There wasn’t much media coverage of George Hincappi during this Tour. I wonder how many more he will attempt to ride? He has been arguably one of the best, if not the best, domestics in the Tour peloton during his peak years.
As fast as the Tour ended (even before the Tour started) negotiations began for teams and individuals for the 2011 race.
Looking further ahead to the next five to 10 years, the USA does have some up and coming stars like Tejay Van Garderen. With many accomplishments on his young resume, certainly riding sub-two hours at the prestigious Mount Evans Hill Climb in Colorado – at the age of 14 – is a good indicator of his ability.
Of course there is the track rocket, Taylor Phinney who has already been to the 2008 Olympic Games at 18 years old.
So what about the future for USA cyclists in the Tour? I think it’s possible that a future Tour de France winner might live in your neighborhood. With some help, encouragement, patience and direction someone you know might one day stand on the podium in Paris.
It seems the unwritten rules for top competitors waiting for one another when there is a crash or a mechanical problem are yet again playing a role in the outcome of the race. In a previous post, I wrote about the top contenders not waiting for Lance when he had his huge crash and in today's Stage 15 those "rules" had an influence again.
When Andy Schleck Saxo Bank) had a mechanical problem by dropping his chain, Alberto Contador (Astana), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Samuel Sanchez (Euskatel-Euskadi) attacked. Though I did see the end of the race, I haven't seen post-race interviews, but internet news sources say that Schleck is mad as a hornet and looking for revenge. Contador claims innocence, he had no idea that Schleck had a problem...initially. By the time he realized there was a problem, gosh, it was just too late to wait. Ah yes, that is why the group time trialed all the way to the finish.
If old sayings hold water, then what goes around comes around. Those attacking when fellow top contenders crash or have a mechanical can expect the same treatment. It will be interesting to see what happens on the next mountain stages and on any crashes or mechanicals for the top contenders.
In the same post I mentioned above, I asked if it was really down to only two competiors. At the time, I was hoping Lance Armstrong would go for it and try to mix things up. I thought maybe Levi could pop into the top three. Now I don't think Levi can make the podium unless he is really saving something for the final climbs and the TT. Lance is back some 40 minutes now. There is a chance he could try for a stage win, but it won't be at the expense of helping Levi. I will admit I'd like to see him throw a few punches to mix things up...figureatively speaking of course.
Some of the best news of this Tour is there has been zero breaking news on drug issues. I'm hoping this is good news for a clean Tour.
So back to those unwritten rules...do you think top riders should wait when another top competitor has a crash or a mechanical? Or do you think it is a good time to attack?
As everyone estimated, Stage 9 was a decisive stage. Andy Schleck delivered attack after attack on Contatdor, but Contador was able to cover each one. Eventually, the two made a deal to work together with the goal of putting time into their nearest competitors.
The closest competitor going into Stage 9 was Cadel Evans, wearing the yellow jersey. On the slopes of the Madeleine, Evans looked bad. Really bad.
There is no wonder he looked so bad; as after the stage it was revealed he was riding with a broken elbow from a crash in Stage 8. The team decided to downplay the injury.
Somewhere along the way, Evans had bitter words with Armstrong. The peloton was criticized for not waiting for Armstrong when he crashed. Which brings up a good question – why didn’t they wait? What are the social rules of order for waiting for a rider that has crashed? I’ve seen stages in the past where riders have crashed on a mountain stage and the main contenders waited for each other so that it could be a race of strength rather than misfortune. Apparently the rules have lots of gray areas.
Yes, now Schleck is in yellow and has delivered notice to Contador that it is up to his team to take it away.
Is this it? Are the Tour results essentially decided now? Schleck and Contador have been assigned podium positions by many members of the media. They say that the only things to be decided in the next two weeks is the order of spot one and two; and who will fill third place.
As I watched Stage 8 yesterday, I thought the best part of this year’s Tour is that it is an actual race. What I mean by this is there is no clear rider, or team, that is the obvious winner on the first serious mountain stage – as has been the case in recent years.
Lance Armstrong (Radio Shack) had a rough day yesterday, with three crashes. The first one was his fault. In post-race interviews he said he clipped a pedal on the turn, sending himself and others down. This crash caused the team to do some chasing to catch the peloton before the climb, a costly crash indeed. Armstrong ended up behind two other crashes. Neither one caused him to hit the pavement with his body - but the third one did force him off the bike. He claims his Tour podium prospects are over, which means he will support team mate Levi Leipheimer.
Andy Schleck put the hammer down near the finish line and Alberto Contador couldn’t match the pace. This kind of power move ignites the Saxo Bank team with energy and sends all others back to the planning table, most notably Contador’s Astana team.
There were questions pre-race, whether or not the Astana team could support Contador. They seemed to support him quite nicely; he just couldn’t match the power of Schleck.
