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Active Expert: Bruce Hildenbrand

8 Posts tagged with the cervelo_test_team tag

If there was any doubt who was the team leader on Astana that is pretty much a foregone conclusion as Alberto Contador siezed the initiative once again by attacking Lance Armstrong and the lead group with 5.5km remaining to the ski station at Verbier. The Spaniard was first across the line with Armstrong 1'35" back in ninth place. In the race for the overall, Contador is now 1'37" ahead of second-place Armstrong with Garmin-Slipstream's Bradley Wiggins in third just nine seconds arrears of the Texan.

 

In fact, while everyone expected Contador to climb well, the biggest surprise was Wiggins who looked comfortable both following and initiating attacks in the final three miles (5km). His teammate Vande Velde was about 1'30" seconds back of Wiggins and is now in twelfth overall 3'59" back of Contador.

 

Tomorrow is a rest day before two tough days in the Alps, a 25-mile individual time trial and the ascent of Mont Ventoux remaining on the program. While Contador looks very good, the Tour is far from over.

 

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The biggest buzz after yesterday's stage concerned the negative remarks George Hincapie made about his former US Postal/Discovery Channel teammates, now on Team Astana, working at the front of the peloton to rob Hincapie of the yellow jersey. By dissecting what actually happened both on the road and in the media we can see that it was all a big misunderstanding.

 

The problem began when the Versus TV commentators made the remark that Team Astana's work at the front of the main peloton had cost George Hincapie the jersey. Using this information, the Versus post-stage reporter asked George, on TV, what he thought about his former teammates working to keep him out of yellow. George, obviously frustrated at losing out on the yellow jersey after being off the front of the race for 100+ miles, just reacted to the question without knowing what really happened.

 

In reality, we know that it was not Team Astana that caused Hincapie to lose the jersey. Some have pointed the finger at Garmin-Slipstream and their growing rivalry with George's team, Columbia-HTC. But Jonathan Vaughters, the head honcho at Garmin stated that his team was only riding on the front in the final 10km to keep their GC riders out of trouble. He didn't want Bradley Wiggins or Christian Vande Velde getting caught out, as happened to Bradley a few days ago, and lose

precious seconds.

 

So, it looks like a bit of misinformation posed as a post-stage question to a frustrated George Hincapie created a situation that wasn't a situation at all. BTW, when Lance heard about George's comments about Astana, went into overdrive to make sure George got the real story about what happened.

 

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Cadel Evans finished seventh on the stage and dropped to 14th overall. I caught up with him at the Silence-Lotto team bus.

 

Cadel: I think this is the worse day I ever had in the Tour de France when I didn't have a crash. I haven't recovered since yesterday. I don't know why. At kilometer zero I was terrible.  It was one of the most important days of the Tour. If you have a day like this your Tour is over and pretty much your whole season.

 

Q: Was it the cold of the past few days?

 

Cadel: No. I just had various reasons.

 

Q: What are your chances on the general classification?

 

Cadel: it is pretty terrible. I am riding a terrible Tour and I am dissapointed, but not much I can do about it right now.

 

Q: What about the rest of the week?

 

Cadel: I will think about that in 36 hours.

 

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Carlos Sastre usually comes alive in the third week of a grand tour which is how he won this race last year. On the final climb today, he got dropped early on from the lead group, but clawed his way back up to the leaders. He finished sixth, 1'06" back of Contador in same group as Bradley Wiggins and now sits in 11th overall at 3'52". I talked with Carlos at the Cervelo Test Team bus after the stage.

 

Q: How did you feel the first day in the mountains?

 

Carlos: it was a hard day. It was really fast. It was OK. It was more or less what I expected. It has been a difficult Tour de France, but I closed super (in the final KMs) and I was there and I am happy because I did my best. The team was fantastic. Today all my teammates were close to me.  It is an important moment and we are happy. It has been a very successful Tour de France for all of us.

 

Q: You lost the wheel at the bottom, but you came back.  Was that part of the plan to go your own pace and catch those guys back?

 

Carlos: It wasn't part of the plan.  I would like to have the same explosivity as them, but I didn't have the explosivity so I needed to ride more at my rythmn which I did. I came back. I was there. I think for me it was OK. A difficult stage after almost one week on the flats, you know. This kind of fitness I like, but I recognize that there are a few riders who are stronger than me.

