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Le Tour de France 2014 – Stage 1; Leeds – Harrogate, 191 km. Kittel from Sagan!

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Welcome to VeloVeritas‘ coverage of the Tour de France 2014.

Stage one looked like a “truce” to VV – except for that finale, of course.

We give our views on Cav and a few other aspects of the 2014 “Grand Boucle” (with a bittie to Yorkshire tacked on, that is.)

Cavendish says ‘sorry’

You’d have to be devoid of a soul not to feel sorry for the man – even more so when he puts his hand up and says; “my fault!”

Last year he wasn’t at his best in le Tour, despite the stage wins.

He’d finished a very hard Giro – aren’t they all? – and then rode the Tour.

To finish a Grand Tour you have to go “deep” no matter who you are and really deep if you’re no climber – remember that sometimes the gruppetto is on the road 45 minutes more than the winner and that may be the case on at least half-a-dozen stages.

One of the reasons that Cipo stayed so fast for so long was that he rarely dragged his big torso all the way to the finish of a Grand Tour. Usually calling it a day before the mega mountain pain started.

Le Tour de France 2014
Mark Cavendish rides through Ilkley in the wheels of his team. Photo©Martin Williamson

As is the modern trend, Kittel hasn’t ridden a killing programme, picking his races very carefully and treading a line between lacking race fitness and staying fresh.

If Stage One is anything to go by – he’s got it just right.

Le Tour de France 2014
Kittel takes Stage One. Photo©ASO

Cav has ridden a similarly lighter programme to keep him sharper – all in vain, now.

Le Tour de France 2014
Cav knows it’s serious. Photo©AP

One of our VV pundits reckons Cav should have sussed he wasn’t going to win, backed off and lived to fight another day – but then he wouldn’t be the best sprinter in the world.

Or should that be second best ?

Le Tour de France 2014
Chris Froome is going to have his work cut out over the next three weeks. Photo©AAP

The Mod and the Dog or ‘who rules at Sky?’

To get to the root of this one you have to go all the way back to 2011 and the Vuelta.

At the start of that race Froome was “just another rider;” by the finish, when he stepped on to that podium he was the most sought after rider on the planet with anything between 13 and all of the Pro Tour squads after him, depending on who you listen to.

But he chose to re-sign for Sky.

When he made that choice he knew that Bradley Wiggins was ‘the special one’ and that the man from Kilburn would lead the Tour team.

Attacking your team leader – as Froome did in the 2012 Tour – isn’t cricket and Wiggins had every right to be displeased about Froome’s move.

I’m a better climber and could win if I was let off the leash” was what Froome was saying.

If he really wanted to prove that he shouldn’t have re-signed with Sky.

Last year, Wiggins struggled with motivation in the rain and guerrilla warfare of the Giro before recording a DNF.

Froome duly triumphed in le Tour as unchallenged leader of Sky.

Wiggins saved his 2013 season with a magnificent time trial win in the Tour of Poland, the GC in the Tour of Britain and silver in the World Time Trial Championship.

This season, Wiggins head was back on straight and from the start he said he wanted to ride the Tour in his home nation but in a support role to Froome.

He rode well in Paris-Roubaix and won the Tour of California.

But it was apparent that Froome didn’t want Wiggins anywhere near his Tour team – releasing choice tit bits from his autobiography which painted Wiggins in a less than flattering light.

Froome knows Wiggins better than most and knew his statements would negatively impact upon the Londoner’s often fragile psyche.

It demonstrates the clout that Froome has as a Grand Tour winner that he’s allowed to put divisive, negative comments about a team mate into print with no consequences from his team management.

What also surprises is that Wiggins wasn’t told early that he wouldn’t be on le Tour – he was left to figure that out by the fact that he wasn’t on the right training camps with the right guys.

There are faults on both side but personally, I think Brailsford made the correct decision – Wiggins in the team would divide it before a pedal is turned.

