Skip navigation

NEED HELP?|

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that, while Alberto Contador has the yellow jersey well in his grasp, the second and third places on the podium will be determined on the slopes of Mont Ventoux. Barring a complete meltdown, Saxo Bank rider Andy Schleck's 1'30" lead over Lance Armstrong, Andreas Kloden, Bradley Wiggins and his brother Frank Schleck should be enough to give him the second step of the podium.

 

So, Lance, Andreas, Bradley and Frank, who are separated by less than 40 seconds on the overall classification, will be riding hard, digging deep and generally throwing caution to the wind in an attempt to be top three in Paris.

 

Of those four, Frank Schelck has been climbing the best and appears to have the upper hand. However, this is the last difficult day in the Tour so no rider can claim to be holding back to be able to fight another day. It is "another day" when we get to Ventoux and because the stakes are so high, the attacks and the emotions will be at near chaotic level.

 

The climb of Ventoux from the quaint village of Bedoin is split into three distinct sections. The first 2.5 miles (4km) are flat or very gentle(3-4%) climbing. The meat of the ascent is the next 6 miles(10km) where the road is very steep (9.5-10%) average grade, the terrain features are a monotonous forest of trees and the road winds uphill in a seemingly unending series of shallow turns. There are no switchbacks to break up the monotony, only the pain.

 

When the climb reaches Chalet Reynard (House of the Fox) the terrain escapes the forest and enters a lunar landscape for the final 5 miles (8km) to the summit. The gradient kicks back to a manageable 8%, but above the trees it can be hot, windy or both. Overall the 13-mile(22km) ascent climbs 5300'(1600m).

 

What will the podium contenders do on the climb? Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck should just follow the wheels of Armstrong, Kloden, Wiggins and Frank Schleck. Andy might do some work to help his brother get on the podium. Likewise, unless he goes off the reservation as he did in the final few kilometers of the Colombiere, Alberto Contador is in the unique position to help an attack by either Lance or Andreas Kloden succeed by helping set tempo.

 

The gap between the four contending for the final spot on the podium is small enough that they can wait to attack after reaching Chalet Reynard. Attacking during the steep section below is risky because the chances of blowing up and losing contact is very real.

 

However, since there are four riders so closely bunched, the guy who wants to stand on the third step of the podium will, most likely, have to drop all three of his rivals. It might be possible to drop one or two, but dropping all three will require either a vicious attack(s) or a very fast tempo and that might only be able to be accomplished by attacking early, on the steep section, and not on the slopes above Chalet Reynard.

 

My prediction is that Frank Schleck, aided by his brother, will attack on the steep section. He is behind the other three timewise so he has to drop them all. He is climbing well and is probably the best of the four at going for a long attack.

 

Since Lance is ahead of his three rivals on time, he just has to mark all three of them and make sure nobody gets away. He has said that, after Verbier, his strategy is to not go with sharp accelerations, but to ride his pace and try to "diesel" up to the attackers. I think Lance will have to respond directly to any attacks on Mont Ventoux. He cannot afford, both physically and mentally, to let any of his rivals go up the road.

 

Bradley Wiggins is the big unknown. Undoubtedly, the whole Garmin-Slipstream team will be working to set him up. He has climbed very well in both the Alps and the Pyrenees, but I think he will really have to go to some places he has never gone before in his cycling career to get the third spot on the podium. Somewhere in his soul is the key. Will he find it?

 

Andreas Kloden is the big unknown. Obviously, after Contador's needless attack on the Colombiere there is some new disharmony on the team. It is unclear where he will be headed next year, but if he is on the short list to join Lance's new team, he may be asked to ride in support of Armstrong.

 

But, heck, forget all the speculation and just bring on the race. I can't wait.

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

No one will ever say that Italian professional Eros Poli was a great climber. At 6'4" and 195lbs he was built for power on the flats witness his Olympic gold medal in the Team Time Trial. But, in 1994, Eros tried something that which few have ever been successful. Poli tried to beat all the Tour's best climbers up and over Mont Ventoux. It was going to take a unique strategy of Eros was to lead over the Giant of Provence and then then 20 miles of flat roads to the finish in Carpentras.

 

Bruce: you needed to get a huge lead to be able to be first over Ventoux.

 

Eros: At the base I had 24 minutes. When I escaped it was 100 km of flat to the base of the climb. I said to myself 'if you want to win you need 24 minutes' because normally I lose one minute per kilometer and the climb is 22 kilometers so I will lose 22 minutes.  So, I thought I needed another two minutes to be sure

to the finish.  I had four minutes lead at the top on Pantani. With five kilometers to go I had a five minute advantage on the peloton so I said 'OK. It is done'.

 

Bruce: what was it like climbing Mont Ventoux? The steep section in the middle is very hard.

 

Eros: It is very difficult.  I did it this year with a group of Scottish guys and I thought "how could I do it that day? How could I go up that mountain?" It is so difficult.  There are no switchbacks, no corners. Just up, up, up in almost a straight line.  There is no possibility of a rest.  No possibility of recuperation. It is long.  It is an incredible mountain. It is the biggest mountain in the Tour de France.

 

Bruce: Now that you are retired what are you doing?

 

Eros: I work in insurance. Sometimes I organize holiday trips by the bike near where I live.  I live in Verona near the beautiful Lake Garda.  I organize trips, especially for American people and Australians.

1,495 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, bruce_hildenbrand, alberto_contador, lance_armstrong, mont_ventoux, andreas_kloden, andy_schleck, frank_schleck, garmin_slipstream, bradley_wiggins, saxo_bank, eros_poli

While everyone is anxiously awaiting the climb of Mont Ventoux, today's stage should provide the opportunity for another sprint finish. Mark Cavendish, who is still smarting from his relegation in Besancon which basically cost him the green jersey will be looking for his fifth stage win. It would also be a good result for the Columbia-HTC team which saw its hopes on the GC fade in the Alps.

