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. Finished already... when did that happen? It felt like forever when I was first nominated to be physio, and still forever when I was confirmed.
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.
Flavio Zappi’s boys are in full effect in la Bella Italia and Scotsman Calum Johnston is turning the pedals in anger in Espana and the man who won the Memorial Zumzarren in Estella-Lizarra, Navarre, Northern Spain where Calum finished 14th recently, was an Englishman; 21 year-old Toby Perry from Ashford in Kent, by name.
Seven years ago, in 2014, we interviewed Matthias Barnet, he had just won the 2014 British u16 Criterium Championship on the technical Hog Hill circuit at Redbridge, London. Since then we’ve not heard much of the man but when we spotted that he had signed up with Flavio Zappi’s squadra for season 2021 – along with fellow Scott, Hamish Strachan, who we spoke to recently – we just had to have a word with him.
The top 20 of the recent, hard fought GP Monsere in Belgium saw a name familiar to VeloVeritas but unsung in the UK take a fine top 20 placing in the company of top opposition: Ollie Robinson, who we interviewed last year. He’s now with a Ukrainian UCI continental team, Lviv Continental so we thought a catch up chat was well in order.
20 year-old Sean Flynn from Edinburgh; four times a British Champion at youth and junior level, is on the SEG roster for season 2021, which is an achievement in itself.
You may have read our recent interview with Senor Flavio Zappi here on VeloVeritas? This season the Zappi Racing Team will have strong Scottish representation with Messrs. Hamish Strachan and Matthias Barnett quitting Bonnie but chilly Scotland and the brooding, icy waters of the North Sea for La Bella Italia and the more benign waters of the Adriatico.