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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stages 17 - 19 - even I forgot it was just a bike race



I have just finished looking at my tweets for the past few days and realised I'd forgotten it's just a bike race. I think I have reached my limits with all the insults, bitchiness, the who is going where when discussions (although interesting when i'm not over it and within context), management vs rider battles, and the Arm-neel Radio-Shat it's all about-us and-1,2,3 on the podium crapola. I could drive myself crazy with this s*it. So I'll use this time to reflect on the past few stages, focusing on the "moments." You know those times that make you love the TDF? And some of them actually involve bikes:
Thoooooooooor - what a way to superglue the stainless green jersey onto yourself. Pulling your large frame over horrible climbs to grab points and prove even further - as if finishing just behind Cav alot wasn't enough - that he's Mr Consistency, which is what the green jersey is about.
Cav - Stage 19. Acceleration. Woah. I could watch that over and over again. How does he do it? I can sort of guilt free like him again too - he got a little humble overnight with Thor. (Also, how awkward was the protocol - could those seats get any closer? Maybe that's why they're friends again - that was gold!). 5 Stage wins. He's green with envy, green with experience, but not wearing green - and I bloody love him - he calms down after he mouths off and sometimes backtracks. And you will NEVER hear him trash talk a teammate. And that's why I love him.
Kenny Van Hummel - the non grimpeur hero is he. Looked set to win Lanterne Rouge but crashed on on the descent of the Col des Saises. He had a large following - you wouldn't have known it.
Fumy Beppu - Finished 7th on Stage 19! I've been enjoying his tweets and he looks set to finish (with Arashiro) in Paris - the first two Japanese to finish the tour - ever! Yay Nippon!
Liquigas - have virtually gone unnoticed by some press. But have a look at their results (as at 25 July before Stage 20). Pellizotti (after finishing 3rd, no i mean 2nd, at the Giro) will definitely claim the KOM title after some gutsy and focused/strategic riding, Vincenzo Nibali is 7th overall (at 7:15) and 2nd by 4 mins to Andy Schleck in the Youth classification, Roman Kreuziger (14:08) is 12th. They also had an awesome TTT.
Carlos Sastre - apologising for being a bit "look at moiye." (although his rant was somewhat justified). Class. How many people would do that?
Cervelo (the riders anyway) - have obviously stuck their finger up to the people (mainly me and alot of Australians) who doubted their stage win ability after leaving out Gerro. Of course, while I'm trying to avoid controversy here, Gerro wouldn't have been a waste; you can't serve two masters - green and yellow; and I do question Sastre expressing that he wasn't expecting the difficulty of this year's tour - it wasn't just Astana, he should've known about Saxobank at least. But hey, many in the peloton and his team think he's a nice guy and his teammates think so. Gerro's over it so should I. The non Thor stage win did come from another Australian though..
Every Australian rider at the Tour - watch the videos from last night's prelude online at sbs.com.au/tdf and let them speak for itself. How good are they all? Especially Stuey - does he just get better? (and these guys:)
Cadel - riding in the grupetto and liking it (a bit day in the life of perspective, good for him?). Then his TT and then the breakaway attempt.
Mick - I shouldn't have got carried away with the Tomo TDF Dodger love/my own Canberra bias and thought he was going for the GC. Rogers has been saying it himself all year (and clarified it again). He was focused on the Giro and he would do exactly what's done at this year's tour - been a bloody domestique legend.
Garmin (and Matt White) - have proven that they actually aren't just focused on TT. Wiggo - awesome.
Schlecks/Saxobank - their ride on Stage 17 and Andy screaming joyously as his brother crossed the line. Andy's TT did exactly what it needed to do. And I just love the give until we die mentality of their teammates.
Fabian - I'm actually finding his bitchiness - which he has managed to sustain for the whole three weeks especially with Contador and the motorbike - amusing now as I deliriously approach Sunday night.
And finally - Contador:
You'd be forgiven for not knowing he was in the yellow jersey, that he's a nice young guy and rode an awesome time trial. I initially thought he was silly leaving Kloden, only because i thought he'd be isolated with the Schlecks. But I realised a later that he was actually fresh, and Kloden was starting to go in reverse anyway. Contador knew the best out of everyone he could go. He didn't stop because the attack didn't work, he did hold back. The Schlecks crossed the gap, but I can't help thinking Contador was away - as anyone would do when you're in yellow with fresh legs and wanting to stamp your authority on it- you don't think about your DS/Manager wanting to get the first 1,2,3 on the podium (since 1914?) Gosh I'd love it if he left certain teammates for dead tonight on Ventoux...... Oh, i did it again, i can't help it...I'm back on the controversy train.
Oh what the hell, all aboard - Go Berty!!! And go the future TDFs - look forward to Schleck v Contador! Then in a few years - Bobridge v Phinney (if Phinney hasn't grown into a mini Lance that is).







Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stage 16 - the washup

(AP)
Astana truck searched and performance enhancer WAS found.
This from Lance Armstrong on twitter “Team truck stopped at border 2day and searched for 3 hrs. At the end they said, "why do you have this olive oil?."

I think the driver answered “it helps you…cook and stuff… …”


Jens – Man of Steel forever more
Jens crashed on the descent from little Bernard after giving his all…again. It was a sickening image – unconscious on the tarmac, blood on his face. Sighing with relief, we heard later he was alright (fractured cheekbone, concussion etc). He sent this message to his teammates from hospital: "I think I was very lucky not getting severely hurt from today's crash. Now I hope that you can focus on the race and I wish you all good luck with the hard stage tomorrow.” What a legend. The amount of deserved respect this guy has! I have loved all of the SBS preludes with him in them. My boss’ only tour related question this morning was “is there any more news on Jens Voigt?” Missing him already? Comfort yourself with this: http://texastailwind.wordpress.com/2008/06/02/little-known-facts-about-jens-voigt-2/


Cadel finally points to the elephant in the room and gives it a name

This from Fox Sports:
Asked after the race if he was ill, he said: "No, it's politics ... stress." While he didn’t elaborate at the time, Evans told McGrory that his pre-race efforts to motivate his team had been unsuccessful. “I made many suggestions, and voiced many opinions. Not much happened.” Despite being Silence-Lotto’s team leader, Evans said the direction of the team is out of his control “When it’s the whole team, I can say my suggestions and voice my opinion, but it’s the team direction and management that have to take the whole team together and take them out of their normal race programs. “Go do a team time trial training camp or whatever. That I can’t organise”
Redant meanwhile is putting it onto Cadel (cyclingnews.com)
"In the team time trial we had a big blow and lost 2:46 but there was still potential to do something. In Verbier he maybe should have tried to do something and today he had another off day…he couldn't follow the best..it’s going be very difficult as he as lost at least another three more minutes. We have to see what his reactions are and how disappointed he is because I've not talked to him. We came here with a goal of helping him go for yellow and we stuck to that, we tried to get someone in the break today, like Saxo Bank did, but it didn't work."
You think?

While team problems are nothing new for Evans (no criticism of Wegelius and Lloyd intended) and he still rode to second, he wasn’t up against Astana…who, Evans also said in the above Fox Sports piece, thanks to Columbia and other teams, has had more than the two official rest days.

Meanwhile, Redant has found somebody else to ease his disappointment “Jurgen proved he can do it in the mountains for three or four days in a row. Maybe he is the guy who can do it in the future. He still has to grow of course. He had a great Giro last year and missed out on the white jersey because of riders like Sella and Ricco, but he is a diamond you can keep and treasure." (VDB finished 5th on the stage). What’s Cadel going to do for next year?

The real excitement on Stage 16 – the breakaway – 2.4kms from home, Mig attacked the breakaway -"It's the best day of my life…I've tried several times to win stages on the race (or any stage) but I've always failed because I'm not that good at sprinting…That's why I attacked from far out." Congrats Mig! Pello was great to watch too and is leading the mountain goat race by 58 points (Martinez on 101). Although Fedrigo showed some fight. Who said polka dots aren’t fun?

Armstrong – rode like a champ, looked awesome. But…why? Contador sums it up: “"It was great to see Lance Armstrong make it back to our group on the Petit Saint-Bernard, but in the end I didn't need his help."

Wiggins – will be interesting to see how he goes tonight and on Ventoux. We know he can Time Trial. Could there be a Great Briton on the podium?

