Saturday, July 19, 2014


Saturday July 19, 2014

177k from Grenoble to Risoul; High Alps; cat-1 summit finish.
Weather: High 80s f , cloudy; much cooler at elevation.

Rafal Valls (LAM) has abandoned.

172 riders on the road today.

A 17-man escape group has formed:
Rodriguez, Roche, Rogers, Majka, Sagan, De Marchi, Thomas, Nieve, Kruijswijk, Gautier, Moinard, Edet, Taaramae, Serpa, Yates, Herrada, Riblon, Timmer.

Most of the break are expected names, but noticeably absent is Thomas Voeckler.
I would have thought that the Europcar star would make the break to battle for mountain jersey points today, and perhaps the win...

The leaders build a three-minute lead.

Stage 14 race profile

-134k: Nieve punctures

No one bothers to contest the sprint with Sagan.
km40: INT:
1. Sagan  [no other green jersey contenders in the top 15]

Vincenzo Nibali's entire Astana team ride at the head of the peloton as they start the long climb up to the Col du Lautaret...

Friday, July 18, 2014


Stage 14 on Saturday will look something like Friday's, only tougher. At 177k, it is shorter than stage 13, but has a lot of climbing. Most of the stage goes uphill, except for a very few flat sections, like the approximately 10k flat around La Paute and Bourg-d'Oisans. That's where the intermediate sprint point is located, just about 40k into the stage. We'll see some action there. Sagan would have a better chance than most of the sprinters at capitalizing on that INT.

The treacherous trio on stage 14

Bourg-d'Oisans is a launch pad for some epic mountains, Like Alpe d'Huez, The Col de la Croix de Fer and Les Deux Alpes. Stage 14 will make it's way out of Bourg-d'Oisans skipping Huez, and head east. Then the peloton go up, up, and more up, to the first KOM summit of the day: the 34k-long, category-1 Col du Lautaret. The first two-thirds is easier than the last 10k or 11k, and it never gets really steep at all, but it's a long time to be going up, and it will put some hurt into a lot of legs that will have two more big, bad climbs still ahead of them.

The Lautaret tops out at about 2058 meters, the highest point the race has seen so far. Then comes the long descent that leads to the second challenge of the day: The Hors Categorie Col d'Izoard. This beautiful climb is a Tour favorite--and one of mine as well. At 2360 meters of elevation (or about 7740 feet) it is the highest point in the 2014 Tour. It's characteristic serpentine switchbacks and distinctive exposed summit has become somewhat emblematic as a French Alp Tour de France climb.

Profile of the Col d'Izoard
The Col d'Izoard is officially 19k at 6%. It has a couple of brief respites in the first half, but the final 9k offer no breaks, and rise fairly steadily at grades of between 7.5% and 9% most of the way. The first rider over the summit wins the " Souvenir Henri Desgrange" prize, in honor of the father of the Tour De France. I think it usually comes with 5000 Euros or so.

Then a long descent to the final climb of the day: The cat-1 Risoul climb. This is the Risoul's first time as a finish climb in the Tour De France. It runs 12.6k and averages 6.9%. The summit and finish line are at 1855 meters up, and it has about an 880m drop.

If you've been doing the math, you see that the categorized climbs on Saturday's stage 14 add up to over 65k of climbing. There is even more climbing than that, but that's just the measured ones. The first 82 kilometers are almost entirely uphill, as you can see in the profile, so it will be a war of attrition out there tomorrow.  The riders will also have to go through some severe weather changes as they climb through the heat, up to the cold alpine climate above the treeline, and down, and up again and again. With bronchial infections going around the peloton, we will probably see some more riders getting sick, and maybe dropping out. That cold air can get to ya.

Profile of the final climb, and new finish

Well, I dropped the ball on Porte today, but pretty much everything and everyone else I mentioned and predicted about the stage came true. [I scored very high in my cycling fantasy games!] I even said that Majka could have a go, and sure enough, he made his moves and finished the stage in 2nd place! He had been sort of anonymous and unimpressive in the peloton the first two weeks. Usually a great talent in the hills (He finished this year's Giro d'Italia in sixth place overall), I think that--with or without Alberto Contador--Tinkoff Saxo planned to save Majka for the big mountains. I think I recall in 2012, in the Vuelta a España, Team Movistar saving the young Colombian Nairo Quintana until very late in the game, to become Valverde's top lieutenant in the high mountains.

