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Stage 16 Winner Mikel Astarloza

Stage 16 Winner Mikel Astarloza

It was a great stage win for Astarloza today escaping in the final kilometers from a 4 man group later forming into a 7 man group.  The highlight of the stage however was Lance Armstrong bridging to the Yellow jersey group on the final climb after being spit out the back moments before.  The gap had grown to nearly a minute between the Schleck brothers led break and the Peloton containing Vande Velde, Cadel and Sastre.  He looked like the Lance of old just powering to the group of seven leaders including Contador, Wiggins, Kloden, Frank and Andy.  While Sastre and Vande Velde were later able to bridge, Cadel could not, losing nearly 3 minutes to the GC contenders.  Zibriskie did an excellent turn on a completely bonkers 30km decent to lock in the Evans gap for Wiggins.  The stage was way more exciting than originally expected.  Nice to see Lance on top form and Astana in general looking more like a team.

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Stage 16 Map

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Stage 15 Results

1           Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi           4:14:20
2          Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux          0:00:06
3          Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
4          Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
5          Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Silence – Lotto
6          Amaël Moinard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne
7          Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas          0:00:11
8          Stéphane Goubert (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
9          Christophe Moreau (Fra) Agritubel          0:00:59
10          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana
11          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas
12          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana
13          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream
14          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana
15          Rigoberto Uran (Col) Caisse d’Epargne
16          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream
17          Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux
18          Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas
19          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
20          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
21          Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia – HTC
22          Laurent Lefevre (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
23          Yury Trofimov (Rus) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
24          Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team
25          Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha
26          Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
27          David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin – Slipstream          0:01:14
28          Laurens ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank          0:03:16
29          José Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Cervelo Test Team
30          Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          0:03:55
31          Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram
32          Thomas Voeckler (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
33          Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne
34          Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Milram
35          Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha
36          Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
37          David Loosli (Swi) Lampre – NGC
38          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
39          Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
40          Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre – NGC
41          Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Astana
42          Pierre Rolland (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
43          Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Team Katusha
44          Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française des Jeux
45          Luis Pasamontes Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
46          Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto
47          Haimar Zubeldia Aguirre (Spa) Astana
48          Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step
49          Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Cervelo Test Team
50          Peter Velits (Svk) Team Milram

Overall Standings

1           Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana           67:33:15
2          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana          0:01:37
3          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream          0:01:46
4          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana          0:02:17
5          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:02:26
6          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas          0:02:51
7          Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux          0:03:09
8          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:03:25
9          Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team          0:03:52
10          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream          0:03:59
11          Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          0:04:38
12          Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas          0:04:40
13          Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia – HTC          0:05:05
14          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale          0:05:26
15          Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux          0:05:40
16          Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha          0:05:56
17          Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto          0:07:23
18          Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          0:08:23
19          Stéphane Goubert (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale          0:09:14
20          Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel          0:10:00

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On a relatively flat stage in central France, Johan Van Summeren and Marcin Sapa escaped the peloton at 27km. They valiantly fought to stay out front but with only the two of them there was little chance of bringing it home.  Still,

Stage 11 Winner Mark Cavendish just holds off Farrar at the line

Stage 11 Winner Mark Cavendish just holds off Farrar at the line

they pedaled steadily for hours and hours achieving a maximum gap of 4:15 before they were reeled in like a marlin on 80lb test.  The fishermen of the day were the teams of Columbia, Rabobank, AG2R, Milram and Garmin/Slipstream, each trying to give their sprint monsters a chance for Glooorrreeee as it were.  They were finally caught with at 5km remaining and quickly shuffled to the back of the train…so sad, so so sad. Makes you just want to go over there and bring them a batch of warm cookies for there trouble.

Here is what the break riders had to say:

Johan Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto)

“The team was not in a good mood, I had the impression that some were growing nervous. Today’s instructions were short but precise: one of us with each attack.

“After the peloton started again after a big crash, Chavanel attacked. As soon as he was caught, I jumped away on the other side of the road. Only Sapa joined me. With so far [to ride], and just having two [in the break], I knew that dreaming was useless.

I was always at top speed… it was pleasant to spend so much time at the head. I did enjoy it. An as Most Combative Rider of the Day, I had the pleasure of kissing Gert Steegmans’s girl; she is an hostess with the sponsor of that challenge.”

