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Tag: Le Tour de France 2010
The strangest stage of the whole race from the point of view of the staff is the finale into Paris. Our team base is in northern Spain, and so all non-essential equipment went from Bordeaux back to Spain (rather than go to Spain from Bordeaux via Paris-a 1200km detour). Thus we were truckless (or untrucked?) for the only time in the race.
This morning at 07:00 we had Serge Gainsbourg with 'sea, sex and sun,' it's noon now and we've got Jane Birkin, '69, annee erotique.' Do these people never give it a rest ? We're nearly at the stage start, Dave has done the biz all the way up from Bordeaux.
Time trials are always difficult days at races. Firstly, the riders line up knowing their final position in the race depends on their forthcoming hour of solo work, and secondly, the logistics for the staff are super complex...
"Sea, sex and sun," sings Serge Gainsbourg on Radio Nostalgi - all very well, but the boys have 640 K to drive, this Sunday morning. But that's today, let's get back to Saturday . . . Today's chrono is 52 kilometres, but Saturday's L'Equipe glossy magazine takes us back 30 years to a much shorter effort against the watch - the Olympic one kilometre championship in 'Moscou.'
The Final Efforts. We’re on the downhill slope for this race now, and the fatigue is starting to show. It’s getting tougher and tougher to chisel our heads off the pillow each morning, and the coffees are having smaller and smaller effects. Sunglasses stay on when inside as they’re keeping our eyeballs from falling out. I guess the riders are tired too.
Cav: he really is impressive - we were at five K to go when Oss passed on his death or glory bid out of the break; he was flying. The bunch? Like some high speed linear motored Japanese train - whhoooooooossssshhhhh! Those carbon rims slice the air. We dashed back in to the chipper to watch the finale on the tele, respect to Sky, they were in the race - but Cav really is a cut above.
The Next Level. Today was the showdown. As all who watch cycling know, any stage with a mountaintop finish is where many of the overall selections happen, and when the mountain is the Tourmalet, which is enormous both in terms of the difficulty of the climb, as well as its history, it's all the more definitive. Thus we all held the hope that Ryder would be able to continue his brilliant run of form, but knew that as it was such a hard climb, anything could happen.
'Andy talks tough !' say the headlines, he did try his best yesterday, his men used whatever was left to drive up the lower part of the Tourmalet - then he went for it. However, not for one moment did it look like Alberto Contador was under pressure.
'How's it goin' Shane?' we ask Skyman Shane Sutton as we cross the car park in search of Michael Barry for a rest day interview. 'Been better, mate!' he fires back between hard draws on his fag - it's difficult for a man who wears his heart on his sleeve to 'spin.' Inside, Michael Barry, who's an eloquent, polite, sound guy tells us that morale is good - he best get out and tell Shane that, then.
Today was a good day, we took in all five cols of the stage - it only adds to your respect for the pros when you see what they have to deal with. The gruppo was travelling at funereal speed, 30 minutes down when it passed us near the top of the Aubisque. Cav was surrounded by 'minders' near the back whilst Ale Jet was just off the back, but he looked OK, probably just back at the car.
How far to go. Stage 16 was the biggest climbing stage of the Tour, but the last climb was some 60km from the finish, which made for a weird looking profile for the day. The boys scaled four enormous mountains, the first beginning from km 0. Tough gig. After fireworks from big name riders lit the early miles up the climb, a pseudo break settled down about 25sec ahead of the peloton, and it held some very big names.
Voeckler, you have to admire him, he's a racer. Whatever happens, it's been a good Tour for Bbox, Charteau in polka dots for a good stretch and now Tommy takes a big one. Going down to Pro Continental doesn't seem to have affected them one bit - and it's saved them a fortune. It was a tad mad up on the Port de Bales today but great to be there - Monday afternoon, high in the Pyrenees under a clear blue sky with the world's best cyclists just inches away.
Lourdes is a strange place, like a religiously themed Blackpool; only it's not little replicas of the tower they're selling, rather all manner of tat plastered with religious images. The last time I was there was with Martin, we sat, stunned in a late night pizza place - yellow jerseyed Rasmussen had just been sent home from le Tour by Rabobank. I'm hoping for no scandals this time.
Bonjour! Vino - he's a boy. Born 16:09:1973 in Petropavlosk, he was a stagiere with Casino in 1997; he won the Dunkirk Four Day in his first full season and finished that year with six wins - an impressive debut. He left Casino at the end of '99 with another seven wins under his belt to go to Telekom where he stayed until 2005 after notching wins that year in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and two Tour stages. He went south in 2006 to Liberty Seguros and a win in the Vuelta.