Rafal Majka follows Leopold Konig on stage 13
So, what about today's picks?
Picking Nibali would be too easy. In fact, maybe the real question should be how much is Nibali going to win by? He would certainly love to put another minute or two in his pocket before the race hits the Pyrenees...

Tejay, Valverde, Pinot, Konig and Bardet have been great in the mountains. They all need to attack Nibali, but who can beat him across the line at this point?
I want to say Pinot or Valverde or Van Garderen, but they are all a step behind NIbali right now.
So, I will pick Joaquim Rodriguez to win from the break.

Long[er] shot pick: Mikel Nieve from SKY. He didn't finish so well on Friday on the Chamrousse, but SKY may want to make a statement after what happened to their first replacement leader. Give Nieve a long leash, and he just might pull it off.

I would not be surprised to see Thomas Voeckler and Purito Rodriguez doing their best to get into a breakaway, and chase those mountain points; and the summit finishes all get double points, so that's incentive to go for the win, too.

There you go.

Enjoy the race!


Stage 13 Report

197.5k from Saint-Étienne to Chamrousse. High mountains; HC summit finish.
Weather: Clear skies; Hot, high 80s f.

Stage 13 forays into the Alps

Matteo Trentin was relegated from 6th to 60th place on stage 12, after his crooked sprint in the finish, which blocked out John Degenkolb. Trentin made a public and genuine apology for the illegal move, which he said was not intentional.

Arthur Vichot (FDJ) abandoned the race today, due to bronchitis.

To the road:

A 9-man breakaway group has gotten clear. The break includes:
Bakelants, Visconti, Durasek, Brice Feillu, Oss, Kadri, De Marchi, Molard, and Huzarski.

Van Den Broeck and Kittel have been down on the ground, before the race came on the air.

*Visconti was first over the first cat-3 KOM, and Kadri was second.

Katusha are driving at the front of the peloton.

By km85 the lead is almost five minutes.
They have averaged 44 kph (27 mph) over the first two hours on the road.

Stage 13 profile shows two long climbs

-97k: The lead is 3:50.

-96k: Cofidis leader Daniel Navarro is off the bike getting attention on the roadside. He has been ill with bronchitis, and is now climbing into the team car with a painful grimace on his face. The Spanish climber's race is over.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Stage 13 destination: Chamrousse
Stage 13 Preview:

Tomorrow: The Alps arrive! The cat-1 Col de Palaquit is a Tour first-timer as the first climb in the Alps. It's about 14k at just over 6% average. But a short descent of about 2k in length interrupts the climb after the first 3kms, so the actual 12k of climbing includes some much steeper sections. 

Stage 13 enters the Alps

The 200-k long stage finishes at 1730m up, on the Chamrousse. It is an HC climb at 18.2k long, with a 7.3% average gradient. Most of the steepest sections come early on the climb, but after 180k of racing in the heat and sun, and after the long Palaquit climb, riders will have to pace themselves carefully, or risk going into the red too soon.

It is expected to be another very hot day tomorrow, over 90 f. For this reason, the GC favorites may decide not to burn too much fuel till the finish. This could allow a strong breakaway the chance to succeed. Though what we usually see, and what I expect we'll see tomorrow, is the GC teams timing it so that they catch the break on, or just before, the final climb. Then the top climbers will see who's got the best legs at the summit finish, and will try to improve their overall positions in a tight race for the podium. 

The next two days are strictly for the mountain goats. Froome, Contador, and Talansky are gone, and Nibali still has a nice two-minute cushion at the top of the leader board. But we know that anything can happen in a 3-week tour, and just one day, when a rider is not at his best, or he hits a small crack in the road, or accidentally touches wheels with another rider, can change the entire complexion and outcome of the race.

