Tag Archives: TDF2015

Mega Daily Bone-up: Stage 21 I can’t believe it’s over edition

Looking forward to some sleep, actually.

5. Van der Breggen wins the best race of the day

Yes, the women’s race La Course by TDF was on as a curtain-raiser for the remains of the men’s peloton, but it was a better race. The weather was ordinary and the cobbles were clearly a death-trap, forcing riders to corner in a manner familiar to Melbourne commuters who have to cross tram lines in the wet.

And yet there were plenty of spirited breakaways, not least from Aussies Gracie Elvin, Lizzie Williams and Amanda Spratt trying to soften the race up for Orica-AIS teammate Emma Johansson.

Apart from all the cheering, there was much waggery on Twitter about this:

Of course the Rabo-Liv hegemony would not be denied, and Anna van der Breggen went off solo with a lap to go, and held on to win in an absolute thriller as the bunch sprint unfolded a few metres behind her.

4. Another top ten for P. Saggy

I am genuinely disappointed that Sagan couldn’t add to his tally of 11 top-five finishes this Tour, but 7th is still pretty handy.

You just know that Sagan will be hungover for days, and I’ll just assume he’s never heard of Bon Scott.

That’s his fourth consecutive green jersey, at the age of just 25, and you could make a fair argument that Sagan was the most involved rider in this Tour, despite not winning a stage.

3. Look, not much happened, can we skip #3?

OK, OK, I’ll mumble something about champagne and Team Sky in special kit with yellow accents that made them look like a team of European wasps.

2. Froome didn’t stack

When I saw the weather and general mayhem of La Course. I thought to myself, “Gee wizz, this men’s race is going to be full of crashes if the conditions don’t improve. That’s not ideal if the yellow jersey has an accident and breaks his collarbone and can’t finish the race” and stroked my beard.

The organisers must’ve thought similar things, in a more Gallic fashion (perhaps stroking their baguettes) and so the GC was neutralised virtually as soon as the race was onto the Champs Elysees (i.e. the racing was just for the stage win, with no risk of late scratchings from the Big List).

That meant there was no panic when Froome ended up out the back behind the cars in the final laps, and it meant he could enjoy the last few corners with his teammates, safe in the knowledge he couldn’t lose even if he stayed out there all night.

1. Greipel

Hey, I like Greipel. He seems like a quality dude. And he’s had a flaming amazing Tour, winning four out of the five stages available to the pure sprinters (and coming 2nd on the one that Cavendish won). He was easily better than Cavendish, Degenkolb, Kristoff, Sagan, Coquard, Matthews, Demare, Bouhanni…

He beat everyone handsomely all Tour. It’s his first win on the Champs Elysees and his 10th Tour stage in total.

Chapeau.

Mega Daily Bone-up: Stage 20 Alpe d’Huez edition

What happened? What didn’t happen, more like.

5. Chris Froome didn’t lose the Tour de France

It was never the most likely outcome, but as I said yesterday Froome hasn’t been looking all that fresh over the last few days so there was an element of risk.

When everything went a bit psychedelic on the Croix de Fer (Stage 20 remix) and attacks were going up the road like firecrackers, anything seemed possible. When it all came back together in the valley to Bourg d’Oisans, it was clear that Sky had things well in hand.

Froome should buy Wout Poels a very nice Jag as a thank you gift, as without his perfectly executed tempo riding in stages 19 and 20, Froome might’ve been in deep trouble. Today, Froome also had Richie Porte doing a big job of work (#sherliggettisms #drink etc) making sure Quintana didn’t get off the leash until it was too late to change the final outcome.

When Quintana did attack, the team didn’t panic. Instead they reverted to their training and rode at threshold to the finish, knowing that it would be enough to secure victory.

Exciting for the fans? No. Effective? Extremely. Yes, Froome dropped more time and another day in the Alps might have been enough to cause real palpitations. But there isn’t another day in the Alps, so.

4. Nearly Nairo just adds to the expectation

Nairo Quintana is a freak. Not just because of the way he climbs (a lot of guys can climb like him on their day) but more because he always looks far better in the third week of a Grand Tour than in the first.

