Critical Section


Tour de France 2011

This post is a compendium of all my Tour de France 2014 posts...

Le Route of Le Tour, 2014

Saturday,  07/05/14  10:41 PM

The organizers of Le Tour have once again setup an amazing website chock full of information; among other things, nice maps of the route and all the stages, along with detailed elevations of each stage.  Check it out and keep it handy for your second screen as you watch the racing!

Le Tour, the route

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Le Tour 2014, stage 1: Jens breaks away, Fabian attacks, Kittel wins, Cavendish crashes

Saturday,  07/05/14  10:43 PM

Jens Voight breaks awayLe Tour 2014 is officially under way, after a most Grand Depart in Leeds; stage 1 was a meandering tour of Yorkshire, in the North of the UK, with just enough little climbs and big rollers to keep things interesting.  The weather was perfect and the crowds were huge and enthusiastic, a great start to what should be a great tour.

Marcel Kittel outsprints the field for the winJens Voight was part of the initial break and finally attacked out of it to lead most of the way and gather enough points to be initial leader of the King of the Mountains, yay, Jens!  And just as the peleton regrouped for a final sprint, Fabian Cancellara attacked and nearly won.  But he didn't, and Marcel Kittel did (just like last year), after Mark Cavendish crashed in the runup to the finish (just like last year).  Peter Sagan took second and staked his claim to the green jersey.

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin, the voices of July...Along with welcoming back a great spectacle and competition, it was so nice to hear Phil (Liggett) and Paul (Sherwin) back in action.  Todd Harris is fine as MC, Bob Roll is pleasant and insightful, and this year we have Christian Vandenberg, who isn't quite as polished but makes interesting observations.  And I love having Steve Porino out there in the middle of the peleton on a bike; he seems to know all the Directors Sportif intimitely, and brings great in-race insights.

Tomorrow brings another lumpy stage with narrow roads and nine categorized climbs, could be a day for a break!

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Le Tour 2014, stage 2: tough day in the hills of Yorkshire; Nibali wins late against GC rivals

Sunday,  07/06/14  03:12 PM

Vincenzo Nibali attacks to winExcellent stage today in Le Tour; six solid hours of racing up and down, with nine categorized climbs and several others too, narrow roads, massive crowds, and great riding.  It was capped by the GC contenders battling on a 25% hill three miles from the finish, with Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, and Rui Costa all in the mix, together with the all-around amazing Peter Sagan, but they all watched Vincenzo Nibali attack with 1 mile to go and couldn't bring him back.  He only took two seconds in the end but it was a great victory for him and puts him in yellow.

massive Yorkshire crowds line the routeIn addition to the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, the star of today's stage were the people; I've been watching bike racing for many years but have never seen such crowds.  Even the small hills in the middle of nowhere had thousands of cheering fans crowding the road.  Excellent.

Stage 3 is a flat and crispy parade into London, which should culminate in a bunch sprint; too bad Mark Cavendish' crash yesterday forced him to abandon.  I guess it will be Kittel vs Greipel and everyone else can rest up.  Onward!

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Le Tour 2014, stage 3: sprint into downtown London, Kittel triumphs again

Monday,  07/07/14  10:37 PM

Marcel Kittel triumphs in downtown LondonHo hum; today's Tour de France stage was parade from Cambridge into download London, where Marcel Kittel finished off the field easily in a bunch sprint.  The GC was unchanged, and on we go into France.  There were huge crowds in England lining the road nearly the entire way - again! - but they didn't have much of a race to watch today.

Tomorrow the field crosses the channel into France for another flat stage, a warmup before the Paris-Roubaix-like cobbles of stage 5.  Stay tuned...

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Le Tour 2014, stage 4: yet another sprint to Kittel

Tuesday,  07/08/14  11:50 PM

Marcel Kittel takes third stage in four racesAfter a smashing start the 2014 Tour has settled into a (yawn) pattern; the field ride for several hours, millions of people cheer them on, and then Marcel Kittel outsprints everyone else for a win.  It's happened three times now in four stages, and it's getting just a bit old.  Today was a bit closer than yesterday but the result was the same.  It does not make for gripping spectation.

Tomorrow will be different however (!), we have a flat stage featuring nine cobbled sections of pave, duplicating a substantial section of the famous Paris-Roubaix race. The GC contenders will all be trying to finish intact while the classics' specialists like Fabian Cancellara try to pull off a win.  In fact, with most of the field just two seconds behind current yellow jersey wearer Vincenzo Nibbali, there's a great chance for someone to take the overall lead, at least for a day.  That should make for a great race.  Onward!

