Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Tour de France 2011 - post stage 21 gallery

Many thanks to Anthony Herrero, a friend of a friend who resides in Paris, for access to these wonderful pictures.
The final sprint down the Champs Elysees. Renshaw and Cavendish out in front.
El Pistolero! - Alberto Contador
Andre Greipel - The Gorilla! Winner of Stage 10
Andy Schleck - 2nd, again!
Frank Schleck - 3rd overall
Bjarne Riis - Director, Team Saxo Bank - Sungard
Cadel Evans and John Lelangue - Director, Team BMC
Damiano Cunego - 7th overall
George Hincapie - Legend!
HTC Highroad
Jens Voigt - Looking uncharacteristically serious!
Johnny Hoogerland - unexpected hero!
Mark Cavendish - Green Jersey Winner (Finally!)
Mark Renshaw - Lead-out man extraordinaire!
Phillipe Gilbert - rising star
Pierre Rolland - another rising star
Samuel Sanchez - 6th overall
Edvald Boasson Hagen - Winner of stages 6 and 17
Stuart O'Grady - Aussie cycling legend, super domestique
Thomas Voeckler - Yellow Jersey holder for 10 days and 4th overall
Thor Hushovd - 3 stage wins
Tony Martin - Winner of the final time-trial
Tyler Farrar - Winner stage 3

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Le Tour - Week Three Wrap

Who looked good
What an emphatic win by Cadel Evans! Right from the Grand Depart he looked strong, you could see the focus in his eyes. This was a man that was always going to win the Tour in 2011, we just didn't all see it at first, but by the time he took to the podium for the start of the final time trial in Grenoble the writing was on the wall. His face said it all. This was the face of a man that was going to overcome any time advantage the Schleck boys had. He was a picture of focus and determination - and yet was also calm. He had that sense of control in the face of adversity that is the mark of champions - Armstrong had it in bucketloads. It was an historic win for Australia and the mainstream media have jumped all over it - some proclaiming that the win was the greatest Australian sporting achievement ever! I don't know about that - but it was pretty damn good. I can't wait for him to fly home and get all the hometown recognition he deserves! If there is a parade, I'll be there in the front row! The Schlecks also rode a brilliant race and looked great. One of them will win a Tour de France in the not-too-distant future I'm sure, they just need some work on their time-trialling. Others that looked good in the final week were Tom Danielson and Pierre Roland. Roland's win on the Alpe d'huez was awesome, and it seems he will be a yellow jersey contender in the years to come.

Who looked bad
He wasn't terrible, and fifth in the overall General Classification is definitely not a bad result, but Contador's loss of time in the Alps was a shock, especially when it seemed that he was getting over the sore knee and coming good. He lost significant time on Cadel and the Schlecks on stage 18 up the Col du Galibier. Perhaps he was affected by the win in the Giro - or perhaps we are now seeing the real Contador - the clean, human one. Who knows. Levi Leipheimer and Ivan Basso were two other stars that failed to impress. Basso finished eighth, again, not a bad result, but his race was a war of attrition. He held the others wheels and rarely attacked. Perhaps we are seeing the beginning of the end of a long and tumultuous career. As for Leipheimer, he had a bad crash on stage six, but never really featured after that. I expected a bit more from the 2011 runner-up of the Tour of California and the winner of the 2011 Tour de Suisse.

Best stage
The best stage in week three had to be stage 18, the 198.4 km grueling race from Pinerolo to Galibier - Serre Chevalier. Andy Schleck attacked early in the stage leaving the other contenders (primarily Evans) surprised and confused by how to counter this move. In hindsight it was a brilliant strategy. Schleck knew that the GC's would stick to his wheel like glue on the final climb - the only way to get a significant time gap was to roll the dice and go early. His gamble paid off and he took more than 2 minutes off Cadel. What was equally amazing about this stage was Cadels response. He looked at the others to help claw back the time Andy had taken (which was over 4 minutes at its peak), the others all chose to be ticket collectors and suck his wheel. Instead of complaining and getting angry, Cadel steeled himself and dragged the peloton along himself - bridging the gap by half and it was here that he ultimately saved his Tour. This resilience was the story of Cadels Tour de France, he simply fought and fought and fought, it was this dogged determination that won him the Tour.

Defining Moment
There were a few moments in week three that will be remembered and looked back on. As mentioned already, Andy's unanswered breakaway on stage 18, and Cadel's fight to claw back the time Andy had gained were both incredible junctures in the Tour, moments where, had things gone differently, the final result would have changed. Contador falling away on the Galibier was a moment because, if nothing else, it showed he was fallible. Cavendish's final win on the Champs Elysees was also a special moment. HTC Highroad rode the perfect race and lead-out train was textbook perfect. Cavendish finally got the Green Jersey and it was his 20th win in five tours; this has definitely cemented him in the record books. But the stand out moment for me was Cadel on the start line of the final Time Trial. This was a man possessed - a man completely focussed on what needed to happen, anything but a win was not an option.