Marcin Sapa (Lampre)

“When I’m in a breakaway I’m happy even if, as today, it’s very tough to get amongst the action. With Van Summeren the agreement was good, but this time it [the break] was neutralized when there were a few kilometers to go”.

So here we are at 5km.  Columbia is formed up five deep with Kirchen winding it up on a downward grade hitting speeds of over 70km/hour.  I think a “holy wiener schnitzel” is in order here.  All the while Milram tried to weasel their feral claws into the leadout for Ciolek, nearly disrupting the glorious Columbia train.  It was not to be as Hincapie shepherded the whole chaotic mess through the chicane to the 500. At that point it was the Renshaw Cavendish show.  Hushovd and Farrar were lined up tight to Cavendish as Renshaw drove the field up the inclined finish pulling off in the last 200.  In the end Farrar came around strong but missed it by a length.   Hushovd didn’t have it, falling of the wheel for a fifth place finish. Cavendish and his team earned the Green Jersey their effort while Thor was singing an familiar old song …

Here is what a couple of players had to say:

Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam)

“I was in good position for the sprint, but it just wasn’t my day. I am very disappointed of course, and will continue to fight for the green jersey.”

“I still want to fight for the green jersey. It’s still a long way to Paris. It was a hard fight for [Cavendish’s] wheel. It was difficult because everyone knows that is where you want to be. I will try to win another stage before this Tour is over. I will take it day-by-day.”

Julian Dean (Garmin-Slipstream)

“Today we took a different approach – I decided to wait back a little longer. Dave took me to 500 meters to go, and took me in with a heap of speed. George [Hincapie] moved off and Renshaw came over, so it took some of my speed away. But I think if that didn’t happen I could have set Tyler up for the win. He has the power and I have the power – it’s just about getting around the Columbia train.”

And a couple of GC contenders:

Alberto Contador (Astana)

“It was a transition day… boring for those who saw it on television, but it was also a day with a lot of tension at the beginning. There were some complicated falls but we avoided them.

“It calmed down up to the last 20 kilometers, where the whole world wants to be ahead to avoid losing any time and the truth is that I was fearful due to the speed we passed close to the fences. The two accidents I saw were ahead of me but I had time to stop the bike.

“I feel good, though it was one more day of punishment in the legs but also one less day of suffering. At the moment I want to think of nothing more than tomorrow, which is another difficult day and which I have to ride without losing time and without any type of falls. Then I will think about the mountains, which I want to arrive already.”

Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam)

“Today’s stage was a very fast, atypical and strange stage. There was a huge number of falls right from the outset and then the race was neutralized when one of the advertising balloons deflated, meaning that the pack split into two parts.

“It was a pretty strange race in which speeds didn’t fall below 45km/h on a really tough route with constant climbs and descents and badly surfaced roads… I think these stages are not really telling us anything about this Tour de France but they are adding to the tiredness of riders in the heart of the pack in the lead up to the last week of the race.

As far as I’m concerned, I didn’t have any problems today and I felt protected by my teammates again. It’s a shame that we lost Thor Hushovd’s green jersey but Cavendish is the world’s fastest rider right now and the most important thing is that we still have the chance to win it back. We will keep fighting it out to win another stage and to get that green jersey, as well as trying for other personal aims.”

Well that’s it for today.  No GC changes today.  Lots of rollers in tomorrows stage. A break should have a better chance of sticking.

Thanks to Cycling News for the Quote Clips.

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Stage 11 Results

1           Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC           4:17:55
2          Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Slipstream
3          Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Française des Jeux
4          Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank
5          Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
6          Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne
7          Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram
8          Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
9          William Bonnet (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
10          Nikolai Troussov (Rus) Team Katusha
11          Marco Bandiera (Ita) Lampre – NGC
12          Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha
13          Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
14          Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas
15          Kenny Robert van Hummel (Ned) Skil-Shimano
16          Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
17          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana
18          Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Skil-Shimano
19          Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Team Katusha
20          Angelo Furlan (Ita) Lampre – NGC

Green Jersey Standings

1           Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC           176           pts
2          Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team                   169
3          Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          110
4          Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Slipstream                   110
5          Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram                            100
6          Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank                   97
7          Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale                   74
8          Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          64
9          Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank                   55
10          William Bonnet (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom          54

Overall Standings

1           Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale                    43:28:59
2          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana                   0:00:06
3          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana                            0:00:08
4          Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana                            0:00:39
5          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream          0:00:46
6          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana                            0:00:54
7          Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC                   0:01:00
8          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream          0:01:24
9          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank                   0:01:49
10          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas                            0:01:54

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In France, Bastille Day is a holiday celebrated much like the Independence Day here in the US.  In the states, Bastille

Stage 10 Winner Mark Cavendish

Stage 10 Winner Mark Cavendish

Day is probably better known as a song by Rush, at least among forty somethings and/or nonhistorians.

