As I sit in the brothel that is Terminal 3, Heathrow, I can’t believe that my direct involvement with the London Olympics is done. When did that happen? It felt like forever when I was first nominated to be physio, and still forever when I was confirmed. All of a sudden I was in London which was in the midst of cycling hysteria as Wiggo and Froomey had confirmed that they would be atop the podium at the Tour, and the Olympics were about to start.
Today is the big day. The culmination of the road cycling programme for the London Olympics. I can’t believe we’re already here!
We have arrived! Well, to be honest, it’s been a few days now, but the dust has only really settled enough to write anything as of today. We’re staying a little out of town, allowing us the opportunity to train without the stress of dealing with the traffic of London, the slog of battling other athletes for everything in the Village, and the chance for the boys to decompress, relax and recover after the Tour.
TDF 2012; The overall top three for the Tour is virtually locked in after the Pyrenees, with the likely result of the final time trial being to simply confirm the dominance of the two Sky boys, and shuffle a few of the lower places. Prior to that, we have a 221km stage that nominally should be a sprint stage, but likely sprint teams will need to be motivated to control things as it is a very tough day in the saddle. Exhaustion for those who are already exhausted.
Brad Wiggins and Chris Froome have shown that they are by far the best two riders in the Tour de France, being untouchable on both the mountains as well as on the time trials. Liquigas and Vincenzo Nibali set the race up, giving it everything they could to make the race tough in the hope that the Sky boys would crack, but in the end, that just meant they had less work to do and could do more damage in the finale.
Today is the stage that I have been looking forward to the most since I had a proper look at the various stage profiles back in early June. It is a genuine belter! The back end of the race includes an Hors Categorie climb immediately followed by a First Categorie climb.
We have had the next big mountain stage, and for Wiggo, there is only one left. Only one more day where he will be threatened, and only one more man who is a threat. Sadly, Cadel Evans’ shot at back to back Tour victories is done and dusted, if it wasn’t already. On a truly massive day, where an enormous break got away early in the stage, the defending champ was in trouble on the earliest climbs, and only worsened through the day. TDF 2012 St 16
Ok. We’ve had our rest day, complete with (seemingly) obligatory drug bust, and we’re ready to dive into the final, defining week. More on Frank’s positive later. Now we see if the hard racing that has been inflicted upon the peloton has had any effect on Team Sky. It certainly showed with the break staying away and Fedrigo winning the stage over Christian “VDV” Vandevelde (DAMN I wanted to see him win one!) before the rest.
Upholstery tacks? Seriously? Clearly my “Ugly Fans” rant was two days too soon. The Tour is such a great spectacle partly because of the amazing numbers of fans lining the road.
Cadel Evans’ aggressive riding late in Stage 13, and the subsequent carnage and one day style “balls to the wall” racing has assured us of one thing this Tour: we don’t know what’s next! Today is a day with two large climbs a long way out from the finish, the second including ramps up to 18%, and peaking some 40km from the finish. The descent ends about 20km from the line, and the whole stage is right by the southern coastline again, bringing wind into the equation.
So if you looked at the result of last night and saw Greipel from Sagan from Boassen Hagen, you’d likely think “Aaah just another bunchie” – it was certainly the finale that I was expecting! And was far from the finale that actually happened. BMC took advantage of the stiff crosswinds and tough little wall 25km from the finish to send Cadel shooting off the front of the bunch.
Ugly Fan Rant. I was reading the GreenEdge site this morning and saw that Whitey made mention of Australian fans abusing Richie Porte & Mick Rogers for the “sin” of riding “against” Cadel. These people are idiots. If Australian football was ever blessed with two players who were talented enough to be starters for Chelsea and Manchester United, would one be considered un-Australian (whatever that means) because he was playing against the other?
Back to Bunchies - we’ve had a full week since the mad dog sprinters have had a chance to shine, and I would be astonished if we had to wait another day to see them all go head to head for the win.
Dave Millar takes a superb stage; Stage 12 was as close to a guaranteed breakaway stage as there is with it’s steeply lumpy early: flat late profile. The sprinters lose too much time to be able to catch up and contest a bunch finish, but it is far too flat to result in any time gaps between the big hitters.
