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View Full Version : Tour de France update and discussion thread: Because it involves bikes. (long post)



PotomacCyclist
07-17-2011, 08:38 AM
Many of us probably don't race in road cycling competitions. But I think many of us enjoy watching the intense competition and awesome challenges of the Tour de France on television. So this is your chance to talk someone's ear off about the race.

In case you haven't been following the coverage on Versus, NBCSports.com and occasionally NBC, the pre-race favorites were probably Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, no. 1 and 2 from last year. Contador later tested positive for a trace amount of a banned substance. After much legal wrangling, the Spanish cycling federation accepted his explanation of inadvertently consuming tainted meat. That decision is currently under appeal, to be decided after this year's Tour.

Meanwhile, Contador won the Giro d'Italia earlier this season, about a month before the Tour started. Even for the top cyclists, competing in both the Giro and the TdF is a tall order. It's extremely rare for anyone to win both races in the same year. So there were questions about whether Contador would be in top form.

Through all of the crashes in the first two weeks (which took out several top names like Alexandre Vinokourov, Chris Horner, Bradley Wiggins and others), Thor Hushovd and then Thomas Voeckler took over the yellow jersey (which is given to the current overall leader of the race). Voeckler has surprised many by holding onto the jersey through the first two tough mountain stages in the Pyrenees. But he is not expected to hold on in the Alpine stages later this week.

Cadel Evans is a serious threat to win it all. He is in good shape in the standings. Andy Schleck and his brother Frank Schleck are also close to the top. Contador lost significant time in the first two stages but he's capable of making up that time in the Alps.

In the sprint competition (green jersey), Mark Cavendish has continued to excel. He has already won 3 stages this year, taking his career total to 18 stage wins, one of the best career performances of all-time. He is not a serious threat to win the overall title because of his relative weakness in the mountains.

One of the most notorious crashes involved a car driver for a French television channel that is covering the race. The driver attempted to pass the breakaway group of cyclists on a narrow road. He discovered that there was a tree directly in his path. A motorcycle was trailing right behind him. Instead of slowing down and stopping, the driver veered to the right and knocked Juan Antonio Flecha to the pavement. That also caused Johnny Hoogeland to flip over his bike and into the air. He landed in a barbed-wire fence just to the right of the road. The wire cut deeply into his legs. But he's a tough guy. He was bandaged up. Then he and Flecha got back on their bikes, eventually. The crash took a lot out of Hoogeland. He fell back to the peloton, and then fell behind the large group. He still finished, and ended up capturing the King of the Mountains (polka dot) jersey that day. He and Flecha are still in the race.

Today is a flatter "sprint" stage. In Tour parlance, a sprint stage merely indicates that the route is set up for a final sprint that favors the fast sprinters like Mark Cavendish and Tyler Farrar. It's still quite a long distance for the day, well over 100 miles total. I believe Monday is the final rest day. Then the Tour heads over to the Alps for what is likely to be the deciding stages for the yellow jersey. Expect to see attacks up the tough mountain climbs from Andy Schleck, Contador, Evans and others. Most of the other cyclists won't be able to keep up. That's when the top riders will pick up several minutes on the rest of the field.

On Friday, the Tour heads up Alpe d'Huez, one of the most famous climbs in Tour history. If you're going to watch just one stage, watch this one. The atmosphere gets crazy near the top with all of the spectators (many of whom are inebriated?) just inches from the cyclists. The climbs are so tough that the riders struggle up them at slow speeds. Slow enough for fans to run alongside cheering (and occasionally interfering). As slow as the cyclists ride up the mountains, they go incredibly fast on the downhills. Last week, Thor Hushovd was clocked at 69 mph on one of the downhills in the Pyrenees!

Contador is about 90 seconds behind key rivals like Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans. But if he can break away on the mountains and lose those riders, he can easily pick up all that time, and much more. The week will end with an individual time trial. Contador is considered to be a better time trialist than Andy Schleck. Voeckler is weaker at time trials. So even if he hangs onto the yellow jersey through the Alps (which is considered unlikely), he will probably lose a lot of time in the time trial. The final stage heads into Paris. Usually it is a non-competitive pre-ordained coronation for the leading cyclist. Kind of strange to have the finish of a major sports competition be a formal, non-competitive show. Imagine having the final two minutes of the Super Bowl being non-competitive. Or the 9th inning of Game 7 of the World Series.