 

Q: Are the tough stages coming up in the Alps more Sastre "country?"

 

Carlos: It has been a really strange Tour de France. Everybody is talking about Armstrong/Contador like they are the only (ones) doing this race. I am happy with my condition. I am happy with the team. I am happy with the results. I don't think too much about anything.  I go day-by-day, just do my race and doing everything which is good for me.

 

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Danny Pate is a support rider on the Garmin-Slipstream team. I caught up with him as he was looking for his team bus.

 

Q: What was it like out there today.  Were you trying to set it up for Bradley (Wiggins) and Christian (Vande Velde)?

 

Pate: Yeah. All day we just tried to protect them. We wanted one guy in the break and Ryder (Hesjedal) was perfect to have in the break becasue he can climb out of the break and if they (Wiggins and Vande Velde) needed help they could catch him (Ryder) at the right time and he (Ryder) could help them (Wiggins and Vande Velde) later.

 

Other than that it was the normal thing; protect those guys, help them get to the bottom. Everyone did a little bit to help them get there. Dave and I were the last guys to help them by the bottom and set them up real well to

do their thing.

 

Q: Wiggins had a great ride today.

 

Pate: he was riding great at the Giro and he had really good prep between the Giro and the Tour. The team didn't expect him to do any races or get results inbetween there so he had time to chill out and prepare for this.

 

Q: How will the team chemistry be now with Bradley moving ahead of Christian with a more substantial margin?

 

Pate: I don't think there will be any problems. I am amazed at the ride Christian has had here. After what happened to him at the Giro. He has blown me away at how prepared he was. Wiggo as well.  They are riding unbelievably.

 

Q: So, they will continue to work together as a team?

 

Pate: oh, for sure!

 

Q: After you have put all your efforts into launching Wiggins and Vande Velde up the climb, what do you do to make it to the finish and conserve energy?

 

Pate: today's climb wasn't so bad. It was not a huge climb and it wasn't really steep which makes really good sense why Wiggo did so well today. He's quite a bit lighter than he has been before. But still it wasn't that steep of a climb or really that hard of a climb so it wasn't so bad for me.

 

Q: What is your body feeling like going into the third week?

 

Pate: it depends on who you are. By now you kind of feel the same.  You feel the same in the third week. If you are going to be bad, you already feel bad.

 

Q: So how are you feeling?

 

Pate: I am feeling OK.

 

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Bunch finishes are usually explosive affairs, but not today into Besancon as Columbia-HTC found itself in one of those weird situations that has marked the 2009 Tour. With teammate George Hincapie off the front in a race-long breakaway the time gap back to the peloton was just about enough to put the American in the yellow jersey. But, if Columbia-HTC geared up their leadout train to try and reclaim the green points jersey for Mark Cavendish, their acceleration might just close that time gap and deny Hincapie the yellow jersey.

 

So, the bunch sprint appeared to happen in slow motion with Columbia-HTC riders all over the front, but trying to delay their leadout until the last possible moment. In the end, Cavendish won the sprint, but he beat Hushovd by only one place and one point so the green jersey stays on the Cervelo Test Team rider's shoulder. And Hincapie's gap proved to be a handful of seconds short so Rinaldo Nocentini will wear yellow tomorrow in to the Alps in Verbier.

 

In one of the strangest incidents I have seen in my 20+ years of covering the Tour, two riders were shot during stage 13. Spanish rider and triple World Champion, Oscar Friere, and Garmin-Slipstream rider, Julian Dean, were struck by lead pellets apparently fired from an air rifle while the descended the stage's penultimate climb. Friere had to have the pellet removed from his thigh by his team doctor. Julian Dean was struck in the finger with the pellet glancing off. There are no suspects and nobody saw anything as the peloton was in a dense forest.

 

This is a scary situation as Lance Armstrong has pointed out many times that the peloton races on open roads with crowds able to interact with the riders, hopefully not in any negative ways. But who can forget the fan who punched Eddy Merckx in the stomach in 1975 while he was climbing Le Puy de Dome. I don't know what can be done to tighten security on the open roads. It is a pity that the riders have to endure additional stress when they are trying to relax and save as much energy as possible to be able to perform in a three-week race.