He’s done it in two Tours and a Giro now. Probably he’s just better at maintaining his levels as everyone else is slowly collapsing, but that’s the trick with Grand Tours.

After what felt like an eternity of waiting for him to attack, it finally came, but too late to change the overall result. The assault on Alpe d’Huez was one to remember though, even if he fell just short of catching Thibaut Pinot for the stage win, and a bit further short of stealing the Tour from Froome.

Fairly or not, this will still be remembered as a Tour of ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ for Quintana.

Woulda won if he hadn’t dropped 1’24” on stage 2. If he hadn’t lost 1’04 on stage 10 to La Pierre-Saint-Martin. If he’d attacked earlier on stage 19.

Whatever. That’s racing. Froome was better over the duration. But the sensation of Nairo’s unstoppable rise shows no sign of abating. He was 4’20 behind Froome in 2013, and only 1’12” in 2015.

The anticipation for next year has already started.

3. Nibali’s puncture hands Valverde his first Tour podium

You may think that a puncture at the base of Alpe d’Huez is karma’s punishment for riding off on Chris Froome yesterday, but Vincenzo Nibali is likely to argue it just goes to show that when the race is on, there are no favours.

Whatever your point of view, there’s no doubt that the flat tyre came at the worst possible moment for the Astana man. It crushed any chance of attacking Alejandro Valverde’s third position on GC.

This meant Valverde will earn his first Tour de France podium – which seems odd after more than a decade of the Spaniard lighting up the race. It was a consistent performance from Movistar’s number two man, demonstrating that dual leadership is not necessarily a problem for the team, if managed well.

Movistar director Eusebio Unzue has been in the game for over 30 years, and has managed seven overall wins at the Tour (including the difficult transition from Pedro Delgado to Miguel Indurain in 1991). He knows what he is doing.

So does Valverde, and he shadowed Froome up Alpe d’Huez like a perfect team player, guarding his own place on GC without doing anything to the detriment of his young leader up the road.

2. Vintage Pinot

Redemption for Thibaut Pinot, whose Tour has been one of misfortune and missed opportunities. After a shocking first two weeks, he recovered some form to claim top-five finishes on stages 14, 17 and 19.

His effort on on Alpe d’Huez, the most prestigious of all summit finishes, was something special. Ducking through rabid crowds wielding costumes, flares, beers and flags like weapons, attacking Ryder Hesjedal repeatedly until he was finally alone, riding on adrenaline and fumes in the knowledge that Nairo Quintana was coming up fast from behind.

It was a victory to savour, and for the third consecutive time a French winner on the famous Alpe.

Start the debate: was Pinot or Romain Bardet the better French rider of the 2015 Tour de France?

1. The Alps

The Alps smashed the Pyrenees for excitement this year. Perhaps it was due to their placement so late in the schedule, with riders exhausted and many climbers knowing their GC chances were finished.

In any case, the winners on stages 17-20 (Geschke, Bardet, Nibali and Pinot) all won with rides of huge daring and strength, while the GC battle finally sparked into life behind them.

In the end, the GC battle was much closer than it looked for the entire Tour. Perhaps one more day in the Alps would have changed the result. We will never know, but for my money the four days in the Alps elevated the Tour above this year’s Giro, the first time I’ve said that since 2011.

BeardysCaravan.com is now live for stage 19 featuring 3 big climbs from yesterday’s stage. #BeardysCaravan #Tdf #tdf2015

A photo posted by Beardy McBeard (@beardmcbeardy) on Jul 25, 2015 at 4:04am PDT

Mega Daily Bone-up: Stage 19

Gadzooks, what a stage! Attacks, bonks, controversy and the return of the former king.

5. Is the Sky falling?

The famously indomitable Gauls of the Asterix stories had only one fear: that the Sky would fall on their heads. Last night, Team Sky fell on their heads in France.

It was a short stage of only 138km, but it was on like Donkey Kong immediately on the Cat 1 Col de Chaussy, with no opportunities to warm up into it. Quite a lot of riders suffered.