In another episode of it's all about them (not, like you know the guy in the yellow jersey) Armstrong is “Making a very (exciting) announcement on Thursday re: a new American partner for our team in 2010 (and beyond). Stay tuned!” and Bruyneel is telling anyone who'll listen he's (der) leaving Astana. Cyclelicous says “Unsubstantiated rumors that Oracle Corporation will sponsor Lance's team. oraclecycling.com is registered to a Los Angeles coach.” Tourdecouch is not waiting with too baited a breath - I'll be watching the time trial and waiting for Ventoux.

Saxobank/Schleck - (pre Voigt crash) that's not how you're going to beat Astana/Contador. Good try though.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Update


Tour de Laundry Progress – 675kms – 325kms to go - 6 days remain
Great news – a kind colleague has lent me a better indoor trainer which has resistance etc, less vibrating whirring, and I’m still going as fast as I was on the cheaper one.
Bad news – it hurts more….
(Last night – I rode 3 hours – 75kms to make up for an unscheduled TDL rest night Sunday)

It’s been a long week and I feel like I’ve been through the wringer. My partner’s 5 year old came to visit for her first time away from her mum and her first week with her father. It’s been a long road to get to this point, I was not saying no to her asking me to spend time with her. Result – exhaustion. How do you parents do it?

Combine this exhaustion with watching the tour (bar one stage – the most eventful really) and riding most nights plus worrying about work deadlines for this week, and I haven’t been keeping up with the blog. After reading some comments by some cycling people it turns out that probably is a good outcome for us all. But I’ve been heartened to see them get it so wrong too. And excuse my Armstrong like arrogance but this article of mine still cracks me up. http://su.pr/23Lu0u

However, I do get their point and ponder, well, what am I adding? But then I soon pump my fists in the air like Contador on the podium at Verbier and go “Meh, what are they adding too?” They’re scratching a certain niche, I’ll scratch...me.

Tour de Couch's memories of sport + Week 2 TDF – the beauty/not so beautiful

The strongest memory I have of crying about sport comes from my childhood. Passion for it too.

I remember the tears falling when Terry Lamb decapitated Ellery Hanley (Canterbury – dog/new tricks?) and Balmain lost the Grand Final. Or was it the year after when Balmain farewelled a retiring Wayne Pearce with a loss to the Raiders? It was all such a loser like blur.

I loved playing too. I was a bit above average at everything I tried, and I tried everything. I was also a better than average tennis player. But I remember a match where people on the sidelines were making comments about some of my poor shot choices in a doubles match with my best friend; they couldn’t believe I lost it…for her. I stopped playing competitive sport after that (other than s*its and giggles touch footy at uni etc), and for my last two years at high school where sport wasn’t compulsory and we could choose ‘recreation’, I ‘played’ ten pin bowling every Wednesday sports afternoon with friends – we’d play for an hour and shopped the rest of the time.

But then I studied Sports Management at university. I think I had visions of being a sports journalist. I learnt quite a lot about not just the business and the science of sport, but also the sociology and history of it. After this came work in the Australian sporting industry.

For some, it made no difference, for me, sport lost its glow. I realised it’s not some mystical/mythical phenomenon and that a bunch of people like me, or even worse - not like me and who do things I wouldn’t, play it and watch it. It’s not above society – it reflects it. Like society, like you, like me, it can be horrible. It has never been a pure pastime devoid of commercialism and it has always been a tool for governments to distract and motivate the populace. It doesn’t have the power to change society or people – it can’t (but rather people are willing to change/want change anyway, sport is just a vehicle).

You’re probably thinking, der. But don’t forget I was a little sports nut…from the country.

Sure, I still got a little blood flow when watching the Brumbies at their best. And while living in London, was patriotic at the right times - especially in the face of some racist colleagues. But other than that….nothing. (My Dad was mortified when he learnt I didn’t follow rugby league anymore). I was somewhat in a state of rebellion against the spectacle of sport.

But I remember a July night in 2005 in an insomniac coma I stumbled on the SBS coverage of Le Tour. I don’t know what it was but it got under my skin and I haven’t been able to get rid of that feeling since. Unashamedly – I loved the view. It brought back my best memory of being overseas – the time I spent in the south of France. But then a few days into my first tour, I was hooked on other things – the teamwork, the tactics, the sacrifice of some (because that is what they’re paid to do) and the toughness. I learnt what cycling is all about and I imbibed it all in big gulps.

It made me cry again too. In 2007 when Rogers crashed out of the Tour, I saw him cry as he got into the team car and he realised it was all over. I was a mess. And this week, Heinrich brought me to tears.

So of course I had to marry these feelings with my new perspective on sport. My own maturity and the Tour with its microcosm-y ways helped me see that I guess sport too can reflect our beauty.

Of course, I still don’t really like rugby league (not because of the scandals, I just think it’s boring and only liked it because my Dad did) and sports other than cycling can sometimes make me cry (Roger Federer the FIRST time he lost it….woah).

Some of the beauty: Tour de France - Week 2

1. Heinrich, Heinrich, Heinrich
2. Contador: his own “look” at Armstrong and Schleck, THAT kick and then the podium punch in the air and smile – up yours and your mind games, I’m the strongest
3. Armstrong: considering his age and the absence, awesome performance on Verbiers
4. Sorenson’s win
5. Enjoying Armstrong’s look after he crossed the line, the stare that seemed to stay, I got pwned.
6. Ivanov’s move
7. People using the tour as a way to express their pride in their culture

Some of the not so beautiful:
  1. spectators getting too close on the climb and being tools (air gun)
  2. spectator dying
  3. tantrums/comments of Hincapie supporters etc (Garmin riders got shellacking from people) whether Matt White was lying or not about why they did it – did Garmin know Astana wanted him in yellow and it was their way of saying – up yours, you can’t control everything? I’m probably reading it wrong)
  4. People’s tool-like comments on forums.
  5. Armstrong’s comments after Contador’s win. Yeah, he said he’d take a step back but not without a song and dance. His comment about having seven at home could be construed as humble, but couldn’t it also be saying “This guy’s good, but I won seven…remember? Don’t forget me..guys…”
  6. Armstrong’s performance – yeah, I’m a contradiction. While it was awesome, and I rate it, there was about 5-10% cringe about Kloden looking like his zimmer frame.

Ad-analysis

The toughest part of watching each stage isn’t lack of sleep, but watching the same ads over and over again. Here’s TourdeCouch’s ratings of some of the ads. All receive one default star for supporting cycling in Australia. Highest is 5.

* Sizzler – Sizzler still exists? OK then, but do I really need health advice from the makers of salmonella and yummy but fattening cheesy bread. Seriously, as they say in the UK, this ad (or series of ads, particularly the career one) is pants. It keeps just its one star.

** Rabobank – guy shaving in the bath. Some people like this ad, it’s not that clever.

*** Specialized –would’ve got four but Fabian’s tantrum lost it a star. Is there also a hint of cellulite on his leg….or am I just seeing things (just jokes). Schleck’s is good though, him saying “I won’t (torture) my body again,” and cycling in the rain. Love it. Good camera work.

* Bike insurance – the “makes sense” thing ensured this would never get more than one.

*** 2XU – would’ve got four stars for close up shots of the guy’s butt, but I’m not THAT shallow, plus guy with bike on his shoulder is a bit geeky.

*** Tour down Under – Australian event, good for cycling here. Ad lost a star though for not having any images of the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous South Australians, the negative effects SA wine has on people, or Woomera* Why? Check this out. (Cheeky shout out to: http://tdf.sbs.com.au/tdf2009/blogarticle/110807/Bike-race-or-travelogue/blog/Saddle-Sores Seriously though, hate hate hate the song...that’s why it only gets three.

(Carn, even Woomerians are proud – check out their slogan “nothing to get in your way.” http://www.woomera.com.au/ Classic!)

*** LG – The first time I saw this ad, I said “Chortle.” After the 60th time I’m feeling like I could soon crack and throw my water bottle at the screen. Just once I wish the Home and Away/geeky kid from the Matrix gets it in the head. Three stars because it started out OK.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekend washup + Spanish paper reports new Contador team

It took just 24 hours for Fabian Cancellera to slip from the centre of my 2009 TDF highlights - that stage 7 descent - to the very shadows of my cycling low-lights. And it was like watching the second half of Benjamin Button (albeit a bit quicker) and seeing a beautiful man transform into a baby right before your eyes. I lost A LOT of respect for he and Hincapie and thought the self righteous hand wave etc of Fabartacus was ridiculous. (I think I remember such bike bullying from an episode of the Henderson kids..or was it BMX Bandits?).