Staying somewhat under the radar, until now, Cadel Evans (BMC) has been riding a solid Tour. Like Armstrong, Evans contributed skin to the pavement yesterday; but he was able to ride strong through the end of Stage 8, putting him in the leader’s yellow jersey.
Looking at the overall standings, there are six riders within two minutes of Cadel Evans and 13 riders within three minutes. More than likely, the winner of the Tour will come from the current top 14 riders.
Sitting at number 14 on the GC (general classification) is Bradley Wiggins. His SKY team put in a huge effort on the climb yesterday at a time when Armstrong was suffering most. An interesting move, especially given the effort didn’t help Wiggins. Who called that move and what were they thinking? Maybe they just wanted to crush Armstrong? Perhaps they think SKY and Wiggins can make a move on Tuesday’s Stage 9?
I would love to hear the team discussions going on today, a much needed day off. The Col de Madeleine, the first HC (French for hors catégorie, a climb beyond categorization) will surely be a place where teams will try to make a move. There are many strong teams in this year’s Tour so look for at least seven of them to be making moves on the Madeleine.
The big question is if a team can push the pace with the intention of putting their designated leader in a position to gain time on the GC leader board, can that person deliver?
Right now, there is no clear-cut strong man, or team, of the Tour. Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a race!
Did you know riders on the Radio Shack team consume a capsule that monitors their internal body temperature? The support cars remind riders to consume more fluids when they see a rider's internal temperature rise to much, which is directly linked to a drop in power.
Who wouldn’t want to watch the Tour de France this year? It has some element of every popular television show combined into one. Seriously, it is the perfect show.
There is a fine mix of characters and many of them are handsome. All of them are obviously extraordinary athletes. Add to the handsome sportiness a fine mix of car racing type crashes, main character rivalry, past character dramas, reality show unfolding before your eyes, clashing opinions of titans and this is a program that has something for everyone.
Perhaps people just don’t know?
For those of you that are a bit behind or perhaps you have friends and family that needs to be convinced that watching the Tour is exciting…
At this year’s Tour, they were checking bicycles for internal motors. The rumor is that Fabian Cancellera, top rider wearing the yellow jersey, won other bike races by putting a motor in his bicycle. They called it “bike doping”.
Versus, the channel running coverage of the Tour, has a special one hour program dedicated to the rivalry between Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong. ESPN had a special column on it as well. Can you imagine Lance and Alberto riding a tandem?
There are so many controversies, where do I start? I’ll just pick yesterdays on-the-road decision by some of the titans to neutralize the finish of the main peloton after a big series of crashes split the group. The route was deemed too dangerous to be included in the Tour. (Though the same route is used for other races.) The on-the-road decision was apparently driven by some of the historically anointed Tour bosses (current yellow jersey wearer and GC (general classification) contenders).
Unfortunately, it rained yesterday and a motorcycle apparently crashed and the result was an oil spill on the road. The combination of these two events made dangerous conditions for the main peloton, but didn’t affect the breakaway. There were so many people involved in crashes, VeloNews did a summary column. The stage winner was elated, sprinters were fuming.
Pre-Tour, Floyd Landis (past Tour de France champion and former team mate of Lance Armstrong) dropped a bombshell in May that he has information regarding Lance Armstrong being involved in systematic doping. Lance says Floyd is a proven liar. Somebody is lying and federal investigators are now involved.
Television can’t get much better than this. Well, maybe it can...the best racing is yet to come. Stay tuned.
There are several great things about this year’s Tour de France, one of which is the sport is collecting new fans. Some fans are not cyclists at all, but true sports fans. Others are primarily recreational cyclists, but now they are fired up about the game of racing.
I received several good e-mails after Stage 7 from some Tour de France newbies that all boiled down to these this question:
• Why is everyone so down on Contador, isn’t the point of any race to try to win the race?
This is a reasonable question for a casual observer to ask. Let me try to boil a very complicated situation down to a few key points:
1. Bike racing at this level is a job. Each racer on each of the teams was hired for a particular job or role on the team. It is similar to you being hired to a job because of your skill and talents.
2. Thedirecteur sportiff(Johan Bruyneel in the case of Team Astana) is the boss. The DS of each team is essentially responsible for the performance of the team and they must manage strategy and team tactics. These issues are often discussed more than once per day and can change as the race unfolds. If you work for someone else, you know who the boss is. If you are the boss, well, you expect certain behaviors from your employees.
3. When the boss lays out a plan, it should be followed – unless there are extenuating circumstances. If there is something unusual or unexpected, riders will often make a decision or a move on the race course that does not follow the plan. It is generally expected that this move is for the benefit of the team. Using the workplace analogy, if an employee makes a decision to not follow the boss’s instructions there are typically consequences from the boss as well as other employees – assuming the boss and other employees do not see the benefit of the singular employee’s behavior.