R&R For Some. After a single day of respite from the searing heat of the majority of this race, we were back into a bright sunny day with high temperatures. This meant the support crew were back up the road helping our boys as best we were able on the big climbs. When standing and helping (and watching) on the mountains there are two groups we tend to pay closest attention to: the leaders and the grupetto.
Curtain Raiser. The big question of the day: will it be a sprint or a break? The Tour has now fallen deep into the second half of the race and the real show to sort out who will finish where in the general classification starts today as we hit the high mountains of the Pyrenees. Thus yesterday was the end of the "pre-race" part of the Tour for some. Considering how tough it's been, that's a facetious line to say the least.
Bad Morning Good Day. Sadly, Tyler abandoned yesterday as his body finally said "enough". We were all disappointed for him. It was very saddening to see his face, which showed the acute disappointment he felt. The race itself did go on, however, and typically, Garmin-Transitions were flying the flag despite the setbacks. Ryder repeatedly attacked the peloton and chased every other cyclists's attack until he finally found himself in the break of the day.
We're very pleased to announce that Garmin Transitions physiotherapist Toby Watson will be contributing articles to his new VeloVeritas blog. Right now Toby is with the team on the Tour de France, and you can read about what it's like to be working with a top team on the biggest race in the world, and the sense of drama and fun that are essential parts of the experience, on Toby's regular updates.
Bert's back! And we were there to see it, a privilege. L'Equipe today says 'Fin de la Trêve' - that's 'end of the truce, (or respite)'. That's how it looked to us, Contador letting Schleck know that he's just fine. Bert had his 'pedalling back from the paper shop' look on his face - but many riders didn't.
Hump Day & Humdrum. As the physio on team Garmin-Transitions, all I can say is this is a dangerous sport. All things considered, 3rd place for Tyler yesterday was a fantastic effort by the whole team, with Dave Zabriskie helping to control the break for most of the day, Johan Van Summeren bringing our boys to the front of the peloton with 4km to go, Martijn taking a big turn to maintain our position at the front, Julian doing the perfect job to put Ty where he needed to be to contest the sprint and then Tyler eking the absolute maximum possible out of his body to gain third place. It was a brilliant team performance.
Big Macs may pig you out towards an early grave, but damn, the wi-fi is good in there! Thursday was hectic, finished off with a train journey via Carstairs - I was a bit worried they might grab me - to Penrith, where I was meeting Dave to head to Stansted and La Belle France. Dave's working at Sellafield just now so I gave him a quick once over with the Geiger counter as he scoffed his chicken sandwich - all clear. We fired up the Toshiba to see what all the fuss was about and much as I admire Mark Renshaw, he did rather 'radge oot' in that finale.
A Hard "Easy" Day. Yesterday was always going to be the day that the breakaway succeeded. The profile of the course and the stages on the days either side of it meant that neither the GC nor the sprinter teams would be interested. It wasn't hard enough to separate the GC lads, but wasn't easy enough for the sprinters to make it to the finish with the main bunch. That meant that the first race of the day was to get into the break, and so the first hour of racing was extremely fast as small groups tried to get away and were hauled back by teams who didn't have someone in the break and so on and so forth.
Another Day, Another Epic. Yesterday's stage was a 204km monster through hot weather over a series of significant climbs, totalling about 4.5km (vertical) of climbing all up. The climbs were spread at the start and end of the race, with a relatively flat section through the middle of the day. Enormous by any standards. The pre-start ritual of sunscreen, strapping tape, DZ Nuts application, etc was added to by a Dave Zabriskie play list from great movies of the 1980s, particularly Top Gun, Karate Kid and Beverly Hills Cop. To hear "You're the best around" for the first time in decades was golden!
It couldn't go on like that. Men can only 'death race' for so long and then they need a 'blaw.' Today, they took the chance to lean on their shovels and left the minnows to grab the glory. I really didn't expect to see the finalé but when the box kindled up, there it was - with 12 K to go and a race average of 34 kph.
I can remember watching the Tour in the years before being a part of the race. I was always completely gutted that just when things got interesting and they'd had a few mountain stages, there would be a rest day. Allergic to Stairs. Now, the rest day is like a shining light off in the distance that you can see, and know everything will be better for it.