The biggest loser was Geraint ‘Super G’ Thomas, who started the day sitting 4th overall, but was dropped on the Croix de Fer, losing 22 minutes and 11 places on GC.

Super G’s statement on Team Sky’s website simply said “I was just empty today. It was always going to happen and I was hoping it was going to come on Monday but it came today. I just didn’t have it, and as they say, sometimes you’re the hammer and sometimes you’re the nail. I was a cheap nail today, terrible, but there you go. There’s only one mountain stage to go.

“It was such a tough start, and when you’ve got nothing in the legs there’s not a lot you can do.”

The deeper problem for Sky is that by the halfway point of the stage, with most of the day’s climbing still ahead of them, the only Sky rider able to stay with the leaders and support Chris Froome was Wout Poels.

Richie Porte, Thomas, Leopold Konig and Nicolas Roche were all nowhere to be seen.

Peter Kennaugh went home sick a few days ago. Has lurgy spread through the Team Sky squad?

With another massive stage tonight including another climb of Croix de Fer followed by arguably the most famous of all Tour climbs, Alpe d’Huez, they’ll need to lift again.

4. Nibali commits a sporting faux pas?

The defending champion appeared to deliberately attack the maillot jaune just at the moment Froome suffered a mechanical problem with stones stuck in his brake calipers.

The defending champion looked back at Froome as he attacked, which angered the probable 2015 winner:

“He did see what he was doing, I’m pretty sure he looked around, saw I was in trouble and attacked. In my opinion you don’t do that to the race leader, it’s not sportsmanlike. He had the whole climb to attack and he waited until I had a mechanical. You certainly wouldn’t find me attacking a race leader like that.”

Nibali was unimpressed, replying,

“When I looked back, it was to look at [his Astana teammate] Kangert. We did the race on the Col de la Croix de Fer and were planning to make a big attack,”

“Lots of things have happened to me too, but that’s cycling. When Contador crashed on the descent (to Pra-Loup) we didn’t know until three or four kilometres after. It happens a lot of times in races. I can remember when I crashed at the 2010 Giro d’Italia, at Montalcino. There was the incident when Andy Schleck was attacked by Contador at the Tour the other year. There are no rules….”

His next comment is more revealing of his real reasons for giving zero fucks what Chris Froome thinks of him:

“Froome, Valverde or Quintana always came after me when I moved, but I was down in eighth overall. Perhaps if Nibali rides well, it scares people”

Nibali clearly doesn’t feel like he owes Froome any breaks. To sum up his argument:

1. Correlation is not causation

2. Fuck you.

3. Nairo

The world has been waiting impatiently for some fireworks from Nairo Quintana, who needed to find nearly 3 minutes to take the lead of the race. Stealing that much time will take something daring, an epic long-range attack to really crack the leader and put him in the box.

It’s a tantalising prospect.

Nairo did eventually launch, but by waiting until the last 5km he could only gain 30 seconds – handy, but he needs another six of those and there’s only one more opportunity.

Should Nairo have gone earlier, with Froome isolated and not looking good? I think so.

Perhaps the anticipation of stage 20 tempered his ambition for today, but surely there’s no way he can gain 2:39 on one stage.

Even with Valverde providing support, there’s no reason for Froome to mark anyone except Quintana, unless things get really crazy.

I feel like this was a missed opportunity for the Colombian, even though he finally managed to reveal some cracks in the race leader’s armour.

2. Froome

Froome had a relatively bad day (even though he managed to take more time from Valverde and Contador).

He looked awful on the bike,

But he survived. Just. He virtually had to be carried off to the team bus as he crossed the line. He went really deep and with another very hard stage ahead, and a team that appears to be suffering badly from nearly three weeks in the lead, there is still the possibility that everything could be lost.

I still think he will win the Tour de France, but to my eyes there are a few riders looking stronger than Froome at this point, which might be a worry for the Team Sky brains trust overnight.

1. Nibali

Well, the defending champion has found some form, FINALLY. It’s as if the Tour came 10 days too early for the Italian, and he’s looking stronger as the race goes on.