4. Each job (and family) situation has certain codes of conduct that must be followed in order for it to function optimally. In the case of Stage 7, Lance was ahead of Contador in terms of time. Going up the hill, I think it was Popovych (Astana), Armstrong (Astana), Evans (Lotto) and Contador (Astana). Lance said that Contador did not ride to the team plan for that day (see point #3) by leapfrogging past Evans, Armstrong and Popovych to get ahead of the group (he attacked the group) and give himself valuable time against Armstrong. Contador claimed that he saw weakness in his competitors (Evans?) and decided to make a move. This kind of decision is normally acceptable, unless he: a) was given specific instructions to hold his current time gap and ride tempo for the day, b) he attacked his own team mates. The rumor mill says that he was given instructions to ride tempo for the day, hence the Armstrong statement that Contador did not ride to plan.
5. To win the Tour de France, said rider must have the support of his team. In any workplace or family situation, the boss can certainly reprimand the behavior of people that do not follow instructions. In some cases, worse than the boss’s reprimand, is the punishment that other team members (employees) deliver. If Contador has alienated team members by attacking his own team, life will not be easy for him in the upcoming stages. Just as Contador basically stepped in front of Lance and pushed him out of the way, so he could gain personal benefit – or make a personal statement – that behavior is very, very risky. It is particularly risky if Armstrong has been designated team leader behind closed doors or they have been truly assigned the role of dual team leaders.
It is possible that Contador sees this as a situation of him against the world (or at least Astana world) and he is willing to strike out. Rumors had him searching for another team (despite Astana public statements to the contrary) in the few weeks prior to the Tour, one where he could be the designated team leader rather than the “maybe, we’ll see” team leader. I can understand why he would take this chance.
That written, I think it is a big risk to defy your manager, publically attack team mates and defy some of the codes of cycling conduct. Even if you give the best explanation of, “Gee, I was only trying to help.” Whether the risk he took was worth any reward will be seen in about 11 days.
PS… I posted this link on Twitter where Bradley Wiggens says, "There could come a point when they get off the bike and start fighting each other - it could get as messy as that. They both look as strong as each other: Lance looks superb. And Contador looks brilliant as well."
Last fall when I saw the potential American line-up for Tour de France riders, I decided 2009 would be the year to check off that item on the Life List (Bucket List, whatever you want to call it). I was able to convince a few of my Sunday riding buddies that they should see the Tour in 2009 too, and the planning wheels were set into motion.
While I wanted to see a part of the Tour, I also wanted to ride my bike in France. (What cycling fanatic
wouldn’t?) I was not interested in just being a spectator at the Tour and luckily my buddies felt the same. Our preference was to ride one or more of the classic climbs.
Julie Gildred at Ride Strong Bike Tours put together a custom design for us. In less than two weeks, I’ll be dropping you notes from France.
Here are the trip highlights:
Day 1: Arrival day and possible 25-30 mile ride in the afternoon, time permitting.
Day 2: Warm-up on a beautiful local's loop over the Col d'Ornon and La Morte (90 km/ 5,130 feet climbing)
This ride is ideal for the first day starting in the cool shade of the mountains and saving the easier
climb, the Col d’Ornon (14.4km at 3.9% average grade) for last. The descent drops us back down above Bourg with cross valley views of L’Alpe d’Huez. The first climb Col de la Morte is 14km at 6.5% average.
Day 3: Ride L'Alpe d'Huez (Life List item) and Col de Sarenne (86 km/5,200+ feet climbing). There's a short warm-up ride in the valley below before climbing the 13.8 km, 21 hairpin legend, L’Alpe d’Huez.
Day 4: July 22, Ride Col du Marais and Col de la Croix Fry to the Stage 17 Finish in Grand Bornand (85 km; 4089 feet climbing with options for more). Race fans can spend the morning climbing and descending through the pretty Swiss-like villages to La Grand Bornand for the Stage 20 finish festivities. Others can continue up the Col de la Columbiere to watch the pro peloton as they ascend the final col of the day. Any where you are is guaranteed to be a good spot. This is one of the climbs made famous by Floyd when he made his miraculous 'come back'!
Day 5: Ride the Col de la Forclaz (2,100 feet gain in 10.2 km) in the morning and descend to Lake Annecy to watch the Stage 18 TT around the lake.
Day 6: Ride Stage 20 without the crowds to near Mt. Ventoux (75 km with many options for more).
Day7: Ride the Col de Notre-Dame des Abeilles and Mt Ventoux before the pros (80-140 km/ 6,000 - 8,000 feet climbing). This is a stage not to be missed. Strong riders will depart early to ride the stage
and see the finish on Mt. Ventoux. Slower riders have several 'short-cuts' to get to Bedoin and start the classic ascent of Mt. Ventoux. Riders can wait at the top and enjoy the party or descend before the pros and watch the action on TV.
Those of you that have following my regular blog and Twitter have seen some of the preparation I’ve done for this week of riding.
Watching the Tour on TV, it seems surreal that I'll be there in just a few days. I can hardly wait.