Skip navigation

Tour de France

10 Posts tagged with the astana tag

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!

3,258 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, armstrong, evans, astana, leipheimer, bmc, contador, schleck, radio_shack, sky

Thank You, Guys!

Posted by Ronan Pensec Jul 22, 2009

I hope you were in front of your TV today as we have had the best stage of the year by far. What a day! The riders gave so much today. It was a strategic day and we were expecting to see some changes in the rankings after that day. It was money time.


My first “thank you” will go to Thor Hushovd for his incredible start with two climbs in first position and the green jersey almost secured for Paris. I got really impressed by how much he put into it. This is what I love to see. He really gave his best and got what he wanted!


With the largest audience recorded this year on the Tour de France, the riders had to run the show and my second “thank you” will go to Astana and Saxo Bank. They ran a great mano a mano between Alberto Contador and Andreas Kloden on one end and the Schleck brothers on the other end. What a ride! Everyone was giving his best and the first to go down was finally Kloden but that was a bit expected.


The big question was Franck Schleck who showed some fatigue yesterday. Today was another day and he showed the world that he and his brother are the biggest threats to Contador’s run for the yellow jersey. And they attacked right at the end on the last two climbs that were super hard. So it’s one more “thank you” for taking so much risk by attacking in the critical part. In the meantime, it was the only way to make a break...


Contador is still in great position to win this Tour and I think he will make it. The only doubt that remains comes from the Schleck brothers. They have one more stage to go to win the Tour. It’s the Ventoux on Saturday. If they go hard and Contador gets some problems (fatigue), then, Andy could win the Tour.


What a day! Tomorrow comes the time trial and we will see some great action again. That’s for sure because all the seats, except maybe the yellow jersey, are still wide open for many riders: Lance Armstrong is always around the corner, the Schleck seem to be on top of their game, etc.


This promises us a great finish for this Tour. It’s been some time since the Tour was so open like that and I’m very happy about it.


Well done guys and thank you for the show!



Ronan Pensec participated eight times in the Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey in 1990 while racing for Greg Lemond's Z team. He now operates Ronan Pensec Travel, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.

4,925 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: ronan-pensec, lance-armstrong, alberto-contador, astana, andy-schleck, frank-schleck, 2009-tour-de-france, thor-hushovd, saxo-bank, andreas-kloden

We have had an incredible first week, as you know, and a way less exciting second week, as you may have seen.Everybody was hoping that today will be the restart of the Tour but very bad weather conditions got into it and delayed the show...until Sunday now.


This stage was supposed to be a strategic stage for riders within 4 to 5 minutes of the yellow jersey but it ended up in a status quo. The only one guy who took advantage of this stage was Pelizotti who simply secured his polka-dot jersey.


So the next exciting day will be Sunday and I can’t wait till that evening and see how the ratings will be.


I’m actually thinking that we should take this second week out of the Tour. Honestly, it’s pointless and it only incites riders to take “vitamins” to be on top of their games for the third and last week.


Honestly when you have a Tour with Astana and Columbia, you don’t need this second week. Astana is ruling the peloton and only working to secure Contador’s win. And on the other side, when it gets flat, Columbia is totally ruling these stages, so it doesn’t leave much room to the other teams...unless you have stages like today...but the weather didn’t see it that way today.


Tomorrow will be a classic sprint day for our legend Cavendish, so don’t wake up too early, there won’t be much to watch until the last few minutes. I shouldn’t say so but it’s so true. I only wish I will be totally wrong tomorrow.


Stay tuned as the fun is just around the corner,



Ronan Pensec participated eight times in the Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey in 1990 while racing for Greg Lemond's Z team. He now operates Ronan Pensec Travel, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.

2,578 Views 5 Comments Permalink Tags: ronan-pensec, alberto-contador, astana, mark-cavendish, team-columbia, 2009-tour-de-france, franco-pellizotti

It was another classic day on the Tour de France today and it should be like that until we hit the Alps now.