 

As I predicted before the time trial, there is going to be an epic battle for the two podium positions behind Alberto Contado. Andy Schleck has a 1'30" lead over his nearest rival Lance Armstrong, but with only 34 seconds separating Armstrong, Kloden, Wiggins and Frank Schleck for the final podium position, the climb up the Giant of Provence will definitely be memorable.

 

This will be the last difficult stage of the Tour and no one will be holding back. Given how he has climbed in the Alps you would have to think that Frank Schleck has the edge, but again, this is the final stage and none of those four riders is going to let the podium slip away without a fight.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I got to ride a lap on the Annecy TT course and was allowed to start only about 20 minutes before the first rider. Because of this, the course was completely closed, but there was a distinct possibility that I would get caught and passed by one or more of the riders. The gendarmes asked me to ride as fast as possible.

 

That sounds like a good idea, but if you lose concentration or get tired and make a bad move, you could end up plowing into a group of spectators. So, I decided to ride at about 80-85% effort and not make any really embarrassing mistakes.

 

The first 20km of the 40 km course was basically a flat run down from the north end of the lake on its west side. From there, the course did a 180 and heade back up north, this time on the east end of the lake. Unfortunately for me, and many of the more fatigued riders, there was a 3-mile 1000' climb up to the Col du Bluffy which had to be negotiated with about 15km remaining. What made the climb difficult was that it was stair-stepped. There would be a 200-400m section of 7,8,9% then 200-300m of a flatter(3,4,5%) section followed by another steep section.

 

You had to shift up on the flatter sections to maintain a good pace so there was no time to recover for the next steep section. And the last 200m to the top was 14%.  All in all, given the way the gradient played out, a tough climb.

 

I rode the last 2km with Fredrick Willems of Liquigas who was finishing his morning warmup. He told me that on the Mont Ventoux stage, the plan for the Liquigas team is to get him and maybe one other rider up the road in an early breakaway so when their GC rider, Vincenzo Nibali, gets on Mont Ventoux, Frederick and/or a teammate can be there is Nibali needs help.

 

It was great to get another "hot" lap on a TT course.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Bernard Eisel is one of the riders on Columbia-HTC whose job it is to set up the sprints for Mark Cavendish. His job is to ride tempo at the front for majority of the race to keep any breakaways within catching distance in the closing kilometers.

 

Bruce: what kind of satisfaction do you get from riding on the front all day?

 

 

Bernard: Actually, it is quite exciting when the guys win in the end. So you know why you do it.  It is not like you ride and then you get sixth or seventh place. He (Cavendish) is the fastest at the moment so it is a pleasure to ride for him.

 

Even the guys who are not riding at the front have to do a hell of a job like Jens Voigt or other riders. They have to give shelter to the boys in the back. It just doesn't mean that because you are at the front you are the only one who gets wind.  There is not enough shelter for everybody.

 

It is just part of the job. You can't be really proud of it, but it's more part of your job.

 

Bruce: you were a good sprinter. Why did you become a domestique?

 

Bernard: Yeah, but not to win a stage. I was twenty times in the first ten and ten times in the first five, but I was never really close to winning a stage. Third was my best place.  He is faster. It is easy to work for him.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Graham Watson is one of the top cycling photographers in the world. He has published numerous books with his works and can be seen on the back of a motorcycle at all the biggest races.

 

Bruce: what is the hardest part of your job?

 

Watson: the hardest part of my job is the work after the stage because the work during the stage is not really work because you love doing it. The hard work is after when you have 200-300 images to edit and upload and caption and reduce in size and color correct. That takes 3-4 hours everyday.

 

Bruce: that makes for a long day

 

Watson: these days with the Internet you go off and have dinner with most of your work done and then carry on afterwards in your hotel. The big thing is that when you go to bed at midnight all your work is done.  There is no more work to be done. In the old days you used to had to get the film processed, developed and edited and sent off by FedEx and UPS and that was another nightmare.

 

Bruce: does it get easier over the years in that you know the best places to shoot for a particular area?  Do you remember the good shooting locations from year to year.

 

Watson: yeah, most of the time.  Every year you get surprised by places you haven't seen before or places you have forgotten or you haven't done your homework by looking at the race book to see where the race is actually going. But, by and large you know, more of less, everything which is happening at least as far as the landmarks like the Tourmalet or Galibier.  You know exactly where to go.

 

Bruce: what makes on rider more photogenic than another?

 

Watson: there are many things. There is the body language. When you are looking at all the cyclists in one big pack you would be surprised that one or two or three who stand out just the way they move. Lance at the moment, I wouldn't say he is photogenic, but he's got quite a unique physical structure at the moment. So, you see that.

 

When you see them off the bike or in the mountains with their glasses off and you can see their eyes then their face takes on an attraction by itself like dark eyes or suffering eyes or just something. It is not a question of good looks versus bad looks. It is just something that comes out at the moment their spirit or character.  You almost sense their character.

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

I stop by and see the Versus boys from time to time.  Here is a photo of the Craig Hummer, Bob Roll (obscured), Paul Sherwen, and Phil Liggett on their mobile set.

 

The on-the-scene team of Frankie Andreu and Robbie Ventura.

2,452 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, bruce_hildenbrand, alberto_contador, mark_cavendish, lance_armstrong, andreas_kloden, andy_schleck, frank_schleck, bradley_wiggins, columbia-htc, bernard_eisel, graham_watson