 

I guess Jens Voigt was listening a couple of days ago as he slipped into the star-studded break at the beginning of stage 14. Unfortunately, he flatted and received a very slow wheel change from the Mavic neutral support car. The new rear wheel appeared to be rubbing on his brakes so he had to stop again to adjust it. Then, to make matters worse, the support car refused to help him get back up to the breakaway by providing a bit of draft. Jens had some choice comments for the occupants of the car and then pulled over to answer the call of nature and wait for the peloton which was already over five minutes behind. Talk about your missed opportunity.

 

And just when you thought things couldn't get any stranger, an imposter, clad in a La Francaise de Juex racing kit tried to jump onto the Tour podium.  The badger himself, Bernard Hinault, forcibly removed him from the stage.

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Jean Paul Van Poppel is a former green jersey winner at the Tour, beating Davis Phinney among others in 1988, and is one of the director sportifs of the Cervelo Test Team. Interestingly, when the Tour finished here in Besancon in 1988, Van Poppel won the stage. I spoke to him about Carlos Sastre's chances in the overall classification.

 

Bruce: Carlos Sastre has a reputation as a third week rider. Is the plan to get through the first two weeks and then go hard in the Alps?

 

JVVP: The third week is very hard and it is in his (Carlos) system to get better during a stage race. I think his strength is the third week and if it works out. Yeah. He could give them (peloton) some surprises. We hope.

 

Bruce: Ventoux is a tough enough climb that taking back two to three minutes is not out of the question.

 

JVVP: Taking two to three minutes on the best riders? I don't think that is going to happen, but you can take time in the last week over more stages (than just Ventoux).

 

Bruce: Team Astana is looking very strong. Is there something you can do to take them on?

 

JVVP: We have to see what is going to happen. They work a lot(at the front) so maybe in the last week the team is a bit used up, but I don't think so. Not really. You have to look at what is happening at the moment and if it happens there comes a situation that you can benefit with other riders to go full gas then I think we should do that.

 

Bruce: who on the team will be there to help Carlos in the mountains.

 

JVVP: Jose Marchante is a super climber. He had some bad luck starting the season when he broke his arm. He came back in good shape and in the Tour of Catalonia he was in good form, actually a litle too good so we slowed him down a bit for Tour of Switzerland. For now he is at a good level and also he can get better like Carlos does.

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Australian Brett Lancaster is a teammate of Sastre's on the Cervelo Test Team. I chatted with him briefly about is team leader.

 

Bruce: Is Carlos getting ready to unleash himself against Astana in the third week when we get to the Alps?

 

Brett: They are a really strong team (Astana). Carlos is pretty reserved and keeps to himself.      I don't know what he is thinking or what he is going to do. He just keeps that to himself. In the last week it will be typical Carlos standard.

 

Bruce: Carlos is all about the third week.

 

Brett: Yeah, Yeah. That's right.

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For those who know of the Tour de France only from the Lance era it might be difficult to imagine that as far back as 1980, no American had ever ridden the Tour de France. In 1981, Jonathan Boyer, became the first US rider to particpate in the Tour. He went on to represent America well, finishing as high as 12th place though he rode for a French team. It wasn't until 1986 that the first American team, the 7-Eleven, squad rode the Tour.

 

A little known fact in Tour history is that in 1981, a squad of Americans was poised to become not only the first Americans, but also the first American team to ride the Tour. They received and invitation in late 1980 from the Tour organizers; Mike Fraysee was to be the team manager and he quickly set about trying to find riders.

 

It must be remembered that back in 1980/81 there were only three riders in the European pro peloton, Greg Lemond, Jonathan Boyer and George Mount. Unfortunately, all three were under contract to other teams and therefore unavailable. So, Mike Fraysee had to look to the strongest US amateur riders to stock his team. The riders would turn pro and be paid $5000 to start the race and $5000 if they made it to Paris.

 

Lindsay Crawford, who was a pilot for United Airlines, held several US cycling records and was one of those srong US amateurs who was capable of riding 100-150 miles a day with the European pros for three weeks. It was a dream come true for the Northern California-based rider and he adjusted his legendary 400-500 mile/week training program accordingly.

