Thursday, June 30, 2011

le Tour le Talk

Yessirree's THAT time of year AGAIN! What time would that be you might ask?


Oh YEAH! The time of year that I drive Jeannie CRAZY as she must somehow endure listening to Phil and Paul EVERY SINGLE DAY! Oh, the AGONY you are thinking to yourselves. Nay nay bunny rabbit I say. I have been in P&P withdrawal all year long! Just this week I FINALLY got a quick fix....the Pre-Tour show. And speaking of that show, just who is the primary voice/announcer this year? It surely didn't sound like Hummer...has he been replaced? WHO will be on the prime-time slot with Bobke?

OK, OK....I know some of you out there are less than enthused by some of the uhm, er....contestants this year, but I personally think it might very well be one of the most exciting tours in ages (of course, I say that EVERY year).

First off, we must acknowledge the reigning champion: Alberto Contador. Pretty much the most dominating and powerful climber on the planet. He just proved that AGAIN in the most ridiculous (as in STUPID HARD) Giro's ever. And he flat out CRUSHED all comers. He was so far ahead that they would have been within their rights to give him first AND second place on the final podium.

Sure, sure, there is some dilemma right now as to whether or not he should even be allowed to race. I can make arguments for both sides on that one quite honestly. IF he was a resident of pretty much any other country than Spain he would most likely be sitting out for the next 2 years. But he IS a resident of Spain, and his national federation has cleared him to race like it or not. He is doing nothing wrong at this point.

However, I offer this: he is 'accused' of doping with Clenbuterol...which showed up suddenly on the rest day in his sample. Successive samples showed it metabolizing out of his system in the expected amounts, proving that he indeed got it on that day. HOW he got it is the issue. By the draconian letter of the UCI law, ANY amount whatsoever is a failed test and you are guilty no matter what. But in recent years athletes have been challenging that ridicilous rule and are beating it. Also the UCI's own rules have many loopholes and contradicting rules in them, allowing for such. It all depends on which rule is being enforced when they either hammer you or let you off. The big question is DID HE CHEAT? The amount detected was SO VERY SMALL that everybody agrees would have done him no good whatsoever. The only forseeable way that that tiny amount got into his system for any benefit would appear to be if he transfused his own blood taken when he had been using larger amounts. IF this is the case then he obviously cheated and should be taking a 2 year break. HOWEVER, if he did not cheat, then the miniscule amount could very well have come from food, as other athletes across the globe are proving is possible. And if he got it in food, then he gets a pass. You CAN NOT hold athletes accountable for eating food. So he either transfused or got contaminated food. IF it can't be proven that he transfused, then he MUST be given a free pass on this one. That is my two cents on it. And yes, there are many many athletes in the past that have NOT been given the benefit of the doubt, but maybe it's time we set a precedent here that others in similar situations will be able to cite. Innocent until proven guilty. It's time WADA and the UCI play by that rule, which they have not in the past. Enough on that...he is racing, and for the moment it's totally fair. Move on.

The Protagonist: Andy Schleck. If they both show up in exactly the same shape as last year, then I would give the nod to Andy. HAD Frank not been injured and dropped out after his crash in the cobbles last year, then chain-drop or not I think Andy would have won. Alberto might be climbing on par with Andy, and TT'ing a bit better, (ok, quite a bit better) but having Frank to tag-team Alberto would have made a world of difference. Even without Frank, they were quite honestly dead even, the only difference being the infamous chain-drop. And we will never know how much time Andy might have gotten over Alberto if his chain hadn't dropped, because he had just dropped him and was going to sprint over the summit. I'm convinced that in some parallel universe there is an Andy who won that tour. Alberto was VERY LUCKY last year.

However, what remains to be seen is what condition Andy is actually in. Has he been sandbagging these last few months? I think so. But it's hard to tell for sure. I would have thought he would have come out and shown his TRUE form in recent races, just to let the world know he's ready to win. But maybe this is his way to leave all the pressure to Alberto. I think he is holding his cards VERY close to his chest and won't show them until he needs to. I hope this is the case anyway. Frank will be there, and Fabian, and they have the firepower available. I look forward to seeing Fabian and Jens on the front setting a ludicrous tempo, fracturing the already devastated peleton and shaking out all but the very few contenders. FOUR mountaintop finishes this year....FOUR! Holy schmoley that will be AWESOME! On each and every one of those, every wanna-be contender had best be on his "A" game and holding station at the very front. Any moves by any of them must be matched...and very quickly it will come down to just those special few as all the domestiques will have been dropped off, only hoping the can survive inside the time-cutoff.

IF Andy is indeed hiding his true form, then I would suspect they will be on the top two spots of the podium. As much as I would like some of the other contenders to be able to hang, I don't think they can. A lot will depend on how much Alberto's dominance in Italy took out of him...will he be rested enough? He raced the Giro because he was expecting the CAS to announce their decision prior to the Tour, and he was hedging his bet that he might not race the Tour this year. By the postponement of their decision (however LAME they are to do that) freaking much time do they NEED after all?) I believe they surprised him. But now he has a chance to make history by winning the Giro and the Tour in the same year, which hasn't been done in a while. And I also add this on Alberto: IF he is racing clean this year, then I have to ask "why would he cheat last year"? IF he is indeed this good, then it would appear everybody else is playing catchup to that one in a million athletes who just are that good. He obviously has had the bejeebers tested out of him this year, and after his Giro performance, well, if THAT was fair and square, then GO Alberto!

OK...who else? Obviously I"m biased towards Chris Horner. I think if he were given total team commitments he is quite capable of making top 5. But he won't have that, at least not right away...Radio Shack is going in with FOUR co-captains. That is a lot. A lot of pressure too, knowing that how you do every single day will determine if you get your shot or not. Horner has shown grace under pressure though and he seems to thrive on it. I expect a great showing from him. Father time is calling him, but like Jens, he seems capable of beating time. I really look forward to him uncorking an amazing tour. Top ten for sure. Top five? I sure hope so (he is one of my top 3 fav riders, so I'm QUITE biased I admit).

Levi. In the Tour of California, Chris was better. But Levi just showed some of HIS cards in the Tour de Suissie...that come from behind TT he did on the final day was pure magic. The stuff of legends. Side by side with Chris, Levi will beat him in the TT's...but this year there is only ONE individual TT, which will favor both Andy and Chris over Alberto and Levi. So for Levi it all comes down to just how good are his climbing legs? I like Levi a LOT, but he has never shown he is capable of keeping up with Alberto and Andy. But he will have his chance. I would expect Radio Shack to really hammer away at the front on the big climbing days. With their 4 'contenders', they should really be able to play a lot of cards.

CVV. Two years ago he showed real glimpses of greatness, but has had some pretty bad luck since. IF he can stay healthy I'd love to see just what he can do up front with the big guns.

Tejay Van Garderen...I'd say he is the young dark horse here. He might be where Alberto was a few years back, when he was still somewhat of a 'nobody' yet all of a sudden there he was holding a VERY high GC placing. But he lacks the big Grand Tour experience, and I think that is vital here. The TDF is so much more than just a bike race. It is the grandest show of the sport on the planet. The pressure is immeasurable. It will be interesing to see how he does. I'd say he will certainly be top ten overall.

Cadel Evans. He is always a mystery to me. He has had moments of greatness, but somehow seems to be his own worst enemy. He has been plagued by injury in recent years and I'm not sure just when exactly he has been at 100% for a tour. I think he is surely a top contender if healthy, but he might be getting nipped by father time. I look forward to him showing me he is as tough as I think he can be.

Ivan Basso. He also seems to just underwhelm me more often than not. I know he is a fabulous climber, and has won the Giro a few times so knows what it takes to win a Grand Tour. But every time I get to rooting for him he just seems to fall away into nowhere. I would like to see him have a great Tour and be in the top ten.

Tom Danielson. He has waited LONG for his chance to go to le Tour. But he has a few teammates that will be taking the limelight from him, so his really has his work cut out for him.

Ryder Hesjedal. I have liked him for a long time. He used to be a world-class mt biker and I knew his name there (so did Cadel Evans by the way). I like to see Mt bikers coming over to the road. I think they develop bike handling skills that are superior to pure road riders, and it seems easier to go from dirt to road than from road to dirt. Totally different skill set. Ryder has shown he has potential for I look for him to step up and be top ten also.

Sammy Sanchez. He is always a tough smart rider and I would expect he will be hunting for a top ten finish. Can he step up his game and make top five? That is the big question. I will be watching him for sure.