But if somehow two or more cyclists are tied as of that day, then the top cyclists will have to duke it out into Paris.

So have you been watching? If so, what do you think of the events so far?

P.S. Versus repeats each day's broadcast multiple times. Even if you don't have a DVR, you can probably catch some of the action, either in the morning, the afternoon, primetime or overnight.

eminva
07-17-2011, 09:25 AM
Excellent Summary, thanks!

I haven't been able to watch because I don't have Versus and it looked like there were a lot of technical problems with the online subscription you could buy from NBC Sports (.com), so I passed rather than paying $30 for the privilege of subjecting myself to that kind of frustration. I've been reading about it in the newspaper and online and of course I saw the coverage of THE crash. That was horrible, but what a fighter one has to be to continue after that.

I agree, it's hard to tell who's the favorite at this point. Will be a very interesting week!

Thanks.

Liz

acc
07-17-2011, 11:21 AM
I watch when I can wrestle the remote away from my children.
I noticed this morning they were booking along around 32 mph with a tailwind. I thought to myself I'd need hurricane force winds to achieve that speed on a flat.

I don't have words to describe the admiration I feel for the riders. Day after day they subject themselves to pure punishment. Watching them climb makes my chest hurt, watching them descend makes me bite my lips hoping they don't fly off the mountain. And in general I want to feed them. Really skinny dudes. Remarkable human beings though, I've enjoyed watching them.

ann

DaveK
07-17-2011, 12:01 PM
There's a great website you lot without Versus should check out - steephill.tv.

My Cliffs Notes on this year's Tour - neither Schleck is going to win.

Greenbelt
07-17-2011, 01:47 PM
We've had good luck with the $30 NBC feed -- pretty reliable. Worth it to not have commercials, the British (I presume) commentator seems OK, and the scenery from the helicoptor camera is fantastic.

elcee
07-17-2011, 08:12 PM
I haven't been able to watch because I don't have Versus and it looked like there were a lot of technical problems with the online subscription you could buy from NBC Sports (.com), so I passed rather than paying $30 for the privilege of subjecting myself to that kind of frustration. I've been reading about it in the newspaper and online and of course I saw the coverage of THE crash.



I've been following the Tour through Charles Pelkey's live blogging on velonews.competitor.com. It has the advantage of allowing you to walk away for a few minutes yet not miss any of the action, since you can just scroll backwards in time.

PotomacCyclist
07-17-2011, 08:30 PM
For Facebook users, you can browse through the daily photo galleries on the Tour de France page:

http://www.facebook.com/media/albums/?id=103512969698091

PotomacCyclist
07-17-2011, 09:17 PM
I watch when I can wrestle the remote away from my children.
I noticed this morning they were booking along around 32 mph with a tailwind. I thought to myself I'd need hurricane force winds to achieve that speed on a flat.

I don't have words to describe the admiration I feel for the riders. Day after day they subject themselves to pure punishment. Watching them climb makes my chest hurt, watching them descend makes me bite my lips hoping they don't fly off the mountain. And in general I want to feed them. Really skinny dudes. Remarkable human beings though, I've enjoyed watching them.

ann
Top American cyclist Levi Leipheimer posted from his iPhone today that they hit 48 mph on the flat road today.

Some of the cyclists are skinny but some of them look more... normal. Also keep in mind that most of them cut weight before the Tour and try to lose as much bodyfat as possible. If you look at pictures of Lance Armstrong during interviews when he was racing at the Tour, his face looked incredibly gaunt and his cheeks were sunken in. Almost no extra bodyfat at all. But if you watch interviews during his retirement period (2006-2008), his face looks normal. He doesn't have that scary bony look.

So the cyclists are even skinnier than they normally are in the off-season.

Andy Schleck is probably skinny all the time. He's much thinner than even the other pro cyclists. On the other hand, Thor Hushovd is pretty big. He's 6'0" and about 180 lbs.

But the weight control can be a problem for the cyclists. Some studies indicate that elite cyclists have lower bone mineral density than the average adult. That could be the result of the restricted diet or the lack of weight-bearing exercise on the bike. This is why it can be a good idea for cycling specialists (pro and amateur) to add some weight-bearing cross-training (strength training, running).

