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Tag: Le Tour de France 2011
Last July, Jérémy Roy (FDJ) was becoming well known to followers of the Tour de France, his attacking style gathering him lots of attention and admiration in this, his fourth participation, despite the big win in the biggest race eluding him thus far. In his ninth year as a Pro, but not a regular winner, Jérémy was one of the heroes of Friday's Stage 12 from Cugneaux to Luz Ardiden, having been in the break of six riders which escaped soon after the start and remained in front most of the day.
The final stage of the 2011 TDU has been run and won, with the expected wins for Mark Cavendish in the sprint, and Cadel Evans in the overall coming to fruition. A victory on the Champs Elysees is one of the great achievements for a sprint cyclist, and Cav's ability to produce on the big stages with such consistency will already have him posted as a strong favourite to win the World Championships this September.
Today the final stage of the 2011 TDU gets underway, a desperate procession maybe, but it's devastatingly disappointing for me, but also extremely exciting considering it is Cadel Evans who will cross the line the champion today, calamitous misadventure notwithstanding. (brief pause while author touches wood.) I can't believe it's nearly over, and conversely can't believe that Gilbert's win on Stage One was only three weeks ago.
Cadel Evans is going to win the Tour de France in 2011. Hahahaha! I'm going to say that again, just because I can. Cadel Evans is going to win the Tour de France in 2011. What a nice sentence to read and write! The time trial last night was expected to be a shootout between the world's best time triallist, Fabian Cancellara, and the next big thing, Tony Martin.
Two nights ago there four men still in contention, then Contador was out of the race. Yesterday saw the end of Frank Schleck's chances, and tonight will see the demise of the final contender for the Tour. Andy Schleck will hope to defend his 57sec lead over Cadel Evans tonight, and will certainly fancy his chances. The last time he was in this position, Cadel just didn't have enough in the tank to overhaul Carlos Sastre back in 2008.
One more time over some incredible hills. One more chance for the Schlecks to take seconds away from Cadel. One more opportunity for them to sap the power from his legs to minimize the damage he does to them in tomorrow's TT. 100km, three categorized climbs, 2851m vertical ascent. This stage is not as huge as last night's, but being so short and sharp, there is still enormous potential for damage to be done.
If you were lucky enough to watch Stage 18 last night, you saw one of the best days of bike racing in years. Andy and Frank Schleck finally attacked and got it right, using their double-threat to maximum advantage, and as a result achieved another stage win, jumped in the GC to now be in a dominant position, and Andy has ridden a stage that will be talked about for years.
Tour de France 4 Stages... We have finally made it to the first of two stages that have loomed large over this whole race, and will play a huge role in determining who is the 2011 Tour de France champion. Today is officially a filthy stage on the bike. 200km, three hors categorie climbs, approximately 470om vertical gain through the stage, including a single climb from 335m above sea level to 2744m! Holy smokes.
Last night's bike race was a return to normalcy for the boys on the road: the break was allowed to go relatively early, it stayed away all day, and despite a few attempts to put time into each other, the GC boys all finished on the same time. And no, despite repeated claims by Paul Sherwen on the commentary, Thomas Voeckler is not a threat to win the overall. He will possibly finish in the top 10, but only possibly.
Dare We Guess? Ok. So last night was on paper the stage that everyone expected-a breakaway that was difficult to get into, but stayed away once established. And yet it was hardly a predictable result, with a shake-up of the GC, another win to Garmin and Thor, and a request from the Schlecks that every stage please be an uphill time trial, or at worst an uphill two man teams time trial.
Schlecks Shaken... What a stage last night turned out to be! Prior to the stage, the thoughts were that it was always going to be a breakaway, and there wouldn't be much movement on the general classification. Half right! The high likelihood of the break staying away meant that all of the boys not in with a chance on general were hoping to get a piece of the action, meaning it took hours before the break finally got clear.
Back Swinging. After what seems like both forever, and no time at all, we're headed to the final stanza of this year's Tour. Today's stage is another medium mountain stage, with only one Cat. 2 climb to deal with, followed by a short descent into the town of Gap. The day is a steady climb uphill for the majority of the day, with two sharp descents that may be of note for general standings-the descent that leads to the Col de Manse (the climb of the day) and then the 11km after the summit of the Col, which is all downhill to the finish.
"It's over already?" Most of the riders in the peloton would be thinking that as the rest day ends and they prepare for the final week of this year's Tour. The racing has been brutal: nervous and hectic through the first week, typically savage through the Pyrenees (which happened through the second week), and windy and wet virtually the whole time.
We're in the Dröme Department, and it may be a notional Tour de France Rest Day, but all that really means is that there's no racing today - despite what Ned Boulting might tell you about spending time in launderettes, almost everyone still has lots to do. For example, the riders - for whom the rest day is most important, still have to attend press conferences, talk to daft journalists and answer "f****ing stupid questions"(copyright Mark Cavendish), the team mechanics take advantage of the extra time to prep the time trial bikes for next Saturday's chrono, and so on.
And Now ... I love that scene from Dude Where’s My Car? So here we sit: Rest Day 2 already! And yet it feels like forever since the Tour started. Weird stuff happens to sports fans in July. The last few days of racing have been typically explosive, with Cav making it 19 TdF career stage wins (good grief the man can find the finish line) yesterday...
Le Tour de France 2011 and We couldn't get out of Andorra quickly enough. Before 08:00 we got the lift down from the 5th floor of the hotel, to be greeted by great plumes of cigarette smoke belching out of the breakfast area. Last night's determination to "make a fuss about the lack of advertised weefee" evaporated, as we just wanted to put distance between us and this horrid place as fast as possible.
Second Big Test. After a quiet day where the big swinging cats of the peloton were all nice to each other, the fireworks are set to ignite. Hilltop finishes are always a risk for time gaps, and considering Cadel is currently the only contender who would be happy with how things sit on the overall with a 41km individual TT still to come, there are lads who will be sure to attack madly tonight.
The Champ Rolls On... I can remember seeing the photos from the presentation of the teams at the start of the race and thinking how embarrassing it was for the Garmin team to be doing their bow down to Thor thing while he held up a warhammer. I was clearly completely wrong!
Andorra, Pyrénées. Everything about it seems wrong. For a start, it's an independent tax haven/principality sitting at the top of a Pyrenean mountain, an hour's drive over sweeping twisty hairpinned roads from the nearest town. Some pals said to me that when they went to Andorra for skiing, they thought it was OK. Perhaps the snow covered all the cracks, but I'm not sure how the inhabitants' attitudes could be masked; almost - no, everyone - we met was unpleasant, in attitude and manner.
A day of two parts. Figuring today's stage would maybe see good racing, but not GC changing action, we decided to head over to Lourdes for another wee shot of the Village Depart, get a bit of breakfast, chase soundbites from the folk on the race and watch the depart. Walking into the Village we got talking to a young American - bet you're singing that now - who was on assignment from the Wall Street Journal...