The HC Chamrousse climb profile
Most, if not all of the riders currently in the top 10 overall, have been fairly evenly matched in the few mountains we have seen so far. But this is when the dents and scratches and nuances start to separate the conditions of the riders from each other. I expect we will continue to have a hot battle for GC positions all the way to the end. Then, of course comes the race of truth...

I really think that Nibali could win the stage on Friday if he wants, and the others will have to attack him to try and rein him in. Richie Porte and Alejandro Valverde seem best able to challenge Nibali now. Then Bardet, Peraud, Pinot and Van Garderen seem sort of evenly matched at a close, but second tier. In optimal circumstances all of them, along with Mollema, Van Den Broeck, Fuglsang, Kwiatkowski, Rui Costa, Chris Horner, Haimar Zubeldia, Leo Konig, and Pierre Rolland are really all top-tier GC contenders, but there is only so much room at the top.

Their fitness levels right now suggest that the current top three on GC may be a cut above the rest, but a quick look at the standings shows that a mere 2:16 separates the second and tenth place riders. Those gaps should start to grow tomorrow, and some riders will overtake others' positions, and some will fall.
Mollema seems to be looking better since his illness, so I would definitely not count him out. Bardet and Peraud look great, as do Tejay and Pinot, so no matter what, we will be treated to a good fight.

Nibali said that he will attack the others in the mountains when he can. He knows that he is not the best at the time trial, and he will want as big a cushion as he can get when the race gets to Bergerac on stage 20. So rather than just follow the wheels of your nearest challengers, when you have a cozy lead, Nibali says he will be active. It's really up to his rivals, though, to bring the race to him.

Nibali and Porte are the top two on GC.  Photo: AP
I expect we'll see guys try to get into the breakaways in the Alps like Edet, Cherel, Riblon, Voeckler, Westra, Bakelants, Roy, Kadri, and maybe Rein Taaramae--certainly Cofidis and Europcar will have something going. Maybe high profile guys like Roche, Rogers, or even Majka will have a go, since no one on the Saxo team is within 45 minutes of the race lead. Rogers is their highest placed currently, at 41st and 47:48 off the pace.

Finally never forget Purito Rodriguez. He is the current King of the Mountains jersey wearer, and says he will pursue the overall in that competition. He may try to get into a break in either or both of the Alps stages to grab more points, and maybe have a chance to try for a stage win. I think stage 14 suits the Spaniard a little better than 13.

My pick for stage 13:
Team SKY replacement-captain, and ex-triathlete, the Tasmanian Richie Porte.

Longshot pick:
I hope to see attacks from Rolland, Horner, Gadret and Konig in the Alps, among others, so I'll pick one of my favorite riders: American Chris Horner of the Italian Lampre-Merida team.

TDF Stage 12 Report and Results 2014 Tour De France

Stage 12 Race Report - as it happened:

Stage 12 on the map
185.5k from Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Étienne
Rolling; 4 low-grade climbs on the way. Fast, flat finish.

Weather: Sunny and hot, 89f. Very little wind.

178 riders took the start today.
DNS: Andrew Talansky ; despite yesterday's valiant effort, the American was not able to continue in the race.

A 4-man break leads on the road: Rast (TFR), Clarke (OGE), Vachon (BSE). De La Cruz (TNE).
They build about a six-minute advantage over the first 40k.

Sebastian Langeveld (GRS) connects up with the lead group, and we've got a 5-man breakaway group now. But their lead is coming down...

*km 39.5: INT (Romaneche Thorins):
1. Vachon  2. Rast  3. Clarke  4. De La Cruz  5. Langeveld  6. Kittel  7. Coquard  8. Renshaw  9. Feillu  10. Greipel  11. Sagan  12. Sabatini  13. Viviani  14. Veelers  15. Gene

Stage 12 profile

-130k: The break has a 3:45 advantage over the peloton. It seems early for the peloton to be chasing down the break, but the teams have their strategies. Sprinters' teams who hope to contest the finish will want to keep the break on a reasonably tight leash. Giant Shimano are driving the pace now.