Phillipe Gilbert, Robert Gesink, Andreas Kloden, Bradley Wiggens, Sylvian Chavanel...all names we will be seeing I suspect. I think any one of them are capable of stepping up and delivering a top ten performance.

Oh..and GEORGE! Gosh, I almost forgot BIG GEORGE! My FAV! He is SO the MAN! Of course, like Horner, he is getting up there in age. And I'd be kidding if at this point in time I thought he could do real well overall (as in top 5).....a few years back (after Lance retired) I was really rooting for him to do just that. But he just seems to be the kind of guy who is there to help others. He's GREAT at it, and I long for him to win one more Tour stage. I still smile HUGE when I think of that shot of him crossing the line on the queen stage, and putting his arms up and then almost he had never before seen the clock at 0:00:00 before, realizing the magnitude of what he did that day. It is one of my top tour moments. Could he go top ten? I think he might very well have it in him. I'd LOVE to see it. Come on GEORGE!!!

So there, I've picked about 60 guys who I think can go top ten. OK, not quite 60, but a lot. I am pleased that they have a Team Time Trial this's always a favorite day of mine. For some reason I just LOVE to watch the teams as they blaze along, and the teams that finish together are the most impressive. It brings me back to the BLUE TRAIN days...when SIR LANCE ruled the peleton with an iron fist, and his Tour TT squad was just the most impressive thing you'll ever see in a Team TT. And then I'm sure everybody remembers the year that Dave Zabriskie crashed out wearing yellow, and was left to his own...that one always makes me wince. I loved seeing DZ in yellow...much like when I see Fabian in Yellow, yet still out FRONT setting tempo for Andy, knowing the Yellow is soon to be gone. He's just such a classy rider. Oh, and speaking of the Z man, boy is Garmin loaded this year or WHAT! They surely need to win a few stages this time around...they are due and they have the firepower. I'd love to see Tyler nip Cav in a bunch sprint. I think this year we will see that. In fact, yes, I am indeed predicting that. Tyler wins his first TDF stage, beating out Cav. Yes, I see it in my crystal ball.

And overall GC predictions. I just don't see anybody stopping Andy and Alberto, except for fate. If either of them has bad luck it could all come crashing down quickly. If they ride smart and have good luck, I see them one/two on the final podium. I just hope this year it's Andy in yellow in Paris. Who will be number three though? THAT is the 64 $ question. And like it or not, I'm afraid the race for 3rd will be just as interesting (or more so?) than the race for 1st. There are a LOT of guys who can take that third spot. And I honestly can't seem to come up with anybody who I see having better chances than many of the other guys. Levi? Chris? Ivan? Tejay? CVV? Cadel? Ryder? Bradley? Sylvian? I think all the guys I talked about could very well unleash a top tour and take that third spot. But just who steps up is the question. And it's not entirely inconceivable that Andy and Alberto will not be quite so dominating as I think...and if that is the case then the top 5 could really be a gunfight to the bitter end. I would very much prefer that sort of Tour. I harbor no ill will towards Alberto, and just want to see another amazing Tour. A GRAND Tour.

Game ON!


  1. Wow, Matt. I love that you put so much time & effort into your 1st 2011 Tour Talk post! No slackin for you! Will you be able to post 3-4 times a week during the Tour? Please, please, please! :) They don't ALL have to be War & Peace. (Although that title pretty much sums up this race, doncha think? :)

    I will be trying, desperately trying, not to allow the disgust & distain I feel for Alberto Contador destroy my TDF viewing pleasure. We'll see how it goes. ;)

    Do want to mention a couple things. 1st, CAS did not postpone Pistol Punk's hearing for their own silly reasons, nooooooo, they were lobbied repeatedly by Contador's defense team to do just that. Did the UCI FAIL miserably in the early handling of this POSTIVE DOPE TEST? Absolutely. But, they can't be blamed for this most recent delay. And they can't be blamed for the asinine but pathetically NOT unexpected decision by the Spanish Cycling Hacks (I mean 'Federation') that has allowed Contador to be riding thus far this year.

    Also, it is NOT the job of the prosecution to prove that AC transfused. It is the job of the defense to PROVE that Clenbuterol got into AC by eating that tainted beef. NOT that it was "possible" but have actual proof & from everything I've read this past year, they got BUPKIS.

    And as for AC last year - you could see during the Dauphine & the Tour that he was NOT at the same level as in 2009. Whether this was from illness, injury, or just lack of good preparation, I don't know, but it was blatantly apparent. And as I've said a few times here since last year, he even looked chubby (for him, not a regular human being) at the Dauphine. That he then took a drug to help him lose weight but keep lean muscle mass, are you KIDDIN? Of course!

    And just to be clear - I now think most top level pro cyclists have doped for at least the last 2 decades. I had naively hoped that the doping had dwindled after the twin disasters of the 2006-2007 seasons, but now, just look at the 2 stories that broke this week. The "part-time" (wink, wink) assistants of 2 different teams being arrested for having EPO. You'd have to be CLUELESS not to acknowledge that it's STILL happening.

    However, since the (cough) anti-doping (cough) efforts of the world's major pro sports (football, baseball, soccer, basketball) is a JOKE, I will keep watching & rooting for various riders UNTIL they test positive. Or they find the drugs on their person at the race.

    As for Versus - P2, Bobke, Hummer & Robbie will all be there. I don't know about Frankie, as I saw him doing TDF interview videos on just this morning! Man, is beating the pants off VeloNews so far. The former have a guy doing personal interviews AT the race & posting them already. Velo did a "live" video from BOULDER & had a guy call in, whom you could not hear at all. Anyway, I will be very sad if Frankie is not on the Versus-NBC team. He has become an excellent interviewer & I have always loved his enthusiasm & insight. If he is not on TV, it will be NBC & our loss.

  2. I think that maybe Garmin might win the opening stage tomorrow...I'd be betting on Thor for that really suits his sytle, he's new with the team, AND Garmin is SO very desperate for a win. I hope they get the monkey off their back right will take the pressure off of Tyler and I think he will have a smokin' hot tour.

    Susie, I'm SO over this doping thing in Pro Cycling. UNTIL all the sports get equal testing and suspensions, then I just don't care. It's not like I can take some Clen (or EPO, or T) and become a world-class cyclist. EVERYTHING is performance, water, rest. To draw a silly line and say this is ok, this isn't seems ridicilous in the pro ranks. It's OPEN class, not high school. And if you are right (that they ALL are and have been doing it) all along, then so what? It's the best of the best, doing whatever they can to BE the best. About the only thing I'd call CHEATING is the electric motor (ala Fabian last year). Now THAT would be cheating...the rider isn't doing the work. Anything they can do to make them stronger/faster, well, hey...that's what we watch for. It does however make things sad when one guy gets busted for doing what everybody else is (most likely anyway). But I can't help's the system that we have. Change it or live with it. WADA and the UCI can make all the rules they want, right up until the riders themselves band together and say no....WE are going to have some say in our sport. Unions are powerful things.

  3. I agree with Janann that the changes in the Green jersey points will have a large affect in that contest. On the one hand, with a stage winner now getting a LOT more points than 2nd place, you would think Cav would have it in the bag. But the changes to the Intermediate points make me wonder if a sprinter will even win the GJ this year. Should be fascinating to watch. Also, they changed the point structure for the KOM jersey too, so it looks like one of the actual GC contenders (even the guy who wins overall) will be pulling on the final polki-dot jersey in Paris.

    And I'm with Janann & Matt about Tyler - SO want him to win at least one stage!

    The Belgian press all seem to think PhilGil will win at least 4 stages during the 1st 9 or so days & even be in Yellow. I have to admit I didn't even know what Gilbert LOOKED like til yesterday! Just haven't been able to see any of the races he's won. He is currently a bleached blonde (can't wait to see those roots in Paris!).

    And I would love, LOVE for George to win a stage! But, his priority is helping Cadel.

    I was thinking last night about the outcome I'd like to see for the TTT - Radio Shack, Garmin & HTC to just demolish everyone else, especially all those mt goats on Saxo. But if I have to pick a winner, I think I want either Garmin, with CVV in the Yellow jersey or HTC with George winding up in yellow. Well, seeing Horner in yellow would be freakin fantastic (& cause for some sniffling) too so any one of those teams. Hopefully, all 3 pound it, are only slightly separated from each other but vastly distanced from EVERYone else.

    Even though I am JUICED up( ;), counting down the minutes, I have to say I also feel a sense of dread. And not about Contador. Just that some OTHER dope sh*t will hit the fan & decimate the Tour & this sport when it is on life support already!

