Friday, July 25, 2014

TDF Stage 19 Race Report and Stage 20 ITT Preview 2014 Tour De France

Stage 19 Race Report:

Stage 19 on the map


208.5k from Maubourguet Pays du Val d'Adour to Bergerac; FLAT.

Weather: Rain and thunderstorms, 68f; Wind ~10mph

164 riders took the start on Friday. The rain seemed to follow the riders through the course.

A 5-man breakaway group escaped by km 15, and built a lead of about 3:30 early on:
Slagter, Gautier, Elmiger, Taaramae, and Gerard.
(All five riders succeeded in making it into multiple breakaways in this race; this was at least Gautier's 5th break (stages 9, 14, 16, 17, and 19).

By km75 the lead had been brought down to about 2:30. The peloton kept the gap at about 2:30 for the next 50k, and then started to reel the break in. Inside of 30k to go, Garmin Sharp's Tom Jelte Slagter attacked and broke away from the peloton. The early escapees were all swept up by the peloton by 20k to go, when Omega's Jan Bakelants attacked from the bunch.

Profile of stage 19; northward

Garmin had more cards to play, clearly intent on making something happen today. Alex Howes attacked, but was soon brought back. Riders fought to be in front for the narrow, technical cat-4 hill that topped out with 13k to go to the finish. The rain fell heavily at times, probably dissuading more attackers.

Recidivist escapees: Gautier, Elmiger and Taaramae (R to L)
With about 13.5k to go, another Garmin rider, Navardauskas attacked and bridged up to his teammate Slagter, who still led the race about 10 or 15 seconds up the road. Slagter led Navardauskas over the KOM line at the top of the Côte de Montbazillac (1.3k at 7.6%), and then Navardauskas pushed on alone.

Navardauskas clung to a 12-second lead with 11k to go, but then started to gradually build it up until it leveled out between 22 and 24 seconds with about 7k left to the finish. Navardauskas slogged through heavy downpours, and as he crossed the Dordogne River with about 3k to go, the chasing peloton was gaining ground on him again.

Just inside of 3k to go, the peloton was chasing the Garmin rider through Bergerac, when a crash near the front of the peloton created a big pile-up. Many big names were involved, including Peter Sagan, Andre Greipel, Frank Schleck, Greg Van Avermaet, Romain Bardet, Leopold König, and more. Later Sagan apologized and took responsibility for the carnage, saying, "I crashed first". Known for his excellent bike-handling skills, Sagan was a big favorite to win on today's technical run-in.

The Tour's biggest fan watched the race go by today
A group of about 15 riders survived to chase after Navardauskas. They were at + :13 as the strong Lithuanian sped under the flamme rouge.

Navardauskas rounded a 90-degree left turn onto the soaked finish straight. He looked behind to see the chase group coming fast, but his lead was sufficient.
He coasted over the line first, taking a much-appreciated win for his hard-working Garmin teammates.

John Degenkolb won the sprint for second, ahead of Alexander Kristoff and Mark Renshaw.

Tom Jelte Slagter lit up the race for Garmin
It was a great attack and win for the Lithuanian Navardauskas, but a rather disappointing finish otherwise, since we were denied a proper bunch sprint.  Fortunately for all those involved, the crash occurred inside of 3k to go, so everybody there got the same time as the sprint group. Jack Bauer appeared to have suffered the worst from the crash, but is reported to be ok, and was able to take solace in the fact that his teammate scored the win.

Garmin got a win from Ramunas Navardauskas


Tomorrow is the big 54k individual time trial. The standings will certainly get a shakeup, and then we will find out what the final 2014 Tour De France podium will look like. The course is hilly, but without any major climbs. The sheer length of it will destroy some riders hopes of a high finish, and we may see some surprise results.
Stage 20 ITT profile
I expect Nibali, Peraud, Valverde, and Van Garderen will do well. The other top GC contenders will have to throw every last ounce of their energy into the stage 20 ITT. Thibaut Pinot should be especially worried about losing his podium position.

The strong time trialists outside of the top GC contention who I expect to excel on Saturday include Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Shimano and Sylvain Chavanel of IAM. Chavanel has expressed the desire to "do something special" in the TT.

Other typically good TT-ers like Richie Porte and Michal Kwiatkowski are less of a sure bet, as they both showed weakness in the mountains. But put those guys in a skinsuit and an aero helmet, and you usually get fireworks. 

Compatriots JC Peraud and Thibaut Pinot
Some of the veteran TT-ers like Lieuwe Westra, Mick Rogers, and Vasil Kiryienka may be able to come up with decent performances. Kiryienka and Rogers particularly showed a lot of strength in the mountains.

Orica's Luke Durbridge and Svein Tuft would love to put on good performances tomorrow, and look out for Ion Izaguirre, Jan Barta, Maciej Bodnar, and Geraint Thomas. Any of them could be capable of a good show in the race of truth.