There’s no bread, let them eat cake
There’s no end to what they’ll take
Flaunt the fruits of noble birth
Wash the salt into the earth

But they’re marching to Bastille day, la guillotine will claim
Her bloody prize free, the dungeons of the innocent the king
Will kneel, and let his kingdom rise!

Bastille Day by Rush

In the spirit of French independence, who will rise today I ask? Who between the kings of sprint or breakaway of the masses will prevail?  Read on cycling fan and see.

The race went something like this:  Hupond got the first break at 5km after the start.  He was marked by Vaugrenard, Ignatiev and Domoulin who bridged moments later.  And so it was for 40km over a series of Cat 4 climb over undulating landscape.

At 45km into the stage, the four leaders in the break, Hupond, Vaugrenard, Ignatiev and Dumoulin, held nearly a 6 minute lead.  The four worked well together extending the lead to six minutes at one point.  Without race radios however, the peloton could not allow too much latitude for fear the break riders would sneak away.  The work to close the gap began and within just 12km, the break had only a two minute advantage.

Several teams have donated a rider to do the work of keep the break in check including Milram Quick Step, Caisse d’Epargne, Astana and Ag2r.  The break hovered between 1:30 and 3.30 minutes for the next 90 kilometers.  The peloton and Columbia in particular intended to string out the break to the final kilometers to prevent riders from attempting to bridge up.

With 30km to go, the peloton finally began to reel in the break, rapidly dropping the gap to one minute.  The gap closed as follows over the remaining kilometers:

  • 20km, 20 seconds
  • 12.5km, 42 seconds
  • 11km, 38 secs
  • 10km, 35 secs
  • 9km, 30 secs
  • 7km, 26 secs
  • 6km, 21 secs
  • 5km, 20 secs – Garmin forms on the right for Farrar
  • 3.5km, 14 secs
  • 2km, 10 secs – Columbia lines up for the sprint
  • 1.5km and done – Hincapie is at the front for Columbia in the final curve laden section doing a monster of a pull

Renshaw took over then pulled off as Cavendish engages the nitrous.   Peanuts on a Popsicle stick, he was fast!  Hushovd was on his wheel but couldn’t get past.  No luck for Farrar either, coming in third.

Cavendish takes his third stage of the tour.  The kings have taken the day.  They take their place on podium high with throngs of admirers singing their praises.

Happy Bastille Day

Point of Interest:  The race organizers deemed today’s stage, radio free day.  That meant there would be no two way communications between riders and team directors.  Riders had to use other means to keep in touch as in days of old.  Riders and team directors have complained for days on the matter for a wide range of reasons many of which seemed reasonable though none of any true consequence.  As you can imagine it was drama all day.  It seemed like every rider had something to say about it.  Some of the riders even stripped jerseys in “protest”.  In the end, the fears and concerns were overblown and overplayed.

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Stage 10 Results

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC 4:46:43
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
3 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Slipstream
4 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne
5 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
6 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
7 Kenny Robert van Hummel (Ned) Skil-Shimano
8 William Bonnet (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
9 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas
10 Saïd Haddou (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
11 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram
12 Marco Bandiera (Ita) Lampre – NGC
13 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Silence – Lotto
14 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Rabobank
15 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank
16 Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel
17 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
18 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
19 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Team Columbia – HTC
20 Angelo Furlan (Ita) Lampre – NGC

Green Jersey Standings

1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team 147 pts
2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC 141
3 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 97
4 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram 81
5 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Slipstream 80
6 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 73
7 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 55
8 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 54
9 Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel 49
10 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom 47

Overall Standings

1 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 39:11:04
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:00:06
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 0:00:08
4 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0:00:54
5 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
6 Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC 0:01:00
7 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream 0:01:01
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream 0:01:24
9 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:01:49
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0:01:54

