Friday, July 25, 2008

Most Combative..

After today's stage, I was wondering, to whom would I give the prize of "most combative" rider. The three options I had were: Damiano Cunego, because he got his ass handed to him on his terrain, yet he never gave up. And after yesterday's show of character, he was getting some serious consideration. Alejandro Valverde (not AleSSandro) like Phil Liggett loves to call him, was pick number two. Another one who took a whoopping on a bad day, yet he fought his way back, with some of his famous accelerations thrown in for good measure, he got an honorable mention. Then there was Sylvain Chavanel. At the beginning of the race he was in every break, it seemed. Then he got the polka dot jersey for a day or two, went incognito for some time, just to come back during the last week, trying his hands at the breaks. The pundits were talking of him riding the most kilometers in breakaways on this edition of the tour. He showed that if at first you don't succeed, then try again, and again, and again, and he was rewarded (might not be the correct word since he fought for it) with a stage win. Good for the frenchies!.

Ok, so all the formalities are over and done with, and tomorrow's time trial is going to be a dandy. The top six spots are going to race out of their skins, to either win, keep a podium place or move up. Personally, I think Evans is going to win the overall. He might not win the stage, but he will take time on Sastre. CVV would become a super star if he lands third place, but I think Menchov pretty much will take that home. Kohl is the unknown one, and Schelck will need a miracle to stay in the top three. But then again, anything can happen.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Second sucks!

Today's stage was kind of dull. I had the tv on, but I wasn't really paying attention, after all, the two guys up front were gone, the three chasers were tooling around and main pack was keeping everyone fresh for tomorrow and Saturday, except Damiano Cunego, who seemed to have had a close inspection of the local french pavement.

With about 15kms to go, I decided it was time to play closer attention to the action and pick a winner. My choice was Carlos Barredo, since Columbia already had a share of the limelight and Barredo was doing a gutsy ride. After both him and Burghardt traded a few punches, with 7km to go, the Quickstep car pulled up to the two fugitives and told something to Barredo. My first suspicion was that they were offering Burghardt money to give up the sprint (something that is not that unusual in pro cycling). But it seemed that what was actually said was something along the lines of "stop working and attack him as much as you can, you pretty much have no chance on the sprint". Barredo gave it a few gos, but the youngster from team Columbia was attentive and covered every moved. The final sprint was more of a track race, but at the end, Columbia grabbed its 4 stage and Quickstep continues the search for victory.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


It was worth staying home and making it to work late today. It was a long wait until the foot of the Alp, but the heads of state didn't dissapoint. Once again the tactics of CSC-Saxo Bank paid off, and the ride that Sastre pulled was nothing but amazing. I have to say I didn't think he had it in him, but today Carlos was one cool customer. And speaking of such characters, his teammates, the Schelck boys, particulary Andy showed once again their class. Frank managed the group, while Andy close most of the attacks, with an ease that was just scary.

What was Berhanrd Kohl doing at the bottom of the climb is anyone's guess. He paid for it towards the end, but he hung in there. Also the "Silent Assassin" fought his way back after getting dropped for a few k's. CVV showed that yesterday was just a hiccup, the guy was riding on a cloud. Evans led from the front, not getting any help while he tried to close the gap to the winning Sastre. Epic stage on Alp d'Huez for sure. Will probably have to watch the last 10k tonight just for kicks.

Now we are down to the showdown on Saturday when the ITT will determine who will wear yellow in Paris come Sunday. Nail biting time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mountain shuffle

Yesterday during the rest day, most of the GC riders were commenting that the real race will start on today's stage. Seems like all of them were saving something special for the last two days in the Alps. And once again, CSC-Saxo Bank came ready to play. It's said that after a day off, your body doesn't react as well to the mountains, but the entire CSC-Saxo Bank squad seemed to have gotten through the day off pretty well. As the break went off the front, the yellow jersey guys decided to slowly increase the tempo to help get rid of some of the threats. Vande Velde's dream ride was shattered when he was dropped off the pace, and although he did a valiant descend, he still lost 2+ minutes on Schelck, Sastre, Evans and Menchov. Speaking of the Russian, he had some sort of difficulty on the last downhill part because he also went into the "I lost some time" club, giving up 33 seconds to Evans, not a good thing with the time trial looming ahead. John Lee Agustine decided to test his legs at the top of the last climb and the excitment was so big that he went dowhill racing on the other side. Did anyone found his bike yet?.