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Le Tour 2014, stage 5: wet cobbles! = first selection, Froome out, Nibali extends lead

Wednesday,  07/09/14  11:57 PM

Vincenzo Nibali extends his lead in yellowYesterday I complained about how the Tour was settling into a pattern, and today's stage everything changed.  A wild, wet, and tumultuous stage over nine sections of cobblestones created this year's first real selection, with Chris Froome crashing out, Vincenzo Nibali extending his lead in yellow, and most of the GC contenders happy they made it to the finish in one piece.  Lars Boom won the stage - which was like a mini Paris-Roubaix - in convincing fashion, and Jacob Fulsong finished just ahead of his teammate Nibali in second, putting him in second overall as well.  Peter Sagan was a close fourth, extending his lead in the green jersey points competition and landing him third overall in GC.

Besides Froome, who sadly crashed twice before he even reached the cobbles and couldn't continue, the day's big loser was Alberto Contador, who rode well but ended up conceding nearly three minutes to Nibali, and over 30 seconds to Andrew Talansky, who is looking more and more like a genuine podium contender every day.  We now have to ask ourselves, can Niabli win?  We'll have to wait for the mountain stages in the alps to find out.

(Who knows... maybe Albert Contador dominates the mountains and wins the Tour, and we end up looking back at this stage as the biggest reason, as it removed Chris Froome from the picture.)

Update: There has been a lot of discussion about whether cobblestones belong in the Tour.  Without commenting on that, I just want to point out that Chris Froome crashed out *before* ever riding on cobbles.  It was a wet stage on narrow roads, but I don't think anyone is suggesting that the Tour stop riding in rain, or on back lanes in France.  Net net it is too bad that Froome is no longer in the race, but that's cycling...

Tomorrow is another flat stage, and most likely another sprint finish.  We'll see most of the peleton recovering and taking it easy, but will anyone be able to beat Kittel?  Andre Greipel, call your office.

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Le Tour 2014, stage 6: Greipel outsprints the field in the rain

Thursday,  07/10/14  11:22 PM

Andre Greipel outsprints the field to win stage 6After yesterday's wet and wild stage over the Paris-Roubaix cobbles, today shaped up to be a rather boring parade ending in a field sprint, and so it was.  Most of the field licked their wounds all day, but there were a few more crashes adding injury to injury.  The expected field sprint did materialize, but this time Andre Greipel triumphed, as Marcel Kittel sat this one out.

Tomorrow is another flat stage, but there are a couple of climbs at the end, so it may be a day for a breakaway to succeed, or more likely a chance for Peter Sagan or Alejandro Valverde.

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Le Tour 2014, stage 7: Trentin nips Sagan in the final bumps; more crashes cost more time

Friday,  07/11/14  11:42 PM

Matteo Trentin nips Peter Sagan at the finish of stage 7Looking at today's Tour 2014 stage 7 profile, you couldn't be sure whether the field would survive to the end for a bunch sprint, a breakaway would stay clear, or it would be a sprint among the survivors.  And the latter came to pass, as Matteo Trentin barely nipped Peter Sagan in a sprint finish after the pure sprinters were dropped on the late climbs.  There was more rain and more crashes, too; Tejay Van Garderen lost over a minute due to an unfortunte crash, exacerbated by his teammate Greg Van Avermaet's late attack.  Andrew Talansky also crashed right in the sprint, losing skin but no time.

Stage 8 tomorrow will be interesting; the first "real" climbs of the tour, right at the end of an otherwise flat stage, and more rain in the forecast.  On paper it looks to be a perfect opportunity for a breakaway to survive as a tired and sore peleton take the day off.  There will likely be a GC battle for time on the final climb which is short but steep.  Stay tuned!

[ Le Tour 2014: all posts | index ]


Le Tour 2014, stage 8: Kadri survives from break, Contador and Nibali assert themselves

Saturday,  07/12/14  12:00 PM

Blel Kadri attacks the break to win stage 8Today's stage 8 of Le Tour was predictably boring for the first three hours (ho hum, a five man break pulls 10 minutes on a disinterested and resting peleton in quiet sunshine), and then predictably exciting for the last one (a breakaway survivor wins and a GC battle errupts on the final climb in pouring rain).  And so it goes.  Congratulations to Blel Kadri (call him "Joe" :) who attacked his breakaway companions as the climbs started near the end and won convincingly, taking the lead in the climbers' polka dot jersey competition as well.