 TO CONTINUE, click on "Read more..." in blue, just below these words.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

TDF STAGE 11 REPORT and RESULTS 2014 Tour De France

Stage 11 Report:

Stage 11 on the map

1100 miles and the first rest day behind the riders, the race is about half over (in distance)

187.5k from Besancon to Oyonnax (still in the Jura); rolling.
Weather: mostly clear and sunny; significantly warmer, 80 f.

DNS: Fabian Cancellara (said he wants to rest before training for the Worlds in Spain, which are in about nine and a half weeks).

If you are like me then you spent a significant amount of time last night reading all the news and tweets about Contador's broken bike. So, I won't beleaguer the point. Just to say, a not-so-simple chain of events took place wherein Berto crashed, and one of his bikes got smashed. The frame was broken on the top tube and on the down tube, with very little other damage or other marks. Team Tinkoff's final word is that Alberto was not riding the bike that broke. They say the broken bike was caused when the Tinkoff-Saxo car brushed past the Belkin Team car, and the bikes on the roof racks got tangled and snapped Alberto's spare bike frame. It was like "Bike-gate" on the social media sites, but I am perfectly content to believe the publicized story, and get on with the race. Bicycles certainly do overlap the top edges of the vehicles, so it is entirely plausible that bicycles on top of two parallel cars could get tangled up. My question is: Why haven't we seen more of that?

Unfortunately the race will go on without the explosive attacking of the Spanish 5-time grand tour champion, Alberto Contador. 179 riders took the start today for stage 11.

Here is a list, by stage, of all the riders who have abandoned the race so far:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stage 11 Preview 2014 Tour De France

Stage 11 Preview 2014 Tour de France
187.5k from Besancon to Oyonnax; rolling.
Moving south, from the Vosges to the Jura...

*Fabian Cancellara has withdrawn from the race to get some rest before he gets on with training for the World Championships in September.

Stage 11 profile
A few small hills toward the back end of the stage on Wednesday may encourage some attacks, but many sprinters could be around to contest the finish if they choose to chase down the breaks. There is a 15-k descent to the finish in Oyonnax, so expect a fast and furious race at the end, with stage hunters trying to keep the sprinters' teams at bay. I expect to see Peter Sagan at the finish, ready to add more points to his lead in the green jersey competition. Arnaud Demare (FDJ) is another sprinter who could eat up that finish if he's got the legs.

The rolling 40k that precede the final 15k, could be ideal for riders like Rui Costa or Alejandro Valverde to try and get away from the other GC contenders and maybe gain some time, but it is more likely that the GC contenders will let the fast men duke this one out. The GC guys have the summit finishes on stages 13 and 14 to think about. Also, race leader Vincenzo Nibali would not be easy to drop on this parcours.

Assuming the sprint teams do not control the race on Wednesday, several talented and ambitious riders could have a go at the stage win:

Both Tom (Giant-Shimano) and Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R) could be eyeing this stage. I am also looking at JJ Rojas of Movistar, Greg Van Avermaet and Daniel Oss of BMC, Sylvain Chavanel of the pro-conti IAM team, and Lars Boom (who won already, on the demanding cobbled stage 5 course) and Sep Vanmarcke of the Dutch Belkin team.

Just for kicks, here is a list of other candidates, by team, whom I think could be eyeing this stage:

Katusha have options with Porsev and Paolini if Kristoff doesn't make it to contest the sprint finish;

Big, amiable Jens Voigt of the Trek team, is not a bad bet.  I'd like to see Jensie throw caution to the wind again, and have a try at tomorrow's course.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Daniele Bennati, Matteo Tosatto, or Michael Morkov try to get into the break for Tinkoff-Saxo. They will want to be looking for new race options now that their GC leader, Contador is gone.

The entire Orica GreenEdge Team is loaded with viable candidates for the next couple of stages. Simon Gerrans' fifth place finish on stage 7 is the best result that the Aussie team has put up so far in this race, so they need to get something done. Michael Albasini might be their best bet.

Terpstra (OPQ) and Chavanel (IAM) attacked on stage 8
Andrey Grivko (Astana) could likely get into the break if he's feeling good.

Besides Sagan, Cannondale have a couple of riders who are itching for an opportunity to try their luck: Elia Viviani--a very good sprinter himself--and Marco Marcato, who could be a good breakaway candidate.