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Brice Feillu steps out of his brothers shadow today to bring the honor of a stage win to his family and team.  Feillu was part of a nine-man

Feillu splintered a nine man break to take Stage 7

Feillu splintered a nine man break to take Stage 7

break that whittled down on the mountain top finish in Arcalis.  Initially looking weak, Feillu surprised all by jumping halfway up the above category climb.  He held on to take the stage.  The rest of the break straggled in behind him.  Contador fired the third shot in the battle for Astana preeminence (the first being the time trial – expected & second Lance’s crosswind attack – on the margins).  He took it upon himself to attack rather than cover attackers in the most blatant self-serving move to date.  Outside of the politics, it was a brilliant move.  He clearly has the legs to challenge the best.

As it happened:  At about 45km a stable break formed to include Gutierrez, Martinez, Riblon, Nocentini, Kuschynski, Kern, Pineau, Feillu and Frohlinger.  The highest placing of the group was Nocentini at 3:13.  As such none were considered a threat by the GC contenders and were allowed to go up the road in the name of stabilizing the peloton.  The group extended their lead to more than 12 minutes over the next 140km.

The peloton largely stuck together with Astana taking the helm as if they held Yellow.  Saxo’s absence from the front was telling relative to their expectations of Cancellara.  With 25km to go, Astana started to turn up the dial as Paulinho, Popovych and Zubeldia set a blistering pace.  As they fell off one by one, the pressure ratcheted up but the gap had not fallen enough to clear all of the break riders from the GC standings.  The GC chase group, including all the favorites, continued to grab back time rapidly but was running out of real estate.  Ahead in the break, Feillu jumped at 5.5km fracturing the group in the process.  The GC chase heavy still with Astana riders stuck together until the Cadel took a shot.  He was marked rapidly but seconds later Contador took off.  Contador in his trademark acceleration pealed off the front leaving the chase in the dust.  He grew the lead steadily to the line putting distance all the favorites including his coleader, Lance.

Contador came close but did not gain enough time to garner the yellow.  The GC did shake up a little as the break rider, Nocentini, held enough of a gap to put himself in yellow.  Contador leaps Lance with Leipheimer and Wiggins rounding out the top 5.

When interviewed, Armstrong, Leipheimer and even the director Johan Bruyneel said that Contador was off script.  He was expected to work with the team as a group and prepare to cover the moves of the GC threats.  Contador’s was rather guarded in his after race interview.  He said he was testing his legs and was hopeful to put some distance on his competitors.  As if heeding Hinault’s words in commentary this morning, he effectively threw the gauntlet down.

Other Riders in the GC group look very good.  Though none has truly played their hand. Cadel Evans jump at the 2km mark showed excellent form though a straining chase group including Andy & Frank Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Levi Leipheimer, Tony Martin, Lance Armstrong, Denis Menchov, Carlos Sastre, Vladimir Karpets and Christian Vande Velde were able to marked him. Team Garmin continues to looks strong with a strong performance by Wiggins and Vande Velde.  I think this group was content to shake out their legs in readiness for the next two mountain stages.  There is as they say, a long way to go.

Contador crosses the finish a few seconds shy of yellow

Contador crosses the finish a few seconds shy of yellow

I’d love to be a fly on the wall on the Astana team bus tonight.  Things will probably get heated.  The individual and team expectation seem to be at odds.  Compounding the problem are matters of trust.  I wonder if Contador thinks the director favors Lance and as such is holding him back.  When riders are expected to sacrifice for the team, resentments are bound to follow especially when rolls are not defined. This seems like Lemond/Hinault all over again i.e. the senior statesman vs. the talent.  Were Contador to have earned the Yellow Jersey, Lance and the other riders’ options would be limited.  They would be expected to fall in line and support their rider.  As it is, the riders will feel less encumbered by prescribed strategy especially in the face of Contador’s defection from the team.  It will be interesting to see what face is put on this in the morning.

Now the final matter for today, what the heck is up with Boonen?  He can’t seem to catch a break in the last three days.

  • Stage 5 – two flats
  • Stage 6 – wreck
  • Stage 7 – another wreck
  • Not a single sprint point to date.

I’m throwing all the mojo I can muster at Booney to overcome his poor fortune and get in the mix.