Jsnyd
07-18-2011, 12:03 PM
I’m excited that this thread has popped up. I've been watching it a lot and wondering if I was the only one! I’m a fan of Garmin Cervelo and am really excited to see them doing well. My wife knows Tyler Ferrar and his family so we are extra excited for him and I was pretty pumped when I noticed he was closing on Cavendish on the last sprint of yesterday’s stage. I was also happy for Thor's recent victory seeing as a big guy like him wasn’t picked to dominate as well as he did.

What did everyone think of the French Media car? When Hoogland flipped into the fence I think I probably had the same reaction as most. "HOLY S&!#*(*&"

I also think I’ll give Contador the prize for worst luck in this year’s Tour. He has had it rough the entire time. Maybe I'm skipping over a few deserving names but he just keeps falling down.

and sorry for the misspelling of most names. I think everyone will know who I’m talking about.

DaveK
07-18-2011, 01:07 PM
I’m excited that this thread has popped up. I've been watching it a lot and wondering if I was the only one! I’m a fan of Garmin Cervelo and am really excited to see them doing well. My wife knows Tyler Ferrar and his family so we are extra excited for him and I was pretty pumped when I noticed he was closing on Cavendish on the last sprint of yesterday’s stage. I was also happy for Thor's recent victory seeing as a big guy like him wasn’t picked to dominate as well as he did.

What did everyone think of the French Media car? When Hoogland flipped into the fence I think I probably had the same reaction as most. "HOLY S&!#*(*&"

I also think I’ll give Contador the prize for worst luck in this year’s Tour. He has had it rough the entire time. Maybe I'm skipping over a few deserving names but he just keeps falling down.

and sorry for the misspelling of most names. I think everyone will know who I’m talking about.

I think I'll give Team RadioShack the award for worst luck. 4 supposed contenders going into the race - 3 crash out and the other one has crashed so many times he's out of the overall picture.

The French TV car should be prosecuted criminally. No ifs, ands, or buts. Hoogerland is a beast for getting up and racing. Nothing but admiration for him and for Flecha.

Thor Hushovd is amazing - what he did shouldn't have been possible for a guy that big. I'm also a Garmin fan despite some lapses (chasing down Hincapie in the '09 Tour for no reason so Hincapie didn't get to wear yellow) and I went wild when Tyler finally won a stage. I really hope Thor stays with Garmin despite the rumors. They've shown that he and Farrar can work together well and that the team supports both of them. Hopefully Thor will have a better Classics season next year.

Mark Blacknell
07-19-2011, 07:03 AM
My thoughts on Hooglerland - http://stomachofanger.com/hoogerland.shtml

Surprise of the Tour, so far - Tommy V. being able to hang with the big guns (or is that the big guns being unable to drop Tommy V?).

Contador remains the best grand tour rider in years. Soy tranquillo.

~

I second the Steephill.tv recommendation above. Also, for anyone looking for intelligent and informed commentary on the race, along with a pretty chill community vibe, check out PodiumCafe.com

Dirt
07-19-2011, 07:11 AM
It'll be interesting to see what happens in the next few days. I honestly don't think the Schlecks have started to race yet. I think I finally understand their strategy and it is risky, but quite possibly brilliant. I guess we'll find out in Paris.

DaveK
07-19-2011, 09:32 AM
It'll be interesting to see what happens in the next few days. I honestly don't think the Schlecks have started to race yet. I think I finally understand their strategy and it is risky, but quite possibly brilliant. I guess we'll find out in Paris.

I don't agree - I think one of them has to be sacrificed and they're not willing to do that. If one breaks away and the other stays behind it's perfect but they both want to win, and that can't happen. I think it'll take them both down. Not to mention I don't think either one has the legs to win it this year. Now Contador... he's improving every day and he hasn't shown his cards yet.

Mark Blacknell
07-19-2011, 10:11 AM
I don't agree - I think one of them has to be sacrificed and they're not willing to do that. If one breaks away and the other stays behind it's perfect but they both want to win, and that can't happen. I think it'll take them both down. Not to mention I don't think either one has the legs to win it this year. Now Contador... he's improving every day and he hasn't shown his cards yet.

Convenient time to post this . . .

Dirt
07-19-2011, 10:15 AM
Interesting day today. I enjoyed it.

