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Tour de France 2011

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#1 Orange Julia

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Posted 02 July 2011 - 08:32 AM

Tour starts today, as per usual, amid controversy with doping and Alberto Contador. Only the slightest mentions of Lance these days, nothing so far regarding Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis. I am sure they are just trying to get past all that.

The new talking head (replacing Craig Hummer) sucks. Not sure why Versus/NBC Universal always has to have someone to run the show who seemingly knows nothing about bike racing.

100 year anniversary of Alps stages. Looks brutal. Can't wait.

#2 StupendousMan

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 02:54 AM

I'm so glad to see someone else starting a thread about the Tour. I'll be in Japan for the duration of the event this year, but I'll be checking the results and reading the live text updates on each stage when I can.

Today's first stage actually brought some excitement into the Tour. The prohibitive favorite, Alberto Contador, absolutely destroyed his competition in the year's first grand tour, the Giro d'Italia. He has looked unbeatable, but today, he lost 1 minute and 14 seconds to a number of his chief rivals due to a crash. With 9 km left in the relatively flat stage, one of the riders struck a (stupid) spectator who was standing in the road, and a big section of the peloton went down; the riders behind the crash, including Contador, were delayed. A gap of 1:14 this early in the event is very unusual, and it puts extra pressure on Contador and his team to try to get time back at every opportunity. This will make almost every stage much more interesting.

#3 therondc

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 07:10 AM

I was so happy to see Contador lose time in both of the first two stages. If nothing else, it's enough time to keep the race interesting. Given that Contador has never been dropped in a mountain stage of the TdF, and has become an excellent time trialist, it was difficult to imagine someone beating him. With this little head start, Schleck just needs to hold Contador's wheel in the mountains (easier said than done, I know) and limit his losses in the ITT.

For such a great rider, Contador may be one of the dumbest. This is not the first time he has been caught sleeping in the back of the pack, and losing time because of it.

#4 inter tatters

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 11:09 AM

Absolute mayhem in the stage today, along the traditionally narrow and twisty Breton roads - Tom Boonen had a horrific crash that pretty much ended his tour, Nicky Sorenson had his bike caught up in the handlebars of one of the support motorbikes in a particularly narrow section, was dragged along for a while then deposited in a field while his bike was dragged along even further (the Tour Director announced that he had sacked the motorbike rider before the stage even ended!) and Mark Cavendish, without his usual HTC leadout for once, came from about 10 riders back to claim the sprint on the line.

Great racing, but no real change to the overall standings, as is normal at this stage.

#5 StupendousMan

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 06:18 PM

Another one bites the dust. In today's long and "lumpy" stage, there were several crashes in the main peloton. One of them claimed Bradley Wiggins, who was probably one of the top 10 contenders for the general classification. The initial description of his injuries suggest a broken collarbone, but that was just a guess.

This event must really be frustrating for the competitors. Even if you do nothing wrong, someone else who makes a small mistake going around a turn or crossing the white paint on a wet road can knock you down and out of the race. One little puncture in your tire can cause you to lose a minute or two, which is all it takes to keep you out of the winner's circle. Look at Andy Schleck last year, who lost 39 seconds due to a dropped chain on one mountain stage and couldn't make it back up.

It must be easier for the sprinters and the riders who go for wins in the individual stages. If you have a bad day today, rolling in 20 minutes after the leaders, it's no big deal -- you can try for a win tomorrow or the next day. But for the men who ride for the overall title, one bad day is the end.

#6 StupendousMan

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Posted 10 July 2011 - 05:41 PM

More carnage in the race yesterday, as several more of the top GC contenders withdrew due to injuries. Alexander Vinokourov, who put in a splendid effort in the previous stage -- it didn't pay off, but he came close to getting the stage win -- was one of the victims of a big crash in the peloton. He broke either his pelvis or a femur, in addition to smaller bones, when he went over the edge of an embankment. He wasn't the only man in that crash to withdraw, leaving a somewhat thin group of riders to compete for the yellow jersey in the end.

Speaking of the yellow jersey, it's no surprise to see Thomas Voeckler in it again. He's such an aggressive rider and always trying to go out on breaks.