Before we talk about today's stage, let's spare a moment to remember the man who died on this day, July 13th 1967 on Mount Ventoux, Provence-world champion, winner of Paris - Nice, Milan-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders and the Tour of Lombardy. Tom Simpson is sadly missed but a legend, never to be forgotten. He died pursuing an impossible dream; his frail physique wasn't designed to withstand the rigours of a Grand Tour-dreams drove him to be champion of the world but they couldn't drive him to a Tour win.
Vik phoned; "Have you seen the Sky website? Bradley was limiting his losses, ho, ho, ho!" Old Vik isn't Sky's biggest fan... Me? I respect all pros, especially ones with the pedigree of a Cummings, Thomas or Wiggins; but if it wasn't for Geraint then there would be little to write home about regarding Sky's Tour thus far...
Double Challenge. Mountain stages in bike races are inevitably decisive in sorting where riders finish in the race overall. They pose a number of challenges to a team atop the obvious physical barrier of the terrain itself. The main non-terrain issue on these stages is the weather. When going uphill, the speed drops, and so there is less cooling thanks to the wind, whilst the reverse happens on the descent, which is compounded by the boys having sweated more than normal on the way up. So on hot days, there are issues of overheating on the ascents, and when it's cold, we worry about them getting too cold on the descents.
Whatever Astana pay Paolo Tiralongo (Italia) and Daniel Navarro (Espana), it's not enough. Tiralongo has been around a long time, third in the Baby Giro in 1998 he turned pro in 2000 and arrived at Astana this year after three years with Fassa, three with Panaria and four with Lampre. The talk has been all about whether Bert's team is up the job; that was answered today as Vino turned descender and domestique deluxe with Tiralongo and then Navarro riding like demons on the climbs.
Weight of a Nation. Today was the first mountain stage of the race, and the second chance for the big hitters to test each others' legs and see who was looking dangerous and who not. I just love the mountaintop stages in these races! Sitting in the bus heading up the hill, you get such a good look at what the boys are going to need to deal with, see all of the people in various states of excitement, and just build yourself up into a crescendo of anticipation for what is about to come.
Chava! A great day for him and QuickStep - their second stage, the maillot jaune regained and the polka dot jersey retained in gallant fashion. And maybe the corny jokes about Footon-Servetto will stop now - with two riders in the top ten and Valls Ferri well there in the maillot blanc overall. He hails from Cocentina in Spain and is only 23; he was 10th on GC in the L'Avenir in 2009 and won a mountain stage in the Tour of San Luis in Argentina, early this year - Nibali won the GC so it was no 'soft' win.
Book out the window. There was a quote one of our boys gave on a day he crashed twice in 200m: "I thought I was pretty good at riding my bike." Upon watching the final sprints and the way our boys have set up the lead-out train in the past two days, I think I could be forgiven for thinking something similar about what I do for a job. How many times can I be surprised at how tough and courageous our boys are? This is something I'm happy being wrong about!
Mark Renshaw has some nice wins in his palmares; the 2006 Tro Bro Leon, a stage in the 2008 Franco Belge and a hand in shattering Garmin's dreams to win the TTT in the 2009 Giro. But it's his performances over the last two days which have caused me to reappraise my opinion that Super Mario's right hand man, Mario Scirea was the greatest lead out man ever. Yesterday, I said that Renshaw was brilliant - and I try to avoid over using those superlatives - but today's performance left me shaking my head in wonder.
Relativity of Time. I have a great mate who has a theory on the relative speed of time passing. He believes that time should be measured experientially, rather than chronologically (similar to Dunbar in Catch-22, who believes if he does nothing for long enough, time will drag out to the point that he will effectively live forever). I think there's something to this from the point of view of the brain. It feels like a couple of months ago that we had the prologue up in Rotterdam, and weeks ago that the Roubaix cobbles stage took place, and yet today is only Stage 6.
Nice to have to you back, Mark! Columbia didn't dominate the finale - Garmin did that - but the men in white and yellow did a huge amount of the work in the last hour. Renshaw was brilliant, not afraid to exchange bumps with Hushovd and weaving through Hunter and Farrar with ease, taking time in the chaos to calmly look back to check that Cav was where he was meant to be - ice cool!
Two Day Theory. It is a very fortunate thing that the situation that Garmin-Transitions is in during this Tour is a first time for all of us involved. The fortune I speak of is partly that we've never had to deal with nigh on half of our team all being pretty badly wounded on the one descent, and partly that the fretting resulting from this would leave us, the staff, nervous wrecks. I have made up a totally anecdotal "two day" theory regarding peoples' responses to injury and trauma. It's completely without scientific evidence or backing, but does explain a pattern of behaviour that I have regularly seen over the years.