This was a victory full of panache and guts. Yes, he was given some rope due to being far enough back that he wasn’t a threat to Froome or Quintana.

But he was a threat to Contador, whose Tour finally jumped the shark when lo Squalo jumped him and into 4th overall, with the podium in sight.

It was classic Nibali: aggressive, tough, pivoting off a rapid descent, then a sustained climb at tempo.

The emotion on his face at the finish showed what the victory meant after a very difficult Tour for the Italian.

He rides for a team that does his reputation no favours, but when he is on form he’s one of the most exciting racers in the world. Can he attack Valverde on stage 20 and salvage a podium finish from what looked like an impossible position a week ago?

Mega Daily Bone-Up: Stage 18

I’ll be honest, I was drunk in a hotel room after a long day of doing my real job in front of clients. My recollection is not so sharp today, for some reason…

5. Col du Glandon
Well, for a few fleeting moments it seemed almost possible that the race might come alive on the Col du Glandon.
Alberto ‘Pistolero’ Contador was quick on the draw, attacking solo with nearly 50km to the finish.
Vincenzo ‘Lo Squalo’ Nibali also scented blood and tried to establish a break before the summit, the plan seemingly to extend the gap on the descent and then climb up the GC on the final hill.
It was exciting!
Then Sky did what Sky does, lifted the tempo, reeled everyone back in and that was that as far as the Big List was concerned.

4. Fuglsang and the deadly moto

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) was cursing after the stage, because he was knocked off his bike by one of the camera motorbikes as it passed him on the Col du Glandon. He was in the lead group at the time, and still managed to finish 5th on the day, but geez…

It was all a bit reminiscent of the Shimano neutral service car decking Jesse Sergent at the Tour of Flanders, wasn’t it?

The moto driver from today’s incident has been booted off the race, as punishment.

3. Pierre Rolland!

Pierre Rolland emerged from the witness protection programme last night to claim second on the stage.

Usually at the Tour Rolland is in everything. This year, like the rest of his Europcar team, he’s barely been seen.

Would it be wrong to infer that the team’s departing sponsor has not been replaced, that the team is therefore facing imminent demise, and that this is affecting team morale?

2. Hip hop hooray, for Romain Bardet!
Well, the French whippet has done a good one.
He hasn’t had the Tour he wanted, but his AG2R squad will be chuffed with its second stage win.
After royally screwing up stage 14 (won by Steve Cummings as Bardet and Thibaut Pinot discussed things between themselves) Bardet wasn’t leaving this one to last-minute tactics, and decided that solo was the way to get it done.


Frankly, he deserved a win after being one of the more aggressive climbers of this Tour, and this was quite a stylish victory, his first in a Grand Tour.

That’ll be enough to crank up the expectation for next year, then.

1. The Lacets de Montvernier can stay

These lacets, they’re bloody stunning, aren’t they? It was a bit eerie what with spectators not being allowed along the narrow roads in that section, but it made for some compelling aerial footage. There’ll be millions of amateurs heading there next summer!

Check out Beardy’s Caravan for some amazing photos of the day.

Stage 19 should be a belter – epic climbs and tired legs – and I’m off to watch it with Blackburn CC. Enjoy.

Mega Daily Bone-Up: Stage 17

After the rest day.

5. Tejay van Goner-en
Poor Tejay. It’s not every day someone sitting 3rd on GC abandons. Tejay was shelled early, and got in the car. It was later revealed he’s been suffering with a heavy cold and chills for a few days, and when he got back on the bike for Stage 17 he realised it was game over.

The other big name to abandon was Michal Kwiatkowski, “the man in the white World Champion’s jersey” (#sherliggettisms #drink) after announcing he’s leaving Etixx-Quickstep. Not that the two are related.

4. Pinot and Talansky foiled again
Pinot and Talansky came into this Tour with big expectations and it was no surprise to see them attacking on the Col d’Allos.
Perhaps the surprise was that both were so far down in GC they were allowed to be in a break 11 minutes in front of the yellow jersey.