The day's worst event, in some ways, was when a French TV car swerved into riders in a small breakaway group, knocking one onto the pavement and causing another to go flying into a barbed wire fence. You can find the video on steephill.tv, if you want to watch. The driver of the car apparently ignored several directives to pull over and let the riders pass him.

#7 Greg29fan

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Posted 11 July 2011 - 01:58 AM

Never seen this many crashes in the Tour before. I'm glad that Hoogerland, the guy who got sent flying into the barbed wire, finished the stage and got to put on the King of the Mountains jersey.

Contador also wiped out again even though he recovered. There was some speculation by the announcers that he was taken out intentionally by another rider (looked like an elbow into the ribs that sent him off).

Edited by Greg29fan, 11 July 2011 - 01:59 AM.

#8 Orange Julia

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Posted 12 July 2011 - 10:34 AM

There certainly has been a lot of chatter about this starting week of Le Tour--I've been watching since 1999, and I have never seen such carnage. That french TV car that clipped the spanish rider and sent a bunch of other riders into the barbed wire--what happened to that driver?

#9 Kremlin Watcher

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Posted 12 July 2011 - 01:30 PM

There certainly has been a lot of chatter about this starting week of Le Tour--I've been watching since 1999, and I have never seen such carnage. That french TV car that clipped the spanish rider and sent a bunch of other riders into the barbed wire--what happened to that driver?

He, and as far as I understand, the car as well, have been excluded from the remainder of the Tour. What an idiot. I know driving a chase car can be hard, but it's as if he intentionally veered into that guy. I think there is intent on the part of the Tour organizers to keep the danger level high as it really adds to viewing excitement in what otherwise could be a pretty boring parade of guys on bikes. Not that they go out of their way to make it really dangerous, but the last really major safety change they instituted was the helmet requirement, and that was after some pretty severe incidents. But the descents and the degree of difficulty of navigating some of these roads when crowded with 190+ cyclists (well, I guess fewer now), crowds, motorcycles, cars, etc., really make for some dangerous riding. Interesting to watch, but pretty dicey for the participants.

#10 Orange Julia

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Posted 12 July 2011 - 08:15 PM

Here's more answer to my question from Bicycling Magazine:

Sky Team may sue

AURILLAC, July 12, 2011 (AFP) – Team Sky are pondering whether to take legal action against the television car which sent their Spaniard rider Juan Antonio Flecha flying during the race’s ninth stage Sunday.

Flecha and Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland survived being hit by a France Television car as it overtook their five-man breakaway group 35 km from the finish line.

The car was later excluded from the race by furious organisers and France Television later issued an official apology.

#11 inter tatters

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Posted 13 July 2011 - 09:11 AM

Couldn't believe it when Hoogerland got back on his bike and completed the stage after that crash, it was horrific. Thankfully with the rest day immediately after, he was patched up with 30+ stitches in various gashes from the barbed wire fence. The way he flew off his bike and appeared to land head first, I thought it would be far worse than that.

I'm enjoying the new intermediate sprint rules, though the way the sprinters are whining at each other for their 'tactics' is getting silly - none more so than Rojas, who seems to have a go at Cavendish and Team HTC after every stage.

#12 Hee-Seop's Fable

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 10:24 PM

First real mountain top finish today and the race looks as wide open as any edition of the Tour I can remember. Contador really looks vulnerable, and and dark horse at this point to come back to win unless he uncorks a great ride Saturday to strike some fear into his rivals Team Leopard is looking pretty scary for the other teams to deal with given Frank Schleck's success on today's final ascent. Behind him looked like a lot of soloists comprising the elite climbers.

Work' been getting in the way of keeping up with both the Sox and the Tour this year, so I'm not clear on whether any of the teams really have meaningful depth to control the mountain stages. Do any of the contenders really have enough support to unhinge the Schlecks? The days of Lance's army leading him over the mountains, Cipo's red train, or even Cavendish's yellow one seem to be a rare sight this year. Am I mistaken?

On another note, it's great to have seen Tyler Farrar finally get his sprint win, and to have it happen on July 4th was even better. This country needs some stars to step up, especially with and older Levi fading and Horner's catastrophic crash.