Dean was good, very good, team mate Hunter finished fastest, swooshing clear of them all - but after the line. Garmin sprinter patron Tyler Farrar sat up to peer over the sea of heaving numbers to see how his boys had done. Boasson Hagen confirmed his class. Robbie McEwen was close but he ain't Peter Pan. Oss was up there, we'll watch him for the near future. But Ale Jet was imperious - going from a long way out; 'here I go boys, do what you can about me?!' stamping hard on that 53 x 11.
The Bounce. We came to this Tour with nine guys ready to race. We're down our leader and facing some injuries, but if yesterday proved anything it's that we're still up for it. The day started out with a little stress, considering the injuries some of the guys were going to go over cobbles with. However, the show must go on, and despite the misgivings, we were still pretty psyched yesterday morning-we have a very talented bunch of blokes in this team, and so we were still hoping to do a bit of damage today, and the plan went ahead as normal.
That's better! Hushovd gets his revenge, heroics from Hesjedal, great team work from Saxo and Cervelo, Andy Schleck stops being a mummy's boy, Geraint under scores his arrival and gets a Skoda Yeti and a white jersey, Contador does just fine for an 'ineffectual Spanish climber' and a bad day for Lance. 'Yesterday is history,' said Hushovd - for sure.
Perfect Storm of Crap. All talk of the Mock aside, holy crap. What a day. Yesterday's stage was dubbed a mini Liege-Bastogne-Liege as it covered a segment of the same course as that particular race. For those not in the know, LBL is one of the major Spring Classics on the calendar. It's a tough race with lots of short, sharp hills on very small old roads. The weather was also particularly Belgian Spring Classic-esque: overcast with sporadic bursts of rain.
'Ride to rule,' 'rider protest,' or 'strike' - file all under, 'PR disaster.' Once again it was Viktor with the quote of the day; 'Tour Feminine.' Dave Chapman only needed one word; 'farce!'
I didn't used to be a fan - but I guess that was just because he was one of the few who could beat my idol, Super Mario - but now I'm a confirmed Ale Jet admirer. Depending on which reference site you chose he's had 156 - or is it 169 wins ? He's 36, born 03:01:1974 in La Spezia. He turned pro in 1996 but didn't score a win until '98 in Langkawi.
Always Fear The Mock. Some would say that this is the most powerful force in the universe, and yet it has never been quantified. I for one am a firm believer in the Mock, and think that CERN should be turning their attention to investigating the power of the Mock, rather than the trivialities of the God particle, Higgs boson and what-all else you want to talk about.
Once again VeloVeritas finds itself in the 'emperor's new clothes' situation-last year at the Worlds, we were about the only ones to point out that Brad heaving his bike after a mechanical in the TT was not particularly good patter. Are we the only ones to observe that Alberto Contador is hardly a muscular prologue blaster and at 38 years-of-age, Big Tex isn't exactly the ideal age to be a prologue specialist either?
Before we go any further, apologies for the lack of words and pics on the National road race - the VeloVeritas team were all too busy with that 'life stuff' this week, sorry. However, we'll run them post Tour; to help ease that PTSF - 'Post Tour Stress Disorder.' Congratulations to Ross Creber (Endura) on his U23 medal - he earned it.
Solid Kick-off. Finally we're underway! And what a start it's been. Time trial days are always long periods of surprising quietness (and the quiet is always a surprise) punctuated by flurries of furious activity. As team mechanic-cum-philosopher Kris Withington (NZ's finest mechanic) says, "it's either full gas work or full gas wait."
One More Sleep! We are at the end of Day -1, which is the point where the whole team just want things to start already. Admittedly I've been in that mood since Tuesday afternoon when I headed out from the team Service Course in Girona. Now everyone else has joined me in night-before-Christmas-as-a-seven-year-old land.
Are we ready yet. Two days out from the start of the Tour. The whole team has arrived at the hotel, and the Show is about to begin! It's very exciting, but not much is really going on. It's sort of like when the starter calls "set" in a track & field sprint: heaps of stuff about to happen, but nothing doing just yet. Yes I once sprinted. Yes, in this instance "sprinted" is a very loosely applied verb. This is the first full day of the road show. We have a good whack of people here: 19 staff will be on the road for the full three weeks.
"It's cycling Jim, but not as we know it!" The presentation of the Tour de France route is something we used to read about in the mags and not really think twice about. We'd see the route in the Comic and have a blether about it, but maybe not think too much about it until Tour time. Now, there's a fleet of satellite TV vehicles outside the Palais de Congres and the event is beamed 'live and direct' around the globe.