I think this course will suit JC Peraud very well, as well as Tom Dumoulin and Ion Izaguirre. In top form I would like Kwiatkowski, Porte, and Valverde for this course, but I'm not sure how their legs will be after the Pyrenees. Valverde will fight hard for a podium finish however, so I would still say he is a good pick.

I think Tony Martin means "turbo boosted" in German
But at the end of the day, we are talking about a time trial; and you can't have a TT and not talk about the German locomotive, Tony Martin. I wouldn't bet on him finishing worse than second, and in this case, I am picking him for the win.

It will all be decided tomorrow...
...Enjoy the race!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

TDF Stage 18 Race Report and Results 2014 Tour De France


Stage 18 on the map
145.5k from Pau to Hautacam; Hi mtns; summit finish;
Weather: Mostly sunny; 76f at low elevation, and about 60f up at the finish; [Thunderstorms were forecast for later in the day, but they never came.]

Abandoned: Heinrich Haussler (stomach bug)

The 2014 Tour De France raced its last day in the mountains today, conquering the Hors Categoie Pyrenean climbs of the famed Tourmalet, and the perhaps infamous Hautacam. The Tourmalet is a classic Tour big-mountain favorite, and is the highest pass in the Pyrenees at 2115 meters. Among this year's riders, men who have led the race over the 17k-long climb include Thomas Voeckler, Jeremy Roy and Sylvain Chavanel. The winners on the Hautacam however, now look like a who's who of doped cyclists. Leaving their names aside for now, we can only hope and trust that today's winner will not have his name one day expunged from the record books.

Vincenzo Nibali may look unbeatable, but a great battle for the overall podium positions and the king of the mountains jersey would be on the menu for stage 18...

Stage 18 profile; the last of the mountains

The peloton were fortunate to race on dry roads under sunny skies all day, despite the predicted afternoon thunderstorms. A 20-rider break formed early, and built a four-minute lead...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

TDF Stage 17 Race Report and Stage 18 Preview 2014 Tour De France


Stage 17 on the map
124.5K From Saint-Gaudens to Pla d'Adet
Weather: Sunny, 80 f; light wind

The 17th stage of the 2014 Tour De France was dubbed the queen stage of the race. It began with about 50k of relatively flat roads.  The final 75k featured virtually no flat roads. What it did feature were four big mountains for the peloton to climb. First, three category-1 climbs: the 1292-meter high Col du Portillon, the 1569m Col de Peyresourde, the 1580m Col de Val Louron Azet; and then came the finish, 1654m up on top of the Hors Categorie Pla d'Adet.

An 8-man break got away early, without the top mountain jersey contenders. Joaquim Rodriguez tried, but failed to get into the break again.  As a result, his Katusha team chased hard to try and bridge the gap to the leaders before they reached the mountains.

Stage 17 profile, with four big Pyrenean climbs

The 8 escapees were: Gautier, Slagter, Elmiger, Arashiro, Edet, Kadri, Voigt, and Paulinho. They held a lead of one minute by the intermediate sprint point at km 31. Kadri took the INT ahead of Elmiger and Paulinho...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TDF Stage 16 Race Report and Stage 17 Preview 2014 TOUR DE FRANCE


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stage 16 on the map
 After the transfer west, from Nimes to Carcasonne, the riders enjoyed the final rest day on Monday. Today the peloton headed out of Carcasonne and into the Pyrenees for the longest stage of the race. 237.5 kilometers From Carcasonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon, featuring the hors categorie climb of the Port de Bales late in the stage. The finish line comes just after the fast 20k descent off the big mountain.

The weather was clear and sunny for the riders, as they prepared for a long day in the saddle. Everybody wondered who would benefit and who would suffer after the rest day. Simon Yates of OGE was a non-starter, as was World Champion Rui Costa, who is suffering from pneumonia. 

 Rafal Majka of Tinkoff Saxo grabbed the first category-4 climb at km25. The single KOM point was all he needed to take the lead away from Joaquim Rodriguez in the king of the mountains competition.

Stage 16 profile; into the Pyrenees

Various breakaway attempts failed, until after almost two hours, 21 riders broke free to form the day's main break. They were:

Kwiatkowski, Bakelants, Voeckler, Gautier, Reza, Albasini, Keukeleire, Rogers, Gallopin, Serpa, Izaguirre, Van Avermaet, Slagter, Roy, Montaguti, S. Dumoulin, Delaplace, Kiryienka, Vachon, Eisel, and Kluge.

The highest placed rider in the break was Kwiatkowski, who came into the stage in 16th place, down 19:24 to the overall race leader, Vincenzo Nibali. Europcar's Thomas Voeckler had won here in Luchon twice before: on stage 16 of the 2012 Tour De France, and on his way to winning the 2013 Route du Sud, so it was no surprise to see him make the break.