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Stage 7 Profile

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Stage 7 Recap

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Stage 7 Results

1           Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel           6:11:31
2          Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          0:00:05
3          Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram          0:00:25
4          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale          0:00:26
5          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          0:00:45
6          Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale          0:01:05
7          Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step          0:02:32
8          José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          0:03:14
9          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          0:03:26
10          Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto          0:03:47
11          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
12          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream
13          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
14          Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
15          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana
16          Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC
17          Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
18          Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team
19          Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha
20          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream

Polka Dot Jersey Overall

1           Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel           49            pts
2          Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale          46
3          Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          46
4          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          43
5          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale          34
6          Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram          32
7          Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step          23
8          José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          20
9          Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas          17
10          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          15

Overall Standings

1           Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale           25:44:32
2          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          0:00:06
3          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana          0:00:08
4          Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana          0:00:39
5          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream          0:00:46
6          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana          0:00:54
7          Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC          0:01:00
8          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream          0:01:24
9          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:01:49
10          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas          0:01:54
11          Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step          0:02:10
12          Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team Columbia – HTC          0:02:21
13          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:02:25
14          Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas          0:02:40
15          Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team          0:02:52
16          Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram          0:02:54
17          Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas          0:03:03
18          Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto          0:03:07
19          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          0:03:10
20          Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia – HTC          0:03:16

Allez915

The 15km time trial in Monaco exposed the field in this year’s tour.  As Phil Liggett predicted, Fabian Cancellara took the podium.  Considering his win at the Tour de Suisse this year beating out Martin, KlÖden and Cunego, the rest of

Contador Pounds the Field

Contador Pounds the Field

the field will be keeping an eye on him.  Great performance but the spots below reveal the GC potential on the non-specialists.  Contador solidified his position as Astana team lead with a blistering performance today.   Only Cancellara had the guns to keep him at bay.  Lance put in a solid performance but for the second time this year appears to be fetching bottles for his ridiculously strong team.  Astana has 4 riders in the top 10 for the love of god. Joining Contador in the top ten were KlÖden, Leipheimer and Lance.

Cadel Evans had a great performance today besting Leipheimer to take 5th.  He looks to be on form and likely able to stick with the leaders on the tough stuff.  Unfortunately his GC hopes are a tough road considering the poor performance of his team.  Not only will Lotto probably take a beating on Tuesday’s TTT but he is unlikely to have much support as the grade steepens.  While Cadel is very strong in the mountains, in the past he has been unable to attack in a way that will help him reclaim the time required to find a podium spot.

Sastre 21st and Menchov 53rd each gave up a minute or more to leader.  Sastre had a great Giro showing best of the bunch form on the mountains.  This field is stronger still.  While Levi and Lance maintained their relative placing in the field of racers from the Giro to the Tour, this trio appears to have faded from top form.  Sastre in particular has shown an ability to bury himself on a time trial when necessary.  This day it was not to be.  He has some ground to make up.  His team didn’t fair to well either today.  The stage is set for widening the gap on the TTT.   What is up with Menchov?  I find it hard to understand his lack of form.  He has some ground to make up and probably more still on Tuesday.

The Stage 4 team time trial set for Tuesday should prove out that Astana is the cream of the field. Team Garmin and Team Columbia looked very strong today and aught to be able to elevate the team riders as a whole in the TTT as well.  I for one can’t wait.  There will likely be a stack of green and yellow riders at the top of the GC on Wednesday morning.  Many of the American riders should have a great showing.

