is a) that he or she has doped, and b) that he or she will get caught. This is why I and many others breathed a sigh of relief when Vinokourov lost the maglia rosa at the Giro. I believe Vino's failed dope test was accurate, and I fear he has likely returned to his previously successful ways. You, of course, may disagree, or feel just as fearful about Giro winner Ivan Basso, who was ultimately banned for his involvement in Operación Puerto, and now says he's gunning for a podium spot at the Tour. One of the things about the bubble is that every fan's is slightly different. Maybe you assume that everyone who came out of the sports mills of Eastern Europe is tainted. Maybe you believe that the recent popularity of Spain as a training center was a direct result of tighter French anti-doping laws.

Tyler Hamilton & David MillarOccasionally, especially in the case of a superstar rider, there may be other information, from former teammates, employees, trainers, or other people in the rider's circle. In the absence of positive dope tests, which it still appears can be manipulated without a great deal of trouble, all we can do is take the data and put it together with our own prejudices and preferences to decide who we believe is clean and who's not. If an ex-teammate says you've doped, that moves you 3 spaces to the right. Coming out of nowhere to contend for the climber's jersey at the Tour? Move 10 spaces to the right. If you get caught, suspended, then come back as an anti-dope crusader, that might move you a space or two to the left.

It's apparent that there's a continuing arms race in cycling, and the enforcers are losing. Like any arms race, the advantage goes to those with money and technology, and those belong to the teams.

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JULY 01: Cyclist Lance Armstrong pauses at the start of the team presentations for the 97th Tour de France on July 1, 2010 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Following a prologue time trial in Rotterdam on Saturday, the iconic race will include 20 stages and will cover 3,642km. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)Far be it from me to identify where I think any particular rider falls on the 0-to-100 scale. Clearly, though, the recent Landis revelations, outlined in detail in the Wall Street Journal today, push Armstrong farther to the right, and at least nudge Zabriskie, Hincapie, and Leipheimer in that direction. Sure, it's easy to impeach Landis' credibility, but it's clear to me that Landis didn't come up with the sophisticated doping program he's described, and he's far from the first person to allege that Armstrong has relied on more than spring water in previous Tour wins.

Let's run through the allegations in the WSJ article by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O'Connell. First and foremost, there are dates and details of blood transfusions during the Tour de France itself in 2004, and a partial list of riders who received them, including Armstrong. Next most damaging is probably Landis' claim that Armstrong himself was the source of his first collection of testosterone patches. Finally, there is the allegation that as many as 60 team bikes were sold for cash to support the Postal doping program. For me, mentions of Armstrong's possible visits to strip bars and cocaine use are just distractions; my interest is in Armstrong as an athlete or a cheat.

According to Albergotti and O'Connell, three other U.S. Postal riders confirmed doping while Armstrong rode for the team, and one admitted he himself doped.

Frankie AndreuLooking through the article, though, I don't see anything that's going to change the mind of rabid Armstrong fans, or of people who have believed he's a doper since 1999. We already know of former teammates who have alleged doping, including Frankie Andreu, who admitted his own EPO use in 2006. The claim that team bikes were improperly sold to pay for the doping program can't be proven by the mere appearance of team bikes on eBay: Someone would have to connect their proceeds to a doping program to really make something of it. Otherwise, those frames could just as easily have gone toward Armstrong's Shiner Bock habit as toward dope. I can see no way to tie Armstrong to the foil-packeted testosterone Landis claims he was provided.

But the addition of FDA special agent Jeff Novitzky adds a new dimension to the sport's doping problem. Teammates and staff who don't hesitate to cover for a rider with the media may feel differently when a federal agent starts threatening purgery charges and deploys subpoena powers. Novitzky seems unlikely to tolerate the shades of gray we as fans have grown to accept.

Also:

ESPN.com | Lance Armstrong: Crunch Time

Posted by Frank Steele on July 3, 2010 in Dave Zabriskie, Doping, Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

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

July 02, 2010

Welcome to 2010

Once again, it's time to clip in and ride. If you're a longtime reader of the site, thanks for coming back. I love the Tour, and I love chronicling the Tour every year here on TdFblog.

If you're new to the site, welcome. I've been yammering about the Tour de France here since 2003, and following the race since the late '80s. In addition to long-form summaries and commentary here, I also do a multitude of race updates on Twitter, at @TdFblog. This year, I'm going to extend the empire even a little farther, with a Tumblr site for that content that's too long for Twitter, too short for the main site, and that's at tumblr.tdfblog.com. Don't be too surprised if that site is in rapid flux for the next few days, as I figure out what goes where, and figure out how to do things with Tumblr.

Even though I'm tremendously depressed at the continuing scourge of doping in the sport, I'm really looking forward to this year's Tour. Last year's battle between Alberto Contador and the Schleck brothers looks to repeat. We'll see if Bradley Wiggins can fulfill the promise he showed finishing 4th last year on the new Team Sky. Cav's back, and brash as ever. And it looks like Big Tex is serious about retirement this time around, so it's the last shot for Lance Armstrong to win an 8th Tour.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 2, 2010 in About the site, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Frank Schleck, Lance Armstrong, Mark Cavendish, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (2) | 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)

August 31, 2009

Hincapie takes US title

Hincapie takes US title
Hincapie takes US title,
originally uploaded by Frank Steele.
George Hincapie took his 3rd overall US pro title on Sunday, his 2nd since the race moved to his hometown of Greenville.