Niki Terpstra or Michal Golas might find the legs for Omega Pharma tomorrow.

Romain Feillu of the wildcard Bretagne-Seche squad is a sprinter who would enjoy a shot at a stage win, particularly if the big sprinters' teams aren't around at the end. Another option for them could be Anthony Delaplace.

Garmin-Sharp have several potential options for stages 11 and 12. I wouldn't be surprised to see Jack Bauer try to make the break.

Normally, I would select Arthur Vichot for a stage like tomorrow's, but his form hasn't looked great to me lately. FDJ have other possibilities, like Jeremy Roy, who can try his luck on almost any terrain.

Green Jersey leader Peter Sagan
Lotto Belisol is chock-full-of options. Greipel will probably try to be there for the finish, but if not, then Jurgen Roelandts and Lars Bak are both well-versed in fast, technical finishes.

Maybe Kevin Reza of Europcar will get a chance to ride for himself tomorrow if Bryan Coquard isn't there at the end.

I don't think we have seen Julien Simon get into a break yet. The French Cofidis rider was fourth at the French National Championships a couple weeks ago.

For NetApp, Paul Voss is a good breakaway candidate; and Zak Dempster has a fast finish.

OK. So, who am I picking for stage 11?
Not going out on any limbs, I am sticking with the powerful Peter Sagan.
My "lonshot" pick is Danny Oss of BMC.

Monday, July 14, 2014

TDF Stage 10 Report and Results 2014 Tour De France

Stage 10 Report:

Stage 10 on the map
Monday July 14, 2014
Bastille Day
161.5k from Mulhouse to La Planche Des Belles Filles;
High mountains, mountaintop finish (mtf)

Rain has passed for now, and it is partly clear at the start, temps in the mid 60s. The finish line atop the summit is shrouded in rain and clouds early, but may clear later.

Today is the first real mountaintop finish...and it's Bastille Day. Most of the parcours is up and down; very little flat road. On paper, it is the toughest stage the riders have seen, so far. It should be a good GC battle before the first rest day on Tuesday. Seven categorized climbs are featured on stage 10. Four of them are category-1 climbs, including the summit finish atop the Planche des Belles Filles (5.9k at 8.5%).

The remaining 183 riders leave the start town of Mulhouse. They have 20k of flat roads to start the day, before all the climbing begins.

Shortly after the neutralized opening kms, the attacks begin.
*Ten riders are off the front, and trying to form a viable break. The peloton lets them go.

Stage 10 Profile

The first seven riders clear are Westra (AST), Voeckler (EUR), Moinard (BMC), Irizar (TFR), Visconti (MOV), Gerard (BSE), and Riblon (ALM). A handful of others are chasing them. 
TO READ ON, CLICK ON THE TINY BLUE WORDS "Read more" just below.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

TDF Stage 9 Report Results and Standings 2014 Tour De France

STAGE 9 Report:

Stage 9 on the map

170k Continuing through the Vosges, from Gérardmer to Mulhouse.
Mountains; flat finish.

Six categorized climbs today, the last summit comes with about 40k to go to the finish (20k of descending, and the final 20k are flat).
Weather: overcast with chance of rain; mid 60s f.

Today should favor a breakaway.

Right from the gun, the pace is high...
Peter Sagan is an early escapee. He's reeled in soon however.
Brice Feillu gets a gap.

Halfway up the first climb, about 25 riders are out ahead of the pack now.
Purito Rodriguez and Thomas Voeckler are working hard in the break.
Stage 9 profile
*km 11.5: 1st KOM (cat-2):
Thomas Voeckler was first over the Col de la Schlucht.
1. Voeckler  2. Edet  3. Rodriguez  4. Dumoulin

The peloton are pulling back the chasers at the top of the climb.
Voeckler has moved into second place in the King of the Mountains jersey competition.

*Tony Martin (OPQ) and Alessandro De Marchi (CAN) have escaped, and at km 35 they have a :20 lead. 15-20 other riders are chasing them, and the peloton is about 1:15 back.

TO READ ON, JUST CLICK THE TINY WORDS "Read more" just below these words...