Forum bog dwellers similiarly criticised Cadel for making such a move. Sure, it was probably always going to be contained, especially knowing he had no alliances before Fabian rode to join the breakaway to give him a stern talking to. But what did Cadel have to lose and why criticise him for it? Here's an good point to ponder for the critic-ati: http://bit.ly/RzQnJ - Although news today published in Spanish newspaper Marca, it's probably a brand new team http://tinyurl.com/lkdwxr

And you can't criticise Sanchez either. If you know you've got these alliances etc it's even smarter to go for it - it's pro cycling after all. Cadel said it himself afterwards - he's always going to get chased down/told off/have noone join him. Even at 3 minutes down, he must have a certain Police song running through his head as he rides. Unlike Sanchez though - and alliances aside - Cadel's a real threat. And if that's the SNAFU, why not go for it anyway? Imagine if it had worked?

Others saw the move too and commented, if it wasn't Cadel but any other serious GC contender, he probably would've had help. But I ask another question, if it was Cadel - same awesome talent, same team, same personality - and he wasn't Australian, would some of us be equally affronted when nobody joins him?

Meh - who the bloody hell cares.

In arguably the greatest form of his life it's hard for us to see him 3 minutes down. But stage 9 was more heartening for me than any move he's made so far. Chinks started to show in Astana's armour. Kloden struggled and Popovych found his 2008 form. Sure, Kloden rejoined his teammates and he'll probably find his form again, but it was interesting to see him struggle at what was a relatively 'neutral' pace. Contador will still have his alliances with future employers/fellow colleagues, Lance/Levi theirs but if Sastre, Schleck, Evans, and Menchov attack, attack, attack, and isolate these guys, Astana start to look a little more beatable.

Eeek - two more weeks!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Stage 7 – We’re not in Italy/Texas/Aspen anymore are we Denim, Denim??

Breathtaking scenery. Contador powering up the Arcalis away from Armstrong and Fabian’s descent to hook back on to the peloton after a puncture and nature break. I could’ve watched THAT all day. Fabian’s descent of course...ahem... not his nature break.

I watched as Contador ascended the Arcalis and thought "Yep, that’s the 2009 Tour winner. Noone’s going to stop him." I try to be positive and see the wine glass more than one standard glass full and often thought the Armstrong v Contador rivalry was staged as a psychological smokescreen. Boy was I naïve. Coz now Wancey is cwanky.

The team time trial’s over, Zoolander’s gone, and Lance has realised after the first real climb at TDF pace what the whole world already knew, Contador is actually better than him. So no more Mr Nice Guy.

What is he most upset about? That he didn’t play to his….I mean…Johan’s tune? Or that Contador could’ve topped the summit, ridden back down and back up past Lance, smiling – all teeth – and waving. Armstrong now knows this is for keeps and he couldn’t keep up.

Let’s just say Contador didn’t do what was decided on the team bus that morning while Lance was making videos of he and Denim and discovering new Twitter applications. Big deal. Astana was already up the front and he, Contador and Denim helped nullify Evans before Contador took off. If Berty stayed and Evans went, they probably would’ve nullified him again, even if they didn’t really need to. They were expending the same amount if Contador went or stayed. Plus they were joined by a group of other riders. So it can’t have been about "the team."

Armstrong himself said the day before, Contador would attack, so why is he so offended? Was it because he thought, "S*it, Evans and Schleck just need to attack again and I’m spent. I’m barely staying," not worrying about this from a team viewpoint of course. And maybe he started to come over all Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon and thought "I am too old for this shit….I’ve still got two more weeks to go, I’m not in Italy/Aspen/Texas anymore Levi….Levi??"

So now, he’s on message about "the team" despite following his own instinct on Stage 3 to stay with the split. What about this biting comment "We’ll have plenty of days at the end of this Tour when there are only a couple of guys together. The team is good. Levi and Kloden were strong. The team won’t be the problem." Oh dear.

As to Evans, with my full wine glass hopes dashed, I can’t join in with the chorus of Australian press/cycling fans singing from the "How Great Thou Art Cadel for Attacking Today and Because of Today’s Attack He’s Still a Chance" hymn sheet. Were we watching the same race? He got neutered.

Evans’ only chance against Astana is implosion and/or if they don’t carry their current form into the latter stages, leaving Berty a little more isolated. But this will just see another team, like Saxobank, seize their chance and do totally the same thing to him. Contador might sit on his and their wheels and go for it again. Plus it wasn’t just Astana who he couldn’t pull away from, these guys were also in the group that formed: Sanchez, Schleck, Menchov, Sastre, Vande Velde, Wiggins, Martin and Karpets.

I’m not trying to s*it all over his efforts, I love Cadel. But he’s down 3 minutes. Can he really form alliances when none have formed for him before? That’s a real question, I’m not being a rhetorical doubter. And another one: weren’t Saxobank the Astana of last year’s tour? Did alliances form with Cadel then?

But there’s some sediment left in the wine glass – it is the tour and stranger things have happened. And Cadel does try his heart out right until the champagne is poured in Paris that’s for sure.

And who knows about tonight too – sure, there’s a descent to the finish after a category 2 and 1 climb, followed early on in the stage with another Category 1 climb – last year Cadel went ahead on Menchov after a downhill, even if it only gained him seconds. Profile and other details about the stage is at letour.fr


Coverage tonight on SBS Two starts at 8pm – woo hoo, that means I can be off the bike at 10pm not the usual 12 or 1.

Stage 7
You're better off getting a race report by Rupert Guinness at smh.com.au and SBS interviews/GC etc online at sbs.com.au/tdf. Briefly though Feillu won another for France, Noncentini is in yellow with Contador in second and right behind with daggers ready, Armstrong. Evans remains around 3mins behind Contador.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Stage 7 - Barcelona to Andorre Arcalis


(letour.fr)

There is no pressure on Contador to attack on the Arcalis, but knowing this is only one of three summit finishes and after he sniffs the less oxygenated Spanish air, he might go for it.

All needing time chunky amounts of time, Sastre, Evans - and if it’s weather like yesterday – and Menchov might form an axis against Astana and attack with about 8-10kms to go. Strong bet Saxobank will play a hand here and Andy Schleck attack. Will Evans go for it?

See for yourself the profile stats above etc.

Interestingly, Leipheimer won a time trial in the Vuelta up the Arcalis in 2001, Sastre finishing second. Tour fans will also remember watching Ullrich in 1997 with 10kms left, to take the stage off Pantani and Virenque – beating them by around a minute.

As if anyone's going to be watching The Ashes tonight.

Tourtorial #1 - Le Tour: just like your average girls’ night out

To humour me, some of my friends are reading my blog but don't know anything about the tour or cycling. This has led to questions about what certain phrases mean. To ease them into it, I’ve compared some of the following phrases to a girls night out. The English translation for the French words are in brackets:

Peloton (group of riders, comes from French word for herd) the main big group you go out in, start the night with, walk to the next bar with. There’s some breakaways – usually someone meets a guy or someone’s outside drunk dialling/texting their ex boyfriend - but there’s usually a big bunch of you who head home together.

Domestique (servant, cyclist who works hard for team leader and some others)– the mate who gets the drinks, goes to the toilet with you, holds your hair while you vomit and holds your hand to lead you out to the dance floor. If she’s not performing well or for whatever reason is not there, you and your whole group can sometimes fall to pieces.

Team leader/General Classification leader/yellow jersey winner – the girl in the group we all want to be – she’s confident, pretty AND usually nice - but people not in your group can often misunderstand her and think she's arrogant. She’s got EVERYTHING plus she’s dancing with the guy we all wanted too – yeah, we all have our good qualities, but you know there’s something special about this one.

Grimpeur (climber) – the lanky and skinny girl of the group who has flashes of brilliance during the middle of the night when we start to hit our peak or is the one who leaves us for dead when we walk to the next bar and our feet hurt from our high heels. She sometimes looks good in polka dots too.

Tete de la course (front of the course) – the girl who gets socially excited and/or has too much to drink and goes hard early. If she remembers to have water and gets some air, she will make it through the whole night out on the dance floor while the rest of you are still seated talking about life and love. If not, she’s the one you have to hug while she’s crying or holding her hair while she vomits, or you actually don’t know where she gets to but you find out next day she passed out and was asleep somewhere.

Stagiare (apprentice) - someone’s younger sister, cousin, nephew who’s just turned 18 and is on her first night out with you. She learns a lot from you all.

Etape (stage) each bar you go to or plan to go to on the night out

Allez (go) you yell this repeatedly as you do jaeger shots

Bidon (drink bottle) cocktail glass

Jaune (yellow) the colour of your eyeballs the next day

Vert (green) how you feel the next day

Combative (aggressive rider) the girl who attacks you verbally or physically when she’s drunk. It's sometimes the same person as Tete de la course

Commissaire (race referee) the officious bouncer who reckons tete de la course has had her last drink and you all should leave. Combative takes offence.