Sadly, this year seems to have cast Pinot in a comedy role, and his old descending yips returned – after surging up the Col d’Allos in pursuit of Simon Geschke, Poor Old Pinot lost time on the descent, then crashed (locked up his rear wheel) and completely lost his nerve. A handful of riders passed him going downhill and he was left with too much to do on the Pra Loup ascent.

Talansky fared better, but his attempt to catch Geschke simply came too late. Still, second on the stage is better than the ‘Pitbull’ has been travelling.

3. The Porte Parachute

It was almost perfect: Richie Porte got in the break, and started to deliberately drift backwards in time to meet Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas on the way up. Porte parachuted in just as Nibali and Quintana were putting Froome under pressure on the Col d’Allos, and took control.

That’s tactics.

Unfortunately he was caught behind when Contador crashed, and was no further help to Froome (although it appears he helped drag Super G to the finish, so not all bad).

Of course, Movistar used the same tactic but had TWO riders in the break, giving Quintana and Valverde a brief but huge advantage over the lonesome Froome. Didn’t help much, though.

2. Geschke’s beard

It’s always (well, a couple of years) been a genuine contest between Simon Geschke and Luca Paolini for best beard in the pro peloton, but with Paolini serving time in Ibiza it’s pretty clear who’s taking home the maillot barbe.

It was a big ride today from Giant-Alpecin’s hirsute domestique, and the biggest win of his career. Not without some serious panache, too – a long solo attack, a breathless technical descent, and then a tough grind to the line to hold off the chasers.

Chapeau.

1. GC shake

With Tejay van out, and Alberto Contador crashing and losing time, there was space created near the top of the big list, but not even a tiny crack at the top.

Valverde is up to 3rd. Contador now looks cooked as far as podiums go, but he might be able to sting Super G for 4th. Nibali might get past Gesink but that’s about all. Quintana has thrown everything at Froome and still hasn’t cracked him.

Still, plenty of Alps to come.

Mega Daily Bone-Up: Stage 16

When the sub-plot is better than the actual plot.

5. Adam Hansen
He crashed in the first week and dislocated his shoulder, famously declaring that the next two weeks would involve some serious pain, but “I eat pain for breakfast” (although in France, everyone eats pain for breakfast).

The bullet-proof Aussie hasn’t been as visible as usual, but he was back in the game today, attacking from the break. For a while it seemed that it might succeed, but he was caught.

Never mind, it shows that he’s feeling better, and we might see another attempt in the final few days.

4. Super G’s twisty descent

Geraint Thomas is the beating heart of Team Sky. He crashed badly on the descent into Gap, when Warren Barguil overcooked a hairpin and used Super G as a snooker player might, cannoning him into the corner pocket… which would have sent blood pressure surging in the team Jag.

Fortunately the hardest cyclist in Britain rode calmly to the finish and seemed relatively unharmed, but those moments of panic are a salient reminder that crazy things can happen quickly in bike racing.

What if Barguil had hit Froome?

3. Sky train sputtering?
Is Sky struggling? Peter Kennaugh is out of the race after falling ill, Richie Porte was dropped early today (is he also ill or was it a tactical move to save energy?) and Thomas’ crash may have significant ramifications after the rest day, if he does pull up sore after slamming into a telegraph pole on his way down a ravine (and who wouldn’t?).

Wout Poels was with Thomas at the finish, but was yoyo-ing on and off the elite group and didn’t look like he’s ready to smash everyone up Alpe d’Huez. Leopold König hasn’t look great either, backing up after a hard Giro.

Maybe just a hint of a wobble, then? Can any of the other teams take advantage, though? Does it matter, if Froome stays strong?

2. Nibbles has a chomp
Vincenzo Nibali hasn’t had a good Tour, but he does seem better this week than last.

Today he attacked near the final summit, took 13 seconds over the top, and extended his lead with his famous descending skills to finish 28″ ahead of the Big Boys.

It wasn’t significant in the GC battle, seeing as he’s still 7’49” behind Froome, but perhaps he’s not ready to fade away from this race just yet.

He could salvage something with a stage win in the Alps.