Time to Regroup. After the savagery of yesterday’s stage, today is very likely to be a neutral stage from the GC boys’ point of view. There are big hills in it, but they are very early in the stage. Hence those who played big roles late in the climb yesterday will likely be riding small, tucked into the bunch conserving energy.
The first big mountain stage of the Tour has exposed the form of the riders who have intentions of finishing on the podium in the race. The best five in the race to date have been Wiggins, Evans, Nibali, Froome and Van Den Broeck (VDB). Bizarrely, Chris Froome is probably the best in the race right now: he completely cracked Cadel Evans AND (briefly) dropped his own team leader.
Today is the first “High” mountaintop finish. Stage 7 was considered “Medium”, and looking at the pictures of the stage today, one can see why! This is a short, mountainous stage that may well see fireworks from the big hitters. When considering the terrain, there isn’t really any respite throughout the stage, and it is a virtual guarantee that Vincenzo Nibali, Jurgen van den Broeck and Cadel Evans will equally attempting to make things difficult for the SKY super team.
The stage today would have been earmarked as one for the break, and this it has turned out to be. Two of the popular heroes of the Tour battled it out for the stage win: Thomas Voeckler and Jens Voigt took each other, and three other escapees on, with Voeckler using his cunning and power to take the stage in a very funny looking slow motion sprint.
Will They or Won't They? Stage 10 has the classic look of a day when they break will get away and stay away all through to the finish. It is 194km long through high mountains, but the final 43km of the stage has 33km of descending in it. This is the sort of stage that Thor Hushovd won on last year, and will see the usual breakaway specialists licking their lips at the prospect of a shot at a stage win.
We’re at the first rest day already! And it feels like the race is well on it’s way to being decided. Each day I’ve spoken about what has specifically happened in the race, and my perspective on that. We shall see where things head hence in the next fortnight, but firstly, let’s look at some of my favourite bits thus far, including Tyler Farrar.
Holy crap. Brad Wiggins has just shredded the Tour to pieces. In the first time trial of the race he has put himself close to two minutes in front of his nearest rival, Cadel Evans. After that is his own lieutenant, Chris Froome, then Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali.
Toby Watson Blog - After the first rest day, this is a good time to look at where the race may go in the coming week. Cadel and Nibali need to find two minutes on Wiggo just to catch up, and they are staring at another, longer time trial later in the race, so effectively need at least three.
A Matter of Scale. The first (of two) Individual Time Trials in the race, the riders are looking at 41km on a relatively hilly parcours where the stronger time triallists in the field will attempt to put some more space between themselves and their “mountain goat” rivals.
1st Chance For A Break. The Mountains have been entered and the big show has begun in earnest! Looking at this stage, one would predict it to be a day pencilled in by breakaway specialists such as Simon Gerrans, Thomas Voeckler or Thor Hushovd (had he have been racing) who have already let a good whack of time go from the race leader. In this way they’re non-threatening when they do get in a break and thus aren’t chased down.
Team Sky just knocked 99% of their rivals out of the Tour de France today. With shades of US Postal in the era of Lance Armstrong’s total dominance, Bradley Wiggins’ Team Sky threw their boys on the front of the peloton, and said boys then rode a savage tempo, breaking all but two of the major contenders off the back of the bunch. New Juggernaut.
Stage 7 finally sees the race leave the flatlands, and Time For The Big Boys to play. The race enters the Jura mountains on the German/Swiss border with France. The sprinters and those who are dealing with injuries from falls in the first week will ride small, attempting to save some energy in the hope that they can come good later in the race, while those with hopes of GC places will be planning how they will maximise advantages, or minimise losses.
A New Rockstar... Peter Sagan has now won three stages of the Tour this year: two uphill sprints, and a straight-up bunch kick. I’ve already mentioned it, but he’s still got more than ten Tours de France in his future (all things being well). How good is this kid going to be?
One More Bunchie... Today we see the closing stage of the opening flurry of salvos fired in the battle for the Green Jersey. This will be another bunch kick stage that covers 210km, and brings the race in range of the mountains and hills that will play a role in deciding the final order of the overall contenders.
Close Run Thing... the “Guaranteed” Bunchie that I mentioned yesterday did indeed eventuate on stage 5 today, but it was looking touch-and-go as to whether they’d be sprinting for the win, or lower placings! People always ask why teams get into a break if they know they’re only going to be caught in the lead-up to the bunch sprint, and today’s stage was a great example of the answer: you never know.