And if Froome didn’t have that streak of ruthlessness then he wouldn’t be a Grand Tour winner.

And as for having Brad on the team for ‘insurance’ – like Mrs. Thatcher used to say; ‘there can be no fall back plan!’

And with sixth spot in the bunch sprint Froome has already delivered a huge statement of intent.

Le Tour de France 2014
Huge crowds at ‘Tour Hubs’ across the country watched the Grand Depart. Photo©Martin Williamson

Le Grand Depart in England

Huge crowds, yellow sheep and cycling on the front pages – it has to be a good thing, right?

With even Viktor conceding that it was an amazing spectacle and our editor Martin enjoying the show, roadside.

We all know that the Tour is a big money making machine and the highest bidder usually comes up trumps but Yorkshire has got little to do with France or the Tour.

It’s all so commercial, so contrived (Cote de Jenkin Road ?) and against the natural order of things – and as for the presentation, well…

Le Tour de France 2014
Thousands upon thousands of spectators lined the route. Photo©Martin Williamson

The papers are full of it but when le Tour is over and the sheep have been rain lashed back to their natural colour, the public and media will forget all about cycling, again.

No?

Have a look back at this year’s papers during the Giro and then tell me cycling is an important sport in the UK.

The Media and public are only interested in GB riders in events they know – period.

It’s not the sport, it’s Brad, Froomey and Cav.

Le Tour de France
The break hurtles through the early part of the stage. Photo©Martin WIlliamson

Le Tour de France 2014
Van Summeren shares a joke with JV whilst the radio is fixed. Photo©Martin Williamson

This Tour visit and the Olympics are like a wedding reception; everyone gets dressed up, carried away with emotion, drunk and loves each other for the day – but the next morning they all hate each other again only more so.

You’ll find few riders – for all the huge crowds and enthusiasm – who don’t breathe a sigh of relief when they start rolling on French tarmac.

But it’s good to see Brian Robinson getting recognition though – even though it’s taken 60 years…

Tour
David Millar was counting on riding one last Tour. Photo©PA

The Boy David

If you’re a regular reader then you’ll know we’re David Millar fans.

He looks like a pro should, is proud of his Scottish heritage and has some wonderful palmarès.

The ‘but’ is that it was no surprise to me when he wasn’t selected for le Tour.

In Andrew Talansky, Garmin have a real podium contender – the team has to be, ‘all for Andrew.’

When I saw that Millar’s every move on the Tour would be filmed for a documentary and that fans were to send in pictures of him in his farewell Tour, I thought to myself; ‘major distraction!’

Garmin’s Tour is about Talansky, not David’s arty swan song movie – and that coming on the back of the carry on with the different shoes for every race.

Charly Wegelius won the Giro for Garmin with Ryder Hesjedal – he knows what he’s doing and is only too well aware that he doesn’t need anything to take his squad’s eye off the ball.

And if Garmin needed a stronger reason not to include David in the team – his DNF in the British Elite Road Race and Time Trial Champs did just fine.

Le Tour de France 2014
Roman Kreuziger. Photo©Guiseppe Bellini

The ‘D’ word

Even if Kreuziger is ‘at it’ can someone please explain how it takes three years to bring it to a head?

The UCI really has to speed the process up; the Contador and more recently Tiernan Locke debacles should not be repeated – but here we go again.

By chance I came upon some forum comments on Kreuziger – one gentleman had it all down to Riis, despite the alleged breaches having occurred during Kreuziger’s tenure with Astana.

Another was saying that David Millar should have been banned for life – as should Kreuziger.

Before there’s any hearing or wastes of time like that, you understand.

Vik did make a good point though; there’s been the tramadol tremors, the TUE twitchiness, Ulissi, Kreuziger and others who we like too much to name.

He asks; “are all the teams sailing close to the wind?

Probably.

Stage Two today – it could be messy.

Au revoir!

Le Tour de France 2014
The Tour de France caravan wowes Yorkshire. Photo©Martin Williamson

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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