Jsnyd
07-19-2011, 10:32 AM
My thoughts on Hooglerland - http://stomachofanger.com/hoogerland.shtml

Consider this shirt, or some form of it, SOLD. haha thats a cool T

DaveK
07-19-2011, 11:23 AM
Convenient time to post this . . .

I haven't watched today so DO NOT TELL ME ANYTHING FOR ThE LOVE OF GOD. Okay now I can't follow this thread anymore.

DaveK
07-19-2011, 09:45 PM
I don't agree - I think one of them has to be sacrificed and they're not willing to do that. If one breaks away and the other stays behind it's perfect but they both want to win, and that can't happen. I think it'll take them both down. Not to mention I don't think either one has the legs to win it this year. Now Contador... he's improving every day and he hasn't shown his cards yet.

Just caught the late replay - damn I called this pretty well. Also THOR SMASH!!!

PotomacCyclist
07-20-2011, 06:58 AM
Contador did look better, but Cadel Evans continues to impress. Voeckler is still hanging around, though his lead slipped a bit. Phil Liggett casually mentioned last week that Voeckler has the biggest tongue in cycling. Not because of anything he said in interviews, but because he sticks his tongue out and licks his lips repeatedly when he's working hard on a tough climb. Lance Armstrong tweeted that he now thinks Voeckler has a chance at holding on, but other commentators still think he's a long shot to win. Though I'm not French, it would be cool to see an underdog like him win the title.

Andy Schleck is not looking so great. We'll see how he does in the hard Alpine stages this week.

I've been watching most of the stages, especially the mountain stages, but I haven't recorded any of them. But I'm going to record all of the remaining ones on the DVR. I get very inspired to ride and train when I watch the tough mountain stages of the Tour de France. (While the final sprints in the flat stages are fun to watch, the early part of those days are kind of boring. No one attacks much on those routes.)

As of today, I have to agree that Cadel Evans has the title for the taking. Contador will challenge him but he has a significant time gap behind Evans. I don't know if Contador could drop Evans on an attack this year. Unless Andy Schleck was lulling the other top riders into a false sense of security the other day, he doesn't look that good. Not good enough to win. We'll find out pretty quickly if Voeckler has any chance at all to hang on. Even if he does, he's supposed to be a weaker time trialist. That will hurt him on Saturday.

PotomacCyclist
07-20-2011, 09:12 PM
Thursday's stage is likely to decide the General Classification winner. Or at least go a long way to doing so. Stage 18 will include three HC climbs, or "hors categorie". These "beyond categorization" climbs are the toughest of the toughest. Even most of these elite riders will break on the mountains.

Tune in for some serious mountain racing action. And some seriously fast descents.

JimF22003
07-21-2011, 06:53 AM
Oh, I would have loved to ride that twisty narrow road out of town and back to end yesterday's stage!

I've got a long day ahead of me, and dangerous sources of information to avoid, if I want to be able to enjoy today's stage on my DVR tonight. Wish me luck :)

PotomacCyclist
07-21-2011, 05:09 PM
*** SPOILERS FROM THURSDAY'S STAGE *** (Don't read if you haven't watched it yet!)





Well, Andy Schleck revealed his cards today. He was saving himself for today, and tomorrow. Contador is down but not quite out. He's on life support. There's still an outside chance that he heads out on a breakaway tomorrow but given his performance today, I just can't see it. Plus he has to pick up time on all of the other favorites. I'd give him about a 5% chance of winning at this point.

Surprisingly, Thomas Voeckler is STILL in the yellow jersey! That guy's performance has been impressive. Every day he downplays his chances, saying that he can't keep up with the "heads of state", but he does. He lost time the last two days but not enough to lose the overall lead. It'll be tough for him to hang on tomorrow, but that's what everyone said before today's stage.

I think it would be great for Andy Schleck to win, but I have to admit that I'm now pulling for Voeckler to win in a huge upset. I'm not confident that he can do it, but there's still a chance. Andy Schleck might be worn out from his hard effort today. Can he go off in another breakaway tomorrow? It will be tough. But even if Voeckler hangs on tomorrow, he may have problems in the time trial on Saturday. That's supposed to be his weakness. Schleck isn't the best time trialist either but he might be better than Voeckler.

Great stage today. Can't wait for tomorrow.

