Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The dreaded cobbles - Day 3 of Le Tour

Wow, the first days of this year's Tour have been carnage. The publicity and ever-increasing fan base have not done the Tour good in this way. The riders are ever more serious, right from the start, the radio contact with the team director keeps guys in the front when they otherwise wouldn't be. So nerves are on edge, everybody is still fresh, and strong, and trying hard. Trying to fit close to 200 riders in front on some of these roads is like trying to put a white horse in a sock - doesn't work. Yesterday, on the Col de Stackeau we got the "Stackeau Massacre". Bad road conditions (unforeseen conditions), complicated by bad weather, and riders were going down "in the clear". Thor got an advantage for the green jersey on Sunday, when Cav and Tyler crashed out - and that lead may be insurmountable. So long as Thor manages to stay upright, anyway. That is unusual. Since I'm a Cav fan, I also consider it unfortunate!

Today, on the cobbles, the crashes were less devastating, and we were treated to a fine day of real racing. Some of the top contenders, like Van deVelde, are already out (Christain VdV is out because of the crashes yesterday). Frank Schleck, Andy's brother and right hand man, crashed today, and may not continue. So the cobbles did what they were supposed to do - sort out the crowd a bit, and change the overall results. It was a great race today, tho, and very typical of races over the cobbles - where large pelotons simply do not work well.

So, now we should have a few "quiet" days, and the sprinters will get a little chance. On stage 7, or maybe it was 8, we have a few more cobble sections, but no one seems to expect them to change the results as much as today.

We have some time differences, which may, or may not, be major. Typical of this stage of the Tour, several riders who are in the top now we won't expect to see much of after the mountains. Cancellara is one of these - but what a marvelous strong man he is growing to be. He has poise, and status in the peloton, along with some color in his character, and the ability to speak with the public. The ability to speak is something we often don't find in the strong men - think of Cadel Evans, or Wiggins. Even Cav - who can be charming - seems to suffer from Mike Tyson like lapses in public judgement.

But, for now, out of the top contenders for yellow in Paris, we have Cadel Evans in top position. Andy Schleck is half a minute behind, but that time difference he should be able to pick up over Evans when we hit the Alps. At one minute back, we see Vino and Contador. I don't really count Vino in it for the end, but he could surprise us. Contador is next, and should be able to easily pull in the small time between himself and Evans in the mountains. If Andy, however, can stick to Contador's tail, this could get tough. Menchov, Kreuziger, Lance, Martin, and Rogers are two minutes back. They might find someplace to make up time - they probably won't, but we can't count Lance out yet. Basso and Sastre are two and a half minutes back, same reasoning as Lance. The probably won't find a way to get back up, but they still can. It is certainly still a race, and all of these results could get turned on their head by a lucky - or unlucky - day in the Pyrennees!

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