    If Stapleton can't find a sponsor & the most winning cycling team of the last 2 years ceases to exist, it is almost a bigger TRAVESTY than Contador riding at this Tour. And cycling fans all over the world should be very, very afraid!

  4. Whoops, I meant BMC not HTC for 1 of my TTT hopes! George is on BMC! B-M-C! :) :)

    I guess my worry over HTC is affecting my brain!

  5. I think Horner is going to do some interviews again with Velonews or somewhere, so we should be able to get his perfect insights to racing tactics. If someone ends up seeing these on the internet, post a link. We always need a good dose of Horner during the Tour! And if you see the next issue of ROAD Magazine on the stand, I did a very funny interview with him. He's a hoot. Love him!

    I think it's interesting that you pointed out that Andy raced without Frank last year, Matt. He certainly could have used his bros help more than once. But on the other hand, it made him responsible for his own tactics and probably aided him in experience. This year I'm a little concerned about the pressure he has with his new team being built around him (and Frank). You know they always "say" no pressure, but with the amount of money being spent and the expected has to be in the back of his mind all the time. He is a pretty laid back guy tho, so maybe he's perfect for the position he's in. We'll see! Personally I don't think he can beat Alberto but I certainly hope they go at it, and that others step into the arena too.

    TRS starting with four leaders might seem an issue, but the first week+ is all about the sprinters (and TTT of course) so I think by the time we get to the mountains the guys will already know who is going well and who they will be working for. I'd guess that by the end of the first mtn stage, the TRS boys will know. However, they might not share that info with the public at that point to keep their cards close. I don't think people give us much of a chance to podium, which means there is no pressure for our guys. You won't see us on the front too often.

    5AM wake up call on the west coast tomorrow!

  6. As previously mentioned here, Horner will be doing TDF video interviews on He's already done a pre-Tour one.

    And the major reason I didn't want RS to actually win the TTT was then they'd have to expend energy in protecting the Yellow jersey. I want the Shackers all fresh (well, as much as possible) when they hit the mts. HOKAHEY!

    BTW, a few days ago, on my annual pre-Tour web surf, I clicked on Frankie A's old website & found many of his old Tour diaries. I've been on that site more than a few times over the past 4-5 years & can't believe I missed them til now! I printed them all out (unlike most riders at the TDF, Frankie wrote a LOT every day!) & am now in the middle of 2001, his 1st as a spectator (though he did go to the Tour working for one of those Tour tour groups & then in 2002, his stint with OLN started). Wow, I'd forgotten so much! Riders, teams, of course back in 1999, we still only had weekend TV taped shows or possibly ESPN was doing their nightly half-hour shows by then, either way, it was still NOWHERE NEAR what we can watch today on TV & the internet. I also discovered some things that I didn't know before from Frankie's diaries. It's been a great pre-Tour appetizer! I highly recommend.

    I had read some of Frankie's TDF articles & watched some TDF videos he did during the most recent 3-5 years (on Active/Competitor & some other site I had found that I can now no longer remember the name). The videos were GREAT! Especially the stuff with he & Robbie shooting the sh*t. Those guys are a hoot together!

    The last couple days before a Tour always remind me of an Olympic Opening Ceremony - in that you want everything to just get started already & yet, it's so fun & exciting because EVERYthing is still possible & ANYthing can happen.

  7. It's gonna be GREAT! I predict NO insane doping (or other) crap-O-La will hit all throughout the tour. I think it's going to be smooth sailing and a pure dogfight, with us fans reaping the benefit.

    Personally, I'm out the door as early as I can muster tomorrow morning for a road ride, THEN I get to come back to STAGE 1 ON THE DVR! Ahhh...I'm so excited I can hardly wait! I always record the live version (w/ P&P) and watch the prime time w/ Bobke n what-s-iz-face when I can catch it. I do love Bobke but the live version is still my fav. Greatness is about to happen...again. Bring it ON!

  8. Good grief, just watched the 1st stage --YOU MUST NOT MISS IT!!!!

    I tend to agree with Matt/s perspective--it is what it is, top level athletes doing whatever to stay in a ridiculously hard level of fitness. SusieB, I know that you've not like AC from early on, because of his (to us) obnoxious finish salute. That, though, I marked up to a truly different culture in Spain--such a gesture is more along the lines of where we were in the 1950s and 60's -- Roy Rogers, Gunsmoke etc I'm thinking (those were the days! Watched a couple of RR movies last night in fact!).