Vincenzo Nibali marks Alberto Contador on the final climb of stage 8Meanwhile back in the peleton Alberto Contador's Saxo teammates cranked up the pressure and decanted the field on the first climb, leaving a select group of about 20 riders to content the final short (1 miles) but steep (10%+) climb to the finish.  At that point Contador attacked, but he couldn't shake yellow-jersey-wearer Vincenzo Nibali, who was content to follow and not lose any time.  Richie Porte was right there too, good for him as he assumes leadershop of the Sky team from defending champion Chris Froome who crashed out in stage 5.  Meanwhile the other contenders all fell back a bit, as the Tour saw a main selection that establishes the leaderboard going into the second week.  Nibali's teammate Jakob Fulsang lost time but is still in second (1:44), Porte moved up to to third (1:58), Michal Kwiatkowski lost time but is now fourth (2:26), Alejandro Valverde also lost time but also moved up, to fifth (2:27), and Contador sits sixth (2:34).  Other would-be contenders include Rui Costa (8th, 2:52), Bauke Mollema (9th, 3:02), Tejay Van Garderen (12th, 3:34), and Andrew Talansky (16th, 4:42), who was the victim of a poorly timed crash just before the final climb.

Tomorrow will be more of the same: not high mountains, exactly, but six categorized climbs.  They don't come at the end, so perhaps we will see another breakaway and another victorious survivor.  Of note, Peter Sagan finally lost time today (18:17), after being up among the leaders in every stage so far, so he might be allowed to escape for a win.

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Le Tour 2014, stage 9: Tony Martin powers to win, as Tony Gallopin moves into yellow

Sunday,  07/13/14  10:04 PM

Tony Gallopin leads a 28 man break to take yellowStage 9 of the 2014 Tour was one of those interesting transition stages; plenty of climbs, but nothing too brutal, and the last coming some considerable way from the finish.  With a harder mountain stage tomorrow and a finish on a climb, and a rest day the day after, the GC contenders were content to take a rest, and Vincenzo Nibali and his Astana teammates were happy to see a break of 28 riders take off.  Tony Gallopin was the highest placed in that group, and ended up in yellow, relieving Astana of any burden tomorrow without conceding any time to the true contenders.

Tony Martin powers to an impressive winMeanwhile Tony Martin basted out early, a man on a mission, and powered to victory; even that huge break could not nail him back.  I just watched him nearly win the Tour de Suisse; boy can he burn the watts.  Just doesn't quite have the power to weight ratio you need to triumph in the mountains.

As noted tomorrow's stage is going to be tough; nine catagorized climbs included four Cat 1s and a finish at the top of the last one.  I predict serious fireworks as Alberto Contador tries to get some time back from Nibali, and Richi Porte, Andrew Talanski, etc will battle it out in a major selection for the overall.  Stay tuned!

[ Le Tour 2014: all posts | index ]


Le Tour 2014, stage 10: Contador crashes out as Nibali takes the queen stage and regains yellow

Monday,  07/14/14  11:35 PM

Alberto Contador crashes out of the 2014 tour on a slick descentAw, man!  First Chris Froome and now Alberto Contador have crashed out of the 2014 Tour, leaving Vincenzo Nibali as the last favorite standing.  Stage 10 was always going to be one of the toughest in the whole tour, with seven categorized climbs and two Cat 1s near the end, but add serious rainstorms and a lot of competition going into the rest day tomorrow, and it was wild.  Joaquim Rodriguez animated the early break, taking all the climbs in successful pursuit of the climbers polka dot jersey, but sadly Alberto Contador hit a pothole while descending in the rain and broke his leg, ending his tour.

Vincenzo Nibali blazed up the final climb to win the stage and reclaim the jerseyNibali saved his firepower for the last climb and powered up the final stretch of 20% to take the stage and reclaim the jersey.  At this point he's the overwhelming favorite to keep it all the way to Paris.  That same climb reordered the general classification; Richie Porte now sits second (2:23), and Alejandro Valverde third (2:47).  Other would-be contenders include Tejay Van Garderen, moving up to seventh (3:56) after a good day, and world champion Rui Costa now in ninth (3:58).

