The sheer beauty that is the island of Corsica.
It really has been full on from the get go and we saw within a few days the riders that we expect to be competing for the various categories right up there too. Some, like the KOM competition and the Points are still relatively open (even though Sagan should be ultimately unbeatable in Green), but the biggest of all, that for the Maillot Jaune, looks all but over and done with.
The fat lady might not be singing just yet but she’s over there in the corner, gargling some aqua and eating her last piece of cake.
Froome destroyed the hopes and dreams of those lesser mortals, you know who I am talking about, those really bad climbers like Alberto Contador, Roman Kreuziger and the resurgent Alejandro Valverde on Stage 8 with a display that forced one New York Times writer to mention the ‘bad words’ – yes, ‘Lance’ and ‘Armstrong’.
It “felt a little like the days of Lance Armstrong,” he or she wrote, remaining unnamed in the heading of the article. Maybe a smart move that, but a tad cowardly. Now is the time when we as journalists have a duty to question.
Am I saying that Froome and his cohorts are doping?
Am I saying that his performance, and that or teammate Porte was quite extraordinary?
But the boys in black seem content to let the rumors rage, as they steadfastly continue to refuse to publish any numbers or blood values. Their choice of course, but we really need them. Froome’s ride was the third best of all time on Ax-3-Domaines behind Roberto Laiseka and that man Armsrtrong (13 secs behind Lance) and 5 ahead of Jan Ulrich.
Porte of course wasn’t too far back, yet he fell apart completely on Stage 9. Cadel Evans, himself having had a stinker on Stage 8, said this after yesterday’s stage and the collapse of Froome’s lieutenants:
“I haven’t seen a day at the Tour like this for a long time. You have to keeps your hopes alive. Quitting is not an option right now. What I saw was surprising, from what I expected from Sky. Last year they had really good recovery amongst eight riders through every day of the Tour. Today that wasn’t the case at all. They had one rider in the front there. That was a strange situation, a bizarre situation for the yellow jersey.”
It would be fascinating to know what others in the race feel about Sky’s fortunes in recent days too. So whilst this whole rumbling juggernaut of an elephant chugs along, confusing more than illuminating, there were some things we learnt from this first few days of the 2013 race.
One, Jan Bakelants has a career as a commentator ahead of him once he hangs up his cleats, and wow do we need him. Sean Kelly was one of my favorite riders when he was in his pomp but he makes me miss Magnus Backstedt something rotten. Bakelants might be just one of the real bright spots to emerge from the race. A day in Yellow already and a decent ride yesterday combined with an admirable willingness to talk stand him in good stead for the future.
Entertaining and informative in Flemish, French and English, Jan Bakelants has been a star both on and off the bike so far this Tour.
Two, the very same Sean Kelly is a ‘Donkey Baron’. I kid you not. He apparently breeds the stubborn end of the equidae family and does quite well out of it, by all accounts. So, Kelly is definitely an a*s man… ahem.
Third, I learnt where the rating system of climbs in the Tour comes from. It stems from many a year ago when the old charabangs drove on ahead of the race. The gearing that these cars used to get over the climbs gave the mountains their categorization. Hence a Category 4 means the drives had the car in 4th gear for the majority of the climb, up to Cat 1 for first gear, and Hors Categorie (without categorization) for the mountain that even the cars couldn’t get up.
Four, Jakob Fuglslang really knows how to make other riders look like tactical geniuses. He looked so good on the run in, so tight in his form, then for some unknown reason decided to lead Dan Martin out for a good kilometer until the very point at which actually being in front was most desirable.
At that last corner. D’oh! Smart from the Irishman, naïve from the Dane.
Five, the lesser-spotted Andy Schleck seems to be making something of a comeback. Feared to be on the verge of extinction for some time now, this delicate breed is fighting back. Have to give him a nod for that, after all the stick I’ve been giving him.
Those rare Andy Schleck sightings at the front of the bunch over the last 18 months have become more and more common this Tour with Andy climbing especially well here on Stage 9.
Finally, another resurgent, Alejandro. His Movistar team took it to Froome yesterday and though some felt like they ultimately pulled their punches we have to remember that the Tour is far from over, certainly in terms of days left, and that Froome is just incredibly strong over all the terrain this Tour has to offer.
Might Nairo Quintana have something to offer on steeper slopes? Yesterday he was trying his luck on a hill that ranks at about 7% for most of it. I’d like to see what he can do on something tougher. Have to say too that it is very nostalgic, and in a good way, to see a Colombian rocking it on the hills of Le Tour once again.
With the relatively short TT coming on Wednesday and then some flat stages I can’t see a massive change in the GC coming, but the peloton faces a finish atop the iconic Mt Ventoux next Sunday. This Tour has been anything but predicable but I think it is safe to say that we’ll see more fireworks on the old volcano.
Enjoy the rest day lads, you’ve earned it.
Lee Rodgers leads a double life as a pro racer on the UCI race circuit with the Lapierre Asia Cycling Team, competing in the UCI Asia Tour as well as some European events and the likes of the Tour of Qatar and Oman, rubbing shoulders with the best the WorldTour has to offer, whilst keeping up a day job as a cycling journalist. The highlight of his cycling career so far was winning the Singapore National Champs – road race and ITT – as well as claiming the Green Jersey at the 2.1 Tour de Taiwan in 2012, and naturally, writing for PEZ. His writing appears in several magazines and websites and you can catch up with him regularly on his blog, http://crankpunk.com/