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.
Just when you thought all the drama was being created in the mountains of the Tour, the sprinters decided that they needed a bit of the limelight. Team HTC-Columbia rider Mark Cavendish scored his third stage win in Valence on stage 11, but that wasn't the drama.
What caused all the drama was that in the final 400 meters of the sprint, Cavendish's teammate, Mark Renshaw, head-butted Garmin-Transition rider Julian Dean. The Garmin-Transition team filed a protest and the race referees decided to throw Renshaw out of the race. This is an unprecedented move. To be sure, Belgian sprinter Tom Steels was tossed a few years back when he hurled a water bottle at another rider, but head-butting is pretty common in field sprints.
In a team statement after the incident, Renshaw said that his head-butt was a defensive manouver which was required because Dean was using his elbows to crowd him and he had to make the move or both he and Dean would have crashed. Interestingly, when interviewed right after the race by Versus TV Dean didn't not feel that anything irregular had taken place during the sprint.
Regardless of what happened what is interesting is the the race referees decided to toss Renshaw out of the race. In the past when such head-butting incidents have occurred, the rider is just relegated to the back of the pack. That usually means that the affected rider forfeits their stage win. However, in this case, it was Renshaw's teammate Cavendish who won the stage so relegating Renshaw is really no penalty at all.
If you believe there should be a penalty in this situation then the question is what should it be? Should you take away the stage win from Cavendish even though it was his teammate who did the head-butt? Was the head-butt critical to Cavendish's win?
I personally believe that Renshaw should have been relegated to the back of the peloton for the day's stage. That is what is done if you have won a stage using that tactic. Why should the rule change just because you didn't win. Yes, it is a bit of a meaningless penalty, but sometimes that is the way it plays out.
What I am guessing happened with the ruling is the the referees thought that relegating Renshaw to the back of the peloton was not a stiff enough penalty and since they really couldn't take the stage victory away from Cavendish they decided to throw Renshaw out of the race. I don't agree with this decision and think the referees have to let this one go and amend the racing rule book to have a more fair way to deal with this situation when it arises again.
Renshaw should be allowed to start tomorrow. If not, then the referees got this one very, very wrong.
ps - is this a continuation of the rivalry between Garmin-Transitions and HTC-Columbia?
Bicycle racing is a team sport and that is most evident at the Tour de France. Because the level of competition is so high at the Tour you don't win unless you have good team tactics behind you.
Mark Cavendish won stage 5 with good team tactics. His team fulfilled three major roles on the way to victory. First, the team has to protect Mark from the wind and other riders so he can conserve as much energy as possible. That is the energy he will use to power past his competitors in the final few meters.
Secondly, his team must ride a steady, fast tempo at the front of the peloton which ultimately, chases down any breakaways. If there are riders up the road in front of Mark then he is not sprinting for first place.
Lastly, in the final few miles, the team will come to the front to set up the "leadout train". This is, literally, a train of riders with Cavendish the caboose.But, unlike a real train, the goal is for the caboose to cross the line in front of all the other cars in the train.
Most leadout trains have four to six riders including the designated sprinter. The rider at the head of the train will go as hard as he can and when he tires he will pull off. The the next rider will go as hard as he can and pull off. The goal is for the second to last rider in the train to pull off somewhere between 150-200 meters before the finish line so the designated sprinter can power across the line for the win.
Each of the riders in the train pull for between 300 and 500 meters so that means that a really good train takes control of the race with as much as three kilometers remaining. If the run in to the finish is particularly tricky, they might start working even further out.
Mark Cavendish was almost in tears thanking his teammates for their efforts in helping him win stage 5. He knows he could not have done it without them. Now you know why.