Stage 1 Race Reports

Stage 1 Video

Stage 1 Results

1. Fabian Cancellara Team Saxo Bank in 19:32
2. Alberto Contador Astana in 19:50
3. Bradley Wiggins Garmin – Slipstream in 19:51 at 00:19
4. Andréas KlÖden Astana in 19:54 at 00:22
5. Cadel Evans Silence – Lotto in 19:55 at 00:23
6. Levi Leipheimer Astana in 20:02 at 00:30
7. Roman Kreuziger Liquigas in 20:04 at 00:32
8. Tony Martin Team Columbia – Htc in 20:05 at 00:33
9. Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas in 20:09 at 00:37
10. Lance Armstrong Astana in 20:12 at 00:40
11. Gustav Larsson Team Saxo Bank in 20:13 at 00:41
12. Mikel Astarloza Euskaltel – Euskadi in 20:16 at 00:44
13. David Zabriskie Garmin – Slipstream in 20:19 at 00:47
14. David Millar Garmin – Slipstream in 20:20 at 00:48
15. Jérôme Coppel Francaise Des Jejuna in 20:23 at 00:51
16. Sylvain Chavanel Quick Step in 20:28 at 00:56
17. Christian Vande Velde Garmin – Slipstream in 20:29 at 00:57
18. Andy Schleck Team Saxo Bank in 20:32 at 01:00
19. Linus Gerdemann Team Milram in 20:35 at 01:03
20. Rémi Pauriol Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne in 20:37 at 01:05
21. Carlos Sastre Cervelo Test Team in 20:38 at 01:06
22. Vladimir Karpets Team Katusha in 20:39 at 01:07
23. Alessandro Ballan Lampre – N.g.c in 20:42 at 01:10
24. Maxime Monfort Team Columbia – Htc in 20:42 at 01:10
25. Broeck Jurgen Van Den Silence – Lotto in 20:43 at 01:11

Allez915

Ricco was in great form today stepping away from a tentative peloton in search of a stage win.

Riccardo Ricco Wins Stage 8

Riccardo Ricco Wins Stage 8

Earlier in the stage, there was a break of three included Lang, Jalabert and Kuschynski who escaped the peloton at 25km.  It ran smoothly for miles in that none were a threat to the GC.

It fell apart at around 165km when Lang rode the others off his wheel on the first cat 1 mountain of the tour, the Col de Peyresourde.  The peloton stayed pretty much together on the col behind them.  Lang maintained his lead down the Peyresourde and halfway up the Col d’Aspin.  Ricco bridged to Lang before the final summit and didn’t look back.  At the same time, the peloton narrowed the lead to less than two minutes before the summit as well.

By 15km to go all the chasers were reeled in it leaving Ricco as only rider ahead with over a minute lead.  He held the lead for the remainder of the stage.  Valverde for all the Caisse d’Epargne team maneuvering was unable to manifest a challenge to the GC contenders.  Caisse d’Epargne clearly has the strongest GC team though today they were no match for the Ricco attack and decent.  Still they are able to support in ways no other team could match.

Kirchen was able to stay with the main contenders over the d’Aspin retaining the yellow jersey.  He rocketed down the mountain with the rest to the finish.  He looked on the defensive for the final col and it’s decent.  His team seems to be unable to support him when the going gets up.  Interestingly, he regained the green jersey from Oscar Freire.  Garmin’s Christian Vande Velde has moved up to third on GC as Schumacher fell off the lead group on the run in to the finish.

Hincapie seems to be reserved for support on another day maybe tomorrow.  He helped Lovkvist to the finish over six minutes back.  Cadel wrecked at 135 though it didn’t look to affect his performance.

Video Recap: http://tinyurl.com/cjp6a

Race Reports

Cycling News:  http://tinyurl.com/66x4jf

Velonews:  http://tinyurl.com/5dhtlt

Official Tour Website:  http://tinyurl.com/6salpo

Yahoo Sports:  http://tinyurl.com/57ol9g

Stage 9 Results

1 Riccardo Riccò (Ita), Saunier Duval-Scott, 5.39.28 (39.59 km/h)

2 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus), AG2R La Mondiale, 1.03

3 Cyril Dessel (Fra), AG2R La Mondiale, 1.17

4 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz), Crédit Agricole

5 Christian Knees (Ger), Team Milram

6 Maxime Monfort (Bel), Cofidis

7 Alejandro Valverde (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne

8 Roman Kreuziger (Cze), Liquigas

9 Damiano Cunego (Ita), Lampre

10 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Silence-Lotto

Overall Results

1 Kim Kirchen (Lux), Columbia

2 Cadel Evans (Aus), Silence-Lotto, 0.06

3 Christian Vande Velde (USA), Garmin Chipotle – H30, 0.44

4 Stefan Schumacher (Ger), Gerolsteiner, 0.56

5 Denis Menchov (Rus), Rabobank, 1.03

6 Alejandro Valverde (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne, 1.12

7 Stijn Devolder (Bel), Quick Step, 1.21

8 Oscar Pereiro (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne, 1.21

9 Samuel Sánchez (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 1.27

10 Carlos Sastre (Spa), CSC-Saxo Bank, 1.34

On the longest stage of the tour, Mark Cavendish and Team Columbia work the train to perfection getting the win.  With an exceptional lead out by George Hincapie and excellent support by Kim Kirchen, Cavendish was dropped at the 150m mark in prime position to bring it home.  At the moment Cav took over, Hushovd all ready had him by a half a bike.  Cav punched the crank and within 50m he had distanced all sprint contenders and took the line, Wow.  He has the legs to contest and that means we’ve got a new rider to watch on the flatlands this tour.