Tomorrow is the tour's first rest day and boy is the peleton ready for it.  I'll try to to a little photo essay.  And Wednesday's stage 11 is one of those bumpy stages which are tough to predict; four smaller catagorized climbs in the last 40K might let a breakaway escape, or a strongman like Peter Sagan triumph.  We'll see...

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Le Tour 2014, rest day 1: pics and thoughts

Tuesday,  07/15/14  10:42 PM

Vincenzo Nibali looks solid to win the yellow overall jerseyWe've [finally!] reached Le Tour 2014's first rest day, and what's left of the Peloton must be quite grateful.  In sheer numbers this tour hasn't necessarily been more brutal than others, but seeing so many top riders like Mark Cavendish, Andy Schleck, Chris Froome, and Alberto Contador crash out has been amazing.  It leaves the field clear for Vincenzo Nibali to win - doesn't look like anyone is going to challenge him (assuming he makes it!) - but it also clears the field for a bunch of contenders to finish on the podium.  And most of the big climbs still lie ahead.  Should be great.

Peter Sagan has the green points jersey all but locked upOther interesting subplots include Peter Sagan - he's got the green points jersey pretty well locked up, but will he win a stage?  And Roman Bardet and Thibaut Pinot compete for the white best young rider jersey, as well as top Frenchman and possibly first Frenchman to be on the podium for many years.  And Joaquim Rodriquez' pursuit of the polka dot climbers jersey.



Mark Cavendish crashes out in stage 1Mark Cavendish crashes out in stage 1 ... did not win any stages this year, leaving the sprints for Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel.

Chris Froome crashes out in stage 2Chris Froome crashes out in stage 5 ... didn't even make it to the cobbles.



Lars Boom wins stage 5, an iconic Paris-Roubaix stageLars Boom wins stage 5, an iconic Paris-Roubaix stage in the rain over cobbles.

Alberto Contador crashes out in stage 10Alberto Contador crashes out in stage 10 ... didn't even make it to the high mountains.



Thibaut Pinot and Roman Bardet battle for white best young rider jersey, and best Frenchman, and the podium!Thibaut Pinot and Roman Bardet battle for the white best young rider jersey, and best Frenchman, and the podium!

Joaquim Rodriquez looking good in the polka dot best climber jerseyJoaquim Rodriquez looking good for the polka dot climbers' jersey.


Cheers ... the Tour resumes tomorrow, with two lumpy stages which might see breakaways get clear, and then later in the week two serious mountain stages in the Alps.

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Le Tour 2014, stage 11: Gallopin nips Sagan on a lumpy day; Talansky survives

Wednesday,  07/16/14  10:50 PM

Tony Gallopin powers to victory from the breakStage 11 of Le Tour 2014 was a lumpy ride along the Franco-Swiss border, with four minor climbs near the end.  Everyone figured it would be a stage for Peter Sagan, and it was, but Tony Gallopin powered out from a late break to win by a whisker, leaving Sagan frustrated again

Andrew Talansky survives the day despite serious back pain from previous crashesThe GC was largely unchanged, but a big story of the day was Andrew Talansky's desperate battle to finish inside the time limit, still suffering badly from a series of crashes.  He barely made it - yay! - and was cheered across the line by a crowd which waited over 30 minutes after the leaders had finished to cheer him on - yay! - but whether he'll be able to continue is doubtful.  And his GC hopes have been dashed entirely.

Tomorrow's stage 12 will be a bit more of the same: more lumps, four more climbs, and another chance for Sagan.  Stay tuned!

[ Le Tour 2014: all posts | index ]


Le Tour 2014, stage 12: Kristoff nips Sagan on another lumpy day; GC unchanged

Thursday,  07/17/14  11:02 PM

Alexender Kristoff battles Peter Sagan to the finish of stage 12Another lumpy day, another chance for Peter Sagan to win a stage, and another disappointment for him as Alexander Kristoff barely beat him to the line in the final sprint.  Behind them a tired peleton continued to recover with the GC unchanged.  It might have been the least eventful day so far in what has been a most eventful tour, marking the overall halfway point.

The peleton cruises before the AlpsAnd it gets more interesting from here, as we have the first real mountain stage in the Alps tomorrow, ending with an HC climb to the finish.  Yippee.