    The question of meat contamination is all too possible--they've busted a doping ring in Spain (Mallorca) that traded in Clen and sold to beef ranchers last year. You should here some of the farmers around her rant about "unnecessary rules and regulations" regarding food and environment safety--easy to think some might choose to use banned products, if they think they won't get caught.
    Even if not accidental-- Many are suspicious of the Schlecks as well since they've been known to have had contact with one of the known doping doctors for "training advice". The waters are thoroughly muddy, but as you say, compared to any other sport? Practically sparkling! So I WILl enjoy the race, and cheer for my MANY favs, including Horner, Klodi, Cadel, TommyV, Farrar, and all 3 of our American teams!

    As we keep hearing more and more about the long term dangers of these PEDs (we avoid using EPO, starch volume expanders and some of the other things--even transfusions, in hospital as much as possible nowadays) I truly hope that the peloton will stop looking for the next thing and get back to natural ability and performance. (This last bust--a peptide sold to juice racehorses? No safety or efficacy data? goodness gracious!)

    Which I think Ivan Basso has done. Remember how strong he used to be in the Tour, fighting with Lance? Don't see the same rider now.

    It is pouring rain today, unexpectedly, so my ride is cancelled for now. Going to pick my team for the Versus fantasy competition--anybody else palying? who ya got? I have always been SO bad at this!


  9. *****SPOILER ALERT*****

    Wow! What a final 10K! Personally, I much prefer a Prologue for the TDF Grand Departe (more festive with all the clappers & hoot & hollerers at the ramp & finish line & we get to see most of the riders close up in their witness protection garb [cycling helmet & shades] which helps in identification later in the race :). BUT, what a way to finish!

    I have to say, I was a bit irritated that so many teams & riders seemed to be coronating PhilGil with the stage & 1st Yellow jersey before the d*mn flag even dropped today, but boy, that last 10K really STIRRED THINGS UP!

    Turned out to be a great AND awful day for Susie's Boyz! Cadel (aka "Cattle" & more on these 4 legged hoofers in a moment) REALLY had a DREAM day! Probably even better than he dreamed! After watching Spartacus make a go for it & then inexplicably turn it off when PhilGil came around (do NOT understand that except maybe the Leo DS said not to take the jersey today?) Who do we see coming up right behind Gilbert 25 meters from the Finish? I was shouting at the TV - is that YOUUUUU, Cattle?! "Head it up, MOOOOOVE 'im on!" Sure enough, P2 finally confirmed my suspicions. Way to go, Cadel! And George had been right there with him at the front, gunning the pace & protecting his man til he either pulled off or was caught in that 2nd crash (within 3k, so negated).

    Also great was Horner, Klodi, Levi & Jani. I didn't see Levi in the 1st group & was frantic til I got here & looked online to see the final Results. I think all 4 Shackers were in the 1st group after the big 10k crash, but Levi & Jani got behind after the 2nd crash. However, the 3k rule kicked in, so all 4 are only 6 seconds back. Whooo-hooo!

    The Schleckers also in at 6 seconds. Good (lucky) for them.

    Bad day for the Garmin GC though. CVV's chance at the podium are all but over barring an even more nutso finish than today (COULD happen, but I'm not optimistic). Both CVV & Ryder finished 1'55 back. Even worse than you-know-who.

    Yes, that's right, my friendz, ole Pistol Punk was caught up in the big crash (don't think he went down but couldn't move forward) & lost 1'20! Brought tears to my eyes... ;) Still, can't get TOO excited! It's just the 1st d*mn day! And if AC gets into the form he had at the Giro, he'll be able to put MINUTES (plural) into almost everyone as he dances his swaying a$$ up the mountains. Enacting his own version of "You Can't Catch Me!"

    But, as we all know - the 1st week of the Tour is like Figure Skating's Short program (well, maybe Matt might not know the latter...;) - say it with me, fellow fans - "you can't win it here BUT... you can LOSE IT HERE!"