 

Unfortunately, for circumstances that are, to this day, still unknown, the Tour organization withdrew the team's invitation several months before the start. There is a bit of a silver lining in this whole mysterious affair. Lindsay Crawford went on to ride a stage of the Tour as part of the Etape du Tour cyclosportif. The Etape du Tour selects one stage each year, usually one of the most mountainous, and 8500 riders take to the course. Winners in each age division receive a yellow jersey and Credit Lyonnaise lion just like a Tour stage winner.

 

In 2003, Lindsay, then 62, won his age group and finished an amazing 200th overall out of the 8500 starters. He continues to ride the Etape each year and has recorded another podium finish in his 60-69 age group. These days, at age 68, he still routinely logs 400+ mile weeks in the Santa Cruz mountains. He recently won the 65+ year age group at the Spanish cyclosportif Quebrantahuesos, very similar to Etape du Tour, by over 30 minutes.

 

This year's etape du Tour is this Monday (7/20) and does the stage which finishes at the top of Mont Ventoux. You can read Lindsay's accounts of his pre-Etape training and post event-commentary at www.bikeradar.com

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George Hincapie was almost in yellow for the second time in his career (he wore yellow briefly in 2006).

 

Mark Cavendish has made himself available to the French public despite all the stress of fighting for the green jersey on a daily basis.

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With the Alps looming all eyes are on the battle expected to commence as the third week of the Tour begins. Actually, it will most likely be two battles in the Alps as first, Team Astana tries to sort out the leadership on its squad and secondly as all the other teams with overall contenders such as Silence-Lotto (Cadel Evans), Cervelo Test Team (Carlos Sastre) and Saxo Bank (Brothers Schleck) try to either take down Astana or at the very least, climb onto the Tour podium.

 

The battle for leadership at Astana has already has already seen two rounds as first, Lance took charge in the crosswinds of stage three then in round two, Contador took the initiative by attacking in the final four kilometer to the mountain top finish in Arcalis. Since then the two pugilists have been in their respective corners waiting for the bell to sound for round three.

 

I expect Lance to take the initiative in the Alps and not wait for Contador to show his ambitions. However, the tricky part is that riders like Carlos Sastre, who seems to get better in the third week of a grand tour, and Cadel Evans, who continues to show the aggression we first saw in the Dauphine Libere,  and the Brothers Schleck to attack, attack and attack.

 

If Astana can't control the lead group and they let riders like Sastre and Evans get up the road, then the advantage shifts to Contador as he is more able to respond to sharp attacks than Armstrong. Having said that, I am impressed by Lance's improving form and he might just be able to match Contador's legendary accelerations by the time the Tour reaches the Alps.

 

One interesting development is that the director sportifs of several of the teams with overall contenders may be waiting to see if the disharmony inside Astana is weakening the team and making them more vulnerable to cracking in the Alps. In talking with those directors, none of them have any answers on how to take down Astana. With three or four strong riders the situation is similar to being  only four shots back on the final afternoon in a golf tournament, but having four golfers in front of you on the leader board. You might be able to beat one or even two of them, but expecting all four to fail is long odds.

 

Clearly, Astana is weaker with the departure of Levi Leipheimer, but Andreas Kloden looks very solid as does Yaraslov Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia. Lance called the third week of the Tour "sinister". With both the battle within Astana and the battle of the best of the rest, it is going to be one of the most memorable finishes in recent Tour history.

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On a very rainy day in the Vosges Mountains, Heinrich Haussler was off the front for over 100 miles, dropping his breakaway companion Sylvan Chavanel on the descent of the penultimate climb and soloing for almost 30 miles to victory. The Cervelo Test Team rider is better known for his sprinting prowess, winning stage 2 of Paris-Nice and almost beating Mark Cavendish at Milan-San Remo. But, today, he proved that once again in this year's Tour, anything can happen.

 

Undoubtedly the biggest news of the days was the non-start of Team Astana's Levi Leipheimer. He crashed on a left hand bend with 2.5 kilometers remaining yesterday, but appeared to be fine at the stage finish. However, the pain in his wrist worsened over night and a trip to the hospital in the morning revealed that it was broken.