#13 Greg29fan

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 11:35 PM

Cavendish's team have been doing very well leading him in the sprint stages - it's been a HTC Highroad battalion up front. Basso had a guy with him today and Voeckler did as well, but Contador had nobody with him and neither did Cadel Evans. I was seriously impressed with Frank Schleck today; Andy didn't look nearly as good as Frank did, and Frank is up to 2nd now, ahead of Evans.

#14 StupendousMan

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 02:19 AM

I haven't been able to watch the race on TV, just follow the live ticker and read reports afterwards. At the moment, I agree that the race is relatively open: any one of 5 or 6 riders could win (Evans, Basso, Contador, the Schlecks, maybe one or two others). I would say that the real wild card is the degree to which Andy and Frank can work together. If each of them is in good shape, they have the opportunity to work on the other contendors in a unique way: Frank, say, can break out of the pack, and force someone else to follow him; Andy can then just follow the wheel (using less energy) until that rider catches up to Frank ... and then Andy can jump ahead. If both brothers are strong, they can use this tactic to wear out their competitors on the mountains.

Of course, it only works if both are strong, but today, it certainly seemed that both were.

#15 inter tatters

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 03:31 AM

Leopard Trek look to have a pretty strong team - Jens Voight was setting an absolutely brutal pace on the Tourmalet and the bottom of the final climb before he exploded and left the Schlecks to it. Andy's interview was telling -

"Frank was super strong. His attack was perfectly timed. We knew that if we attacked left, right, left, right, they would eventually have to let one of us get away. That was the plan, and it's exactly what happened."

If they have that for the rest of the tour, then the Schlecks are going to be hard to beat. However, I was impressed with the way Evans and Basso hung in there. Maybe this is Evans' year, he's been 2nd twice and a bit of a forgotten man, but he's always there or thereabouts.

#16 Hee-Seop's Fable

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 06:48 PM

Leopard Trek look to have a pretty strong team - Jens Voight was setting an absolutely brutal pace on the Tourmalet and the bottom of the final climb before he exploded and left the Schlecks to it. Andy's interview was telling -

If they have that for the rest of the tour, then the Schlecks are going to be hard to beat. However, I was impressed with the way Evans and Basso hung in there. Maybe this is Evans' year, he's been 2nd twice and a bit of a forgotten man, but he's always there or thereabouts.

No doubt Voight is the best domestique in the world right now. He is a legendary tough guy.

I just don't think Evans has the cool-under-fire nature and ability to handle the pressure, and at 34 he's getting a bit old to recover fast enough in a 3 week race. I empathize with his riding style - calculated and steady, good all around, but a bit cranky without some space and solitude, fragile, and vulnerable when ground down - but by the same token his opponents have always found a crack in his armor to exploit when the going gets tough. Contador and the Schlecks, and even Basso, a less dynamic rider the last few years, all have shown the ability to handle the pressure gracefully and turn in good performances when it counts in the past. Evans is older too, though not so old to be really counted out. No doubt the more pure climbers will need to open time on him before the ITT because he is capable of beating all of them in that arena, especially if Contador is still fatigued from the Giro.

And on today's stage (masked if anyone's saving it for tonight's coverage)


Edited by Hee-Seop's Fable, 15 July 2011 - 06:50 PM.

#17 Greg29fan

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 12:26 PM

Another fantastic effort today by Voeckler to keep the maillot jaune. I doubt he can hold on through the Alps but he was supposed to have lost it at Luz and then today at the Plateau de Baille and he's kept it both times.

#18 Hee-Seop's Fable

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 11:16 AM

I'll eat my words claiming no one team seemed to be able to dominate a race for their top rider - HTC did a great job today controlling a chaotic finish today, and getting Cavendish to the line after two days of towing him along, first to beat the time cut yesterday, then to control most of the second half of the race today.

