Stage 8: That’s 3 with 2!

We are 1/3 way through this Tour and the sprinters had their last shots today before moving into the cobbles of Stage 9 followed by a rest day.

Two Frenchman went out in a breakaway to try to make something special happen on the French national holiday of Bastille Day.

A nasty crash with about 15 km to go bloodied up stage 6 winner Dan Martin from UAE Team Emirates, and also involved Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe, KOM jersey leader Tom Skujins, and Team EF-Drapac rider Simon Clarke.

The breakaway riders were both swallowed up well before the finish, leaving it to French sprinter Arnaud Demare to try to claim the day for France.

With 5 km to go, Team Dimension Data was doing their part to set up Mark Cavendish for the sprint. Lotto Soudal for Andre Greipel, Quick-Step for Fernando Gaviria, FDJ for Arnaud Demare, and Team Sky just to keep their men safe were all organizing at the front of the peloton.

Meanwhile, Dan Martin’s UAE team was working hard to get him back up to the peloton as close as they could to minimize the time loss from that crash.

With 1 km to go, it was Lotto Soudal, Quick-Step, and FDJ taking charge at the front for their riders.

Sagan took an unexpected early leap out front and launched way ahead of Gaviria and Greipel who had some physical contact down the left side of the straight finish.

It was too early, though, for Sagan and he couldn’t hang on through the line. He was passed by both Greipel and Gaviria with Lotto Jumbo’s Dylan Groenewegen surging ahead of them all down the right side for a very strong SECOND win in a row.

That’s 3 sprinters with 2 wins this Tour so far. Sagan crossed the line in fourth.

There is speculation that Gaviria could be penalized for head-butting Greipel, so we’ll have to see how things shake out before the start of stage 9 on Sunday. And with Greipel and Groenewegen looking so strong, the green jersey could be in several men’s sights now.

As for the man in yellow, all those who bet on BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet to hold onto the yellow jersey to stage 9 can collect their winnings because Van Avermaet will start the much-anticipated and potentially tour-defining cobbles stage on Sunday in yellow.

It’s going to be tense and messy out there.

P.S. We love you.

And with Le Tour hitting 15 sectors of cobbles on Sunday’s Stage 9, it’s a good time to revisit Peter Sagan’s win at Paris-Roubaix earlier this year. Check out the highlights HERE and watch Sagan break away from the other contenders, conquer the cobbles and then win it in the velodrome.

Good luck on Sunday Peter!

 

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A Nail-Biter To The Finish: TdF Stage 4

With a long straight finish on a mostly flat stage today, conditions were prime for a battle royale between the big names in sprinting.

Four riders who went out in an early breakaway almost spoiled that party, though. They rode out front for 192 of the 195 km distance, fought headwinds near the end, and it sure looked close as the peloton was still 1:22 behind with 12 km to go.

Since Quick-Step has the strongest sprinter and sprint team, none of the other teams were helping them do the work to drive the push to catch the breakaway at the front of the peloton. If Gaviria is going to win the sprint anyway, why should they help him get there? And if the other teams do force Quick-Step to do the work of pulling the peloton, then better chance of them having worn out legs and less kick for the final sprint.

The engine of the peloton can ride over 20 km/hour faster than a small breakaway group, but with the peloton not cooperating, NBC reporter and 17-time TdF rider Jens Voigt was certain the breakaway riders would still beat them to the finish line.

And then with 5 km to go, there was a big crash that split the peloton and caused me to hold my breath until I saw Peter Sagan (I mean all the main sprinters) were clear. (Note: I never want anyone injured!) It looked like Jens could be right!

Just before the final kilometer, the breakaway was caught, and boy, did we get a stellar show of the top sprinters battling it out on the final straightaway.

Quick-Step did have the legs to lead their man out in perfect position, Sagan was there, and the great German sprinter Andre Greipel came from behind with a surprise jump to the front that looked like it could work out for him.

Gaviria’s ability to kick twice if he needs to (and he needed to) were too much for Greipel to hold off and for Sagan to catch. Gaviria crossed the line first about half a wheel ahead of Sagan who edged out Greipel for second.

Want to see it? (Of course you do!) Click HERE  and watch for Gaviria and his lead-out man in blue, Sagan in the green jersey and Greipel surging from way back in red. (And imagine me yelling, “Go Sagan, Go Sagan, Go Sagan, C’mon! Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go!”)

That makes 2 stage wins for Gaviria and he closed the gap on the green jersey race to just 4 points behind Sagan. The race for the green jersey will be just as exciting as the yellow jersey race this year.

 

P.S. We love you.*

Today’s P.S. edition comes from another pre-race interview with the man currently in green. Reporter Steve Porino asked Sagan about stage 3 and the fact that he dropped off the back of his team early in the stage. Sagan wagged it off as a “bad day”.

Porino asked Sagan if anything had gone wrong to cause the bad day, there was word something in the warm-up wasn’t quite right. Sagan didn’t flinch.

Porino went for the follow-up question: How do you stay so relaxed when the pressure is on like this?

Sagan answered: What is pressure?

(So perfect! 🙂

* P.S. We love you. is an ongoing i.heart.july highlight reel of all things Sagan.

Stage 2: OM! EM! GEE! SAGAN!!

Eighty years ago, the reigning pro-cyclist world champion Éloi Meulenberg won in the city of La Roche-sur-Yon, and on Sunday, it happened again with current world champion Peter Sagan taking the Stage 2 win in the same city. (Yesssssss!!)

The final kilometers of stage 2 provided the chaos needed to throw off Quick-Step’s formidable sprint team as a crash at the sharp right turn with 2 km to go caught up their team leader (and stage 1 winner) Fernando Gaviria and a bevy of other riders, including sprinter Michael Matthews.

Sagan’s trademark patience and power along with strong help from his Bora-Hansgrohe teammates paid off for him. Sagan will start Stage 3 in the yellow jersey, and he also takes the lead in the green jersey (points) competition.

Crashes

Meanwhile, earlier crashes occurring during the last 35 kilometers of stage 2 caused delay and disappointment for other riders:

Luis Leon Sanchez, the Spanish rider for team Astana, went down hard at a round-a-bout leaving him pretty ripped up and bloody and unable to continue the race. He’s a strong time-trialist so his team is going to sorely miss him in the Stage 3 team time trial on Tuesday.

Adam Yates, Mitchelton-Scott team leader, got disrupted yesterday by a crash that split the peloton, and today he went down himself. While he didn’t appear too physically affected, 2 setbacks in a row like that have to be a mental hit, one I hope he can overcome because he should be exciting to watch in the mountain stages.

Silvan Dillier, a main man for AG2R team leader Roman Bardet, went down hard as well. After limping for a bit and looking like he would be another to abandon the day’s stage, he got back on his bike to continue. We’ll have to see how he’s affected in the coming days.

The only Ethiopian rider in the Tour, Tsgabu Grmay from the Trek-Segafredo team, did not start Stage 2 due to severe stomach pain.

All of these misfortunes plus the American Lawson Craddock still riding injured, while not uncommon to the first week of the Tour, do make me question the wisdom of race organizers reducing team sizes this year from 9 to 8 riders. I believe at least part of their strategy is to reduce the size of the peloton for safety reasons and that could be a good idea. But, man, when riders start going down or getting sick (and they always do), it sure makes things tight. When you have a sprinter to lead-out or a general classification (GC) contender to support through the mountain stages, or a team trial (Hello, stage 3!), you need as many of your strongest riders as possible to go the distance.

French Pride

Returning to the brighter side of things, French rider Sylvain Chavanel of the Direct Energie team, riding in his 18th TdF at 39 years of age, rode solo for over 100 miles in a one-man-breakaway and was aptly awarded the most combative (or aggressive) rider jersey. That’s a long haul and a lot of work alone, and he made the French proud today,

GC Contenders

And finally, here’s how the general classification (GC) contenders I am watching are looking at the end of Stage 2.  Keep in mind, there is so much Tour left and anything can happen, so mostly this is interesting to note to watch for who can recover time and when. We will see some significant changes after the team time trial.

  • Alejandro Valverde, Mikel Landa, Romain Bardet, Rigoberto Uran, Rafal Majka, Tom Doumalin, and Jakob Fuglsang are all down 0:16.
  • Ritchie Porte, Chris Froome, and Adam Yates are 1:07 back.
  • Nairo Quintana is 1:31 behind after that flat tire and (in my unabashed opinion) team abandonment yesterday.

P.S. We love you.*  

Or, in this case, P.S. Oleg Tinkoff loves you.

This P.S. comes from stage 2 of the 2016 Tour De France, which was the last Tour Sagan raced for Oleg’s team Tinkoff. Oleg Tinkoff is passionate about cycling and passionate about business, and he drove Peter hard. The owner and rider’s relationship was even questioned during Peter’s tenure with the team because of Tinkoff’s expectations and harsh comments that made news. They worked it out, though, which I credit to Sagan’s genuineness and his ability to stay humble, cool and confident, what I call “the Zen of Peter”. That makes watching Oleg celebrate Peter’s victory here oh so sweet! HERE it is.

I’m pretty sure he says, “F- them! F- them all!” (which is why I love Oleg so much too!)

Enjoy!

* P.S. We love you. is the i.heart.july continuing tribute to the spirit of Peter Sagan.

And They’re Off… TdF 2018 Stage 1 Recap

After what seemed like a cascade of crashes in the last 10 km, stage 1 goes to the Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria of the Quick-Step team finishing just ahead of Peter Sagan. History, and the fact that he’s got the best sprint team behind him, would say this win for Gaviria means it’s going to be his tour, as far as the sprinter’s go.

At the 1.5 km mark, Gaviria had five Quick-Step riders leading him out. No other team came close to that. Sagan expertly free-lanced as usual, but with the amount of fire-power generated by his team and the fact that Gaviria is just wicked fast and can hold it  longer than any other sprinter, it was too much for Sagan to overcome. I believe Sagan is happy with a second place finish today AND to have been spared from those crashes.

GC contenders Ritchie Porte, Adam Yates, and Chris Froome all crossed the finish line in a second group losing about 50 seconds on their GC competitors due to those aforementioned crashes. Froome himself went down, but recovered quickly and didn’t  look too beat up. Nevertheless, a crash is a crash and he’ll be riding with some pain over the next few days.

Nairo Quintana ended up down even further due to a flat tire outside the 3 km neutralization zone. (Any incident that causes a rider to lose time within 3 km of the finish automatically receives the same time as the finishing group. This did not work in Quintana’s favor today. Nor did the fact that there are 2 other leaders on his team! I didn’t see one Movistar rider help bring Quintana back into a main group.)

American Lawson Craddock had the ugliest spill with a busted up eye and a hurt shoulder but he finished the stage and so far no withdrawal notice on him.

So it’s Gaviria in yellow entering Stage 2 where we’ll get to see the sprint teams battle it out again over the 182.5 km course in western France. (Gaviria also took the first green and white jersey spot.)

Speaking of jersey winners, the podium girls are back afterall! I’ll have to research what happened with that because a few months ago all the outlets spilled that the Tour de France was following Formula 1 in eliminating them from the sport. Stand by…


Introducing… P.S. We love you.

Last year, my inaugural Tour de France blogging session was interrupted by the crash at Stage 4 involving Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan. Because the decision to DQ Sagan was so controversial (and in my opinion a huge UCI blunder) and because Sagan provides so much dynamism, inspiration, and animation to the Tour, I kept Sagan in MY 2017 Tour by dedicating the rest of my 2017 TdF blogging to Peter Sagan.

This year, I’m keeping that going with the introduction of P.S. We love you. — an i.heart.july blog exclusive feature that highlights the spirit of Sagan.

Today’s P.S. We Love You. is from an interview before Stage 1 in which reporter Steve Schlanger does his best to get the inside scoop from Sagan.

Steve Schlanger (SS): What’s your strategy for today’s sprint?

PS: I have never some strategy. I’m going by moment.

SS: When you decide to look for that key moment, how does it play out in your head?

PS: Well, you have to feel it.

SS: What is that feeling based off of? What kind of instinct? What tells you now it’s time to go?

PS: I think a lot of things you cannot learn. You have to have insight, or you have to feel it, by the moment, by heart, by your decision. It’s not about I’m going to teach you how to do it.

Paul Liggett: Good try Steve, but Peter never does give much away.”

Haha!

 

 

 

 

Le Tour 2018

It’s my most favorite time of the year once again… just hours from the start of Stage 1 of the 2018 Tour de France.

I’m excited to be watching from Colorado again this year, and for a much longer period time. (Last year I was in Denver for a few days of the Tour, and this year I’ve got a full 2 weeks in the mile-high city.)

Now, to more important things… Peter Sagan. 😀

Just kidding. (sort of)

After he was “outrageously” DQ’d last year, Sagan is back with the Bora-Hansgrohe team and I believe hungry for redemption. The world champion will certainly be exciting to watch as he’s got some new competition from the next “generation” of rising star sprinters this year, Cavendish is focused on winning 4 stages to tie Eddie Merckx’s record 34 stage wins, and there’s a cobbles stage completing in Roubaix, where Sagan won impressively earlier this year.

But wait, there’s more! This year’s Tour holds A LOT to be excited about. Here’s a list from off the top of my head:

  • Will Mark Cavendish really be thinking “about the consequences more” and NOT crash?
  • The 65 km mountain Stage 17, the shortest stage in the last 30 years
  • The cobbles of Stage 9
  • The absence of the podium girls — will they be missed? (I, for one, will miss the opportunity to opine on the always interesting podium fashion.)
  • Ritchie Porte making a comeback after his nasty fall last year, and will he really have what it takes to land on top of the podium finally?
  • Chris Froome going for his 5th Tour win plus he has won the last 3 Grand Tours in a row (TdF 2017, Vuelta Espana 2017, and the Giro d’Italia 2018)
  • Alpe D’Huez
  • BMC’s team time trial will be one to watch with stiff competition from teams Sky and Quick-Step (Stage 3)
  • Movistar team sending 3 GC riders to this year’s Tour: who will take over when?
  • Can Marcel Kittel get his form back with Team Katusha?
  • So. Many. Top. Sprinters. New guys to watch: Quick-Step’s Fernando Gaviria and Team Lotto NL’s Dylan Groenewegen.
  • PETER SAGAN!! (and he’s going for his 6th green jersey)

Here’s to an epic Tour no matter who your favorite rider is!

Peter Sagan - Amgen Tour of CA
Peter Sagan at the 2018 Amgen Tour of California, Stage 1Chi

 

 

Tour de Sagan: the finale

And now we get to the real reason Sagan won me over…

Peter and I share a hopeless devotion to the movie GREASE!

When he was young, Sagan had thought about being an actor (remember this?). While his paychecks probably come primarily from sponsorships and winning bike races, it seems he hasn’t given up on his acting aspirations.

And what a fun couple he and his wife, Katarina Smolkova, make! Here’s what she has to say about her Danny.

Thanks for another great Tour, Peter Sagan!

 

 

 

Tour de Sagan: guest post!

Today’s post comes courtesy of my future podcast partner (hint, hint), three-wheelin’ mischief maker and enigma to all who know him (at least to all those who know him that I know). Introducing, Sam I am… Peter Sagan.

Why is there a man taking his pants off in my house? Seriously, he doesn’t even have the decency to pick up after himself. He’s clearly been riding around town doing wheelies and god knows what else… probably showing everyone his confidence. I don’t need to see that!

When I’m laying on my bed, in the privacy of my own home, eating fist-fulls of goldfish crackers and watching the Tour, I’d like to know that a sweaty, homeless Slovakian man won’t just stroll into my house, get neked and hydrate himself with a bottle of delicious OSMO HYDRATION FOR MEN! (Now comes in raspberry twist and bubblegum crash, get yours today!)

There you have it… Sam I am, Everyone!

He supports Sagan too… I think.

We’ll have to find out in the podcast. Stay tuned for info.

I support Sagan.

 

 

 

Tour de Sagan: revisiting Rio

Even though my heart lies with road cycling, one of the things I was most excited about in last summer’s Rio Olympics was Peter Sagan competing in the mountain bike event.

Sagan is a former Junior World Champion mountain bike racer, and the road cycling event was not suited to his strengths, so when the Slovakian Olympic Committee decided he was their best chance at a high placing finish in the mountain bike event, he went for it.

So what happened?

Well, after riding in the top 3 for the first lap, Sagan got a tire puncture and had to ride most of the second lap on a flat tire to get to the pit area. Unlike road cycling, in mountain bike racing, there are no team cars following riders with spare wheels and bikes. Riders have to get to a pit area for repairs requiring outside assistance, so a mechanical issue presents a huge time loss.

It was still super fun to see him race in the dirt (once I finally found what channel and time to watch it!), and there’s no question he brought wider interest and new excitement to the sport (at least for that year).

Here’s a glimpse of Sagan in the Rio dirt. Look for his orange helmet and orange bike with light blue fork, and you’ll see him riding on a flat front tire around 1:35.

(Warning: The last 30 seconds or so is all falls and crashes so if that’s disturbing to you, stop the video around 2:00.)

 

 

 

 

Tour de Sagan: confidence

Uphills, downhills, crosswinds, finish sprints, breakaways… Peter Sagan takes it all on, making him the most versatile rider in the peloton.

Some call him arrogant. I used to be one of them (I used another word attached to that too). Now I believe he is pure confidence.

Confidence is worth celebrating.

Today, I celebrate Peter Sagan’s exciting 2015 and 2016 World Championship victories!

Goosebumps, anyone?

Here’s how he won in 2016…

 

Definition of confidence

  1. a :  a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances had perfect confidence in her ability to succeed met the risk with brash confidence

    b :  faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way have confidence in a leader

  2. :  the quality or state of being certain :  certitude they had every confidence of success

(from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/confidence)