This second week of the Tour always makes wonder why we make it so long as we get to see over and over again the same scenario. It wasn't the case a few years ago but now, when stages are flat, we get an echappée and then a sprint won by Cavendish. I know it hasn't been like that all the time but since Cavendish is ruling the sprints, we can't expect much more from these stages.


You guys would think I'm playing the grumpy French guy here but I'm not. We have to recognize that Columbia has a great team for the flat stages and that they are really doing a great job at positioning Cavendish for the sprints. No doubt!


I'm just a bit disappointed that riders of other teams don't try more than what they do so far. I would expect to see them attacking a bit more, launching sprints or something about 1K from the finish line, just to destabilize Cavendish for example. If you bring him safely within the last 200m, you are 100 percent sure he is going to win. So, why not trying something else? I still wonder...


I feel like there is a tremendous lack of creativity from the riders and team managers. It's a bit of a shame for sports, and the Tour de France in particular, but I also guess that there is more and more money involved and you can't really argue against that.


Anyway, it's a great Tour with two great teams: Astana for the hilly stages and the yellow jersey and Columbia for the green jersey and the flat stages.


It has been a long time since we had two strong teams on the Tour.


Finally, we can announce that, with only three stages for sprinters to go, Cavendish will be in green in Paris.


Yours in Sport,



Ronan Pensec participated eight times in the Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey in 1990 while racing for Greg Lemond's Z team. He now operates Ronan Pensec Travel, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.

2,737 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: ronan-pensec, astana, mark-cavendish, team-columbia, 2009-tour-de-france

Tricky Transition Days

Posted by Ronan Pensec Jul 13, 2009

Thank you for your comments yesterday. As it's a rest day and that not much happened today in the backstage, I will try to answer all your questions below.


Please feel free to comment them and no worries if some other questions arise...


Regarding the Astana potential competitors, I will make it short here. I don’t think there is any competition to be honest. Today, they have for sure 4 guys who can finish in the top 10 and no other team is even close to that. No doubt that Astana will make it this year. Sorry if I ruined the suspense.


If there was a coalition between guys like Schleck, Evans or Sastre, maybe we could have someone else in the lead but do you think these guys will cooperate and accept to leave the race to a competitor at the end? There can only be one winner…and it will be one of Astana’s riders.


As for the Tourmalet stage, I think the main reason why they left so many miles after the Col du Tourmalet was to make sure that the Tour wasn’t over after the Pyrénées. And I think they made the right call even if it wasn’t an interesting stage. The Tour isn’t a one-day show, you have to entertain the crowds for several weeks!


The other reason is that the last week is super hard and we don’t want anyone to fall in the situation where people will start talking about doping before we start the race. I mean, we all know what is going on but it’s not a reason to feed it…won’t you agree?


So, it was for sure a boring day but in the end, we have some remaining suspense and that’s all we want. However, I think that the right call would have been to put another climb right after the Tourmalet. There are lots of small hills around it and it’s a shame they didn’t think about that. Another “col” (mountain) wouldn’t have killed the Tour for sure and the stage would have been more exciting to watch I think.


As for the Rabo team, I think that honestly, it may not look like they tried but I can tell you that they really tried their best. They were trying to go for it but the Caisse d’Epargne was just stronger.


And by the way, I think the Caisse d’Epargne can actually win other stages next week. We have quite a fast course on the second week and we will have classic stages with lots of echappées. So, the Caisse d’Epargne is surely not going for the yellow jersey but they will go for stages wins and I’m sure they will attack and try to win some. They have the talent to do so I think, and they are good at reading echappées…thanks to headsets?


I don’t think so…


This takes me to your last questions about the use of radios. Today, if you ask the race directors, they will tell you that it’s for safety. That’s their main argument! If you look at statistics, there are not less accidents than before. It’s not a serious argument and my opinion is that without radios, we would have much funnier stages to watch.


Riders would just be in each échappées, they will have to try, they will have to feel what is going on in the peloton, who is having a good day and there would be more attacks and so on, that’s for sure…in the end, they would have to PLAY! That’s a sport and when we all started racing in cycling, it was for the fun of it, wasn’t it? Let’s bring back the fun in this peloton and I’m sure the riders will be happy and so will we!