Soigneur (team assistant) if it’s a hen’s night, this would be the bridesmaid

Roleur (strong rider who drives bunch on flat stages) the mate who motivates you in the last hour to keep going, have another drink, and gets you to the last bar, then home

Lanterne Rouge (red lantern refers to red light on back of a train)
You break off from the group and end up waking up somewhere that doesn’t look familiar. You are the last one home

Stage 6: Thor roars, Mick winces


(from AP)

I could tell you about Thor roaring over the line on Montjuic and how Millar almost won himself the stage and the yellow jersey after a breakaway. I could also tell you about the Millar, Txurruka, Chavanel and Auge breakaway and how Cadel Evans got amongst the bunch at the end, finishing 9th.

But there was only one piece of news from Stage 6 that concerns me, and that’s the crash of Mick Rogers.

He fell on a roundabout with 8km to go after it appeared he was caught up in Oz-German Heinrich Haussler’s slip. He clutched his hip and shook his arm – it did NOT look good. I thought, “no, not another abandon for our Mick.”

It would be a long wait for news of his condition. I started to get upset at the images in my mind of 2007. I tried to take encouragement from Phil/Paul and Mike saying that he wasn’t listed as an abandon, so he must’ve ridden home.

And he did! News came that about 13 mins later he rolled home. To steal a line from Phil/Paul, he “opened his suitcase of courage.” That’s our Mick!!

He tweeted this about his condition “Thanks to all for your kind wishes. Feeling ..very sore after todays crash but nothing broken. See you on the start line tomorrow.”

According to Columbia, Rogers has hurt his elbow and hip but x-rays show no breaks. The elbow is sure to take some pain as the peloton heads up the mountains. Now down by 14:46, it looks like Rogers will just look to finish and once he heals a bit more, ride hard for Cav and Kirchen. I hope he can make it.

Cav still in green, Fabian in yellow. Click here for GC.

Tonight I look forward to Andorra.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stage 6 Girona to Barcelona 181.5km

Lumpy porridge start, small climb up to the finish. A breakaway will probably hold. Someone with hard acceleration up a short climb – French: a puncheur – should get this one. That’s quite a few in the peloton though. I’m too tired to even go for a wild pick. Which sprinters and their teams could take this one?

There are category four climbs at Cote de Sant Feliu de Guixols, Cote de Tossa de Mar, and Cote de la Conreria; category three at Cote de Sant Vicenç de Montalt and Collsacreu. Three sprints out on the course.

I read that some think it could end in a GC contender sprint like last year in Plumelec. But that was Stage 1. It did make 1% of my tired and addled brain think Cadel might try it on…yeah, I know, bye bye I’m going to bed now.

Phil and Paul Bingo

Want something to do while watching Le Tour from the divan, waiting for the moves to happen? Play this http://trunc.it/s4of

Phil and Paul never fail to dig up commentary gold for us. Heard any phrases that are new or not on the bingo card? Tell me in the comment section below.

Here’s some I’ve noticed:

"Incursion"
“Lance Armstrong”
(specific to the stage) “it takes an hour to walk across the entire country of Monaco.”
“that’s a copy of the arc d’triomphe ” (specific to the stage)
“the time trial bike is much harder to manoeuvre than the road bike.”

Pie


From the Carlos Sastre website

"I rode alongside Armstrong, who I also congratulated. After this, he apologised for the comments he had made and for what he wrote in his book about my victory in last year's Tour. That was really important to me because it meant that he has regained the respect that I have always had for him.I think it's important that he said it,not only for the press but for me personally, and I'm glad about it.”

Tommy takes first Tour stage win


(pic from cyclingnews.com)


And you should’ve heard the crowd as they cheered their boy home.

Thomas Voeckler broke away in the early kilometres of the stage with five others - Ignatiev, Geslin, Hutarovich, Sapa, and Timmer – their lead reaching a maximum of around 10 mins. At 25kms to go, the gap was around 40-55 secs but the escapees clenched on to their lead. With 4.8kms remaining, Voeckler pounced, sneaking up the left hand side of the group to ride to his first Tour stage win.

The wind again had its way with the peloton. At around the 60kms to go mark it split into two – the GC contenders not missing the move today – reformed, then split into four, then reformed again. The peloton pedalled home 11 seconds behind Voeckler, Katusha sprinter Ignatiev holding on to his break to pip Cav for second.

Mick Rogers was again critical of the other sprint teams saying (SBS interview after stage) “Other teams (have got to) wake up and learn….only Garmin helped…(we) can’t close every gap on our own…got to help us if they want a sprint finish.”

One team who didn’t do just that was Cervelo. Brett Lancaster said “we just can’t get it together.” Now this is probably where Gerrans could’ve helped them.

Voeckler’s first stage win comes well after the 2004 Tour when he wore yellow for ten days. Considering the wind, it was a classy ride. As Renshaw tweeted “How did the break go from 55sec to 1.30sec with 25km to go in a headwind?”

Voeckler’s comments: "I thought we'd be caught in the final 30km…Then when I heard through my race radio that Astana were leading the chase with Saxo Bank I knew the wind conditions must have changed and that the sprinters' teams had lost interest. That's when I knew we had a chance."

Boonen got a puncture when the peloton first split and Rabobank’s Gesink limped home about 9mins behind the peloton after a fall. Silence Lotto again had trouble staying on their bikes with Matty Lloyd and Scheirlinckx tumbling.

Mick Rogers also told SBS he’s not going for GC.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Stage 5 Le Cap d'Agde to Perpignan, 197 km

Who’s got the legs after yesterday’s time trial to turn this stage into a La Grand Motte windy de ja vu. Or if no one misses a possible split, who’ll have the legs to take a bunch sprint?

North westerly winds of about 20km/h are forecast for around the finish area. (Letour.fr has 30km/h though, I’m assuming it’s for Perps)

Other than the wind, there’s no real challenge. Col de Feuilla and Cote de Treilles don’t set the world on fire at 250m and 219m. Despite many riders being down on time and therefore might try a split, they’re on teams that didn’t have the legs or the nous for such a move before the time trial (except for Saxobank). And would such a move look even more obvious than Columbia’s?

My money’s on the conventional run into the end/bunch sprint. If so, it’s hard to go past Cav, but Hushovd got close the other day. How much is Columbia hurting? Could ‘Chav’ (Chavanel) try for a late breakaway in the last kilometres and stay away? C'mon Chav!

Sprint points out on the course at 40.5kms, 107.5kms, and 158.5.

Tour de Laundry


WARNING: Non-beginner cyclists (and some beginners) may find some of these images offensive as they contain references to inferior cycling products
The Tour de Laundry (TDL) is:
- 20 stages, total distance: 1000 kilometres. The 20 stages include: 9 flat stages, 7 mountain stages, 1 medium mountain stage, 2 individual time trials, 1 team time trial


Tour de Couch has set herself a challenge – ride 50kms each night in front of the SBS TWO Tour de France coverage. My goal is a total of 1000km. No big deal you non-beginner cyclists out there scoff. But it is a big deal for me – I haven’t ridden more than 20kms before, especially not consecutively. Yes, my trainer is probably from Big W, but my heart rate gets up to what it’s supposed to and I feel as bad as I do when I’m riding outside.

Of course I want to own an expensive bike one day and join a bunch ride every weekend, but I want to see how much I get into it first other than the odd 8km ride to work I currently do now and then. I don’t want to be one of those poseurs who spend thousands on a bike then lose interest and their beautiful bike sits wearing cobwebs in a place where no bike should be on its own.

Progress so far/How do I feel:
As you can see from the odometer shot above, I’m on track – I’ve covered 200kms after 4 stages. OK, it’s been 5 stages - I might’ve slipped in a 12km prologue last Friday morning. I combined this with the 38kms I rode Saturday night. However, rest assured it’s since been 50kms a night.

I struggled during Stage 3. With lack of sleep, sore bum etc, I was ready to chuck it in, but thought, no, I want to do this, I want to go to this extreme and see if I can make it. Last night, I had a top ride and because I felt a bit fitter I picked up the speed (currently averaging 23-24kms/hr, first was 19-20).

