Sunday, July 18, 2010

So where does Contador stand?

By now it should be obvious I've thought Contador will win all along. But, today he and Scheck are playing games with each other, and they can both do the mountain goat thing better than anybody else - except each other. Given the way that both are on a different level from everyone else, and I wouldn't be surprised if both have also found a way to micro-dose and not get caught. It might be just a little tiny bit too good to be true. On the other hand, Alberto demonstrated this superior ability to climb and accelerate in the mountains a long time ago. So, we'll assume not, since it won't make any real difference to us.

It did make a difference to the guys in 3rd and 4th, tho. They actually managed to take advantage of the cat-and-mouse being played by Alberto and Andy and gain back 10 or 15 seconds. That isn't much, as they are about 2 and a half minutes behind, but it puts an extraordinary effort a little bit closer to their reach.

After today, I'm less confident that Alberto will win - it could be very close.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Le Tour - the first sorting is done

Ok folks! And there we go, the first sorting at Le Tour is done! Some not-so-surprises, and a couple of surprises. The first surprise was how highly Cadel was placed, but now that has sorted itself out. The second big surprise, but not such a big surprise, was Lance. In the last two years, he's shown himself to be riding "on the rivet" - at or right on his limits. Now he's suffered some very bad luck - in two critical stages. Part of that is almost certainly because he's been riding at his limit. Just go back over Tour history, and pay attention to how many times the #2 or #3 at the moment suffers a significant crash. There is just a fraction of one's energy that has gone over from paying attention to hazards to just staying with the pace. But it also could be just dumb luck. He had a good run - even last year he was showing some of that good luck when that tactical break went in his favor. So now he is way back, and any chance of him getting back to the yellow jersey would be so slim that the odds are likely a million to one.

What is really magnificent about Lance's ride this year is that he is showing us he is a true champion and a gentleman. He is riding well, strongly, and intelligently. I believe it enhances his status to keep riding - even when he is beyond winning. He is still one of the strongest men in the peloton.

Cadel is almost certainly gone, as well. Wiggins, too. They will be riding for top ten finishes now. Levi - originally not on the board, since he was riding for Lance - is now the top ten hope for Radioshack. Vino has shown his strength, and it is mighty, but not enough. At the end of the Alps - the Tour's "first stretch" - we have Schleck and Contador, with Schleck by a nose. We still have two more stretches to sort things - the Pyrenees, where Contador has been saying the Tour will be won - and the final time trial.

Things could change for another surprise, but don't count on it. Basso, Leipheimer, etc are in a battle for third on the podium in Paris. One and two will be Schleck and Contador. I give my odds to Contador, but he is not unbeatable, and Schleck has looked very much like he can beat Contador. I don't think Contador can beat Andy in the mountains, like he can everyone else. They were very evenly matched in the Alps this year, and last year, too. But all he needs are a few seconds to tie things up. Then he can beat him in the time trial. We will see.

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!

Friday, July 2, 2010

We have got a RACE!

O folks! We have got a RACE! Check out these headlines:

Cervélo suspends Florencio on eve of Tour de France
Evans confident as Tour redemption bid begins
Cav: "I'm physically great, but I don't know exactly how good until I start the race"
Contador confident Astana can lead him to Tour glory
Tour de France favorites train on the cobbles
Wiggins takes Tour de France prologue gamble

Ta ta ta ta ta ta: "The Heat is ON" ta tata, tata, tata.

If you want to check out the stories, head on over to: