A Good Team Trial Always Shakes Things Up

Stage3-BMC-TTT-finish

The Team Time Trial (TTT) is a beautiful thing and it’s not always included in the Tour de France route. But this year it was, and day 3 of the Tour gave us clean riding (no crashes) and, as expected, big changes in the standings.

This year’s TTT was 35.5 km around the city of Cholet, and each team had to have 4 riders cross the finish line together to get a time.

Big congrats today goes to the BMC squad, who puts tons of focus and preparation into their team time trialing. They won the stage finishing 4 seconds faster than the always strong Team Sky in second and 7 seconds faster than a determined-to-make-up-for-stage-2-disappointment Quick-Step team in third.

This result certainly helped GC riders Ritchie Porte of BMC and Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome of Team Sky gain time on their rivals.

Adam Yates also got a much-welcomed boost in the standings from 73rd to 20th place thanks to a strong performance from his Mitchelton-Scott team in the team time trial.

Other GC contenders were badly hurt by the TTT: The Movistar riders lost 0:53 on the stage moving Nairo Quintana over 2 minutes back. A disappointing effort by the UAE team has 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali now 1:06 behind. The AG2R rider Luis Leon Sanchez, who was injured in a crash yesterday, had to withdraw from the Tour before the start of Stage 3 and the 1:15 time loss by his team today would suggest they felt his absence.

So… at the end of day 3, Greg Van Avermaet of team BMC is awarded the yellow jersey for being the highest ranked rider of his winning team, and it sounds like his strengths suit him well enough to hold onto that yellow jersey through the end of this first week. We can expect to see Team BMC riding hard to protect him.

Team Bora-Hansgrohe pushed as hard as they could to try to hold onto the yellow jersey but it wasn’t happening. Peter Sagan didn’t have the legs today and fell off the back around the second time check. Good news for Peter is he maintains his lead in the points competition and today he was awarded his 88th green jersey!

Tomorrow brings a long, flat stage so we’ll see the sprinters back in action.

You know who I’m cheering for!

 

 

 

Advertisements

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 sans Sagan: a comedy of errors?

So, believe it or not, the Tour is still happening. 😀 And UCI has extended their palmares of errors.

At least they corrected the most recent misstep — AFTER the video footage showed clear evidence of their mistake. (Was it really a mistake? Don’t answer that.)

Here’s what happened: UCI penalized 3 riders after stage 12 for picking up water bottles within 10k of the finish line, apparently a no-no. Problem for UCI came when video footage showed the stage 12 winner, French AG2R rider, Romain Bardet, also took a water bottle within 10k. That means, UCI had to either penalize the stage winner (and a  Frenchman, remember), or reverse the penalties on the other rides.

UCI chose to reverse the penalties and they issued a statement explaining that there was lack of water available to the riders before the last climb so due to these conditions, they were reversing the penalties to those 3 riders and the original finish results for stage 12 were reinstated. (I agree with this decision, possibly only because I’m also a fan of all of the riders involved.)

But how fun that this came up! Because there’s something that’s crossed my mind many times since stage 4 on July 4th.

If I close my eyes and allow my mind to really stretch and consider that just supposing the TdF jury rethinks their decision on the stage 4 incident (I said it’s a stretch!), what would be a fair and feasible way to make amends?

Well, as luck would have it, we can look at the 2015 Vuelta a Espana for some ideas.

At the 2015 Vuelta, Peter Sagan suffered cuts and burns to his leg when he was hit by a neutral race motorbike. After his heated reaction, he was fined by UCI for abusive language and for “behavior that damages the sport of cycling.” (Seems like a pretty natural response to get upset when you get hit by a vehicle, let alone in an officiated race where you don’t expect to be hit by a vehicle and where you were a favorite to win the race. It just seems like something that might have been forgiven. Again, it’s a stretch.)

In response to the penalty, though, Sagan’s Tinkoff-Saxo team sent an open letter to race organizers and UCI that included 5 requests, summarized as follows:

  1. A public apology for the motobike incident.
  2. A donation to the charity of team’s choice.
  3. Take concrete measures to improve safety for the riders.
  4. Revoke the fine to Sagan.
  5. A review of the rules for motobike drivers.

I think a public apology (for making the DQ decision without allowing the rider to defend his position as rules state) and a donation to the charity of the team’s choice would represent a good start for the 2017 Stage 4 DQ incident. I might also add:

  1. Initiate a review of the rules around disqualifications, possibly requiring a period of time to wait for evidence to be adequately reviewed.
  2. Fine Dimension Data team managers for acting unsportsmanlike in their accusations on social media (because seems damaging to the sport of cycling to NOT call that out).

And one more thing: Penalize Bouhanni a chunk of his Green Jersey points (I say 50) for his stage 10 behavior.

I know we’re in fantasy land right now, but what do you think?

 

Tour de Sagan: what would Tinkoff do?

Yesterday I mentioned French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni used to be a boxer. I should have said he still is a boxer.

In stage 10 of the TdF,  the Cofidis rider decided to “strike” a Quickstep Floors rider and later cut off another Quickstep rider.  “Oh wow!” you might be thinking, “a SECOND guy DQ’d from the Tour!”

“Oh sorry,” I would reply, “that would be too logical.”

From the UCI jury, Bouhanni got a $200 fine (I’ve seen library late fees higher than that), a 1 minute penalty (irrelevant for a sprinter), AND he kept all his green jersey points (the one place it might have hurt).  Sigh…

I wonder what Oleg Tinkoff would say?

Oh, I know…

“In a perfect world, I don’t see the UCI at all in this game. I think they should run the Olympics, the world championships, and maybe some youth sports.”       — Oleg Tinkoff, former owner and sponsor of Tinkoff cycling team*, in 2016 interview with NBCSports)

To be perfectly fair, it’s not exactly the same context, but I think it still applies.

You can watch the 2016 NBCSports interview with Tinkoff  here (it’s a real treat!) or read the transcript  here, and then decide for yourself.

And in case you’re wondering….

 

Tinkoff-Support-Sagan

 

Support-Sagan-Tinkoff

Duh.

 

*Peter Sagan raced for Tinkoff cycling team 2015 – 2016.