1. The Sagan show
Man, this ‘Sagan comes 2nd again’ sub-plot is so unrealistic.

Sagan, it has to be said, is riding like a monster. Today he was immense, shutting down attacks on the Col de Manse and hammering down the technical descent into Gap, in furious fruitless pursuit of Ruben Plaza, the one attacker he hadn’t marked.

He is so desperate for a win, you can see it twisting him. That’s why this is so compelling: Sagan is so strong, so ridiculously strong, yet can seemingly contrive a close defeat from almost any situation.

Who else could be there every day? He’s in the breaks, piling on the points in the maillot vert, fending for himself. He can smash much lighter riders over Cat 2 and 3 climbs, yet can hang with the big boys in the bunch sprints.

He would murder nearly every rider in the world, tête-à-tête, but he loses to so many different types of rider it’s comical.

The whole saga is so compelling. His running total in this Tour is:

5x 2nd
2x 3rd
3x 4th
1x 5th

That means Sagan has been in the top five in 11 out of 16 stages (including the TTT).

He only missed out in the Pyrenees, on the Stage 1 ITT (still a respectable 19th) and on the Mur de Huy.

To pile on the misery, he was in the top five on nine stages in last year’s Tour, also without a win.

It’s an amazing consistency, and yet…

Mega Daily Bone-up: Stage 15

Well, that escalated.

5. Bling is back

No win, but he was back mixing it up in the finish of a stage that never really suited him. Bling doesn’t love the bunch sprints, and he had to freelance it through a tricky run in. He was nearly put into the barriers by a pair of Cofidis riders and lost position, then had to brake into the final corner and slipped further back. That’s OK.

At least he’s feeling good enough to be involved in the race again.

4. Rohan’s shorts

BMC’s dual stage-winner Rohan ‘Drop Bear’ Dennis was wearing special black knicks because he has saddle sores and he needed more, or different, padding.

HOW MANY TIMES DID WE NEED TO HEAR ABOUT IT?

3. Sagan watch: yet another top five

He’s racking them up faster than Paolini at a discotheque.

I wonder if he’s considered not getting in the break every single day, and saving some energy for the sprint at the end. You know, the one that matters. He may not have.

2. Greipel wins again, is clearly the fastest sprinter in the race

That’s three to Greipel, one to Cavendish, and donuts for all the other big sprinters.

Seems pretty clear cut that he’s the fastest when it’s flat.

Cavendish is apparently sick, and was shelled out the back very early today. Will he make it through the Alps?

1. Froome goes the media

This is a story that’s arguably bigger than the actual race. Chris Froome has gone in hard at the media, blaming ‘certain sections’ (mostly the French) for deliberately stirring the pot and inciting people to do stupid things like punch Richie Porte or throw piss at Froome himself.

French ex-TV commentator Laurent Jalabert seems to have been singled out by the English press, for comments he made about Froome:

Let’s take a moment to talk about Jalabert, a sprinter from the mid-1990’s who somehow also managed to win the King of the Mountains jersey twice AND the Vuelta a Espana (where he won all three jerseys in 1995).

Jaja‘s urine from the notorious 1998 ‘Festina Tour’ tested positive for EPO (shock!) but he has never admitted to knowingly doping, despite defying his natural physiology to prosper as a climber in the EPO-soaked 1990’s. I distinctly remember watching those Tours and hearing Phil Liggett express his amazement (yes, I know!) that Jalabert was climbing so well.

The idea that Jalabert of all people could lecture anyone about doping is laughable.

But so is the idea that by voicing his own doubts about Froome he is responsible for the actions of idiots, or that it’s unreasonable to question dominant performances given the context of two decades of false denials and omerta.

I can understand Froome is annoyed, indignant even. It is completely unacceptable to abuse or assault riders. And some of the loudest media voices making veiled accusations are the exact people whose own cheating led the punters to doubt his integrity in the first place. The injustice of it all!

But let’s all take a few deep breaths and try to maintain some perspective. We remember how we got here, right? Doubt is part and parcel now.

Especially when the competition has been crushed by the first stage of the Pyrenees, leaving the media without anything much to talk about.