 

I saw the crash and it just didn't look that serious. The tumble by Ryder Hesjedal the day before looked way more serious, but Hesjedal was basically unscathed.  Leipheimer was enjoying one of his finest Tours sitting in fourth place overall and looking very comfortable and relaxed on the bike. It is a pity that Levi will not get to show his form in the Alps. In both 2006 and 2007, he was one of the few riders who seemed to get stronger in the third week.

 

The race leaders took it easy in the day's trying conditions, there were no changes to the overall standings other than Leipheimer's untimely withdrawal. Thor Hushovd managed to stay with the GC leaders over all the climbs and took second in the field sprint for sixth place which allowed him to take the green jersey off of Mark Cavendish's shoulders.

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The Armstrong/Contador affair is interesting to watch. I asked Rolf Aldag, DS of team Columbia-HTC, about the perspective from the other teams.

 

Bruce: do you think Astana will destroy themselves with all the conflict?

 

Rolf: I think in the end, they are so strong as a team, that even if they ride against each other they will succeed whoever that will be. If you see how much resources they have. Until now they didn't need Leipheimer. They didn't need Kloden to ride. They still have so much resources that up until now they can easily control it with out making any decisions (about team leadership) so I think it stays wide open.

 

It is interesting to watch (the Armstrong/Contador battle) from the outside. If you don't have a hand in the game there it is really interesting to follow and wonder what are they going to do next.

 

When Lance was in the front in the crosswind there was definitely a big 'chapeau' from our team wondering how he managed that.  Three years off he is definitely physiologically older, he is definitely focused on the race. So it was kind of 'Wow! He made it into that group'.

 

When Contador attacked up to Arcalis it was the same thing to say 'Wow. There is no way for us to go with him.' So we watched it and we were also like 'Phew'. It was a good attack. It was strong how he went to the finish.

 

Right now it is six and eight seconds so it is totally open.  It is so exciting we are kind of like spectators in the first row. It is kind of funny.

 

Bruce: Does Contador need to be strong psychologically to do what he did?

 

Rolf: I think so, but I also think it is kind of a relief for him.  He is as good as he is and he has to show it. If there is any doubt that he is good enough then he will be in bigger and bigger trouble. If he shows that he is good enough, that he is there because when he was not there in the break in the crosswinds, it was a big advantage for Lance. 'See. That is not my mistake that you haven't learned. That might happen to you everyday.'

 

Psychologically he (Lance) had a big, big advantage over Contador, but Contador now responded and said 'See. Even if I miss it I am strong enough to correct it.'

 

It is really exciting to follow that as long as we are not paying the bill which we are not going to do.  Cavendish is no threat to Astana.

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I finally had time to look through all the photos I shot in the past two weeks.  Here are a bunch from the team time trial that I think you will find interesting.

 

There are some fit riders in the Tour.

 

Check out the Cervelo Test Team's motto on their shorts. It seems to be working as they have won two stages.

 

Flatting in a team time trial can cost a GC rider precious seconds and potentially minutes. The mechanics always wipe off the tires just before the start in case a piece of glass has found it's way into the rubber.

 

Tom Boonen packs a gel just in case he needs it during the 45+ minute effort.

 

Because of the logistics between the start and finish of the team time trial, Team Astana decided it needed another bus to park at the finish. Mechanic Geoff Brown got the call the day before and drove the second bus 700 miles (1100km) from Astana's European headquarters in Brakel, Belgium to Montpellier. The speed limit for busses is 60 mph(100kmh) so the trip took over 11 hours. He arrived only two hours before the stage start. He drove the bus 700 miles back to Belgium the next day.

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A general lack of cooperation among the sprinter's teams allowed a group of seven riders to stay away to the finish, but the first rider across the line, Saxo Bank's Niki Sorensen didn't wait around to sprint with his breakmates. His solo attack in the closing kilometers brought Saxo Bank it's second stage win after Cancellara's victory in Monaco.