Enjoy the show tomorrow and I look forward to reading from you soon. Thanks for the birthday wishes and for posting your questions!


Yours in Sport,



Ronan Pensec participated eight times in the Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey in 1990 while racing for Greg Lemond's Z team. He now operates Ronan Pensec Travel, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.

2,740 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: ronan-pensec, astana, cadel-evans, carlos-sastre, caisse-d'epargne, andy-schleck, 2009-tour-de-france, rabobank, tourmalet

Here Comes the Rain

Posted by Ronan Pensec Jul 9, 2009

Today was supposed to be a transition day so usually you use these days to “recover” a bit and prepare yourself for the next challenge which, for instance, is tomorrow with the first climb of this Tour.


Unfortunately, the rain was on the Tour today and with heavy showers, this transition day became actually a very stressful day for the riders as the roads were super slippery.


It usually doesn’t rain much in this part of France and Spain so the roads are pretty dusty. If you add rain to it, they become very slippery and super risky as there were some downhill today.


Lots of wipeouts, and obviously a lot of tension for the leaders because they can’t slow down, they must stick to the pack and be ready for any echappée.


The Astana team showed the most experience and self-control today and they are definitely now my favourites.


I even think that Lance is going to grab the Yellow jersey tomorrow in Andorra. He's got everything he needs to make it happen and Contador is under big pressure here. I just saw him passing by 5 minutes ago and there were hundreds of supporters on him trying to get a shot or an autograph from him. It’s not easy to handle that much stress and it could have some impact tomorrow, I think.


The only big question tomorrow is Cancellara. I know he recently won the Tour of Switzerland recently and that he has lost 5kg but I doubt he can compete with Lance in the mountains.


It’s hard to really make a guess here but if Cancellara can compete with Lance on hilly courses, we are going to have a hell of a Tour de France!


So stay tuned tomorrow for some great action and a potential comeback of Lance with the Yellow Jersey!


How exciting is that?!


Yours in Sport,



Ronan Pensec participated eight times in the Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey in 1990 while racing for Greg Lemond's Z team. He now operates Ronan Pensec Travel, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.

2,450 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: ronan-pensec, lance-armstrong, alberto-contador, astana, fabian-cancellara, 2009-tour-de-france

We almost lost the whole sprinters pack today. That was close!


With a wipeout of one of the Euskatel guys, we could have lost all the top sprinters but we got lucky enough that there wasn’t any crowd or barrier where the accident happened.


Except for the accident, it was a quiet stage today and it all ended up in the final sprint totally dominated by Cavendish who showed the world what a sprinter he is…and what a great team he's got. It’s important to highlight that because you can’t win a sprint without the help of your teammates and his team really did a great job for him today.


Cancellara will keep his yellow jersey one more day as forecast but I would like to attract your attention on tomorrow’s stage.


Tomorrow’s stage could be seen like today’s one: a true classic with an echappée caught up a few kilometres away from the finish line to end up in a final sprint. But, if you look at the calendar, with the Team Time Trial just around the corner, tomorrow is actually going to be an interesting stage to watch.


We could all think that people will rest up but we all know that Saxo Bank is going to slow down or at least will not go in any echappée tomorrow just to be sure that they are in the best conditions for the Team Time Trial. It will be very interesting to see how they handle this stage strategically speaking. I would ask my riders to slow down a bit and let an echappée go for it unless Astana is involved.


You know that the Team Time Trial is a super important stage and this is a first great occasion to make a difference in the rankings.


Everybody knows that so I wouldn’t be surprised that tomorrow’s echappée could go to the finish line as most teams will be "resting" to be on top of their games for the Time Trial.


It was a very warm day on the Tour de France and all the riders are already at the hotel resting for tomorrow’s race. Tomorrow should be an "open" stage!


It was a good first stage and the crowd was here to support the riders. The Tour de France is on and I didn’t realize I was missing it so much.