Stage 5 is a guaranteed Traditional Bunch Kick. It is in the mold of the traditional early week flat stages of the Tour from years gone by. It is a 197km shot across the northeast of France, coincidentally passing very close to where the Australian WW1 cemetery at Villers-Brettoneux is located. A very moving place.
Andre Greipel, the big man with enough horsepower to be a chance at beating Cav in a straight sprint took the stage win today. We, the fans unfortunately didn’t have tthe chance to see the two great men going head to head as they did on Stage 2 (one of the best sprints I’ve ever seen) as Cav was caught in a crash and hit the road a couple of km from the finish. The Carnage Continues...
Star Status. Stage 3 was a tough “mini Spring Classic” style of a day which was remarkably hectic in the final 40km, and which saw Peter Sagan give his older, better-credentialed rivals an absolute bath. He was the hot favourite for the stage, and with a cool head controlled his team, and the stage completely.
Another Kicker Finale ... Stage 3 sees 197 km that begins like a classic “first week sprinters’ stage” of Tours gone by, and finishes like a One Day Classic, with five categorised climbs in the final 33km. It is still not going to be difficult enough to separate the big hitters by anything more than a second or two, but it will be too hard for pure sprinters to be a chance of figuring in the finale.
2012 Tour de France: one sprint stage, one stage win for Mark Cavendish. The world champ was sensational in the finale of last night’s stage. He squeezed by “The Gorilla” Andre Greipel who ran off the back of a beautifully organised leadout train.
Today is the first out and out sprint stage. Today we find out if the form Gossy and Greipel showed yesterday relative to Mark Cavendish was true, or if Cav was holding back a little. (For those out of the loop, Greipel showed that his train is beautifully organised and disciplined; and Gossy showed that he can bop a win over the great one when at the Tour.)
Early Shows Of Form... The “Mini Liege” Stage has been done and dusted, and the next big thing in bike racing (if he isn’t already there) has shown he will be competitive at the very highest level. Peter Sagan entered the stage as one of the favourites for the win, and was flawless in executing his victory. He is not as quick as Cav (and never will be) but can contest so many more finales as he is able to stay with the leaders on tougher stages.
The first road stage has started! Touted as a mini Liege Bastogne Liege, the course covers many of the same roads as the race known as La Doyenne, one of the single day Classics known as a Monument. The last time these roads were tackled at the Tour was in 2009, easily the worst working day of my Sports Physio career - I was working for the Garmin team at the time.
All of the tension has finally left the peloton as they’ve finally started the race. Haha!! Or more accurately, the early tension of anticipation has been replaced by the tension to gain time/hold place/maintain position/get in the break/follow the right wheel/avoid the crashes/etc etc etc!
The Tour Prologue is one of the most high stakes stages in bike racing. 6.4km of maximum effort, with the winner being gifted with the Yellow Jersey at the end of the day. The value placed upon this for teams, sponsors and the riders themselves is truly enormous.
Le Tour 2012 is a day away! On paper it is going to be a race between Wiggo and Cadel, and it is hard to see anyone else good enough to match these two men. As has been noted everywhere, and ad nauseam, this is a Tour with over 90km of time trialling. Considering the miserable time trialling talents of the gun climbers in the race, particularly when compared to how good Cadel and Wiggo are at climbing, the race for third may well end up being a separate battle of the also-rans behind the Wiggins-Evans showdown.
Strade Bianchi baby! The white roads of Tuscany get another run on the Pro Tour today. This is a relatively new one day classic, and an Italian take on the cobbled classics of the legendary Belgian spring. Instead of cobblestones, we have hard-packed clay sectors where moves are made, races are won and all the cool photos are taken.
And so the warm weather (excluding Tour of the Med) precursors to the bike season proper have concluded. Down Under, Qatar, Oman, Algarve, etc have all had their brief moments in the spotlight, Langkawi has kicked off with a win to Zab in the time trial (no surprises that Zab is nowhere near the Classics! Not a sketchy conditions type of rider is the great DZ.) Now we head to the heartland of the sport and the portion of the season where the hardmen have their moments to shine.