So, what's the prediction for Alp d'Huez? My take is that Menchov and Vande Velde will go for broke. Evans will wait until the last moment to decide if he's going to attack or not. And although CSC-Saxo Bank is riding strong, Schelck the senior better not have a bad day, because if he does, Riis better let Sastre go on his own, instead of keeping the Spaniard back to help tow the yellow jersey. For sure the biggest day of the tour will be tomorrow, so set the alarm for 6:30AM.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Oscar Freire seems to have a strong hold on the green jersey competition, finsihing strongly and winning yesterday's stage. Other than that, yesterday's stage was just, a transition one.

Today's however was what everyone was expecting, a free for all. Garmin-Chipotle again put a man in the long break and came so close to winning. Hats off to Danny Pate for a courageous ride. Speaking of guts, Aussie Simon Gerrans lacks none and fought his way to the victory. His team is searching for a sponsor and this surely is going to help. Just like Gerolstiner will probably benefit from Berharnd Kohl's ride, snatching the KOM jersey from his teammate and also climbing on the GC. Menchov and Evans suffered a bit but managed to stay in contention. Sastre surprised me the most because he looked in trouble for a while but took complete advantage of his team's work. Schelck is a happy camper today, but he'll have to get more time on the stronger time trialists. Too bad tomorrow's a day off.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Make it 4!!!

The British Cycling Federation is begging Mark Cavendish to pull out of the Tour, so he can be rested for the Olympics. But how can the guy stop when he's winning every flat stage in the race. With the Alps looming though his chances will go down and the amount of effort that will take him to get over them will probably prompt him to take the advice of his federation and head back home for some R&R. But man, is this kid fast or what?.

On the doping front, Ricco and Piepoli were let go by the bosses at Saunier Duval-Scott and the main sponsor is considering pulling out of the sport. Not good at all for anyone involved, especially the staff that probably had not much to do with those two guys getting into the bad stuff. To be continued on that one, for sure.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Count them, 1,2 3!!!!

Yes, 3 stages for young Mark Cavendish of team Columbia. The kid is nasty fast and is surrounded by a dedicated group of mates who will ride their hearts out for their sprinter. But also 3 is the number of riders caught doping, today's turn going to none other than Ricardo Ricco.

A big WTF?.

Seems like some guys just don't understand it. I would like to suggest a solution to help with the fighting cause. Penalize the team. That's right, make them pay. ASO had each team sign a contract in which it stated that if a rider was caught, the team would had to pay $100,000 back to the organizers. Beltran gets caught and ASO states that since Liquigas pulled him right away, they could continue to ride and no penalty was going to be applied. F$ck that my friends. The team has to be hold accountable for its riders. The pressure not to dope has to come within the team, after all it's not the rider who get caught who suffers, it's the rest of the staff and other riders (hopefully they are clean). It's difficult for riders to be policed by testers and their bosses, but in order to sort matters out, that's they way it's going to have to be, like it or not.

Enough of that. Cadel Evans was glued to Frank Schelck's wheel and that's what he needed to do to survive another day and get himself ready for the onslaught that awaits him in the Alps. The Australian is riding with what the italians call grinta, or guts. CSC-Saxo Bank is again preparing for an assault of biblical proportions, but I'm not too confident with Carlos Sastre. He needs to ride his heart out since this is probably his last chance at the helm of the team, and it's time to step up and lead from the front.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Status Quo..

Silence-Lotto wanted and needed days like today. Break goes off the front with non-threating riders, other teams pull a bit and Cadel gets a good recovery ride. Presto!, they got it.

Another case of the druggies getting caught but it seems to me like some of the media are paying less attention to Beltran and now Duenas' cases, and focusing more in stories like Christian Vande Velde. And the fact that the race is so close, talking about riders doping, and not big names at that, is not worth the effort. It shows that the sport is doing what it can to clean itself and they are catching those who dare. One or two might slip through, but they will not hide for long.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Swing of the pendulum

I was raving the last few days about how well drilled Caisse de Espargne is, doing everything right, with Valverde in the hunt. But no matter how good the team rides, if the leader is not ready to fight, there's nothing the other eight guys can do. Today we saw the beginning of the end for Valverde, as the Spanish national champ lost massive time, aloing with Damiano Cunego. And they have only one man to thank for that.

For ten days CSC-Sauxo Bank has kept Jens Voigt caged and today was the day the gate was opened and Voigt went on the prowl on the slopes of the Tourmalet. If the climb along didn't put fear in the souls of the riders, the German star set a fierce pace to the top, breaking the heart and will of most of the peloton. Aided by teammates Gustov, Cancellara, Arvesen and the younger Scheleck, the leaders of the Danish squad (Carlos Sastre and Frank Schleck) were getting the protection they needed.