To say I’m feeling a bit tired and crabby is a bit of an understatement. It was probably unwise to stay up late Friday night - with a little added dehydration – and not get enough sleep during the next day. Not sure I’m ever going to peg that sleep back. But I’m looking forward to tomorrow night (Thursday 9.7.09 – Stage 6 of the Tour) - I don’t have anything to do finally between work and the tour coverage. Bring on Napville. I’m also hanging out for the rest days!!

Yes, I said 20 stages, I’m taking an extra rest day on 18 July because I like to have a French dish/red wine/cheese gorge fest during every Tour and won't feel like kicking out my guests.

It wouldn’t be a challenge without….
To make sure I actually do it, I thought about making a personal donation to charity and asking others to as well so I’d be accountable. If you feel so inclined after hearing I make the 1000kms, make a donation to one of the worthy causes below.

Fitting in with the whole Tour de Couch thing – I saw this and thought it was appropriate. www.stressdown.org.au/donate - if this site isn’t taking donations after the 24th, you can visit www.lifeline.org.au/donate While donations go to their counseling line, I’m shouting out to Lifeline to promote their Gambling Care services.

Clare Holland House Donations can’t be made online unfortunately, but they can be made by cheque to: Clare Holland House, PO Box 175, CANBERRA ACT 2601.

Pop me a line saying you made a donation, but if you don’t let me know, I’ll more than understand.

PS: - why in the laundry? I live in an apartment and the whirring of my cheap trainer at that time would probably cause some issues.






Astana strong-arms Team Time Trial, Lance misses yellow by a bee’s…um, whisker

There’s not much of TourdeCouch’s enamel left after the nail gnawing conclusion of last night’s team time trial.

Astana triumphed over Garmin-Slipstream in what proved to be a tough team time trial course. Last out, Astana knew Garmin-Slipstream’s time of 46:47 was the one to beat. And by the last check, everyone knew Lance needed to finish in 46:29 to nab yellow from Cancellara.

Astana finished in 46:29:32.

Then we had to wait for the countback! More nails gone. The verdict? Fabian Cancellara kept yellow!!!

Astana’s methodical study and over and over again practice on the course as a team clearly paid off. After witnessing them move as one around those bends and narrow roads, is it really that hard to believe Astana is united? Could the “internal rivalry” just be a ruse? Probably not.

Here’s the TTT results:
1. Astana 46.29
2. Garmin-Slipstream .18
3. Team Saxo Bank .40
4. Liquigas .58
5. Columbia-HTC .59
6. Team Katusha 1.23
7. Caisse d'Epargne 1.39
8. Cervélo TestTeam 1.37
9. AG2R La Mondiale 1.48
10. Euskatel-Euskadi 2.09
11. Rabobank 2.38
12. Quick Step 2.44
13. Silence-Lotto 2.35
14. Française des Jeux 2.46
15. Team Milram 2.48
16. Cofidis 2.58
17. Lampre-NGC 3.24
18. Agritubel 4.17
19. BBox Bouygues Telecom 4.41
20. Skil-Shimano 5.23

And how the GC looks now:

1. CANCELLARA Fabian TEAM SAXO BANK
2. ARMSTRONG Lance ASTANA + 00' 00"
3. CONTADOR Alberto ASTANA + 00' 19"
4. KLÖDEN Andréas ASTANA + 00' 23"
5. LEIPHEIMER Levi ASTANA + 00' 31"
6. WIGGINS Bradley GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM + 00' 38"
7. ZUBELDIA Haimar ASTANA + 00' 51"
8. MARTIN Tony TEAM COLUMBIA - HTC + 00' 52"
9. ZABRISKIE David GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM + 01' 06"
10. MILLAR David GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM + 01' 07"
--
16. ROGERS Michael TEAM COLUMBIA - HTC + 01' 32"
20. SCHLECK Andy TEAM SAXO BANK + 01' 41"
24. KIRCHEN Kim TEAM COLUMBIA - HTC + 02' 16"
25. SCHLECK Frank TEAM SAXO BANK + 02' 17"
29. SASTRE Carlos CERVELO TEST TEAM + 02' 44"
35. EVANS Cadel SILENCE - LOTTO + 02' 59"

Other observations from the couch:
Columbia was disappointing in 5th place. Maybe Stage 3 did hurt them or maybe they were just having one of those days.

Garmin-Slipstream dropped four riders quite early implementing the theory “less is more” on such a technical time trial. It too seemed to pay off. They rode a good TT; noone was going to beat Astana yesterday.

Stage 2 may not have made me eat my chamois, but Cervelo might about Gerro– sure Sastre lost some time, but they went better than I expected. I will wait until after the mountains though to get out the condiments.

Liquigas also were a revelation.

Menchov is still thinking pink – he lost it on one of the first few corners costing him even more time. He has slipped to 72nd place at 3:52 down.

Silence Lotto had a shocker. Cadel is 35th at almost 3 minutes down, 12th among the GC contenders. Even if he had gone with the split on Stage 3, he'd still be looking at 2:20 down.

Today proved that knowing every nuance of a technical time trial course and riding it together over and over really does pay off and other teams with GC contenders should’ve done the same.

Lots crashed - Bbox rider Bonnet found a ditch on the side of the road. Silence-Lotto,Rabobank…I lost count in the end.

Agritubel won the prize for “best disco helmet.”

And did you hear this rumour: After failing to win yellow yesterday, Contador and Lance allegedly revealed their Blair-Brown style agreement made over margueritas in restaurant “Tex Mex-alicous.” Apparently Contador said “Don't tell anyone, but we agreed Lance would wear yellow for a few days to sell off signed jerseys for cancer etc, and I would really be the leader in the mountains and bring us home to Paris. Why else do you think I let him go in Stage 3? But now, who knows what’s going to happen.” Not credible? :-)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stage 3 Trash Talk and Washup

(from Renshaw's Twitter)
“When you see what the wind is doing and you have a turn (bend) coming up, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out you have to go to the front. I've won the Tour de France seven times, so it makes no sense not to be there." Lance Armstrong

"When the split happened I was riding up to the front with a team-mate and then I ended up in no man's land…So it was better to wait. Ahead, Columbia were very well organised…I do not want to evaluate the tactics of the team, everyone can come to his own conclusions…Anyway, the Tour is not going to be decided with that has happened today." Contador
@markrenshaw1 “Well it don't get much better then that! It goes down in my books as the most crushing team performance iv seen . Great team great mates....”
@mickrogers “Walter our cook whipped up some salmon tonight. Yum. Just jokes. Mick also wrote this “That was awesome! That was the best team effort I've been apart of in 10 years as a pro. Cav did what he's best at.. Winning”
@ghincapie Wow!!! What a day. We crushed it. Still 3 weeks to go though..
@Lancearmstrong At dinner with the team. Despite what some might think, morale is sky high. We're psyched for tomorrow. Gotta love the TTT.
Direct quote from tourdecouch’s head last night “Wow. Haven’t seen something like this in the Tour for a while. Surprise. Geez I love Columbia.”

Tour Teams’ moment of truth - Stage 4: Start times etc


(letour.fr)
Start list I swiped from cyclingfans.com – I changed the times to AEST.

10:30 pm: Caisse d'Epargne
10:37: Team Katusha
10:44: Rabobank
10:51: Lampre
10:58: Bbox Bouygues Telecom
11:05: AG2R-La Mondiale
11:12: Skil-Shimano
11:19: Française des Jeux
11:26: Agritubel
11:33: Silence-Lotto
11:40: Quick Step
11:47: Cervélo Test Team
11:54: Team Milram
12:16: Liquigas
12:08: Euskaltel-Euskadi
12:15: Cofidis
12:22: Garmin-Slipstream
12:29: Team Saxo Bank
12:36: Team Columbia-HTC
12:43: Astana

I won’t linger over talking about the profile but I will say that some think the shortness of the route, the technical first section and the jagged roads could see some traditional time trialling teams struggle.

Who knows how teams will have recovered from yesterday? Some are saying Columbia-HTC might be tired from its brilliance, but it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have practiced and prepared for such a scenario – it IS their job after all. AND, if they’re tired, then so are those who went with them and those who ate their dust.
For the win - Astana on paper after Stage 1’s TT would be a safe bet, but you can’t discount Columbia, Garmin and SaxoBank. According to Twitter Lance didn’t get to bed until 11pmish…so hopefully he’s tired.
Possible outcomes for yellow:

1 - Cancellara will keep it. Cancellara is 33 secs up on Martin, 40 on Armstrong. Can Astana beat Saxobank by 40secs in the time trial? Saxobank do have mountain goats Schleck 1 and Schleck 2 on their team, but they also have Cancellera and the other workhorses that will do their best to limit the loss.