Garmin-Slipstream's Dave Zabriskie launched the race with a blistering attack that's become almost as much a Greenville tradition as his metronomic victories in the Saturday time trial. Dave Z's pace shed a lot of riders, but he was recaptured at around the halfway point and the pace settled down a bit.

On the final climb of Paris Mountain, an 8-man group rode away from the field, featuring Hincapie, Andrew Bajadali and Matthew Busche of Kelly Benefits, Jeff Louder and Brent Bookwalter of BMC (rumored to be Hincapie's 2010 team), Patrick McCarty of Ouch, Phil Zajicek of Fly V Australia, and Chris Jones of Team Type 1, who had already spent a lot of time off the front.

Missing that break were all of Garmin-Slipstream and Bissell's riders, and a group of 9 chased less than a minute behind Hincapie, but could never close the gap. On the final short circuit of around 4 miles, Jeff Louder launched a solo move, but Hincapie and Bajadali matched it in the last kilometer. Bajadali tried to launch the sprint from a long way out, and Hincapie came around him on the downhill finishing straight for the title.

Hincapie was mobbed about 50 meters beyond the finish, even before the course was neutralized, by around 100 fans. He spoke fondly of his adopted hometown and what it means to him to win on his home roads, before Steve Johnson of USA Cycling and Greenville Mayor Knox White announced that the race weekend will return in 2010.

I've posted a few pictures to a Flickr photoset, with more to come.

Also:

cyclingnews.com | Hincapie wins championship at home

VeloNews | Hincapie wins U.S. pro road race


Posted by Frank Steele on August 31, 2009 in Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 30, 2009

Zabriskie takes 4th consecutive US TT title

Grade Triple ZGarmin-Slipstream's Dave Zabriskie continued his domination of the US time trial pro championship with a blistering 39:37 on the 20.7 mile course.

Bissell's Tom Zirbel was 2nd, in 40:21, which was 10 seconds faster than Zabriskie's 2008 time on the same course. Unfortunately for Zirbel, Zabriskie went nearly a minute faster than 2008 Dave Z.

Rounding out the podium was another Z, Kelly Benefit's Scott Zwizanski, with a 41:18.

Floyd Landis' first showing at the Greenville championships was unimpressive, in 21st of 23 with a 46:30. Landis was reportedly coasting on a number of the course downhills, and may have been saving his energy for the tough road race on Sunday.

I've posted a few of my TT pictures -- there are definitely more to come.

Posted by Frank Steele on August 30, 2009 in Dave Zabriskie, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2009

US Pro Time Trial Championship today

The pros are contesting the US time trial title later today in Greenville. I'm on the scene, snapping photos like crazy, and am looking forward to the Tweetup at 3:30 at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville.

It's the same course as last year, won by David Zabriskie for his third consecutive title. It's an up-and-down course, very well-suited to spectators, and Zabriskie has to be the favorite to repeat. Here's the start list and a course map. The TT at the Tour of Utah last week threw a bit of a monkey wrench into the works, as Tom Zirbel, 2nd in Greenville last year, beat Captain America by 25 seconds on a flatter course. Other guys to watch are Stephen Cozza, Ben Jacques-Maynes and Scott Zwizanski. Floyd Landis races the Greenville circuit for the first time.

Here are my photos from last year's TT, and here's 2007.

Also:

VeloNews: American pros head to Greenville

Posted by Frank Steele on August 29, 2009 in Dave Zabriskie, Floyd Landis, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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 23, 2009

Team Radio Shack apparently new Armstrong, Bruyneel team

Ever since the Giro d'Italia in May, there have been rumors about a new U.S. based team, apparently to feature and be owned by Lance Armstrong and to be run by Johann Bruyneel.

In June, Joe Lindsey ran a story on Bicycling.com detailing contingency plans he said were in place for an Astana financial meltdown, which was narrowly avoided when Kazakh and US sponsors came up with $6 million to guarantee support through the end of this season. Lindsey said the team would have been called the “Livestrong-Nike” team.

Just before the Tour, Alexandre Vinokourov had a press conference, where he reminded everyone that Astana was a team built around him, and that he intended to return to the team when his suspension ended July 24th (tomorrow).

Tuesday, Bruyneel announced he would not return to Astana after this season, and Armstrong tweeted about an upcoming announcement of a new sponsor “for 2010 and beyond.”

Speculation immediately returned to “Livestrong-Nike,” but reporters who had talked to Armstrong's management team said that wouldn't be it, apparently with the knowledge that the new sponsor is to be a Ft. Worth, TX-based company.