 

I was a day for opportunities as the AG2R-La Mondiale team had to spend most of day at the front riding for their man in yellow, Rinaldo Nocentini, as the sprinter's teams just couldn't coordinate a chase effort to bring back the breakaway. While Nocentini kept the jersey, it was a lost day for the Cavendish, Farrar, Hushovd, et. al. as the stage profile clearly called for a bunch finish. But, that's why they ride each day, just to see who has been reading all the journalists' prognostications.

 

Clearly, Mark Cavendish is the class of the sprinters and my guess is that the other teams with sprinters such as Garmin-Slipstream and Cervelo Test Team decided not to do any work at the front just so 'Cav' could get another win. With two riders in contention for the overall, I can see why Garmin-Slipstream might have chosen not to ride, but it is a bit of a pity as their fastman, Tyler Farrar, came oh, so close to winning yesterday.  But, the third week of the Tour is, as Lance Armstrong put it 'sinister', and as we reach the Alps in just three days maybe all eyes are looking at the mountains.

 

Jens Voigt are you listening? This is your opportunity to go for stage win!

 

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Nicolas Roche has some big shoes to fill being the son of Irishman Stephen Roche who won the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and the World Road Championship all in the same year, 1987. He is riding his first Tour, and sporting the jersey of the Irish National road champion, for AG2R-La Mondiale team who just happen to have the yellow jesey. I talked with him about his Tour experience.

 

Bruce: what is it like riding for Rinaldo in yellow?

 

Nicolas: for me it is a fantastic experience. It is my first Tour and straight away I have the opportunity to ride for the yellow jersey. Some riders never do that in their whole career.  Of course, that puts a big stop on my own personal motivations, but it is my first Tour so everything is going all right.  I had my chances in the first week in the sprints. Now there are two more weeks to go and lots of chances to get into the breakaways.

 

Bruce: What is the biggest thing you have learned so far?

 

Nicolas: I suppose that when you are riding the Tour you are either riding to be top ten in GC or the most important thing is to try and save you energy for the next day to give it a go in the breakaways. You can't win the sprint because of Cavendish and there are too many other good sprinters.  If you wait for a mountain top finish there is Contador, Armstrong and so many others.  There are not many possibilities to get a stage win which is the dream of everybody who comes to the Tour, I think.  

 

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While Serge Borlee is currently Cadel Evans' bodyguard, he has preformed the same duty for Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich and Alexandre Vinokourov. I thought there would be a bidding war for Serge's services when Lance announced his comeback, but it didn't happen. Hopefully, we are buddies now and he won't hurt me!

 

Bruce: what are your duties as a bodyguard?

 

Serge: Every morning I bring him to the start line for the sign in.  I make sure nothing happens to him before the race starts.

 

Bruce: some people don't know your background. You are an ex-Belgian policeman.

 

Serge: I am not an ex, I am still a policeman. This is my holiday. I take my holiday to do the Tour de France.

 

Bruce: Cadel is a bit different this year than last year. He is more friendly.

 

Serge: Last year they put too much pressure on him to make him win the Tour de France and it was too stressful for him. But, this year I think he is in better shape than last year and he's looking good.

 

Bruce: have you ever had to take somebody down while protecting a rider?

 

Serge: In 2005 I got in a fight with the police in Paris when I was protecting Lance. Put my name in YouTube and you will see.

 

Bruce: of all the riders you have worked with, who was the best to work for?

 

Serge: Cadel. It is less stressful.  He's a nice guy.

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Last time I talked with Rabobank Director Sportif (DS) Erik Breukink was in Rome during the final TT of the Giro. The team was on a definite high as they were just hours away from wining the Giro D'Italia. Here at the Tour, their luck has been going in the opposite direction. As I predicted, I didn't think Menchov could recover from the Giro and he hasn't. The their hope for the white jersey and possibly the overall, Robert Gesink(pronounced Hesink, just like Houda not Gouda cheese) crashed and had to retire with a broken wrist.

 

Bruce: with Gesink out and Menchov apparently not recovered from the Giro are you looking to stage wins?

 

Erik: a stage win is important, for sure. Gesink for the mountains was our guy. Menchov is getting a litle bit better, but it is difficult for him to move up on GC because he is so far behind.  Stage wins are important now.

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What's this all about? Clearly, the motorcycle has a motor. Talk about a waste of energy. Hmmm.