And another thing...
- Well, it's over, we can all go back to regular sleeping hours, and personally, I'm looking forward to not stuffing my face with chips and Maltesers at 1am in an effort to stay awake!
- What was with Scott Sunderland's shirt on the final wrap-up of the race? It looked like it was made from my nannas curtains - check it out!
- Loving Robbie McEwans moniker for Andy and Frank Schleck - Frandy!
- As usual, top effort by SBS. Lets hope the Cadel-mania dies down and the commercial stations don't get any funny ideas about presenting the Tour in future - could you imagine Eddie Maguire hosting?
- Top job by Mike Tomolaris and Dave MacKenzie... great commentary.
- Twitter is brilliant during the Tour - especially the comments from DNF riders. Some of Vinokourov's comments were comedy gold!
- And the final word should go to this year's 'Lanterne Rouge', the last place of the Tour de France - the Italian Fabio Sabatini. Just to finish a race like the TdF is a massive achievement!

That's it! Did I get it right? What did you think of Cadel's win? Comment below!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Le Tour - Week Two Wrap

Who looks good
Well, after a hard week in the Pyrenees not a lot has changed. All of the main contenders are still there and, as I predicted in the week one wrap, Thomas Voeckler has hung on to the yellow jersey for more time than even he thought he would. So the pointy end of the field looks much the same, with Voeckler, Evans, Basso, Sanchez, Contador and the Schlecks all still in the mix, but the racing was anything but dull. Cavendish has shown he really is the fastest man on two wheels, picking up another two wins. His turn of speed in the last 200 meters is incredible. The sprint finish win by Greipel on stage 10 was also inspiring. The rouleur’s of the peloton (Rojas, Gilbert and Hushovd) all still look great and one of these may pick up a win on stage 16 or 17. There are some young guns like Tom Danielson and Peter Velits that are showing some great form – they will be ones to watch in future grand tours.

Who looks bad
I expected more from Nicholas Roche, Tony Martin and Levi Leipheimer in the past week, it was a little disappointing Roche and Martin couldn’t stay with the leaders up the Plateau de Beille. Though, I still think Roche and Martin have long, and prosperous careers ahead of them. Leipheimer is obviously still suffering after a few crashes early on. There are a few teams that have gone missing also, Team Sky have disappeared with the withdrawal of Wiggins, and Ag2r La Mondiale and Cofidis haven’t featured much, though David Moncoutie (Cofidis) is showing some great form.

Best stage
As Thor Hushovd is one of my favourite cyclists, I loved his emphatic stage win in Lourdes (Stage 13). He destroyed the field with raw power and took out a stage that, on paper, looked like it was meant for a climbing specialist. He continues his incredible season in the rainbow jersey. As far as simple viewing pleasure goes – you couldn’t have gone past Stage 14 up Plateau de Beille. This was a cracker of a finish, Andy Schleck kept attacking and Evans, Voekler, Basso and Contador had answers for him every time.

Defining moment
As well as being a great stage to watch, stage 13’s climb up Plateau de Beille was also my defining moment of the week. The fact that the field could not be split, despite the climbing of a peloton-destroying mountain, will have repercussions for the rest of the Tour. This may trigger a change in tactics from the major protagonists – they know now that short attacks aren’t splitting the field. If no one can pull off a long lung-destroying attack and nothing changes in the Alps, Evans will go into the final time trial in Genoble with a huge advantage. He is arguably the best time trialist of the group and he will easily be able to chip away at the lead that Voeckler and Frank Schleck have over him. It is looking good for Cuddles, the little Aussie battler!

And another thing…
- I know you should never laugh at a cyclist hitting the deck, but Jens Voigt’s two crashes within seconds of each other on Stage 14 was hilarious. He is such a colourful character and when he lost his shit after the second crash I couldn’t help but have a chuckle!
- My heart skips a beat everytime I see a rider pick up his bike and toss it to the side of the road like it was a piece of rubbish. As someone who races on a cheap(ish) aluminium Fuji I would give anything for one of those bikes! And if I had one I would definitely treat it with care – even if it was given to me for free!
- How good is Matty Keenan?! For those of you outside of Australia, he is our homegrown cycling commentator that is the warm-up act for British cycling legends Liggett and Sherwen. I say give him a whole stage to commentate, he’s great!