This morning, Bonnie D. Ford of ESPN tweeted that someone in Capital Sports and Entertainment registered “teamradioshack.com" this week. CSE is Armstrong's management team, overseen by Bill Stapleton and Bart Knaggs, and ran the Discovery Channel team. I've verified the domain registration to CSE Cycling, LLC, and that it was set up on Monday. Currently, www.teamradioshack.com brings up only a default Apache web server page.

The official announcement is reportedly set for noon Eastern.

Update
The team website, Twitter ID (@teamradioshack), and Facebook page are up.

Livestrong.com has a video by Armstrong announcing the team, while Radio Shack offers a standard press release.

Note that no other riders have been officially announced for the team, nor has Bruyneel been officially named the DS.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 23, 2009 in Lance Armstrong, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 22, 2009

Schlecks climb onto podium with Stage 17 win

Tour de France 2009 Stage Seventeen

Stage 17 is one that will be remembered for three things: The Schleck brothers finishing together with race leader Alberto Contador more than 2 minutes clear of the field, Thor Hushovd going out on an audacious solo Alpine attack to grab the green jersey by the throat, and a probing attack by Contador late on the stage that triggered an absolute Twit-storm.

Mark Cavendish has criticized Hushovd, who protested the Stage 14 finish, leading to a Cavendish relegation for irregular sprinting. This is nothing unusual -- Hushovd lost the jersey in 2006 partially as a result of a relegation in Stage 4, and won the jersey in 2005 partially due to Robbie McEwen's relegation in Stage X. Cavendish, who features in a Nike campaign that declares “green is my yellow,” said the green jersey would be stained if Hushovd won it through Cav's relegation.

So Hushovd set off on a little jersey-cleaning mission, attacking with Thomas Voeckler over the top of the Col de Roselend to join an early break, then setting off solo over the Col des Saisies and the Côte d'Araches, more than 70k alone, while Cavendish was getting unhitched from the back of the field. With the 12 points collected, Hushovd moves 30 points clear in the green jersey competition, with 35 available in Paris on Sunday. I wouldn't be surprised to see Hushovd off the front again on Friday.

The end of Hushovd, early on the Col de Romme, was the end of the break as well, with Saxo Bank stringing out the field for the inevitable attack by Frank and Andy Schleck. Carlos Sastre was the first to attack, but was soon reeled in, with Andy Schleck still sitting near the back of the GC group.

When Frank Schleck attacked, he was quickly joined by Armstrong, Wiggins, Contador, and Andy Schleck, who attacked again, gapping Wiggins, Vande Velde, Armstrong and Frank Schleck. When Schleck launched a bridge move, Armstrong and Wiggins followed. Andy Schleck pushed the pace again, and Wiggins was gapped, with Armstrong alongside. Once again, Frank Schleck jumped the gap, this time alone. The lead group on the road was Contador and Klöden for Astana, and the Schleck brothers for Saxo Bank.

Behind, Christian Vande Velde fought back up to Wiggins, Nibali, and Armstrong, setting pace for several kilometers, but slowly losing ground to the fearsome foursome up front, before Vande Velde fell away. With the gap to Wiggins, Armstrong, and Nibali over 2:00, and 2k to climb on the day's final climb, Contador launched an attack. Klöden, who had been sitting on the back of the group for several kilometers, didn't have the legs to match, and was suddenly 20 seconds back. Contador came off the attack, and spent the rest of the climb looking back for Klöden.

It was a testing attack, one that we would usually see 100 times in a normal Tour, but the Twitterverse exploded. Suddenly, Andreas Klöden was the most popular rider in the peloton and Contador was screwing a beloved teammate. Bruyneel would say after the stage he didn't want Contador to attack, and Armstrong would immediately question Contador's move on Twitter, as well, but it seems like the math is pretty simple: “I've got gas in the tank, most of my rivals are losing time, and if I can drop these two guys, I might take a stage in the yellow jersey and put time in everybody.”

The Schlecks covered and pushed the pace enough to guarantee Klöden wasn't coming back. Meanwhile, Armstrong was on full boil, 5th on the road, riding hard toward Klöden, and towing Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas. They would catch Klöden near the finish, with Nibali taking 4th on the stage.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 22, 2009 in 2009 Stage 17, Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Andy Schleck, Frank Schleck, Lance Armstrong, Mark Cavendish, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories | 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 17, 2009

Leipheimer exits Tour, shares surgery via Twitter

A lot has been said about the use of social media in this year's Tour de France, but today we really saw it in action. I happened to wake up at about 4:30 a.m., and checked in on my Twitter stream on the iPhone.

I saw several tweets about Levi Leipheimer's wrist fracture, including one about 15 minutes old from Lance Armstrong, with a picture of Leipheimer in his cast.

Then, during the stage today, Leipheimer was actually Twittering from the operating room, including photos of the man himself on the operating room table, of the preparation of his wrist, and of the final X-ray, showing his 22mm titanium screw in place.

Here's a screen shot of the whole exchange.

All of this was straight from the riders involved, and within minutes of it actually happening. It's a brave new world, kids.

