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

  1. #1
    PotomacCyclist is offline I spend all day thinking about bikes and talking to people on the internet about them.
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    Default Tour de France update and discussion thread: Because it involves bikes. (long post)

    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.
    Last edited by PotomacCyclist; 07-17-2011 at 08:32 PM.

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    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

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    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

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    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.

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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eminva View Post

    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.

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    PotomacCyclist is offline I spend all day thinking about bikes and talking to people on the internet about them.
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    For Facebook users, you can browse through the daily photo galleries on the Tour de France page:

    http://www.facebook.com/media/albums...03512969698091

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    PotomacCyclist is offline I spend all day thinking about bikes and talking to people on the internet about them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by acc View Post
    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).
    Last edited by PotomacCyclist; 07-17-2011 at 09:19 PM.

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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jsnyd View Post
    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.

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