I often hate that my internal clock still goes off at 5:30 AM....but now that the Tour de France is going on I am actually very happy to be getting up that early! I have always been drawn to the Tour de France and for the first time in many years I am able to actually watch the live coverage in its entirety and I could not be happier about this!
So stage three was a 197 km that took the riders from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer. The stage was classified as rolling and most of that rolling was done in the final 60 km's. All 198 riders took the start and at 5 km into the stage a breakaway of 4 riders took off. Included in this group of 4 was current KOM Leader Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Tinoff) who has become a familiar face in the breakaway's in this years Tours as he has been in the breakaway on each stage so far. The stage was relatively calm until the main field hit the kilometers just before the intermediate sprint at km 119. This year the organizers have changed up the Green Jersey competition a little and the intermediate sprints have a lot more points on offer...so that means that the sprinters who wish to wear Green into Paris have to pay attention to the intermediate sprints and it sure has been making for some exciting racing. And I think that with this sprint we have a "New Look" that we can all reference. If you remember back to 2001 there was a "famous" look given and it is always something that is talked about each year...I think that the "New Look" is better and should be what we see from here on out...what do you think? Check out the The Look and The New Look and let me know what look you think is better.
After the intermediate sprint the pace settled back down but the riders did not as the field moved onto narrow roads. The narrow roads and the nerves of the first week caused several crashes and two riders had to abandon the race. The breakaway was caught with about 10 km to go and after a short stint all together Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) took off going for the win on the same finish that he won the French National Championship on a few years back. Chavanel looked like he might be able to pull the win off...but the charging field had other ideas...or better yet Peter Sagan had other ideas as he blew the field away and even gave us a running man salute when he crossed the line. Sagan is only 22 years old....and I can tell you that I am looking forward to watching him for years to come!
Stage 2 of the Tour de France was today. It was a relatively flat course that ran 207.5 km from Vise to Tournai. All 198 riders took the start, though some were a little worse off than before. Note-able among the injured are Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) suffered a fractured scaphoid, Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) who broke a bone in his left hand and Anthony Roux (FDJ-Big Mat) with broken fingers.
The break was away after only 24 km riden. Only three riders went off the front this time - Anthony Roux (FDJ-Big Mat) , Christophe Kern (Europcar) and Polka Dot Jersey holder Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff). The three gained a maximum of 7:40 before the filed decided that that was a little too much and brought them down to between 5-6 minutes and let it hang there until the call to catch them went out. Kern and Roux got caught with 29.7 km to go and Roux remained about a minute out until he was finally caught with 14 km left. I do have to say that I always hope that the breakaway will stay away....but when they are caught there is just something majestic about the way that the peleton swallows them up.
With the breakaway being caught it was now up to the sprinters teams to take over at the front and lead the strong men to the finish. At one point they covered 1 km in 53 seconds....and they also covered twice the miles of my commute to work - 5.5 miles for me and 11 for them - in less time then it takes me to get to work....there is no way that I could ever imagine going that fast in that tight of a group. The skills that these pro athletes have just continues to amaze me. After all was said and done Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) took his 21st Stage win of the TDF and did so without any sort of lead out. I always love to watch Cavendish in the sprint...such pure power it is amazing. Hopefully the TDF doesn't take too much out of him and he can kill the Olympic race.
Check out the last couple of km's in this video - Stage Two Final
Man...what a great day today was to be a fan of bike racing. Not only did we have Stage 1 of the Tour de France, but we also had the MTB World Cup Downhill #5. And I must say that both - or all three - races did not disappoint at all!
Let us start with Stage One of the Tour de France. Stage One was a 198 km stage that ran from Liege to Seraing. Immediately from the gun a breakaway of 6 riders took off. These 6 stayed away for the majority of the race and in fact did not get caught until the 179th km. With the field all together it was looking like we might have a bunch sprint....but the finish was not a flat finish and had a nasty little up-hill kick to finish it off. And those last 2 km did not disappoint at all. Fabian "Spartacus" Cancellara (RadioShack) took the Yellow Jersey and the lead with just 1.5 km to go. The only two people that could follow him was Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky). Neither Sagan or Hagen would help Spartacus and this allowed Sagan to take his first TDF stage win (one of many for this young talent) and his 14th win of the year. Spartacus took second and was able to hold onto the Yellow Jersey. The last 2 km are worth a watch...just to see what these guys can do - Final 2 km Stage One I have a feeling that this is going to be a great Tour de France...especially when my man wins and Mike is treating me to a night out!!