Also:

CNET News | Twitter takes the Tour de France on new course

Posted by Frank Steele on July 17, 2009 in 2008 Stage 12, Levi Leipheimer, Top Stories, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Haussler descends to Stage 13 victory

Tour de France 2009 Stage Thirteen

In the words of the immortal Tom T. Hall, I love winners when they cry.

Cervelo Test Team's Heinrich Haussler is 25, and an up-and-coming star. He took Stage 2 at Paris-Nice this year, and was surprised by Mark Cavendish in the last 100 meters, taking 2nd at Milan-San Remo. A lot of pundits had suggested that Cervelo should consider letting Thor Hushovd lead out Haussler, instead of the other way around, but tonight, Cervelo looks pretty smart indeed.

Haussler went in one of the day's first breaks, just 3k out of the blocks, with Christophe Moreau, Jens Voigt, Juan-Manuel Garate, Ruben Perez, Sylvain Chavanel, and Rigoberto Uran, but Garate was highly enough placed that the field wouldn't let him go, so Haussler, Perez, and Chavanel took off after about 60k ridden.

The peloton was happy to let these three go, and the lead kept growing out to around 7:30 with about 85 kilometers ridden. On the day's first climb, Egoi Martinez was able to just nip Franco Pellizotti for KoM points, but on the Platzerwasel Martinez was dropped and Liquigas' Pellizotti would come off the front as the field reached each summit to pick up a few KoM points. The three men up the road prevented Thor Hushovd from doing likewise in the intermediate sprints.

Meanwhile, Perez was dropped by the leaders, and once over the top of the Platzerwasel, Haussler dropped like a rock on the wet roads. He pushed his advantage in just about every mile, prompting our Tweet of the day from Cycle Sport, “It's a good move by Haussler. You could say, a ‘Heinrich manoeuvre.’ ”

Amets Txurruka and Brice Feillu attacked out of the field, gradually closing on the leaders, but Haussler was not going to be caught on this stage, about 30 kilometers from his home. Behind, Chavanel just ran out of gas, and was caught by Txurruka, then Feillu as the riders approached Colmar.

As Haussler came to the line for his first Tour stage win, he was in tears.

Haussler's teammate Thor Hushovd finally could take advantage of Mark Cavendish, riding in the autobus, on the field sprint, but was nicked at the line by Peter Velits of Team Milram. Still, the 15 points for 6th catapulted Hushovd back into the green jersey for tomorrow.

Top 10:
1) Heinrich Haussler, Cervelo Test Team, in 4:56:26
2) Amets Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 4:10
3) Brice Feillu, Agritubel, at 6:12
4) Sylvain Chavanel, Quick Step, at 6:30
5) Peter Velits, Team Milram, at 6:46
6) Thor Hushovd, Cervelo Test Team, same time
7) Vladimir Efmikin, AG2R, s.t.
8) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, s.t.
9) George Hincapie, Columbia-HTC, s.t.
10) Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, s.t.

General Classification:
1) Rinaldo Nocentini, AG2R-La Mondiale, 53:30:30
2) Alberto Contador, Astana, at :06
3) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at :08
4) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, at :46
5) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at :54
6) Tony Martin, Columbia-HTC, at 1:00
7) Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:24
8) Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 1:49
9) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at 1:54
10) Luis Leon Sanchez, Caisse d'Epargne, at 2:16

Thanks to Fritz at Cyclelicious, who turned me on to PicApp, a new service to use editorial art on your weblog. That's the provider for the Haussler picture above; you can click on the Gallery button to go to a Stage 13 gallery from Getty Images and others.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 17, 2009 in 2009 Stage 13, Amets Txurruka, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Brice Feillu, Egoi Martinez, Franco Pellizotti, George Hincapie, Heinrich Haussler, Mark Cavendish, Sylvain Chavanel, Thor Hushovd, 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 14, 2009

Arvesen exits with broken collarbone

Saxo Bank - Taking the Lead | Kurt-Asle Arvesen Leaves the Tour

The terrific (if Flash-heavy) new Saxo Bank site offers a post-stage interview with Norwegian champion Kurt-Asle Arvesen, who broke his collarbone in today's action, but finished the stage. His exit leaves Andy Schleck one rider down in the upcoming Alps.

Arvesen won Stage 11 of last year's Tour into Foix.

Arvesen is scheduled for surgery on Thursday.

Also:

Eurosport | Saxo Bank lose injured road captain Arvesen

Posted by Frank Steele on July 14, 2009 in 2009 Stage 10, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cavendish delivers a perfect 10

Cav for 3
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Mark Cavendish continued his dominance of the Tour's sprint stages, taking his third victory in three contested sprints this year.

The expected Bastille Day breakaway featured three French riders: Samuel Dumoulin of Cofidis, who never met a break he didn't like, Benoit Vaugrenard of Française des Jeux, and Thierry Hupond of the “little wildcard who could” Skil-Shimano squad, plus Katusha's Mikhail Ignatiev.

With radios banned for the stage, the peloton never let the break get more than about 4 minutes up the road, and made the catch with less than 2 kilometers to ride, after a day raced at touring club speeds, as things picked up for the finish.