DaveK
07-21-2011, 10:19 PM
I'm still pulling for Cadel to win but Andy erased all the doubts today. Amazing performance.

Jsnyd
07-22-2011, 06:08 AM
Voeckler almost had me out of my seat literally cheering for him as I was sitting in my living room by myself. Yellow certainly does something to a rider. There have been a number of riders this tour that can really inspire and Tommy V is one of them. Schleck is a beast and I am excited to see him scale the mountains. He will most likely take the jersey after today if he has a repeat performance.

Dirt
07-22-2011, 06:51 AM
Everyone pretty much pushed themselves to and beyond their limits yesterday..... except Frank. I wonder who is going to go on the attack today?

How about the green jersey race?? Cav gets busted 20 points for finishing outside the time limit and Rojas is back close to the jersey. It prolly won't last for Rojas, but we can always hope. :D

Dirt
07-22-2011, 07:09 AM
The Schleck double-whammy really is hammering Cuddles quite a bit. It is going to make for a great last few days of the tour.

PotomacCyclist
07-22-2011, 12:25 PM
Contador finally made a run, but it's too little, too late. He's still far behind the other top contenders. Even though he's a great time trialist, tomorrow's stage isn't long enough to pick up that kind of time on Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans. The race is STILL wide open. It's really going to come down to the wire. Schleck has the lead but Evans is the better time trialist. Evans is good enough that Contador doesn't have a realistic shot at winning his 4th title.

Voeckler made a good run but the Alpe d'Huez was just too much for him. It's unlikely that he'll even get a podium spot now. I was hoping that he would have been able to salvage a podium spot, at the very least. He is not considered to be a great time trialist so he won't be catching up to Evans and even Schleck. Contador might have a shot at the podium, but not first place, unless something really goes wrong with Schleck and Evans (bike mechanical problems, leg cramps).

Cavendish is getting crushed by the mountains. I think he missed the time cutoff again today. But I think Rojas also missed the cutoff so Cavendish may still be in the green jersey.

Just one real stage left, with Sunday being largely ceremonial. I don't really get that. Why is the last stage of a hard-fought sports competition a ceremonial one? If they want it to be a coronation ride, then just make it an untimed easy 20-mile ride into Paris. No need for the charade of timing that stage if no one is going to compete that day. That's my one criticism of the Tour de France. It's like having the 9th inning of the 7th game of the World Series being ceremonial, or the final two minutes of the Super Bowl be a celebration instead of a dogfight.

Dirt
07-22-2011, 12:46 PM
Cool day in the tour today.

DaveK
07-22-2011, 04:07 PM
Cool day in the tour today.

+1

Maybe it's a cleaner sport making for closer racing, who knows, but this year's Tour has been more exciting than any in recent memory. Another great stage of racing today.

I'll just leave this here -

http://i.imgur.com/8QyjP.jpg

Dirt
07-22-2011, 06:04 PM
The tour starts tomorrow. LOL

PotomacCyclist
07-23-2011, 04:29 AM
Contador really doesn't like it when the spectators get close. He did the same thing last year, punching at a guy who was too close to him.

By the way, I came across this freakish picture of George Hincapie's legs. Well, more like a picture of his incredible varicose vein problem.

WARNING: Not for sensitive viewers. It's not a Photoshopped picture but it might be disturbing to some people.

http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-5/photos/180969

PotomacCyclist
07-25-2011, 09:15 AM
Congrats to Cadel Evans as the first Australian ever to win the Tour de France. He deserved the win for his smart strategic planning throughout the entire race. He knew when he had to chase and when he could afford to lay back and let others tire themselves out.

Andy Schleck may have put too much into that long solo breakaway on Galibier in the Alps. Thomas Voeckler had a great run, but he too made a tactical error in the Alps, trying to go it alone for a long stretch on the last Alpine stage. So close.

Can't wait until next year, when the competition should be good again. In addition to current favorites like Evans, the Schleck brothers, Contador (if he survives the UCI appeal of his doping test from last year) and maybe even Voeckler, rising stars like Pierre Rolland could challenge for the title.

***
If you need to see more elite road cycling action, tune in for the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Aug. 22-28, from Colorado. Both Andy and Frank Schleck have confirmed that they will participate. They are trying to convince Cadel Evans to join them for the new race up in the Rockies. Versus will cover the race.