So with the TDF out of the way it was time to tune into PinkBike.com to watch the 5th stop for the UCI World Cup Downhill in Windham NY. Sadly enough I was at work while this was happening and was not able to watch what was going on. So I had to watch the replay and just read about. Rachel Atherton (GT Factory Racing) took the top spot by 0.262 seconds over Tracy Hannah (Hutchinson United Ride). Emmeline Ragot (Ms Mondraker Team), Emilie Siegenthaler (Scott11) and Myriam Nicole (Commencal/Riding Action) finished off the podium. And check out Emmeline Ragot hitting the dirt at the end of her run....OUCH (Thanks Vital MTB!!!). Emmaline was only 0.307 seconds out of 1st place....I wonder if she would have made that last jump if she would have won....In the overall Rachel Atherton is beating Emmeline Ragot by 30 points and Myriam Nicole is in 3rd 199 points back
And what about the men? Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) took the win (his fourth of the year!!) ahead of Steve Smith (Devinci Global Racing), Gee Atherton (GT Factory Team), Danny Hart (Giant Factory Off-Road Team) and Loic Bruni (Lampierre International). Mar Beaumont had a nasty crash - This is going to leave a mark! and you can check out Aaron Gwin's amazing winning ride here - Aaron Gwin's Winning Run
All in all it was a great weekend to watch bike racing and enjoy this amazing sport that we all love! Thanks for reading!
The grinder on the coffee pot went off at 6:30 today....and to say that I jumped out of bed when it started grinding would be an understatement, because I was out of bed in a flash grabbing the remote and hitting the magic on button....soon the smell of fresh brewed coffee and the glorious voices of Paul and Phil filled my house. Yes that is correct my friends....today was the start of the 2012 Tour de France.
The Tour almost always starts with a Prologue - a short, individual time trial. This year the Prologue was held over 6.4 km (3.98 miles) in Liege. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) held the lead for most of the day and it looked like his team-mate Tony Martin (current World Time Trail Champion) was going to take over when he posted the best time at the half way mark....but Martin had a mechanical and needed a bike change. The mechanical cost Martin at least 20 seconds and also the win. Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling) was the first person to top Chavanel on the leaders board and it was by tenths of seconds that he took over. The amazing thing about this was that Wiggo was down 6 seconds at the mid-way point, so he really turned it on for the last half. Then Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) took to the course and what a ride he put in....fastest at all check-points and topping Wiggo by 7 seconds!!!! Spartacus was on form today!! The final rider to start was Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team). The defending champ did a good ride and finished the day in 13th position. So Spartacus goes into tomorrows 1st Stage in yellow, American Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing) will start in the White Jersey of best young rider and our two main favorites - Evans and Wiggins - sit 10 seconds apart from each other. Let the fun begin!
So for the last couple of years Mike and I have bet on who will win the tour. I don't have an exact win-loss count, but I think that I am up by one or two and I am hoping for another win this year. Mike picked Evans and I picked Wiggins. Normally we go for the winner, but this year we are going for who will beat the other...so neither Evans or Wiggins have to be in yellow at the end...they just need to finish. So Evans lost 10 seconds to Wiggo over the 6.4 km ITT...roughly 1.5 seconds per km....with another 95 km of ITT remaining in the race....if they ride the same way that gives my guy about 2.5 minutes over Evans....Seeing that they are both decent climbers, I will take this 2.5 minutes!!!
So who do you think will win the Tour this year? Do you have a favorite? Is there any stage that you are looking more forward to? Any thoughts on the Polka Dot and Green Jersey winners this year?