Yours in Sport,



Ronan Pensec participated eight times in the Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey in 1990 while racing for Greg Lemond's Z team. He now operates Ronan Pensec Travel, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.

1,748 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: ronan-pensec, astana, mark-cavendish, 2009-tour-de-france, saxo-bank, euskatel

Lots of crowd today for the first day of this 2009 Tour de France and what a nice prologue!


I didn’t talk much about the prologue course yesterday as I wanted to see the riders performing it to make sure that I had the right feeling about the course. Today’s performances just confirmed my thoughts. This was a very tough prologue with two important parts: the beginning with a long climb where heavy riders were penalized, and a very technical downhill at the end that cost some folks a lot of seconds on the finish line. I hope you also noticed how often the riders had to adjust their speed and brackets. It showed once again how technical it was and how painful it must have been!


For all these reasons, we have to celebrate today a great Cancellara. His ride was just great. He didn’t suffer much in the first technical part with that long uphill, and then he simply smashed away any competition in the downhill towards the finish line. For proof: he even passed Menchov one kilometre before the finish line.


Just for the records, I think that Menchov’s car and Menchov himself helped Cancellara in the downhill and for the finish…well done Mr. Cancellara!


As I told you yesterday, Menchov paid today for his strong Giro and it was no surprise to me to see him underperforming. It’s no surprise as well to see all the favourites doing well today. Evans, Sastre or even Leipheimer gave a good shot at it and didn’t lose much time.


Regarding Lance: I think he did great with a 10th position. Given the fact that he didn’t have the chance to do much time trialing before Monaco, I think this is the best start he could have taken on this Tour. He is right on track so keep an eye on him.


You should also keep an eye on the Liquigas and Astana teams as they look like the strongest teams on the field today. Look out for lots of strategic moves from these teams; it will be fun to watch!


Tomorrow will be a good day for sprinters and I would go for a win of Cavendish even if there is a little climb right before the final sprint. He could do something great tomorrow and if he is not, guys like Haussle and Bennati will surely be looking for a win as well.


I think that this year will be a super-open race compared to the previous years and this provides me lots of excitement. It was a great kick off, the crowd loved it and I hope that the next 3 weeks will have the same flavour!


Yours in Sport,



Ronan Pensec participated eight times in the Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey in 1990 while racing for Greg Lemond's Z team. He now operates Ronan Pensec Travel, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.

1,027 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: ronan-pensec, lance-armstrong, levi-leipheimer, astana, liquigas, fabian-cancellara, denis-menchov, 2009-tour-de-france

It’s with great pleasure that I will have once again the opportunity to provide you with my feedbacks on the race everyday.


I can’t remember how many Tour de France I have watched (I do remember how many I raced) but what is sure is that it doesn’t matter if you are a pro cyclist, a weekend warrior, or even a former yellow jersey like me, you are always super thrilled when it’s about to start.


This Tour de France looks very exciting with lots of interesting finishes. I have had a good look at the course the other day and I must confess that I would love to do it. Special credit goes to this massive third week with the Alps stages, the Ventoux on Saturday and all its drama before the final run to Paris. I can’t wait!


Because of this “hilly” third week, I think that the winner of this Tour will have to be a climber.


Thing is that even if you do a great third week in the Alps, you get the Ventoux on Saturday and still have one day to go to get to Paris. And I know from my experience that anything can happen in the Ventoux. Climbers will have their shot at it this year for sure. So don’t miss that day, check you calendars, book the whole night and watch this live. It will be one of these great days in the Tour’s history.


So here we are, we have a great course, with a fancy start in Monaco, then, you look at the athletes engaged and you become even more thrilled about this 2009 Tour de France: Contador, Cadel Evans, Sastre, the Schleck brothers, the Astana team and its phenomenon Lance Armstrong! What else could you ask for?