So have I got it right? What’s your predictions for the last week? Comment below…

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Le Tour - Week One Wrap

Who looks good
I'll get to the the big names but a mention has to go to Thor Hushovd first off. What a cyclist he is. For seven stages he wore the yellow jersey proudly and with strength - hanging on to it despite most people believeing he would never survive when the roads starting heading upward. He has certainly done justice to the rainbows we wears accross his chest. Andy and Frank Schleck are in prime position to strike later this week, they both look fit and fresh and so far have been happy to sit back and let others sit in the limelight - a good tactic perhaps? Cadel Evans is having a dream start to the Tour, second in the TTT, a stage win in Mur-de-Bretagne, and this year he seems like a new man - calmer and more confident that in years passed. He looks dangerous. He will mark Voeckler in the next week and I expect that he will strike on some of the higher cols - perhaps the infamous Tormalet?! Thomas Voeckler also looks great - like Thor - he'll hang on to the jersey for some time I think. Also look out for Tony Martin and Nicholas Roche, both look good for podium positions.

Who looks bad
Well, this years tour has been sadly marred by terrible crashes and unfortunatly many of the big name GC riders have had an early exit. As Stuart O'Grady said, "it's Tour de Carnage". Bradley Wiggins, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Alexandre Vinokourov and Christopher Horner are all out early. What's the reason for the crashes? Maybe there's too many riders, some of the skinny roads were perhaps a bad choice, and a nervous peloton are all possible answers, but one thing is for sure, changes need to be made to make the riders safer. No other sport makes the playing field so dangerous for its stars. And as for the car that knocked into Hoogerland and Flecha, I think this highlights some problems with the support cars, there are too many of them and they often drive irresponsibly around the peloton. I hope Christian Prudhomme, TDF Director, enacts some changes for the sake of safety for the future. Of the riders still in action, Cancellara has failed to impress so far, for someone so strong I would have expected more, and Contodor of course is looking terrible, though he has been involved in four or five crashes and is sufferring from a sore and swollen knee.

Best stage
This is a tough one! The first stage was great as a spectator, it was brilliant to finally see the 'Grand Depart' that everyone had been waiting for for so long, and the win by Gilbert was awesome - he showed that he is certainly one of the best Pro cyclists in 2011, adding to his already substantial list of wins for the year. The Team Time Trial was great also, I have to say that the TTT's are always my favourite stages. the speed is crazy, and to see BMC (a team not known for their time triallists) come in second was just an awesome effort. They showed what can be done when you step up to the plate and push that little bit harder. It also showed definitively that BMC are united in their goal of snatching the yellow jersey for Cadel. Nevertheless, the best stage for me so far has to go to stage four. As an Australian, I'm a big supporter of Evans and I think this could be his year, watching him stick it to the world's no. 1 rider, Contador, and beat him by a whisker was just awesome. I was yelling at my TV cheering him along, whilst sitting in the dark alone in my living room at 2 o'clock in the morning - luckily my fiance is a deep sleeper! And seeing Contador raise his arm in celebration only to realise he'd been beaten was hilarious!

Defining moment
The first week has been full of moments that will be discussed by journalists and cycling fans alike for some time. Cavendish's record breaking wins (he is now in the top 10 of most stage wins in the TDF), Hushovd's valiant defence of the yellow jersey, Voeckler's strong ride to put him in yellow by 1:49, the crash that saw Vinokourov break his leg (and most likly end his career) and Van Den Broeck break his shoulder and a few ribs, and the car that knocked over Hoogerland and Flecha - an accident that turns my stomach. The defining moment for me, though, was Contador losing 1:20 in stage one. After he was so dominant in the Giro, Contador was the undisputed favourite and for him to lose so much time (mainly as a result of a large crash) in the first stage was totally unexpected, and all of us still, 9 stages later, are wondering if he can possibly come back from this. We will see soon enough.

And another thing...
- Who the hell are Saur-Sojasun and Vacansoleil-DCM?! What happenned to Skil-Shimano and Geox? Too many French teams I say! Bring on GreenEdge Racing - the new Australian PRO team that is bidding for a Tour spot in 2012.
- Enough of the ads already! SBS, the Australian broadcaster that brings the Tour to Australia have a limited amount of advertising partners and the same ads being shown over and over again during the coverage is getting a bit old. I think I know the words to the IG Markets ad off by heart now, and I'm going to launch my shoe through the tv if I have to watch another stupid Skoda ad!
- Team Sky have got the award so far for the worst outfit, the black with the boring green, its ugly! But as far as ugly gear goes - that award has to go to Team Sky's Kask helmets! I've never heard of 'Kask' but I certainly wont be rushing to check out their cycling gear based on the look of their construction site'esque helmets!

I'd love to embed some tour pics here but haven't had any luck locating any royalty-free pics of the Tour. If you know how to find some please email me!

What's your defining moment, your best stage so far or best rider so far? Comment below!