Di Gregorio's escape was brilliant on Bastille Day, but it wasn't meant to last as behind, spearheading the chase, Voigt was towing the leaders for the final showdown on Hautacam. And they didn't dissapoint, although once Cobo, Pieopli and Scheleck the older were gone, it seemed like the Evans, Menchov, Vandevelde, Sastre group were playing cat and mouse games, with Ricco getting a ride with his two mates up front.

Saunier Duval-Scott was the big winner today. One-two on the stage, KOM and White jerseys, not a bad day at the office, with Ricco slowly climbing up the GC. Vandelvede's confidence has to be through the roof, but him and Evans have to be worried that their teams will have to step up to the plate.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I had to go with that title. "The Cobra" was suave today, again, utilizing his trusted teammate Leonardo Piepoli and setting off in search of his second stage. This brought back memories of another great italian climber of the 90s. Although Ricco announced early on that he wasn't chasing GC aspiriations, his latest stunt gained him one minute and with the next two stages suited to his capabilities, he might be the unknown quantity this year. Cadel Evans took a nasty spill, did you see the back of his jersey?, but he soldiered on and finish safely in the lead pack. Again, what can be said about Caisse de Espargne other than they are the top team in the race.

Yesterday I had to make a quick trip to Dallas, so there was no report. But I didn't want to spend much time talking about "Triki" Beltran's affairs. His A result is positive and chances are stacking against him that the B will be different. The attitude is positive though, since the tests are catching the cheats and that's what counts.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Team Work!

I said it once and I'll say it again, Caisse de Espargne is the strongest squad in the tour. They had at least four guys in the lead bunch at the end of the stage, protecting their leader (s) (Valverde and Pereiro) and at the same time, increasing their chances for the stage win.

And Luis Leon Sanchez did a superb ride, by going in the break, keeping an eye on things for the team. Once they were caught, he helped his boys with some of the pace setting and then decided to go for broke on the final descent. The motorcycle camera team had a rough time following the young Spaniard, as he set his sights for the finish line.

Kirchen defended his lead, spreading the effort of his team, and then closing the deal himself. Schumacher continues to show great form, attacking and keeping his name and his team's at the front. Devolder is back in action and the other contenders were present at the top, except Damiano Cunego, who again lost time today. Perhaps is waiting for the big climbs, but the last two days will probably be messing with his head.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


The pundits were right. The first prediction was that Stefan Schumacker could stay in the front group and he even looked good to challenge for the stage if it wasn't for Kim Kirchen's rear wheel obstructing the path of the leader up to that point and sendig him to the ground (that wasn't part of the prediction), and the other thing mentioned by those in the know was that the climbed suited Columbia's leader, Kirchen, well, he didn't dissapoint, although the Schumi crash bumped Kirchen's chances of riding in yellow. Ricco looked good, aided by the always in form, Leonardo Pieppoli. Caisse de Espargne looked impressive, but their leader hesitated a bit and was swamped by the charging climbers.

But what happened to Damiano Cunego? He was in all sorts of trouble when it was go time and the Lampre leader looked to be in a spot of bother, giving some time to his main rivals. Maybe he hasn't recovered from the tt just yet.

Evans in third on the stage and now second overall continues to ride the perfect race. Despite what people say about him not attacking, he is not supposed to attack just yet. Sitting six seconds behind Kirchen is where he wants to be at this stage of the game. Kirchen will have to show his cards this weekend and his team will have to continue to ride the wave of good form they are having in order for him to stay in yellow come Tuesday, but I don't think it will happen.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Getting it right..

The sprinters teams finally got it together today, but they sure left it late to close the gap to the three breakaways. And again it was the french teams on the attack, on a stage that didn't suit a break reaching the line, but since riders are making the race by taking chances, it took a huge effort to close the gap.

Columbia is riding on a high after signing their new sponsor and their riders have finished on the top spots in every stage so far, with Kirchen riding in green for a few days and Lokvist in the white jersey, no better way to grab publicity for the new boss. Gerosltiner also did itself another favor by staying in yellow on more day, helping its hunt for a sponsor.

Mark Canvendish showed once again that on a straight line, he's the fastest guy on two wheels. Each of the big sprinters was there, getting support from their teams, yet once the youngster from the Isle of Man took off, the rest were racing for second.

And today marked the end of the race for Mauricio Soler of Barloworld, who once again, managed to hit the deck. Poor guy, better luck next year. Tomorrow's stage to Supper Besse should be a dandy, a nice opening to a weekend of fireworks in the Pyrennes.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


For sure Steffan Schumacker was not ranked high on the list of possible winners, with the likes of Cancellara and Millar gunning for stage 4. But the German rider set a devastating pace through the 18 mile course to take home the stage and yellow jersey. And with tomorrow's flat stage, he's assured a day in yellow, at least.