2 - if Columbia doesn’t win the stage, it gains 33 seconds over Saxobank, Martin’s wearing yellow.

3 - Astana will live up to their own hyperbole and cane Saxobank by 40 seconds.
Eek – watch it! Time checks at 9km, 19.5kms and 30.7kms.



Choo Choo! Columbia uses Stage 3 for TTT training! Canberra's own Dodger is BACK!!


"...everyone was nervous about the time trial..(we were the) only ones willing to ride..(this shows our) domination of a Tour in the first week." Mark Cavdendish on Colombia's deliberate plan for Stage 3.

Just when you think you can't get enough of the six-pack jerseys hurtling along, not only does Cav take 2 from 2 - closely followed across the line by Thor Hushovd - but the Columbia Train took everyone by surprise, splitting the peloton in the cross winds with 30km(ish) to go. Because of the wind, many said this could happen today, but seeing it eventuate was another exciting story.

The split saw the main GC contenders - except Armstrong - eventually finish 40 seconds behind the lead group of around 25 riders. Astana teammates Contador, Leipheimer and Kloden as well as Evans, Contador, Sastre..and, well, pretty much everyone, failed to read the move. Columbia-HTC crossed the line with 8 riders only dropping Grabsch after he'd finished his work for the team.

Yes, Armstrong. Guess who's 3rd on the GC now after cunningly reading the Columbia move? The Boss is 19 seconds in front of Contador. Armstrong could take the yellow jersey from Fabian Cancellera - who also stayed with the split - tomorrow following the Team Time Trial.

Armstrong v Contador - 1 all.

But the most exciting news for this little Canberran is that Mick Rogers has moved up to 11, making up for the 30 seconds he lost from a chain slip in the TT. Evans moves out of the top five to eighth.

I could talk about the breakaway that occurred from the outset and continued until about 34kms to go, and I could tell you about the Polka Dot jersey, but it's been all wiped away by the adrenaline rush of watching the finish.

No doubt the finish took it out of the peloton for tomorrow's TTT as they tried to remedy the split. Not so Columbia-HTC - it was TTT training!!

Cavendish in green, Fabian still in yellow. For everything else, visit www.sbs.com.cu/tdf

Top 11 in the General Classification:
1. CANCELLARA Fabian
2. MARTIN Tony + 00' 33"
3. ARMSTRONG Lance + 00' 40"
4. CONTADOR Alberto + 00' 59"
5. WIGGINS Bradley + 01' 00"
6. KLÖDEN Andréas + 01' 03"
7. GERDEMANN Linus + 01' 03"
8. EVANS Cadel + 01' 04"
9. MONFORT Maxime + 01' 10"
10. LEIPHEIMER Levi + 01' 11"
11. ROGERS Michael + 01' 13"

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tour de Couch’s Road to Astana Queasy Town – Milestone #2

Took another hit in the vomit maker with this slogan, and especially when I watched some of the video. I know, I do it to myself but Astana is a lot like when Nigella Lawson is on the TV – you’re not a lesbian, but…. Not that this slogan/video is as mesmerising as Nigella’s triumphant prose about out of date foodstuffs she’s found in her fabulous pantry.

Yes, it’s just marketing, but what a way to memorialise such a significant event in the history of the world. The French Revolution was:
a period of (1789–1799) political and social upheaval and radical change in the history of France, during which the French governmental structure, previously an absolute monarchy with feudal privileges for the aristocracy and Catholic clergy, underwent radical change to forms based on Enlightenment principles of citizenship and inalienable rights. These changes were accompanied by violent turmoil which included the trial and execution of the king, vast bloodshed and repression during the Reign of Terror, and warfare involving every other major European power. Subsequent events that can be traced to the Revolution include the Napoleonic Wars, two separate restorations of the monarchy, and two additional revolutions as modern France took shape. In the following century, France would be governed at one point or another as a republic, constitutional monarchy, and two different
empires. (from Wikipedia)
Almost the same thing.

Stage 3 – another Cav-alcade?*

“It's the same problem for all the teams, because Cav is very fast, it's a question of how you beat Cavendish.” Cervelo’s Brett Lancaster, Australian riding for Thor Hushovd (www.sbs.com.au/tdf)
The final 78km of this stage is almost as flat as lavash and the final 800m, straight. This one’s for the sprinters. Any breakaway will just be about getting sponsors on the telly.

The rest of the 196.5km course includes some wavy terrain and Category 4 climbs at the Cote de Calissanne and the Col de la Vayede. Sprint points are on offer at La Fare-Les-Olivers, Mouries and Arles and of course, the finish.

Expect to see the Saxobank super domestiques out front again and the sprint teams saving energy in their slipstream. The peloton is beside the sea for the last 40 kilometres as the sprint teams sort themselves out. Here the wind could make things interesting and not such a fait accompli.
Considering yesterday’s form though, how do you beat Colombia-HTC (especially Renshaw) and Cavendish? If he’s isolated can he still win? Yes, of course. He’s that fast. Petacchi beat him on Stage 2 at the Giro by sprinting early and keeping Cav at bay. Is this the only way to beat him and if so, can the other teams do it?

Don’t know, but watching will be “eeek” out loud fun.
(*I even groaned at that one)

All aboard the Colombia train! Woo woo…

(from AP - I’m probably breaching copyright laws, but I don’t care….have a look at Cav!!! )
"It's beautiful to be wearing the green jersey… and it's a beautiful moment for me." 24 year old Isle of Man sprint sensation Mark Cavendish after last night’s stage

Of course stage 2 was going to end like it did- and it was beautiful to watch. And if the perfectly executed stage win was anything to go by, the Colombia-HTC train looks to be right “on track” to dominate the sprints.

With about 40kms to go, Colombia-HTC began seriously pulling their weight out front with Saxo Bank to peg back what at that time was a 4:30 lead by the breakaway. Almost immediately it dropped to 4 mins, the group ultimately swallowed up with about 10kms to go.

Despite much violent jostling among the sprint teams of Katusha, Lampre, Cervelo and BBox, Colombia-HTC kept its spot at the front with Mick Rogers surprisingly setting the tempo for Australia’s Renshaw and Cavendish. He peeled off with about 800m to go then Renshaw had his turn and Cavendish did the rest.

Cav comfortably beat home Tyler Farrar (Garmin), Romain Feillu (Agritubel), Thor Husovd (CTT) and Japan’s Yukiya Arashiro (BBO).

Other happenings:

  • Finland's Jussi Veikkanen, Dutchman Stef Clement and Frenchmen Stephane Auge and Cyril Dessel broke away early establishing a maximum lead of 5 mins.
  • Veikannen took the Polka Dot Jersey (King of the Mountains) after gaining all but Tony Martin’s points out on the course, finally securing it after the Col de l’Ange.
  • Sprint surprises – Feillu! Arashiro almost beating Thor.
  • I woke this morning to see many news outlets/respected cycling press asking “where was Boonen” in the bunch sprint. Ah der, if you watched the coverage there was quite a clear helicopter shot above the peloton of the Belgian coloured jersey riding around the crash with 750m to go. Some outlets finally started picking up the AFP report about it a couple of hours ago.
  • Frank Schleck took a tumble. Despite this, Saxo Bank had a blinder up the front with Stuey O’Grady, Arvesen and Voigt ensuring yellow clad Cancellara wasn’t taxed and Andy Schleck saved for the mountains.
  • "One of the Skil riders took his hands off the handlebars and actually hit me. That's a dangerous thing to do to hit a contender for the sprint and I will be finding out later what it was all about," said Cavendish.
  • Rogers keeping the tempo was a little puzzling and that’s because I don’t want what Phil/Paul said to be true. They said he seems to have given up on his GC objective after losing that much time in the TT yesterday. I don’t know, I think he loves to ride fast for the team and Cav. Either way, I love him.
  • According to @CadelOfficial (Twitter) Lance didn’t tweet from the peloton but he did from the shower.

SBS coverage – there has been some really good interviews and preludes– check them out www.sbs.com.au/tdf how about Matty Lloyd and how excited he is?!