 

Skoda is the official car of the Tour de France. They have a new model out called the Yeti. Get it.

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I am probably jeopardizing my manhood, but for this trip to cover the Tour de France I bought myself an auto GPS unit. My sense of direction is pretty darn good, but in some of the older towns in Europe (and the US for that matter) the layout and direction of traffic on the city streets just don't make sense.

 

Nothing is more frustrating than, after along day of reporting on the Tour, to have to spend several hours driving in circles trying to find your hotel. And just like the riders of the Tour, we journalists need to get a good recovery after our efforts. Accumulating stress and/or losing sleep will make the three weeks of the Tour seem like months. Suffice it to say, anything you can do to make your life easier is warmly welcomed.

 

So I bought a Garmin Nuvi 265WT not only because it is a highly rated GPS unit, but I also like to spend money with companies who sponsor cycling. I am wearing a set of Columbia Titanium crewneck shirts throughout France. Don't worry, I wash them every night and they are ready to go each morning.

 

Listening to Garmina (the nickname of the woman who provides the voice commands) tell me where to go is pretty soothing when I have no clue as to where I need to be. But, in celebration of the Tour de France, Garmin, the title sponsor of the Garmin-Slipstream team has a special, free, offer for those who own Garmin GPS. Garmin-Slipstream team director, Matt White, recorded all the words and phrases(and a few more!) used by the GPS units.

 

Now when I need to turn right, the Aussie voice of the former US Postal and Discovery Channel rider White tells me where to go. And during those long flat stretches where there are no directions to give, Matt pops in with some light comedy to break the boredom.  My personal favorite is "Did you remember to put the bikes on top of the car." Along with the voice of Matt White, Garmin is also offering addition vehicle icons. You can choose from a number of different vehicles including both a Garmin-Slipstream team bus or team car.  I chose the team bus.

 

If you would like to add these new features to your Garmin GPS just go to GarminGarage.com. They don't take up much space on your unit and it really does make for a very unique experience. Don't fret, if you start missing Garmina's soothing voice, it is very easy to switch back to have her give you directions.  The same goes for the vehicle icon.

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A couple of days ago, I promised to post some pictures of my ride with the Garmin-Slipstream team as they were doing there morning warm-up for the TTT. I took some on-the-bike photos, but given the twisty technical nature of the course, the incessant wind, the speed of these guys and the fact that I was trying to cough up a lung about 90% of the ride they came out a bit, well, er, um, fuzzy; kind of luck how I was feeling.

 

Note that some of the riders were warming up on their road bikes.

 

The boys are looking good in formation.

 

This is what happens when you are going 30+mph on a bumpy road in a heavy crosswind trying to hang onto one of the world's best teams.

 

 

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Race notes

 

David Millar is the man. He laid it all on the line on today's stage from Girona, where he and most of his Garmin-Slipstream teammates call home, to Barcelona. The conditions were epic with torrential rains hammering the rides in the final few hours. Millar attacked his three breakaway companions with 12 miles(20km) remaing and looked to be heading for a stage win. Unfortunately, the peloton caught him with about a mile remaining, the look on his face did not mask the disappointment at coming so close.

 

The final hour of racing was marred by a number of crashes. Painted lines, roads slick with diesel and numerous roundabouts played havoc and caused three or four crashes when the riders were being as careful as possible in the dangerous conditions. Both Tyler Farrar and Tom Boonen were taken down which resulted in the final sprint being a bit of a free-for-all.

 

The Rabobank team had been setting pace on the front to set up a win for their Spanish triple world champion Oscar Friere, but Cervelo Test Team's Thor Hushovd came by him with about 75 meters to go and took the win. Yet another Tour stage provided a dramatic ending

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The Cervelo Test Team was launched in 2009 by the original founders of the Cervelo bike company Phil White and Gerard Vroomen. While they do not currently hold a Pro Tour license, they are the number one ranked professional team in the world based on their results in the biggest races including four stage win a the recent Giro d'Italia.  The team includes 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre and Tour green jersey wearer Thor Hushovd, but recruits such as Heinrich Haussler, Serge Pauwels and Simon Gerrans have also performed well.

 

I caught up with Phil White and rider Simon Gerrans at the team bus after the Blockhaus stage.