 

This was a really dry stage today. Unless you enjoy the banal banter of the race announcers, save you’re viewing time for a stage with more potential.  Three minutes of highlight footage is all you really need.  Not much but a long breakaway to follow and no-namers at that.  The sprint will be the highlight of the day.

 

Team Columbia impresses me more and more.  There GC hopes appear to be on the back of Kirchen.  Kirchen, riding for T-Mobile, was 7th at last year’s tour and clearly capable of besting that effort.  I expect he will be marking Evans, Valverde and Menchov among others when the road turns upward.  Tomorrow’s stage introduces two 2nd category climbs that may hint at Kim’s strength and competitiveness.  It will be interesting to see how the team is used to set Kim up for a run.  I’m sure Hincapie will provide pace for one of the mountains.  Let’s see who is on point for the other probably Lövkvist.

 

2008 TdF Stage 6 Elevation Profile

2008 TdF Stage 6 Elevation Profile

 

Team Columbia is well positioned with three riders in the top 10 with Kirchen 2nd, Hincapie 7th and Lövkvist 8th.  All of them are in the mix to be competitive for GC though Kirchen will be supported in the mountains most likely.

 

Noticeably absent from today’s finish were team Garmin/Chipotle.  Only Julian Dean placed in the sprint finish in 10th.  There are two riders in the top 10 overall including Millar and Vande Velde.  I expect Millar will fade in the mountains like past years but Vande Velde could show us something.  Let’s see tomorrow.

 

Links for Stage 5 Press Releases

Yahoo Sports:  http://tinyurl.com/6blrlc

Cycling News:  http://tinyurl.com/5lps4f

Velonews:       http://tinyurl.com/6ogceq

 

Stage 6 Results
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia 5.27.52 (42.45 km/h)
2 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank  
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram  
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole  
5 Baden Cooke (Aus) Barloworld  
6 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld  
7 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone  
8 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence – Lotto  
9 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas  
10 Julian Dean (NZ) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30  
11 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner  
12 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quick Step  
13 Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel  
14 Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française des Jeux   
15 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Agritubel  
     
Overall Standings
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 19.32.33
2 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia 0.12
3 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.12
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto 0.21
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 0.33
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.37
7 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia 0.41
8 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia 0.47
9 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0.58
10 José Iván Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 1.01
11 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 1.12
12 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 1.13
13 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step 1.18
14 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 1.22
15 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.24
     
Team Standings
1 Barloworld   16.23.36
2 Agritubel    
3 Rabobank    
4 Gerolsteiner    
5 Silence – Lotto    
6 Credit Agricole    
7 Garmin Chipotle    
8 Team Columbia    
9 Bouygues Telecom    
10 Liquigas    
11 Cofidis Credit Par Telephone    
12 Team Milram    
13 Quick Step    
14 Lampre    
15 Euskaltel – Euskadi    
16 AG2R-La Mondiale    
17 Caisse d’Epargne    
18 Francaise des Jeux    
19 Saunier Duval – Scott    
20 Team CSC Saxo Bank    

 

 

 

Allez915

After a half hour hunting a live feed from of the tour, I finally hooked into a choppy feed from Eurosport Live.  Took some effort to ignore the rather adolescent chat room that accompanied the site but who’s complaining.

 

Got to love the underdog.  Stefan Schumacher gets it done on the 4th stage of the TdF.  Maybe somebody else in computerland saw or made a prediction of Schumacher dropping the hammer in this stage but I didn’t.  He stormed to the top of the pile in Lance like proportions bringing a 35:44 for the 29.5km TT for an average of 49.534 km/hr or over 30MPH.  He bested a close group of riders including Cancellara +33, Menchov +34, Voigt +35, Vande Velde +37 and Hincapie +41.  Other riders came in later to challenge but couldn’t quite get it done. 