They overcame some threatening late attacks in the last few km's and delivered Cavendish to the line in unbeatable position. Had Dean been able to find a way to get Tyler flush even with Oss of Liquigas, who finished 4th and was sitting on Cavendish's wheel with 300-400 meters to go, Farrar would have won. He closed at least two bike lengths on Cav in the last 150 meters, so he's really matured into one of the worlds fastest finishers. He was flooded with adrenaline even well afterwords when Andreau interviewed him, frustrated with his near miss. Garmin just needs a little more gas to get him a win the last day in Paris.

#19 pockmeister

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 06:38 AM

So a quick update before today's crucial stage to Alpe d'heuz. Somehow, we're down to the last mountain stage of the race, and Tommy Voeckler is still in yellow, albeit by only 15 seconds from Andy Schleck. He's now hung onto it all the way through the Pyrenees, and over yesterday's brutal stage that went over 3 hors category climbs, including the Col d'Izoard, finishing on the Col du Galibier. Today's stage goes over the Galibier again, and finishes on Alpe d'heuz, so it's going to be all about the climbers again.

Yesterday was a stunning solo ride from Andy Schleck, escaping over the Izoard and holding a lead all the way to the finish. At one point he'd taken 5 minutes out of the others, but Cadel Evans brutalised himself up the Galibier to keep Andy's winning margin down to about 2.15, and also dragging Voeckler along with him to keep him in yellow. Andy's problem is that he'll probably need to try the same again today because Evans is a far superior time-trialer, and he will need to be in yellow by some distance by the end of today if he wants to win. Evans will probably look to shadow him as much as possible, and Voeckler will surely have to give the jersey up after the stage today.

Elsewhere, Contador proved that he's been living off past reputation during this tour, by imploding up the final climb and is now nearly 5 minutes back of the lead - he's accepted his chance of victory has gone. The sprinters all had a tortuous day yesterday, with a number of them including Cavendish finishing outside the time limit. The Tour organisers have shown some sympathy by not eliminating everyone, but Cav has been docked 20 green jersey points, taking his lead down to 15...so that should make things fun in Paris...if any sprinters survive today's stage!

Massive day coming up.

#20 Dernells Casket n Flagon

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 10:03 AM

At the bottom of Alpe d'Huez, with Andy Schleck, Contador and Evans in the lead group.

Quite a stage so far today. Contador attacked before the Telegraph and was matched by Andy. Evans had a major bike problem and dropped about a minute and half into the main field, but pulled himself back on the Golibier climb and descent. If Evans doesn't lose any time to Andy today, the tour should be his due to the time trial. Voeckler went for the break but fell back. I'd love to see him end up on the podium for his efforts during the tour.

#21 Greg29fan

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 12:26 PM

well we're down to the two Schlecks and Cadel in the time trial tomorrow. It's supposed to favor Cadel, but there are a couple of climbs during the stage that might help Schleck. Should be pretty fascinating, like Lemond-Fignon in 89.

#22 Orange Julia

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 08:00 AM

I am trying to remember a TdF that was so uncertain that it was decided definitively by the TT. This has been a pretty good ride this year, but the commentators (Not Paul and Phil) are awful. can't believe i'm wishing for the Al Trautwig days. Bob Roll and his pseudo poetry pontifications are just horrible (but at least he is a former rider) and the Liam guy doesn't seem to know anything about bike racing, and it is clear that Phil has zero respect for him.

#23 hitatater

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 11:25 AM

So Cadel Evans will win in Paris tomorrow; is he the first winner without a Tour Stage Victory?

Is he also maybe the first winner to have worn the Yellow Jersey for only a single day? Even when LeMond won on the final day in Paris in 1985, he had a collection of Maillot Jaunes from previous tours, I believe.

None of this takes anything away from his well-deserved and admirable victory. He chased every break in the mountains on his own and then threw down in the TT.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

#24 Greg29fan

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 04:09 PM

Actually it's the second straight year the winner hasn't won a stage. (although it's still up in the air whether or not Contador will maintain his 2010 TDF title).

#25 SilasCL

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 04:23 PM

Evans won stage 4 this year, and would have had the yellow jersey if Hushovd didn't put in a great ride to stay 1 second ahead.


#26 Greg29fan

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 11:52 AM

Contador has lost his 2010 TDF title and is banned through August.