 

Bruce: tell me about Carlos Sastre's win on Monte Petrano

 

Phil White: It was not scripted, but that was something we wanted to do. We figured that was a stage he could really excel on. It was similar to what he did last year on l'Alpe d'Huez. When everyone else is worn down he's just got more energy and can go longer than anyone else.  He's like the Energizer Bunny of cycling.

 

Bruce: what about Simon Gerrans' win at Bologna?

 

Phil White: It was a long day. That break worked super well together.  There was no scrapping, everyone pulled their weight and it just came down to who the strongest rider was. Gerrans is a strong rider.  We saw him win the Tour stage win and that is one reason we got him.

 

Bruce: how hard was it to build a team from scratch and get some credibility?

 

Phil White: I think the reputation of the team was initially that Carlos put his name to it then Thor.  Those guys brought credibility to the effort, but pretty soon those guys in the classics put their stamp on it and now it is not a team that is relying on two name riders. It is a team that has built its own reputation. Those guys came right out of the blocks and stamped their name on it a the Tour of Qatar.  It got the monkey off our back early so we could focus on moving ahead rather than feeling the pressure to win.

 

Bruce: was it hard to get the respect of the other teams in the Pro Peloton?

 

Phil White: I don't think anyone gives you respect just by showing up.  You have to earn it.  Luckily our guys earned it pretty hard and pretty solidly right from the start.  In pro cycling there is no such thing as an easy ride.  You have to earn your stripes and there is no way around that. We have good guys and they proved early on that they deserved the respect.

 

Bruce: how are things looking for the Tour?

 

Phil White:  I think we will be right in there for the Tour. The Giro is our grand tour debut.  I have a book where I have been making notes, and the sport directors have as well and it is pretty much full of little things we have to fix and improve.  That's how we are going to get better by focusing on the things we

can do better.

 

Simon Gerrans

 

Bruce: Take us through the finale of your win at Bologna.

 

Simon Gerrans: I think it was just basically survival of the breakaway; whoever could get to the top first. There was nothing too tactical about it. It was just who could get up the hill the fastest.

 

Bruce: it looked like the false flat halfway up took you by surprise.

 

Simon Gerrans: I didn't know the climb so that second ramp up to the finish was a bit of a surprise. Luckily I had a bit of gas in the tank for that.

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The 100th anniversary Giro d'Italia finished today with a 15km(9-mile) individual time trail around the streets of central Rome. The course passed a number of Rome's most famous landmarks including the Colosseum, Saint Peter's Basilica and Circus Circus. In the end, Denis Menchov's overall victory appeared to be a relatively easy affair, but that was far from the case.

 

It was a drama-filled final stage as the organizers seemed to try to heap additional difficulties on the riders by running the race on just about every poorly-cobbled street in central Rome. In fact, almost 7 miles of the 9-mile course was on cobbles and bad ones at that. It was a bumpy ride for all the contenders and with rain falling on and off, the outcome was far from certain.

 

Many riders not in contention for a high placing chose to ride a regular road bikes so as to have more control on the twisty, turny route which also included significant ups and downs. Also, riders looking to the Tour de France like Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer decided not to take any chances on the slick cobblestones and definitely rode within themselves.

 

The drama was provided by the rain which caused race leader Denis Menchov to crash in the final turn, but he was up quickly and lost little time. In the end Menchov was a deserving winner. He gained the bulk of his time in the race's 61km Cinque Terra time trial, but he rode consistently in the mountains, avoiding a single bad day, to keep his margin all the way to Rome.

 

Here are some photos. Race leader Denis Menchov(Rabobank) with 1.5 miles to go.

 

Danilo Di Luca(LPR Brakes), who finished second overall, negotiates a turn in the first kilometer.

 

Carlos Sastre(Cervelo Test Team) win two hard mountain stages and finished fourth overall.  Look for him to be a factor in the Tour de France.

 

Lance Armstrong took it easy in the final TT. He will head to a high altitude training camp in the USA in the next few days.

 

The Roman Colosseum was the backdrop for both the start and finish of the stage.

 

 

Bruce

 

ps - I shot a lot of photos and did a bunch of interviews. Look for them to be popping up once I get back to the states.

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