 

The elevation profile shows that this course as a rather flat unassuming loop. In truth the winds were strong and the course more rolling than expected.  The result was that while the contenders still gravitated upward there were some surprises including in the top spot.

 

2008 TdF Stage 4 Elevation Profile

2008 TdF Stage 4 Elevation Profile

As hoped for, team members from both Team Columbia and Garmin – Chipotle put in some excellent performances.  Danny Pate threw the gauntlet down early demonstrating strength for Garmin/Chipotle.  It wasn’t till the big guns came out much later that he was bested and only by a small margin at first.  Danny hung in for 14th, a very respectable placing for the TdF.  Well done. 

 

Other American team members also got in on the action including Pate’s Garmin compatriots Vande Velde 8th, and Millar, with stellar 3rd a mere 18 seconds off the leader.  Columbia’s best placers include Lövkvist 11th, Hincapie 9th and Kirchen with 2nd only 18 seconds off the leader and slightly ahead of Millar.  American teams are clearly strong and deep as today’s results show.  They are 1st and 2nd on the team overall.  We shall see if that holds up on the more difficult stages to follow.

 

At first it seems Schumacher has no GC illusions from his first interview on Eurosport.   Later on it is published that he will give up the yellow kicking and screaming. I suppose his director had a chat with him in between.  Here nor there, he got it done and deserves his time in the limelight. 

 

Stage Results
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 35.44 (49.5 km/h)
2 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia 0.18
3 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.18
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto 0.27
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 0.33
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0.34
7 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 0.35
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.37
9 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia 0.41
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0.47
11 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia 0.47
12 José Iván Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 0.50
13 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.08
14 Danny Pate (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 1.10
15 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step 1.18
Overall Results
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 14.04.41
2 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia 0.12
3 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.12
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto 0.21
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 0.33
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.37
7 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia 0.41
8 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia 0.47
9 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0.58
10 José Iván Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 1.01
11 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 1.12
12 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC – Saxo Bank 1.13
13 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step 1.18
14 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 1.22
15 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.24
Team Results
1 Team Columbia 1.48.58
2 Garmin Chipotle 0.19
3 Team CSC Saxo Bank 0.51
4 Gerolsteiner 1.30
5 Caisse d’Epargne 2.06  

 

I went in to the 2008 Tour de France wondering if I would be as invested in the race as in past years.  I find that I’ve been hedging commitment to the race for several weeks leading up to the start.  After some thought, several reasons jump to mind. 

·         There is the closure of the Discovery team and the subsequent scattering of the team members to the three winds. 

·         There is the hardheaded ASO decision to deny Astana the opportunity to race and along with it two of my favorites, Contador and Leipheimer as well as the ever fascinating director Johan Bruyneel. 

·         There is the decision of Versus to deny the cable impaired a live online video feed relegating us to the semi-live twitter like updates from the major news and team outlets.  

·         Let’s not forget the yearly sponsor and rider changes to navigate. 

 

So with all this nonsense to contend with, who could figure where I’d be three stages in?  Yes, you guessed it, as buried in it as a solo break 5K out with a 2 minute gap. 

 

The two American teams Team Columbia (High Road) and Team Garmin – Chipotle are square in the middle of it.  They have several riders including today’s 2nd place finisher Will Frischkorn and yesterday’s 2nd and 3rd place finishers Kim Kirchen and Gerald Ciolek who are bringing me along for the ride. 

 

I’m not sure how these teams will play out in the GC but they have clearly come to challenge individual stages.  There is a rather rebellious side to each of these teams that hint at more fun to come.  

 

The interview at the end of the stage with Frischkorn was fascinating.  Clearly still wound up from the stage finish, he recounted the story of the finishing kilometers as a series of missteps.  He just knew that he could get it right if they just rewind to 5K out and restart. He wore the disappointment of opportunity lost on his sleeve.  He is a novice to grand tour riding which was a refreshing contrast more controlled interviews of the favorites.  It was very entertaining. 

 

Tomorrow’s time trial will finally stack the players in this year’s race.  I’m hopeful George Hincapie, Mark Cavendish, Christian Vande Velde, and David Millar will shake it up a bit finding their way into the top 10 or 15.  Either way this year is wide open, enjoyably so.

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