STAGE 2 RESULTS 1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) 4hr30min02sec 2. Tyler Farrar (US) same time 3. Roman Feillu (Fra) s/t 4. Thor Hushovd (Nor) s/t 5. Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) s/t

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION 1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) 4:49min34sec 2. Alberto Contador (Spa) +18sec 3. Brad Wiggins (GBr) +19 4. Andreas Kloden (Ger) +22 5. Cadel Evans (Aus) +23 6. Levi Leipheimer (US) +30 7. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) +32 8. Tony Martin (Ger) +33 9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) +37 10. Lance Armstrong (US) +40

SPRINTERS STANDINGS 1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) 35pts 2. Tyler Farrar (US) 30pts 3. Roman Feillu (Fra) 26pts

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS STANDINGS Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) 9pts Tony Martin (Ger) 6pts Cyril Dessel (Fra) 5pts

Oops sorry guys, Rogers led out with a few kms to go then he stepped aside, it was Hincapie who peeled off with 800m to go...just had to check the footage again and again....they were going soooo damn fast.... Kinda makes my Boonen comment look hypocritical, I apologise.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A bunch sprint or I’ll eat my chamois - Stage 2 – Monaco to Brignoles – 187km

(profile pic letour.fr)

The stage begins with a Category 3 climb up La Turbie and a descent into Nice once the top is reached at the 8.5km mark so expect an early breakaway by French riders. These guys won’t stay away for too long after the series of Category 4 hills finish around the 129km mark. There’s 35 points on offer at the end of this stage, so the breakaway will be caught. Sprint points are also available at Nice on the Promenade Des Anglais,Fayence and at Lorgues with 49kms to go. Some people think a rider like Sanchez might break and stay away, but the sprinters and their lead out men are champing at the bit. Watch the GC contenders as they get a bit nervy on the downhill to Nice and along the sun soaked tar, especially Lance who’s apparently now scared of the peloton.
Cav for the win. But don’t discount an angry Boonen.

UPDATE: Tom Torpedoes into the Tour

It was sad watching first hand – via SBS coverage last night – the disappointment etched into Allan Davis’ ochre coloured face. In arguably the best form of his career so far, Davis was on the team then he wasn’t, then he was at the team’s presentation, then he was again not on the team once Boonen was cleared. When SBS talked to him, he was packing to come home to Australia to consider his next steps.

While Cadel made a valid point that it was unfair Alby was missing out because of the actions of others, Phil Ligget made an equally good point that Alby probably should’ve been picked for the team anyway as lead-out for Boonen.

I can’t help thinking Boonen genuinely feels bad about it all too. Boonen when stopped by the media and asked about Davis, Boonen said.."I’m on my way to him now…he is..my best friend in cycling." I hope there's no hard feelings.

Berty strikes the first blows

"hot, sticky conditions that pitted the 180 riders against a course that climbed for the first 7.5km and offered a tricky descent." Rupert Guinness for Fairfax in Monaco describing the conditions yesterday.
Yesterday's time trial held few surprises. Saxobank’s Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) won the stage, covering the 15.5km course in 19:32 (average speed 47.610km/h) and Astana dominated with four riders in the top ten. The top ten after Stage 1:

  1. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) in 19:32
  2. Alberto Contador (Astana) at 00:18
  3. Bradley Wiggins (Garmin - Slipstream) at 00:19
  4. Andréas Kloden (Astana) at00:22
  5. Cadel Evans (Silence - Lotto) at 00:23
  6. Levi Leipheimer (Astana) at 00:30
  7. Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) at 00:32
  8. Tony Martin (Columbia - HTC) at 00:33
  9. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) at 00:37
  10. Lance Armstrong (Astana) at 00:40

Evans was disappointed in his ride. "I would prefer the time difference if it was going the other way. I had an okay run..it’s not bad but it could be better," he said, knowing only too well the psychological value of the opening stage. While his rival Contador won this one, Evans shouldn’t feel too bad (and probably isn’t). Just five seconds now separate them.

Contador on his own performance:

"This race has begun very well for me. It’s good for the morale and the faith that my team has put in me. Today I had a very good feeling and it’s definitely not disappointing to finish second behind Cancellara...I think I’m in the best condition possible and, concerning the matter of leadership in the team, this should not be a problem. At any rate, we will all work together to ensure that one of us succeeds." (letour.fr)

As to the stage winner himself, Cancellara had a perfect ride and he and his team look to repeat 2007 and hold the yellow jersey for a week.

"I was one of the favourites to win here before the race and I knew if I got things right it would be very difficult for my rivals to beat me…I knew to take it easy on the climb, to avoid too much lactic acid in the legs, and then go hard on the flat….To be back in the yellow jersey again is a great achievement both for me and my team, I am proud of it….we will now defend the jersey until the team time trial."

Saxobank too will be somewhat satisfied with the performance of Andy Schleck. Not known for his time trialling, he finished 18th at 1 min. His brother Frank finished in 67th at 1min 36. Holding yellow until at least Stage 4 would see Saxobank remain faithful to its objective of controlling the race from the outset.

Last year’s winner, Carlos Sastre (Cervelo) finished in 21st losing at 1min 06 secs while Denis Menchov (Rabobank) surprisingly finished 53rd at 1min 31.

Canberran’s Chain Reaction
Canberra’s son, Michael Rogers was disappointed at finishing yesterday in 27th, one minute 12 seconds down. As reported in Rupert Guinness’ piece on Stage 1 for Fairfax, he lost 30 seconds because of a chain slip. It happened again without him needing to stop, but still hurt his chances of finishing well up near the top ten. Take those 30 seconds off and he would’ve finished just two seconds behind Armstrong. However, for Dodger fans in Canberra and everywhere, he finished excitingly ahead of fellow Colombia teammate/leader Kim Kirchen (I like Kirchen though) who rode home 109th and 1min 57 secs down. The pieces could still fall Mick’s way to lead Colombia for the GC.

Astana – the new internal revolution in France

While it was a little annoying to see the cameras trained on Lance for his entire ride, thus missing important time checks of other riders, it was hard to look away, whatever your thoughts on the man and/or his comeback. It is hard to look away from not just a seven times tour winner, but a 37 year old after four years away from the event riding into the top ten of the opening, tough time trial.

Lance’s thoughts on his performance: "I didn’t have any illusions (about winning the stage) which is logical given I’ve been four years away." However, it was interesting to hear Phil Ligget during the commentary on SBS talk about his mano-a-mano interview with Lance. Armstrong shared with him that he was there to win. Phil also commented that the time trial for Lance wasn’t about beating opponents from other teams, but to strike an internal psychological blow to his Astana teammates, i.e. Contador.

But it looks like Contador won this one too.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Stage 1 – Monaco – Individual Time Trial


(above profile pic from letour.fr website)

TDF 2009 foregoes the usual prologue with a 15.5km individual time trial stage. Right from the start there’s a steady climb up towards the Cote de Beausoleil with some sections at six-eight percent gradients and a false flat. Once the top is reached at the 7.5km mark, there’s a decent descent to the finish with a couple of hair-pin bends. At three kilometres to go, it's all pancake.

Because of this profile, many experts don’t expect a traditional time trial technician to romp home today. A rider with visions of themselves in yellow on the Champ-Elysees will hope to strike a psychological blow today with the stage win. Cancellara will still be hard to beat.

From Ride Magazine’s official Tour Guide review of Stage 1:

Stuart O’Grady
"toughest opening time trial that I’ve ever seen in the Tour."
Cadel Evans (on so many riders going to Monaco after Paris-Nice to reccie the Time Trial course)
"it was like a peloton out there..and I can understand why too: it’s important to see what this climb is like and also get a look at the tehnical selections. The winner will be one of the GC guys, someone who can climb and is also willing to take a few risks on the descent."
I would not be surprised if Cadel takes it tonight. If he can beat Cancellara. Not sure about Berty...

Logistical stuff:
SBS One and Two coverage from 11:30 to 4am. SBS is also live streaming all 21 stages.
Weather – 24-25 degrees, afternoon storm.

Some riders to watch and their times (from http://www.cyclingfans.com/) (think I worked out the AEST time right)
12:17 LA (#22)
12:37 Leipheimer (24)
1.56 F Schleck (36)
2:32 Rogers (79)
2: 34 Vande Velde (51)
2:36 A. Schleck (31)
2:58 Kirchen (75)
3:01 Wiggins (58)
3:02 Menchov (41)
3:04 Cancellara (33)
3:05 Contador (21)
3:07 Evans (11)
3:08 Sastre (1)

Sastre says it’s time for someone to eat some pie

Check this out. Is Sastre saying that just because you’re raising cancer awareness/won the tour lots it's no excuse for acting like a bit of a tool? Is he also saying the treacly book title ignores the fact that the guy only truly focused on the one race every year? I think so.

No more sleeps - it's here!!!

Tour de France 2009 kicks off tonight! I am really excited. What's in store?

  • 21 stages
  • Total distance: 3,500 kilometres.