Garmin-Slipstream tried to disrupt the Columbia-HTC train, with Julian Dean squeezing in on the day's last right-hander, but Mark Renshaw led Cavendish in, and Thor Hushovd, perfectly positioned on Cavendish's rear wheel, never closed the gap to the Manxman.

Garmin-Slipstream's Tyler Farrar was 3rd on the stage. A break in the field cost quite a few riders 15 seconds in the overall. No changes to jerseys (Cavendish is now down only 6 in the green jersey hunt), while Hupond was “most aggressive rider” on the “least aggressive Tour stage” of recent memory.

Cavendish can equal his stage win total from last year's Tour with a win in Stage 11 tomorrow, which would also tie him with Barry Hoban for most career Tour wins by a Brit.

Hoban won his stages over 8 Tours, the last in 1975. Cavendish is in only his 2nd Tour.

Stage 10 Top 10:
1) Mark Cavendish, Columbia-HTC, 4:46:43
2) Thor Hushovd, Cervelo Test Team, same time
3) Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Slipstream, s.t.
4) Leonardo Duque, Cofidis, s.t.
5) Jose Rojas, Caisse d'Epargne, s.t.
6) Lloyd Mondory, AG2R-La Mondiale, s.t.
7) Kenny Van Hummel, Skil-Shimano, s.t.
8) William Bonnet, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
9) Daniele Bennati, Liquigas, s.t.
10) Said Haddou, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, s.t.

General Classification:
1) Rinaldo Nocentini, AG2R-La Mondiale, 39:11:04
2) Alberto Contador, Astana, at :06
3) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at :08
4) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at :54
5) Levi Leipheimer, Astana, at :54
6) Tony Martin, Columbia-HTC, at 1:00
7) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:01
8) Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:24
9) Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 1:49
10) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at 1:54

Posted by Frank Steele on July 14, 2009 in 2009 Stage 10, Mark Cavendish, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 12, 2009

Armstrong says he'll probably return for 2010

Universal Sports | Armstrong: This Tour ‘probably not’ last

Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong told French television on Sunday that the current Tour is “probably not” the last we'll see of him in the Tour. “Maybe one more Tour,” he said.

The Associated Press article mentions hints that Armstrong might launch his own team for the 2010 season.

Armstrong also said he understands the unwillingness of challengers to attack the Astana squad in the Pyrenees:

“Honestly, if I was Cadel Evans, or Andy Schleck, or Carlos Sastre, I would be waiting,” he added. “I would wait for my moment in the Alps, on Ventoux, whatever, and I would stick it in as hard as I could. I would just pull the knife out and go.”

Posted by Frank Steele on July 12, 2009 in Lance Armstrong, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Stage 9: Fedrigo makes it three for France

Sanchez
Getty Images Photo by Jesper Juinen

Pierrick Fedrigo outkicked Franco Pellizotti in the last 200 meters in Tarbes to take Stage 9 of the Tour de France.

Fedrigo and Pellizotti were all that remained from a big breakaway that had swelled to 9 riders, including Jens Voigt, Egoi Martinez, David Moncoutie, and others. The pair were well clear at the summit of the Col du Tourmalet, but a chase by Columbia-HTC, then by Caisse d'Epargne and Rabobank, pulled back all but 34 seconds of their lead by the line.

Yellow jersey Rinaldo Nocentini had no problems with the pace, and will hold the yellow jersey through tomorrow's rest day and Tuesday's Stage 10.

New King of the Mountains Brice Feillu, on the other hand, lost his polka-dots to Egoi Martinez, who was 5th on the Col d'Aspin and 7th over the Tourmalet.

Stage 9 Top 10:
1) Pierrick Fedrigo, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, 4:05:31
2) Franco Pellizotti, Liquigas, same time
3) Oscar Freire, Rabobank, at :34
4) Serguei Ivanov, Team Katusha, same time
5) Peter Velits, Team Milram, s.t.
6) Jose Rojas, Caisse d'Epargne, s.t.
7) Greg Van Avermaet, Silence-Lotto, s.t.
8) Geoffroy Lequatre, Agritubel, s.t.
9) Alessandro Ballan, Lampre, s.t.
10) Nicolas Roche, AG2R-La Mondiale

General Classification after Stage 9:
1) Rinaldo Nocentini, AG2R-La Mondiale, 34:24:21
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

Posted by Frank Steele on July 12, 2009 in 2009 Stage 9, Alberto Contador, Christian Vande Velde, David Moncoutié, Egoi Martinez, Jens Voigt, Lance Armstrong, Pierrick Fedrigo, Rinaldo Nocentini, 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 09, 2009

Voeckler snatches Stage 5

Voeckler
AP Photo by Laurent Rebours

Thomas Voeckler made his reputation in the 2004 Tour de France. As the best-placed rider in a breakaway (alongside stage winner Stuart O'Grady and TdFblog favorite Magnus Backstedt) that finished 12:33 ahead of the pack, he won and wore the yellow jersey for 10 days.

Since then, he's been one of the Tour's most (few?) entertaining Frenchmen, getting in breakaways seemingly every year, and wearing the King of the Mountains jersey in 2005 and 2008.

