Le Tour de France 2009

Lance going off early in the Monaco TT surprised me, but there will be a reason — nothing happens by chance with the man from Plano.

The cadence was high and he had the Jenson Button lines on the corners, but somehow he wasn’t ‘on it.’

The Trek was cool, ‘stealth’ style, concealed brakes and cables, box girder chain stay with the down tube and seat stays parallel — not a look I usually like, but cool on this beast.

A very technical course, taking in the tunnel and reminding me of the time I rattled the Manta through there.

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Tour 09 Stage 1 Map.
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Tour 09 Stage 1 Profile.

The fact that Tony Martin sliced a chunk off Lance’s time confirmed that “the future Governor of Texas” wasn’t on a good day.

Martin won the Ras a year or two ago and is an up and coming chrono man — he’ll be there at the Worlds.

What is Leipheimer playing at in those over socks? his legs are short enough with out making them look shorter; and there he was pedalling past the Café de Paris — one of the Europe’s most stylish watering holes. Quickest though; just a good job that Cancellara and Contador are still to come.

There was Grabsch, World TT Champ, but a ‘death gear’ man pedalling in slo-mo and way too heavy for the hills and bends around the Principality; a minute off the pace.

Millar looked much more the part, supple on the climbs in a tiny gear, big geared on the drops but loosing a little time when he locked up the back wheel on a bend or two to go fourth.

If you’re a prologue specialist, it’s like being a sprinter; there’s only one place that counts — and it’s not fourth.

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Carlos rode a steady test, but didn’t make the psycologically important top ten.

A lull; and Levi, Martin and Lance’s times aren’t troubled — not by Cav anyway, he’s having a rest day, already.

Frank Schleck drops a minute plus on Levi — that’s not good.

Roman Kreuziger, smooth, focussed with a Tour of Romandie win under his belt already this year, he’s one for the future — second; maybe Jeremy Roy coming back at him and ‘sparring’ cost him those tenths.

Boonen, rolls down the ramp to a big cheer — at last, something Viktor will be happy about.

Team mate Devolder drops a minute-and-a-half on Levi, not a good advert for the Belgian TT jersey.

Remi Pauriol goes top ten — back from injury after wins in the GP Ouverture and Lugano early in the year — he’s a rare bird, a Cofidis rider who can win races.

Davie Zee, looks smooth, maybe too smooth, this has to hurt; top ten — that’s nowhere.

Chrono stylist Klöden drops off the hill like a brick — albeit an aero one — and takes the lead by a street; ASO will be chuffed if he wins…

Slag Astana if you wish, but they have real strength in depth.

A good ride comes from Christian Vandevelde, no doubt stung by Lance’s negative comments about his high place of last year; “Christian Vandevelde? Come on!

Brad, can he do it?

We’ll soon see; but God, those over-socks are too long — like Viktor says; “a lot of these guys need a stylist!” but maybe it’s an ‘aero thing?’

Just when we thought it was impossible for the Astana strip to look any worse, Bert proves us wrong with his Spanish TT Champ’s jersey — Jeez, that’s horrible.

Cancellara is away, as Moureau finished 98th — I remember when he won the prologue in Dunkirk eight years ago.

And now Bert; high cadence, attacking the drags out of the saddle, he looks good.

Cadel launches, he’s attacking it hard.

Carlos drops of the ramp in the new Cervelo white strip; his mum won’t like washing that one.

Ballan goes top 20 as we cut back to Bert; his Trek is white; Lance’s is black — Gary Cooper and Jack Pallance?

The camera lingers on Bert — but what about Wiggins and Cancellara?

The word comes; “Wiggins second fastest by one second at the second check,” wow!

Cancellara is second at the top of the climb by one second — but he’ll bomb the descent.

Evans slogs, Bert flies — numero uno at the top; but Big Boys Brad and Fabian will drop like concrete blocks.

Astarloza goes top ten for Euskaltel — nice ride.

Wiggins goes top — respect!

Cancellara is eating up the tar, those huge thighs stroking at a big, big gear — it’s the Olympics all over again.

