Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tour de France Over

COL D'AGNES, FRANCE - JULY 11:  11:  Lance Arm...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Well the Tour de France is over. Contador took the yellow. Schleck was 2nd and Armstrong was 3rd. I feel pretty good about my predictions. All three of them were in my top five, and in that order. The two I messed up on were Cadel Evans, who (as my business partner Will is fond of saying) asploded, and Levi who had to abandon the Tour because of a broken wrist. I feel really bad about Levi, first off I think he deserves to be a team leader on his own team, not riding support for someone else. Secondly he hasn't had a lot of luck in the Tour and to have to leave it prematurely again is a real tragedy.

There were lots of controversies in this year's tour. First was the whole dust-up about Contador dropping Klöden on the Col de la Colombière. The recriminations came because there was this idea that Astana might be able to sweep the podium, and by dropping Klöden, Contador made that impossible. Well Bruyneel has been publicly saying that whoever is the strongest would be the team leader. So Contador has that on his plate, and then people expect him, additionally to get two of his team-mates on the podium as well?

Also let's say that all the time Klöden lost on the Colombière went away, well then, yeah, he is on the podium, but he knocks Armstrong off, so you still don't have three Astana on the podium... So while I think the majority felt that the attack was a mistake, in the final analysis, it either didn't matter or was exactly the sort of thing Contador needed to do to win.

One of the other big dust-ups was Cavendish made the claim that the only way Thor could win the Green Jersey competition was by complaining about Cavendish and getting him relegated. So Thor goes on a big attack and manages to take two intermediate sprints to put Cavendish in his place. Cavendish ends up apologizing and basically says that Thor deserves the green jersey. Well guess what, when the smoke finally cleared, he was right. Thor won the green by fewer points than Cavendish lost from the relegation. Another case where the convention wisdom says one thing and in retrospect they were wrong, but no one bothers to point it out...

Overall the Tour could have been better. One problem is that rather than enhancing the drama the Armstrong vs. Contador battle just annoyed me. Also Ventoux was kind of anti-climatic, and not much really happened in the first two weeks. 2010 though, is shaping up to be very exciting. For one thing, I'd much rather see an Armstrong vs. Contador battle with them on different teams then with them on the same team.

2009: First Japanese riders to reach Paris

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Long overdue Tour Update

Bradley Wiggins at the Prologue of the Tour of...Image via Wikipedia

Well if you were following the tour very closely you'll have noticed that the first couple of weeks were kind of boring. Sure there was some back and forth between Armstrong and Contador which was much discussed in the media. Whether the rift was as severe as people tried to make it, or whether it was all part of some really deep plan by Bruyneel is not clear, but I suspect it's a little bit of both. The thing that bugged me was that it seemed obvious fairly early on that Contador was the stronger rider. But I guess it wasn't really unmistakable until Sunday, when the tour finally got really exciting. Contador rode to a stage win and finally took yellow.

Today's stage, which is taking place as I write this, has been really exciting. Thor Hushovd managed to get out in front and solo through both of the intermediate sprints giving him a fairly nice lead in the green jersey competition. Then, once they hit the final couple of climbs (two Cat. 1's really close together) there was some great attacking. Bradley Wiggins, the great revelation of this tour, has been dropped though he's staying relatively close, and he's a great time trialist so we'll see how bad this stage ends up hurting him. At the moment he's 1:41 behind the Schleck brothers on the stage.

Some other interesting things from this stage. Cadel Evans, who has had a fairly disappointing tour, finally blew up and was dropped on the first climb of the day (when Thor was in the front of the race) and Carlos Sastre, launched the first big attack of the day among the GC contenders and then he was dropped only a couple minutes later. I've never been a big fan of Sastre. I'm sure he's a nice guy, I just haven't ever been impressed by him. So to see him crack serves to give me a certain level of satisfaction since I previously said that I didn't think much of his chances. Of course I also had Cadel as my #2 pick after Contador, so I probably shouldn't gloat too much...

And Frank takes it...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Big Sandy Lodge

The Wind River Range, Wyoming, as viewed from ...Image via Wikipedia

Well I'm back. I missed some really exciting tour stages. Columbia managed to open up a split in the peleton, Armstrong made the split, but Contador didn't, and lost 40 seconds. Then the next day after the team time trial, Cancellara managed to keep yellow by 22/100th of a second... Oh well so it goes. I'll catch all the exciting bits on the rest day recap.

So the vacation... We drove up right after church on Sunday and got in around 5 pm. We had dinner at the lodge. That's one thing about the Big Sandy Lodge, they make incredible meals. The next day we started off with a two hour horse-ride. I'm glad it wasn't any longer, riding a horse puts pressure on parts of my body that aren't used to it. My hip was particularly sore after the ride. The rest of the day was spent napping, reading and playing board games with the family.

Yesterday was the hike. I've been really happy with how cool and wet the summer has been thus far. What I didn't realize was that a wet June meant that the mosquitoes would be particularly bad. I've been to the Wind Rivers quite a bit, and I don't believe I've ever seen mosquitoes even half as bad as they were Tuesday morning when we started the hike. I kid you not, an hour and a half into the hike I wasn't sure I could make it. While you're moving they have at least a little difficulty keeping up, but the minute you sit down, suddenly there's literally hundreds of them. I wasn't sure how we were going to eat.

Fortunately we gained a little bit of altitude which helped thin them out and then, shortly before we were going to stop for lunch we got some wind and that really helped out. Without that, I may have lost my mind... In any case I don't want to go too overboard it was still a really nice hike. I figure we ended up doing 9 miles total, which when you consider that my youngest is 6, is pretty impressive. All told we were out for just over seven hours.

Absent the mosquitoes it was really just about the perfect vacation and even with the mosquitoes it was a really good vacation. Still, as always, it's nice to be back.

I would genocide those little devils in a heartbeat

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Tour de France

Tour de FranceImage via Wikipedia

Well people have been bugging me about blogging, and I confess that I really dropped the ball. I could say things have been crazy, I could say that I don't have any time, but that's always the case. I'm not sure what exactly caused my long hiatus nor do I make any promises that I will start blogging regularly again, but how could I let the Tour pass without my normal commentary? (Thanks Dismas!)

I should mention that I leave tomorrow for a four-day three-night trip to a place without electricity, to say nothing of internet. So even if I wanted to there's no way I will be posting any updates on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. Anyway, with that caveat I'll dive in.

Today was stage one of the Tour de France, this would normally be called the prologue, but I guess that organizers felt that it was too long to be a prologue. Fabian Cancellara won the stage, which shouldn't really surprise anyone. Alberto Contador came in 2nd. I don't think many people are surprised by this result, but they should be. As you may recall Contador started as just a really promising climber. Initially his time trialing was not that great. For him to get into a form where he comes in second, on a short time trial is pretty impressive. I mean look at the time trial specialists he beat: Levi Leipheimer, Cadel Evans, Kloden, Zabriski, Millar, and of course Armstrong.

So what about Armstrong? Well from what I saw at the Giro, he was coming into form near the end. I expect him to do well, but he's 37, and even if he comes into this tour better prepared than ever he just doesn't have the same engine. So other than Contador who do I think will do well? Okay here's my list:

1- Alberto Contador
2- Cadel Evans
3- Andy Schleck
4- Levi Leipheimer
5- Lance Armstrong

I should probably include Carlos Sastre, but for some reason I've never liked him. Anyway there you go. I'll try and post about the team time trial (even though I'll miss it live) on Wednesday.

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!