Roadside St.17 One hundred years - that's how long ago it is since Octave Lapize first conquered Le Tourmalet on 15 kilograms of steel bike in the 1910 Tour de France. Today, PEZ goes roadside for the Tour's final mountain showdown.
Time to join the heaving throngs of fans, technical staff, organizers, hangers-on and hangers-out with a desire to pass through the Village Depart's gates and into cycling celeb heaven. It's the Grand Depart of Le Tour de France!
Roadside St.2: “2 other pix ...... maybe pick best one. I'm too pie-eyed to tell now. Have a look at the measures he was pouring!!!!” – So read Gord’s email last night. I could tell by the photos that Gord had found his place at this year’s Tour…
Roadside St.19 The French radio car tries to muscle Dave off the wheel, but Dave’s ridden too many road races to let that happen and we tuck back in alongside the Sky team car. Stage 19, Tour de France 2010, a 52 kilometre time trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac and PEZ is on the wheel of one of the fastest men in the world – Sky’s British elite road race champion, Geraint Thomas.
Analysis St. 4 Six years ago, Alessandro Petacchi won 15 Grand Tour stages in one year, taking sprint wins in the Tour of Italy, Tour de France, and Tour of Spain. He was crowned the new King of the Sprinters, the heir to Mario Cipollini’s throne. But after some dry years, he’s returned to win two stages in the first week, and it’s fair to say he’s back among the elite sprinters in the peloton.
Insight Rest day 2: Am I disappointed he’s not leading the race? Not even a little bit. I’m amazed at the improvement he made in 12 months, thrilled he’s riding high in the overall standings at the Tour de France, and I’m looking forward to the rest of this week and the progress he can make in the next 12 months.
Analysis St. 3 Luck has always played a role in cycling and the Tour, and over the course of a career riders who sometimes benefit from incredible luck must also experience the worst of it. Lady Luck has certainly smiled on Lance Armstrong during his career (remember the trip through the grass in 2003?), but today his luck ran out, with a flat front tire at a very inopportune moment.
Analysis St. 1 There was an instant in the final kilometer of Stage 1 that gave me a horrible flashback to Stage 1 of the 2003 Tour. I saw helmets rise up and then plummet back down, as riders ran into and over a wall of their fallen comrades. As in 2003, Lance Armstrong escaped uninjured, but it remains to be seen whether today’s crashes will force anyone to leave the Tour after just one stage.
Analysis Pre-Pyrenees: As the peloton rests today in the foothills of the Pyrenees, the Tour de France is getting set for Act 3. We saw the chaotic flat stages and decisive time trial from Act 1 in the first week. A series of medium mountain stages and two big days in the Alps punctuated Act 2, and now the final act looms ahead. The third week of the Tour de France can be full of surprises, especially when it’s set up like it is this year.
Analysis St.15: I’m really struggling today. The biggest story of Stage 15 was the mechanical problem that Andy Schleck suffered on the upper slopes of the Port de Bales, and the subsequent response from Alberto Contador. The question is whether Contador should have waited for Schleck, or whether he was right to continue racing? I’m struggling because I think you can point to examples and valid justifications for both sides of the argument.
Analysis St. 1: It’s hard to believe this is really happening. I’ve been Lance Armstrong’s coach for 20 years and I’ve been writing about the Tour de France for 10 years, but I thought my days of referring to Lance as a Tour de France rider were long gone.
Insight St.13: Regardless of the fact that the yellow jersey group finished almost seven minutes behind stage winner Heinrich Haussler (and that was a tremendous ride from a young man who looks to be developing from a classics specialist into a great all-around rider), today was a difficult race. The mountains weren’t huge, but the riders were drenched by a cold rain all day.
Insight St.17: One of the important – and sometimes overlooked – aspects of stage racing is the fact that you have to be constantly aware of both the people ahead and behind you in the standings. We all tend to focus on the riders right behind the yellow jersey, and their obvious motivation to overtake the rider or riders ahead of them...
Analysis St. 17: The top of the Col du Tourmalet stands at 6939 feet above sea level and the start of the climb sits at 2329 feet, meaning today’s final ascent gained 4610 vertical feet in 11.5 miles. If you count the climb from the town of Adast (which sits at 1542 feet) to the official start of the climb, the riders climbed more than a vertical mile (5397 feet) in the final 20 miles of Stage 17. Guess what - it can be hard to breathe up there.
Insight St.12: You would have thought that one of the final stages of the Tour de France that’s suitable to a sprint finish would have ended up that way, but instead the win went to a very deserving Nicki Sorensen from Saxo Bank. There are a few good reasons why today was a good day for a breakaway to succeed.
Analysis St. 5 Mark Cavendish got it right today and won Stage 5 by enough of a margin that it should answer any questions about his sprinting form. And judging from his emotional response to winning (tears of relief, perhaps?), today’s victory will hopefully dispel any doubts he may have had in himself coming into the Tour de France.
Analysis St. 2: When you’re in the peloton, it’s immediately clear that in addition to competing against each other, you’re also responsible for keeping each other safe. Often, both your immediate fate and length of your career depend on the men around you, and vice versa. That’s why riders call out and point out obstacles in the road, and it’s why on days like today, they sometimes neutralize the competition.
Insight St.8: Today we saw examples of how you should and should not use your limited energy in a bike race. On the positive side, yellow jersey Rinaldo Nocentini held the Tour lead even though he was dropped on the day’s final climb. On the other side of the energy spectrum, pre-Tour favorite Cadel Evans launched an attack on the first mountain climb of the day...
Analysis St. 10 The life of a domestique is not very glamorous. You’re rarely in a position to win bike races, you almost never get to stand on a stage with podium girls, and you spend most of your days fetching water bottles from the team car and killing yourself for your team leader. But every once in a while, an opportunity pops up and you get the freedom – or sometimes the order – to go for the win.
Insight St.16: Summit finishes get all the glory, but it take a lot of power and a ton of courage to win races that finish at the bottom of steep and technical descents. To win at the bottom a descent, you not only have to have the climbing legs to cross the summit in the lead group, but then you also need the skills and steely nerves necessary to get to go downhill like an avalanche.