Sastre is nowhere at the top, but this isn’t his bag — it’s six hours too short for him.

Cancellara takes 20 seconds out of Brad’s time — I don’t like to over use those superlatives, but “awesome!” the commentary team on Eurosport are speechless.

Bert rides the last few hundred metres on pure pain to go second,

Brad drops to third.

Evans goes fifth – good ride.

Menchov is nowhere, caught for a minute by Cancellara.

Sastre is 21st — that’ll do.

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Cancellara used his tremendous descending skills to take 20 seconds out of Wiggins and Contador.

Cancellara; no surprises, except for the margin, that is.

Kelly says Fabian can win the Tour; and he’s a boy that knows a bit!

We’re off!

Le Tour de France 2009
Al Hamilton

Well, its here, today’s’ the day! “Noo’s the day and noo’s the oour!” and the hype has hit its highest level possible here in Spain.

Sports daily AS leads with “Tour del dinosaurio” and photo a of Contador and Armstrong reconnoitring the TT course – Bert is in Astana kit and Lance wears the black Mellow Johnny’s, a picture is worth a 1,000 words!

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AS goes with this.

Of the quotes all are interesting,

Pereiro (Caisse d’Epargne/2006 TdF winner)

“Armstrong is favourite, but it’s better for cycling if Contador wins”.

Contador (Astana/2007 TdF winner)

“who has won seven Tours, Lance?” and “In the TT I won’t take excessive risks, I don’t have to prove anything!”

Sastre (Cervelo/2008 TdF winner)

“Armstrong should have more respect (for other riders)” and “Why shouldn’t I win again?” and “I’m not preoccupied with other teams, respect to Contador and Armstrong, but I’m preoccupied with Carlos Sastre!” and “I’ll be starting in yellow and wearing No.1!”

Freire

“Cavendish is not unbeatable”.

The other sports daily Marca, is more interested in the Astana fall out, or as it points out the media is putting the light on the problems between Armstrong and Contador with side comments from manager Bryneel. Armstrong for his part is talking about the Tour and how he wants to be strong for the last week.

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Great copy in the Spanish papers.

The sad after note is that the AFLD (French Dope Control) thinks there are “new products” in the Tour.

In an interview for daily “La Figaro” Pierre Bordry said;

“There are new products as well as the old ones, and there is still the difficulties of finding the blood transfusions”.

That’s the news from Spain; it could all be different by the end of the day!

gord-thumb
Gordan Cameron

When even an Italian complains that it’s too hot, well … what’s a pasty Scottish boy to do.

One of our pals from BiciSport, Lorenzo, had been walking the course of the opening TDF time trial around probably the most expensive real estate in Europe and was suffering!

It was the same for us … we walked it down to Port Hercule to check the Start/Finish area and it was stifling. Lance was in town and no-one with a camera, microphone or an aspiration was taking any prisoners.

I reckon Lance will be pretty happy with 10th, but he’ll be under no illusions now — the road has spoken and Bertie is the top dog in the kennel. Not by much, but by enough.

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Gord got a great shot of Cancellara storming to the win.

We’d bumped into the Cervelo guys in the morning and Brett Lancaster had tipped Bradley Wiggins to win … I should have ducked into the Casino and stuck an embarrassing 10 Euros on that tip each way, would have paid for the cold drinks we bought road-side. I won’t be complaining about prices in Scotland again.

To see the Tour kick off is an amazing experience, but it’s draining as well.

What amazes me is that some of the riders clearly gave it the maximum, even although they had no hope of winning and have three weeks of this ahead of them.

Most of the UK press our sport gets is the worst kind; the drugs, the cheating, the accidents, the mockery, the total misunderstanding.

So for anyone out there who thinks all bike riders are a cause for suspicion, who think ‘how do they make it look so easy?’ … here’s a photo of one of the good guys, Gustav Larsson.

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Larrson tried this afternoon.

You’d think he’d been in a war, looking at the red eyes, the sweat, the pain. He finished 11th today. Chapeau.

Cheers, Gord