Today, Voeckler got in an aggressively international break from the starting gun, and rode with Russian Mikhail Ignatiev of Katusha, Dutch Skil-Shimano Albert Timmer, FdJeux's Belorussian Yauheni Hutarovich and France's Anthony Geslin, and Polish Lampre Marin Sapa. The break never got crazy gaps, and it looked like it had little chance of success, so the 6 soldiered on.

With around 60 kilometers to ride, just after a hard crash by Rabobank's Robert Gesink, strong ocean winds got an assist from Fabian Cancellara, and the peloton split. With no major GC contenders caught out, the field reformed a few kilometers later, but Gesink, accompanied by Joost Posthuma, never caught up. He would gut his way to the finish, only to discover a broken wrist that will keep him from starting Stage 6 (really excellent ANP photo from De Telegraafe here).

Several riders described the peloton as “restless,” and a variety of teams took turns at the front, but the pace was never enough to stick a stake through the heart of the escapees. Hutarovich was a threat in the sprint, so Voeckler waited out two testing attacks by Ignatiev, then showed the break his back wheel with a couple kilometers to ride, quickly gaining 10 seconds as the cars were pulled from between the break and the pack.

Ignatiev saw the stage going up the road, and tried to bridge to Voeckler, but it was not to be. Voeckler savored the final 500 meters, saluting the crowd and kissing his wedding ring, as the pack thundered toward the line just a few hundred meters behind. Ignatiev just survived the charge, led in by Mark Cavendish, who increased his lead in the green jersey competition.

With the pack coming in at 7 seconds, there were no significant changes to the standings. Ignatiev takes the red race numbers of the “most agressive rider.”

Posted by Frank Steele on July 9, 2009 in 2009 Stage 5, Mark Cavendish, Thomas Voeckler, Top Stories | 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

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 03, 2009

French ruling: Boonen can start Tour

CyclingNews | Boonen can start in the Tour

The French Olympic Committee's Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled today that Belgian sprinter Tom Boonen may start the 2009 Tour de France.

Boonen, who tested positive for cocaine in an out-of-competition test in April, had been barred from racing this year's Tour by ASO, the Tour's owner and organizer. It was his third positive for the drug since November 2007, and led ASO to bar him from last year's Tour, as well. Australia's Allan Davis had been announced as Boonen's replacement at the Tour.

Boonen, one of the sport's best sprinters, should make the fight for the green jersey much more interesting, and his presence could deny Mark Cavendish a chance at bettering his four stage wins from 2008.

The 2005 world champion and 2007 Tour green jersey, Boonen claimed his first Belgian national championship last weekend.

Also:

VeloNews | Boonen gets green light

Posted by Frank Steele on July 3, 2009 in 2009 Tour de France, Tom Boonen, Top Stories | 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

July 01, 2009

Does Charly Wegelius' mom work for WADA?

VeloNews | Dekker positive for EPO

I'm really sorry to see Thomas Dekker turn up positive. There had been suspicion about him, especially when his team left him off their Tour squad last year based on his blood test results, but along with Robert Gesink, he was one of the big hopes for Dutch cycling.

There still remains a possibility that Dekker will be exonerated. The UCI released the news, as has become its custom, after Dekker's “A” sample tested positive. They will now test a 2nd sample collected at the same time, and Dekker faces a ban if that “B” sample also tests positive. If that's the case, they've got him dead to rights, and he deserves the 2-year suspension he would almost certainly face.

I wanted to focus on the timing of the announcement, however. This sample is one that was collected in December 2007, and officials retested it because a) they didn't like the looks of Dekker's biological passport numbers for the last two seasons, and b) they have newer tests that can identify more forms of EPO (including CERA, presumably).

I can't tell for certain when the followup test was conducted. I seem to remember seeing “May,” but can't find confirmation. So why are we hearing about a test whose results are usually back in around 3 weeks 6 weeks later? It's almost like the anti-doping officials were looking for a reason to send a message in advance of some big event. Also, if you could wait 6 weeks, why not wait until you have the “B” sample results?

There may be perfectly valid reasons these results have come out now, just 3 days before the Tour start, but I think testers owe it to fans, teams, and riders to provide some assurances that results will always be reported consistently (and I would prefer waiting for the “B” sample, but consistency is paramount) and expeditiously.

Oh, the headline -- Silence-Lotto will be bringing Charly Wegelius to the Tour to fill Dekker's shoes.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 1, 2009 in 2009 Tour de France, Doping, Thomas Dekker, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 28, 2009

So what's Lance Armstrong's endgame for 2009 Tour?

Chris Horner
Astana's Chris Horner,
originally uploaded by Frank Steele.

Like a lot of folks, I was surprised to see Chris Horner left off the Astana Tour squad, but I completely understand why Johan Bruyneel did it. Certainly, after publicizing his desire to get out of his contract and race the Tour with another team (despite 2+ months of racing season still to come after the Tour), I wouldn't look for Horner back with Astana next year. Of course, given the financials, it doesn't look like anyone will be riding for Astana next year.