The Tour is already the greatest cycling event on the planet but with Lance’s comeback, you just get it all at once…and this is going to last for 3 weeks! When you think about it, Lance is by far the only superstar cycling has ever had and having him coming back, this is almost too much! Seriously, Lance’s come back is one of the greatest things that has happened to the Tour since he won his titles. Coming back with no ambition than just enjoying the sports, helping his charity Livestrong, it just shows the world what a great man he is.


You may not realize how tough a Tour de France is for your body, but it really is one of the toughest effort you can do in today’s sports. So you have to realize that you can’t just say “Well, I’m back” and expect to have fun or even finish it. It’s not like a golf player who is willing to do a comeback. This is serious work to get back in a shape to feel confident to take the start and it requires even more work to get enough trained to perform well even if your name is Lance Armstrong! This is a former yellow jersey telling you that. I never thought about coming back, just for that one reason. Lance is even fitter than he used to be in 2005 and he has taken back his 2005 position on his bike. The guy is going for it, I’m telling you.


Talking about Lance and because it’s my first post, most of you will be waiting for my favourites (I hope). I won’t make you wait any longer, so here they are: Contador, Evans, Sastre, Armstrong, Andy Schleck and Leipheimer. I don’t think Menchov is a real threat; he will be tired off his great Giro and shouldn’t have enough resources to make it.


If I had to pick one among these athletes, I would go for Andy Schleck because cycling needs some fresh blood I think and Andy looks like a great sportsman with a true cycling heritage. Fingers crossed!


So, regarding tomorrow now, here is my first insight of this year’s Tour. Astana is going to have Lance starting the prologue in first and Contador finishing it. You know that usually, you would launch your best shot at the end but Astana has been in Monaco for several days and so have I. You notice that everyday is very sunny except during the last hour of the afternoon where you can even have some light rains. I think Astana wanted to get Lance going first to make sure he is got he ideal conditions to perform and put the pressure on the other teams.


This prologue is like the Team time trial. This is not just a very nice stage, great for the public and all that, it’s almost the perfect setup to put pressure on your competition. So don’t look at the prologue or the team time trial just like a great day of cycling with athletes riding the nicest bikes in the world, a lot of strategy is taking place during these moments and tomorrow it starts with Lance going first!


Finally, I would just like to write a note about Boonen who has finally been accepted on the Tour this year after two positive controls. Some will say that it’s once again a shame for the sports and I could understand that but I will argue the opposite. I think it’s good for cycling that Boonen got in. We need all the pros on the line tomorrow to make this Tour de France one of the greatest. Boonen made a big mistake during “this party” and I’m sure he has already paid the price for his mistake. It wasn’t doping to perform better and I think Justice should have been clearer and more strict from the beginning. With all these changes, it’s the whole legal process that lost a bit of credibility here I think…but we will have other opportunities to talk about doping in later posts…


I’m looking for a lot of great moments of sports during the three upcoming weeks and am truly happy to be able to share them with you. So feel free to contact me if you have any question as it’s always a pleasure to share my passion of cycling with all of you.


To a great Tour de France!


Ronan Pensec participated eight times in the Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey in 1990 while racing for Greg Lemond's Z team. He now operates Ronan Pensec Travel, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.

695 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: ronan-pensec, lance-armstrong, alberto-contador, levi-leipheimer, tom-boonen, astana, cadel-evans, carlos-sastre, andy-schleck, frank-schleck, denis-menchov, 2009-tour-de-france, monaco

As the Grand Depart in Monaco draws closer, Team Astana remains a subject of great debate. With the recent struggles just to force their sponsors to pay the bills, Johan Bruyneel and co. have more than enough to distract them from the goal at hand: winning the Tour de France.


But being one of (if not the) best stage racing team in the world means having a few options for who can take the yellow jersey. So perhaps the question shouldn't be "Who will lead Astana", but rather "Who will emerge as Astana's leader?"


Check out Bruce Hildenbrand's recently updated (for post-Giro results) article,Who Will Lead Astana at the 2009 Tour de France?. Whatever happens between now and July 4, one thing is clear: It will be an exciting ride to the finish in Paris.

1,203 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: tour-de-france, johan-bruyneel, astana, monaco