The best grand tour rider of his generation has finally been re-found guilty of being a drug cheat. For those who have (understandably) forgotten what has happened, Alberto was tested in the sleepy town of Pau on the second Rest Day of the 2010 Tour de France.
If perfection is a 10/10, and the attainment of perfection is impossible, then GreenEdge have had a 9/10 first month of racing. They have won both the road and TT Australian jerseys for the year, and have won the overall on their first ProTour race. Simon Gerrans is top of the UCI World Rankings, and GreenEdge are 3rd (see the full lists). They controlled the final stage of racing at the Tour Down Under with panache, even sending Cam Meyer up the road in the final 10km, briefly threatening to derail the sprint trains, and thus ensured that Gerrans remained in front of Valverde on the overall.
What a great stage today! And we in Australia were finally allowed to actually watch it. Yes, Channel 9 decided that reruns of Big Bang Theory and Two And A Half Men were more interesting through the week, but with a big midday slot to fill on the weekend, they have generously decided to show some of the race live. Yes I am peeved.
The Big Gorilla didn't pack his climbing legs for this year's TDU. Translation: Andre Greipel couldn't stay with the peloton as it went up the very tough Mengler's Hill at warp speed. Oscar Freire, however, did, and he led a good-sized bunch over the line in Tanunda today. It was a very good result for the race as much as anything: processions tend to put the fans off.
After the W Clarke bolt from the blue of yesterday, there was no way that Stage 3 of the TDU was going to be anything but a bunch sprint, and all of the key teams worked together to guarantee this today, with Andre Greipel from Lotto again the winner. The big man can sprint! Will he finally threaten Cav this year?
Will Clarke. Wow! A full day up the road with only one bloke helping out, and only for a short period of time. Chapeau! A great win. Whilst giving full credit to Clarke, this result was more due to errors in the peloton than his own ride (brilliant as it was).
And so they're off! Once again Andre Greipel has won a stage at the TDU, once again there is a bit of controversy about sprinters not holding their line, and once again the accused sprinter has taken the classic "What! Me?" stance. The season is underway.
The pro cycling season kicks off today. Finally! It feels longer and longer between the end of the previous season and the start of the next. But thankfully the wait is over and we are away. The Tour Down Under is one of the easiest races of the year for a pro cycling staff member"¦ once you actually arrive!
Stuart Balfour’s win in the supporting u23 race to the GP Ouest France Plouay, one of the most prestigious amateur in France, was special. The Dave Rayner Fund thought so too and made him their ‘Rider of the Year.’ As well as his Plouay success he won in Montpichon and at the Ronde Briochine; he was top 20 in the tough Kreiz Breizh UCI stage race and top 10 in the Tour de la Manche. Nice results in what is still one of the sport’s Heartlands and races are hotly contested. We thought we best have another word with the 21 year-old from Heriot in Scotland.
We recently spoke to 15 mile, 100 mile and 12 hour record holder, Alice Lethbridge and now to ‘complete the set’, here's what 10 mile, 25 mile and 50 mile record holder, Hayley Simmonds (WNT-Rotor Pro Cycling) had to tell us.
‘Well Phil,’ the words that we all remember so well, used by Paul Sherwen when he was about to put co-commentator Phil Liggett right about something during one of the hundreds of Tour de France stages the pair covered for TV networks from England to Australia via the USA. Sadly, we’ll hear that catch phrase no more, the 62 year-old Briton having passed away in his sleep at his home in Kampala in his adopted nation of Uganda on Sunday.
We caught up with the man behind the team and the holder of the record for most British titles won in one season – eight – Dan Bigham, after he returned from a successful foray to Canada where round two of the Tissot World Cup took place on the boards of the Milton Velodrome in Ontario where the men in black came away with silver.
Here at VeloVeritas we’re pleased to inform you that we’ve hooked up with ace cycling snapper, Gary Main. You may already have seen some of his images in our Mark Stewart and Dan Bigham interviews? We thought it might be a good introduction to his work for our readers if he picked out some of his favourite shots for us - over to you, Mr. Main...
He’s been quiet, that man Mark Stewart, Scotland’s reigning Commonwealth Games Points Race Champion. But he’s back with four World Cup medals on two continents within a matter of days. Best ‘have a word’ we thought to ourselves...