Of the main contenders for overall victory, Evans, Menchov and Sastre all did fantastic job to move up or stay within striking distance of each other. Valverde however catapulted down the general classification and now has a tough job when the race enters the mountains.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Get some!

Sooner or later it was going to happen and today four brave warriors took the bull by the horns, by staying almost the entire stage in front of the peloton and with that, a new change on GC. Here at the house we were rooting for Will Frishckorn, but to tell you the truth, any of the four deserved the stage, after a truly gutsy ride. Faillou was on a high today and almost pulled the double, by winning the stage and taking the yellow jersey, but the shortest rider in the Tour, Samuel Dumoulin was quickets to the line.

The question for me in the last 25kms was, why was Quickstep pulling?. Presumably they had itentions of pulling the break and setting the sprint for Gert Steegmans, but he himself was helping to drive the pace. Maybe it was because the crash with 22kms that set them off, but again, with no real GC aspiriations, and with the break long gone, Quickstep wasted energy on a fruitless chase.

Denis Menchov and Ricardo Ricco were caught behind the last crash of the day and had to set hot pace to limit the damage at the end. Again, Ricco's team hesitated to help Rabobank to chase back on to the leaders and their deficit went from 15 seconds to 30+ at the end. This could hurt Menchov's hunt for yellow.

The rest of the main contenders were attentive enough to stay near the front and Caisse de Espargne again did another superb job escorting Valverde through the wind and rain. Evans and Sastre are quietly within striking distance, but the real fight for GC will start tomorrow with the ITT. We'll see who is in for real.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Making use of the excellent work that team Credti Agricole did, Thor Hushovd won the second stage of the Tour, giving his managers a boost in the search for a new team sponsor. Adding to that the green jersey for the day, and things are looking good for the boys in green.

Caisse de Espagne did their duty at the front controlling most of the peloton, keeping their leader safe and out of the blistering wind and allowing the french duo of Chavanel and Voeckler to venture ahead for most of the stage. Voeckler increased his lead on the KOM competition and Chavanel conquered the most agressive rider jersey. So far the fact that the race started without a prologue has proved a good choice. The racing, although nervous, has been exciting, especially in the last 20kms.

Cancellara did his usual trick towards the end, but unlike Milan-San Remo, Filipo Pozatto was paying attention, although both of their efforts came to nothing, as Hushvod sprinted for victory. Kim Kerchen had another good finish, but I'm wondering if his efforts will cost them later in the race. And poor Mauricio Soler had another hellish day, finishing another 7 minutes back.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

And there are off!!

The first stage of the Tour is in the books and it went pretty much as expected. The early break established a short lead and it stayed there. Their main concern was riding for the points and KOM jerseys, which were very hotly contested, with good ol' Thomas Voeckler becoming the first wearer of the polka dot tunic.

Crashes were the order of the day, with several minor pileups roughing some feathers. Cofidis lost Luclos-Lasalle to a broken wrist and Barloworld's attempt to the GC took a hit when their Colombian leader, Francisco Soler managed to re-hurt his hand/wrist and in the process lost a chunk of time while chasing back on.

Obviously the big winner today was Alejandro Valverde and his Caisse de Espagne team (that's one sexy looking bike he's riding). Although they will have to decide how to handle the enormous pressure of holding the leader's jersey, he has started on the right foot. On the other hand, today's loser is the aformentioned Mauricio Soler, and even though the race just got underway, he finds himself at a disavantage time wise.

Tomorrow's stage will pretty much be a copycat of today's, with the battle for the KOM's taking center stage. Ricardo Ricco is my pick for Stage 2, and with the win, he will increase his lead on the white jersey competition.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

It's time!!!, not for me to get back on the bike. That will take another 11 or so days since I'm having a great time with my two daughters so far, and to give you a tip, go watch Wall-E, it rules!!!. Not so for Kung Fu Panda, which the girls and I thought was a bit on the boring side, but Wall-E is a pretty good flick. But it's time for the big show, the mother of all bike races, no matter what the critics say, around this time every year, people just go ga-ga for Le Tour.

Since I have a little more time in my hands due to the lack of riding and the fact that both girls are into cycling, I'm going to evaluate each stage and give you my humble opinion on who rode great, average, poor and who just didn't have a clue each day. So come by and check the space now and then, leave your comments and enjoy the race.