Bruyneel's made a career (as rider and DS) out of playing the percentages, and the percentage in the hand that he's got is to ride Contador to a 4th Grand Tour title (VeloNews story shows gamblers agree). There are plenty of teams that would let a rider with his pedigree and palmares stack the team with those teammates he feels give him the best chance at wearing yellow in Paris. If the Garmin rumor is true, Jonathan Vaughters was going to sign not just Paulinho but also Noval to support Contador.

You could make an argument that it's not Paulinho's selection that left Horner out in the cold, but Muravyev's, or even Armstrong's, both of which are for political reasons. Muravyev is a hat tip to the team's Kakakh registry, while Armstrong is here for the publicity and excitement he brings to the team's coverage, and in recognition of his enormous place in cycling history.

A bigger question, though, is “What's Armstrong riding for?” I don't know exactly what his goals are for this Tour, but I don't think he will be riding for the overall win. Certainly, he's showing up in great condition, and as a competitor, he's got to believe that he could win, if certain things happen on the road. But this Tour lines up better for the climbers than the TT men, and Contador has shown he's an extraordinary climber. That said, I have a hard time believing Armstrong will be happy carrying bottles for anyone, even the 2009 Tour winner. So what could Astana carve out that would satisfy both Contador and Armstrong?

Other than the maillot jaune, the only other jersey that Armstrong could reasonably contend for is the polka-dot jersey, but no sane team is going to let Armstrong ride off on a multi-peak points hunt, unless he's already down by tens of minutes, and that's how recent maillots pois have been won.

Armstrong certainly could find himself in position to chase stage wins, and there are even a couple of stages that might further polish Armstrong's reputation. Most obvious is Stage 20 up Mont Ventoux on the penultimate day of the Tour, which looks like the biggest stage of this year's Tour. As the marquee stage, there will be a lot of riders eyeing this one, and my guess is it will go to somebody who's more of a pure climber than Armstrong, like Andy Schleck, Robert Gesink, or Carlos Sastre, depending on the race situation. Armstrong himself, though, has expressed his regrets over Mont Ventoux, where he feels he “gifted” Marco Pantani a stage in 2000, and where he was beaten by Richard Virenque in 2002. “I left unfinished business there,” he told Versus.

So, sure, maybe Armstrong's got a circle around Stage 20 on his calendar, but I think his presence here is more about the other half of the “Contador to Garmin” rumor: The 2010 Livestrong-Nike team. Presumably, Johan Bruyneel will be trying to match his UCI license to a sponsor after this season, and Livestrong and Nike are already close partners, with a new “It's About You” ad campaign that launched over the weekend and events planned in conjunction with the Tour. Would Armstrong be the uncontested leader on the road of that team, or did he come out of retirement to launch it with maximum fanfare, after which he'll return to retirement? We'll all know soon enough.

Armstrong spent today pre-riding Stage 16 (and here's video -- note that he's training in Livestrong gear, not Astana), one of 6 stages he's pre-riding.

So what do you think? What's Armstrong looking to take away from this Tour? You can comment here, or on Twitter, where I'm @TdFblog.

Also:

Cyclocosm | Astana's Tour Selection is a Ticking Bomb

Spelling out the worst-case scenario for Astana: a T-Mobile like glut of teammates riding for the win, domestiques who will only ride for “their guy”, dogs and cats living together, etc. Should be an interesting three weeks.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 28, 2009 in 2009 Tour de France, Chris Horner, Lance Armstrong, Top Stories, Tour de France 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

June 25, 2009

Astana finalizes Tour squad

Astana - Tour de Georgia 2008

Astana named the final three riders to its Tour squad this morning: Gregory Rast, Dmitriy Muravyev, and Sergio Paulinho.

It's the first Tour for Muravyev, a pro since 2002, and 3-time Kazakhstan TT champion. He's Astana's only Tour rookie.

Left off the Tour roster were Chris Horner, Jani Brajkovic, Thomas Vaitkus, and Benjamin Noval. Versus should do whatever it takes to get Horner in the booth as often as possible; he could be the next Bobke.

With Lance Armstrong apparently planning a new team for 2010, and Alberto Contador, one of five men to win all three Grand Tours, the stage is set for a potential Lemond-Hinault style intrateam rift.

The full Astana squad:

  • Lance Armstrong
  • Alberto Contador
  • Andreas Klöden
  • Levi Leipheimer
  • Dmitriy Muravyev
  • Sergio Paulinho
  • Yaroslav Popovych
  • Gregory Rast
  • Haimar Zubeldia

The team is presented in a very professional Flash presentation that would have made a great introduction for a Livestrong-Nike team, currently running in place of the team home page.

(Click through for a larger version of the photo above, which I shot at Stage 4 of last year's Tour de Georgia, at Road Atlanta).

Also:

VeloNews | Horner left off Astana Tour roster

Posted by Frank Steele on June 25, 2009 in Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Chris Horner, Haimar Zubeldia, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Top Stories, Tour de France 2009, Tour news, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 16, 2009

Retired Hamilton gets 8-year ban; Vinokourov will miss Tour

Hamilton as new US champion

Back in February, Tyler Hamilton tested positive for a steroid that he said resulted from DHEA he was taking to deal with his divorce and his mother's recent cancer diagnosis. Informed of the positive in April, Hamilton retired, and pretty much said cycling was less important than getting sane and healthy.

Today, the US Anti-Doping Agency handed down an 8-year ban that should ensure that Hamilton won't, Vinokourov-like, decide to “un-retire.” Hamilton continues to maintain that he didn't blood dope, despite two positive tests in 2004. Hamilton endeared himself to fans through tough rides, like his epic Stage 16 Tour win in 2005 while riding with a broken collarbone. Faced with blood doping charges, Hamilton mounted a defense that taught us all about chimeric twins, and kept his 2004 Olympic gold in the time trial when officials couldn't test his B-sample to confirm A-sample's positive.

I got a cork from one of the bottles of champagne the podium finishers popped after last year's US Pro Championship. I can't say for certain that it was Tyler's, but I like to think it was. I was torn by Hamilton's victory in Greenville, because it seemed so superhuman, the way he essentially rode a pack that included 3 Garmin-Chipotle riders right off his wheel.

On the one hand, I wanted to believe that this tough kid from Marblehead (how perfect!) had come back from his ban, and was riding like a man out to prove something. On the other hand, how could he have been so insanely strong if he was clean? Some days I thought I was keeping that cork to commemorate that heroic ride; others I thought it was a cautionary cork: Resist the yearning for mythic heroes. Some things are too good to be true. Tyler, you may have been a fraud, but you were never boring. I hope you can find a little peace and happiness in your new life.

Vinokourov, now 36 himself, learned today that, even if a team might consider signing and starting him, he is not eligible to ride in this year's Tour. His ban, resulting from a blood doping positive during the 2007 Tour, was set at one year by the Kazakhstan cycling federation, but the UCI stepped in when Vinokourov announced a comeback and the Court of Arbitration for Sport agreed, extending the ban to two years.

More:

VeloNews | Hamilton accepts 8-year ban

Court of Arbitration for Sport | Alexander Vinokourov Eligible to Compete Again as of 24 July (full decision pending)

BBC Sport | Vinokourov has to wait for return

Posted by Frank Steele on June 16, 2009 in 2009 Tour de France, Alexandre Vinokourov, Doping, Top Stories, Tyler Freaking Hamilton | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 15, 2009

Curse of the cycling fan: My codependent relationship with the sport

So I'm sure that a few of you have wondered what's up with this weblog. Generally, I wind things up a lot earlier in the season, offering race results and analyses of Paris-Nice, the Spring Classics, and certainly the Giro and Dauphiné.

I've got to admit, however, that it's getting harder and harder to follow our sport. Every year, it seems, we've got a crop of outstanding new riders who offer breakout performances at the Tour. And every damn year, it seems, it turns out many, even most, of those performances have been chemically enhanced. Ullrich. Basso. Rasmussen. Schumacher. Kohl. Ricco and Piepoli. And yes, Floyd Landis. (Ask me again tomorrow, and I may be back to rationalizing for Landis).

It's enough to turn a fan against cycling. When, for April Fool's Day, Briggs Heaney posted that he was giving up on cycling, I almost bought it, because I shared a lot of his offered reasons. Certainly, it's been enough to turn off some of the other bloggers whose writing and commentary I have enjoyed, including Wim van Rossum, who used to maintain the indispensible cycling4all and the blogger who ran Cycling Fans Anonymous.

So why don't I flip the switch and lock the doors around here? Because, when the action starts, I've got to watch it. I loved this year's Giro, with Di Luca seemingly turning himself inside out day after day, and Menchov matching every move. Mark Cavendish and his team are just astounding. When April rolled around with no Tour de Georgia, I missed it something fierce.

On the other hand, I'm going to change my focus a little bit, back to more of a link-blog. I started this weblog with BoingBoing and Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit (he's authored 10 posts while you've been reading this) as models, and with only TypePad as an authoring tool.

Now, with the rise of Twitter and other social media, I plan on migrating real-time race updates, breaking news, and quick link-only posts to Twitter (I did race updates on Twitter last year -- at http://www.twitter.com/TdFblog ), with stage summaries, photo gallery links, and commentary here on the weblog.

Byron and I are talking about how best to incorporate some Tour coverage on Bike Hugger, as well. Thanks for reading (since 2003!), and for all your comments and feedback.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 15, 2009 in 2009 Tour de France, About the site, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 30, 2008

Zabriskie rolls to 3rd US title

Fierce and fast

Dave Zabriskie was seen by many as a question mark coming into the race, but he took a 3rd consecutive US title at the USA Cycling Pro Time Trial Championship today.

Zabriskie edged out Bissell's Tom Zirbel, with Garmin-Chipotle teammate Christian Vande Velde 3rd.

Here's my time trial photoset. I'll probably add a few more photos over the next couple of days. If you have photos of your own, please add them to Flickr's USA Cycling Championships pool.

Posted by Frank Steele on August 30, 2008 in 2008 USA Cycling Pro Championships, Dave Zabriskie, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | 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