The 21 stages include:

  • 10 flat stages
  • 7 mountain stages
  • 1 medium mountain stage
  • 2 individual time trials
  • 1 team time trial

We all get to rest 13 & 20 July. The riders arrive in Paris, Sunday, 26 July 2009.

Many expect the 96th edition to go right down to the wire with the yellow jersey decided on the climb to Mount Ventoux.

Although Evans says he's a little bit nervous and stressed, he would no doubt be relishing that the circus is hovering around Contador and Armstrong, not him. Imagine this: Cadel making us all cry while he's on the podium top step in Paris as Advance Australia Fair plays in the background. Meanwhile, KRudd flies to Paris once the GC is sorted after the 167th kilometre on 25 July to congratulate our Cads, pose for a photo with LA/Bono and calls our bosses bums if they don't give us a day off (for many here in Canberra, he is The Boss).

It's certainly going to be fun, agonising, and exciting to watch Cadel go for it.

For more info visit letour.fr

Final word on Gerro

I read Anthony Tan's blog at tdf.sbs.com.au/tdf2009 this morning and it looks like I should've explored my earlier notion that it was probably the Team Time Trial that Cervelo based their Gerrans non selection on. This from the blog:

(Brett) Lancaster added that Sastre brought a bunch of big guys – well, big by cycling standards – because of the Montpellier team time trial on Stage 4, where the maximum three-minute deficit rule no longer applies; that is, there is no upper limit on the amount of time lost. Sastre, a pure climber by nature, can hold his own in the mountains. But in a situation like the TTT, and over a difficult 39-kilometre hilly and undulating parcours like the one they will face on Tuesday, July 7, the Spaniard will need all the help he can get.

I still think Gerro's omission could be a mistake, but this makes a bit more sense.

Tom Torpedoes into the Tour

Yay! Boonen has been cleared. Check out Associated Press http://trunc.it/py84

I feel for Allan Alby Davis though, especially with all the last minute shenanigans.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cervelo yellow without Gerro?

(from Tour Prep Diary 24 June 2009)

I don’t think I could say much more on this shocking topic than what’s been covered here, and here. I will say – I was gutted. And not because of blind patriotism.

I was genuinely excited by this team’s early season form and was looking forward to watching not only Heinrich Haussler leading home Thor Husovd in the sprints but Gerrans riding for 2008 winner, Sastre ‘super domestique’ style, not a title Gerro still has to earn or to live up to. After an awesome Giro, this decision was not about form. And despite what many have said in some forums, Gerrans can climb. When it first broke, I could only think that maybe he didn’t go too well at Cervelo’s Team Time Trial camp as his bad news tweet came about a day after that.

These two quotes sum it up the best:

- from Cycling Central’s twitter page “comment of the day here @CyclingCentral "....maybe Simon needs to change his name to Jose Simon Gerranos."

- and Mike Tomalaris “Cervelo winning a stage or coming close to topping one of the Classifications will come as a huge surprise."

The last thing I will say is that Gerro’s taken it like a true pro cyclist, and watch out for him at the Vuelta.

The long blurry white line

(Pre Tour Diary – 18 June 2009)

Belgium’s biggest sporting star and three-time Paris-Roubaix winner Tom “Tommeke” Boonen, would be feeling a little ripped off right now –he’ll be punished by missing the Tour for doing something he actually didn’t get to really enjoy, or at least remember. Either that or it wasn’t very good quality and he’ll be looking for a new supplier. Just jokes. This from BikeRadar.com (via AFP) :

"Tom Boonen seemingly did not ingest cocaine, the substance for which he tested positive six weeks ago for the second time in a year, Belgian media Thursday quoted a panel of independent experts as saying."

Ah, the ‘ol Bill Clinton “I didn’t inhale” marijuana defence?

"The panel based their conclusion on the small quantity of the substance found in the Belgian racer's hair samples examined by the Belgian University of Louvain and the University of Strasbourg in France, Sporza television reported. The former world champion has stated that the day before the test he had had a blackout following a drinking session and could not remember anything… The Belgian's team has sent the results of the hair analysis to the UCI and to ASO, organisers of the Tour de France, in the hope that he may now be allowed to compete."

No doubt he probably set up the lines, rolled up the $20 euro note then passed out on the table and got it in his hair then. Yeah, it was a silly mistake….again….but it’s not fair he’ll be missing the Tour and not just because I love watching him race and I think he’s a bit of a cutie.

The UCI (International Cycling Union, the sport’s world governing body for the uninitiated) in the end didn’t sanction him because it was an out of competition recreational drug, so why should the ASO? So yet again the ASO puts itself and its event above the sport? It tries to ‘protect the brand’ from some things and therefore takes the high moral ground, but on others, it takes it down the very low road.

His team and he are appealing so stay tuned.

3/7/09 UPDATE: this appeal is going down to the wire but it looks to now be over as SBS’ Mike Tomalaris tweeted this about two hours ago “Just spoke to Alby Davis (Australia’s Allan Davis)- he looked happy as Boonen's replacement at the official Tour launch.” This at cyclingnews.com too. Caption in photo says he's hanging around in Monaco. Is there really that much difference between him racing and press coverage of him now hanging around the Tour anyway?
Also, check out this shot.. http://trunc.it/osmx

Tour de Couch’s road to Astana* Queasy Town – milestone #1


(From my Pre Tour Diary - June 15, 2009)

Twitter, June 15, Levi Leipheimer posts a link to video about how awesome his team is (see above or go to link). Don’t bother watching it and I don’t know why I even got to third of the way in. It’s basically Hitler in his war room with his generals saying that not only is Lance powerful and strong, but LA is bringing Contador and Leipheimer too, so they (Hitler etc) should just all quit and go home. Before he reaches that conclusion though, there's also a few choice comments made about conspiring with the UCI etc and doping controls to try and scupper Astana's plans.

I don't know who Hitler is supposed to represent. The French press? That French Sports Minister? Or am I looking for too much meaning? Possibly.

Hitler also says that because he is so frickin’ awesome Lance can impregnate women with just his eyes. Well, he’d have to use his eyes because he tweeted this today: “I’m still frigid.”**

(* The team Lance rides for, for the uninitiated)
(** this may be an incomplete quote)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

No Tour de Couch, I’m off to France…maybe - Tour Prep Diary Entry # 2

11 June 2009

I am going to France. I WILL win the trip to the Tour, drawn today. Am already thinking what I’ll show the boyf (Tour Widow or TW) who’s never left Australia.

We’ll go a few weeks before; I’ll show him the hills of Provence and the stooping sunflowers, the Chateau where I stayed in the summer of 2003, the evident trenches of the Western Front, and, how Sparkling Wine got its name. In Paris, I'll point out the good places to snog AND to propose to someone. Here too, I’ll show him where Hitler jigged and where Diana crashed.

We’ll drive through the Tour towns and stop to watch Renshaw lead out Cav in the bunch sprint at La Grande-Motte, cheer on Mick as he pulls clear of the other GC contenders on the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard, and as Lance rides past us on the other Bernard, we’ll bottle his sweat and hair for cloning.

Maybe too the boyf will dispel his stereotypes of the French which I know he only exaggerates to bait me in my oft times pretentious Francophilia.

12 June 2009

Didn’t win. Probably a good thing for the following reasons:

  1. I wouldn’t want to miss the live SBS One/Two Coverage of the Tour, including Le Taste.
  2. Also wouldn't want to miss out on more hard-hitting journalism from Grimmers, and her stoush with Ramsay (plus the equally hard-hitting journalism that was the coverage of the feud)
  3. TW has a milk allergy and I’m currently insulin resistant so cheese and starchy white high GI bread are off the menu
  4. Despite logic, I wouldn’t relax on the plane due to the very recent record of the competition’s carrier.
  5. I would run out of time to get Tour Widow to pronounce “Champs-Élysées” and “Parlez Vous Anglais” in not so Australian an accent, because, at the moment he sounds just like Kevin Rudd.

Tour Prep Diary Entry # 1 - 9 June 2009

Not happy with my recent form. My recovery after some relatively hard training at the long weekend has been far from ideal. Less than one month out and I am not even close to hitting my peak. I’m exhausted, cream crackered..feels like I’ve hit a hunger flat….. mmm....cream crackers…

Feel really tired today after 2 x 2 a.m. nights and last night, a school night 12am. I’ve got to do this for 21 nights in July, 14 of them five hours before work.

On my current form, this is the level I see myself performing at for the moment.*

I see just one solution – I am off to France.

(*spot obscure reference in this article…grrrrr, don’t be trash talking Canberra’s own Mick Rogers!)