[ Le Tour 2014: all posts | index ]

 


Le Tour 2014, stage 13: Nibali wins on HC final climb, solidifies hold on yellow

Friday,  07/18/14  08:12 PM

Vincenzo Nibali wins stage 13 and solidifies his lead in Le Tour 2014Stage 13 of Le Tour 2014 was the first "real" mountain stage, with a Cat 1 hors d'oeuvre 40K out and a 20K HC final climb to the finish.  It promised some interesting GC dynamics, a decanting of the contenders to determine who was really in to finish on the podium, and it did not disappoint.  When the dust settled Vincenzo Nibali won the stage and solidified his hold on the yellow jersey, overtaking attackers Leopold Konig and Rafal Majka on the final ramps to the finish.  Alejandro Valverde ended up second (3:37) with best young rider Romain Bardet in third (4:24).  Thibaut Pinot and Tejay Van Garderen now round out the top five.


Le Tour 2014, stage 14: Majka triumphs, GC solidifies

Saturday,  07/19/14  09:29 PM

the peloton in the high Alps on stage 14 of the 2014 Tour de FranceToday's second Alpine stage of the 2014 Tour de France provided more climbing fireworks.  Rafal Majka survived three tremendous climbs from a seventeen-man break to win, after finishing second yesterday.  He is giving team Tinkoff-Saxo something to celebrate after losing leader Alberto Contador back in stage 10.  Vincenzo Nibali added to his overall lead by finishing second, and the rest of the GC compacted and solidified...  Alejandro Valverde is still second (now at 4:37), Romain Bardet is till third (4:50), also in yellow, and also the top French rider, Thibaut Pinot is still fourth (5:06), and Tejay Van Garderen is still fifth (5:49) after another strong ride in the mountains.

Joaquim Rodriques crests the Col d'Izouard ahead of Alexendre De Marche on the way to a polka dot jerseyMeanwhile Joaquim Rodriguez recaptured the climber's polka dot jersey by taking all the early climb points (including leading across the top of the Col d'Izouard, and claiming the prize for the first rider over the highest point of the tour).  He is now tied with Majka, and that might be an interesting competition when the Tour reaches the Pyrenees.  Another interesting competition is the best young rider, between Bardet and Pinot, who are also battling for a podium spot and ... best Frenchman!

Tomorrow is a long transition stage (aka, watch out for Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel), and Monday is the Tour's second rest day.  After that ... the Pyrenees for three days!  Stay tuned.

[ Le Tour 2014: all posts | index ]


Le Tour 2014, stage 15: Kristoff wins transition stage as break caught with 20m to go

Sunday,  07/20/14  11:17 AM

Jack Bauer and Martin Elminger led the field all day, only to be caught with 20m to goArgh!  These transition stages can be nail-biters; today on Le Tour featured a long flat run through Provence, with a dead flat sprint into Nimes.  A stage for Marcel Kittel or Andre Griepel for sure, right?  But then a two-man break nearly ... nearly! ... got away, as the peloton's chase was slowed by rain and roundabouts.  Jack Bauer and Martin Elminger rode hard all day and at first it seemed they would surely be caught, and then it seemed they would make it to the finish!  But heartbreakingly they were caught, with 20m to go... and Alexender Kristoff led the field sprint across the line.  Whew.

the peloton cruise through Provence on stage 15Tomorrow is the tour's second rest day, and then Tuesday the race resumes with three stages in the Pyrenees!

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Le Tour 2014, rest day 2: movie + thoughts

Monday,  07/21/14  10:56 PM

The Tour de France 2014 rests again today.  Left are three mountain stages in the Pyrenees, a transition stage, and a time trial left before Sunday's parade / sprint to Paris.

It seems like Vincenzo Nibali is a lock to win.  But the rest of the podium and top ten is up for grabs, should make for some exciting racing.  Peter Sagan has the green jersey sewn up.  But the polka dot jersey competition is tight (tied!) between Joaquim Rodriquez and Rafal Majka, and the white jersey is up for grabs between Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot, who are also battling for top French rider and ... perhaps most importantly ... fighting to be the first Frenchman on the podium since Ricard Virenque in 1997.  Add to that Tejay Van Garderen sitting in fifth, and riding stronger every day, and Bauke Mollema lurking in seventh, and Rui Costa ... well there's a lot of racing left.  (Update: Rui has dropped out due to pnemonia!  Rats)

It already seems a long time ago but remember stage 5, which retraced the Paris-Roubaoix route over the cobbles in the rain?  Want to see it again, from the handlebars of a riderCheck this out:

Wow.  And Onward!

[ Le Tour 2014: all posts | index ]


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