  10. Alrighty, before I get to the 4-legged hoofers, I just feel terrible for Christian. Crap, with him healthy for the 1st time in 2 years at this race, I was really hopeful. Just wanted it so much FOR him! Still, things COULD turn around. That's why I don't want to get too excited for Cadel & the Shackers just yet. Lady Luck is a capricious b*tch at the Tour! One day you're riding high, possibly in Yellow, & the next day, you're shot down (cue up a little Ole Blue Eyes - "That's Life"....:), kissin' the floor & adding a whole new layer of "road rash" to your already marked-up bod. Or worse yet, maybe on your way to the hospital. (Why is that Euros don't use "the" before "hospital"? Huh? Anyone know?!)

    All the GCers just gotta stay focused. And that's where all the Over the Hill Gang's experience will really pay off!

    On the bright side for Garmin - Tyler looked great in that Intermediate sprint! Bodes well for a sprint finish. And I am a FAN of this new points set-up so far. Never got the
    "little" sprints before - pretty much ignored them, but THIS way will have all the sprinters getting after it as long as less than about 10 guys go up the road in a break. We're basically getting 2, TWO sprints in 1 stage! They should have done this LONG ago!

    Ok, don't want to harp much longer on Clenbuterol (even though I know ya'll just really, realllllly luv it ;) ;), as we all just want to have a GREAT & EXCITING TOUR. However, I grew up on a farm & as it happens, we raised BEEF cattle (Herefords mostly). And you are oh-so-right, Rae that NO farmer I've ever known wanted ANYone telling them what to do on their land &/or with their animals. ESPECIALLY the "dang garn guvment". Do I think farmers/Big Ag around the world are doing whatever they can get away with? Sure. But, from what I've read, this drug is NOT that massive of a problem in most countries. At least yet. (BTW, don't they have ORGANIC food in Europe?)

    Plus, do you guys REALLY think Contador got Clen in his body from eating tainted beef?! Come on!

    And most important is that the drug was in AC's test sample & the current rules have thrown many other Olympic-sport athletes into suspension for the EXACT same thing. EVEN when they PROVED a contaminated supplement.

    And as for the Schlecks. Who could forget the $10,000 to a GYNECOLOGIST for "training advice"?! I'm still aggravated the Frankster wasn't suspended, but it seems Jan, Basso & Valverde were the sacrificial lambs of OP while the rest have rode on up the road. Fair? Heck, no. But at least it wasn't an actual positive test!

    At this pt, I view the whole doping thing as a game. They dope, we pretend not to know & we can keep on pretending til they pop positive. Ding-dong, they LOSE. That's the game. On to the next round.

  11. One more thing. WHAT is Versus-NBC thinking by kicking Hummer out of the studio & replacing him with Liam McHugh. Are you freakin KIDDIN me?! I've seen this guy on other sports programs & he's alright but he knows NOTHING about cycling. But what is even WORSE is that he has no, I repeat, NO CHEMISTRY with the fellas, especially Bobke, with whom he will be sharing the Prime Time shows. YUCK!

    I just can't BELIEVE Versus would screw up the team like this! And Frankie is BETTER interviewing the guys after the stages than Hummer. Plus, he can offer up insight & analysis that Hummer can't. has really lucked out by getting FA. Velonews is not doing the Velocenter this year & between Andrew Hood & Frankie Andreu - whose TDF daily videos would YOU rather watch?!

    Oh, & Johan really should think about a career in politics if this whole cycling thing doesn't work out... ;) "Don't want to take advantage of someone else's bad luck"?! Johan, you're killin me! :) :) 1999 - Passage du Gois, y'know the very road they cycled over this very day? Lance....Alex Zulle? HelLO?! And, er, what about just 2 years ago? Lance...AC? The TDF 1st week is ALL ABOUT taking advantage of someone else's bad luck! That Johan, such a kidder!

    Well, I won't have internet access again til next Tues, so til then, have fun everyone! And let's keep our fingers & toes crossed for more excitement!

  12. Wow what a first stage! I was rather irritated with that inattentive spectator who CAUSED the huge pileup in the first place...but that's part of the sport I guess. Gotta wonder what AC and his guys were doing back that far. I'd think he would have taken a cue from Cadel (and Horner, and Klodi, and Levi, and Andy, and and and)...serves him right I hate to say. He KNOWS better now..he's no rookie. His guys should have had him right up behind the front. So good on Cadel (and George for taking care of him SO very well). Ahhh are SO da' MAN!

    Don't know what happened in that 2nd crash but at least it was negated being as it happened inside 3k. Gotta LOVE it that all 4 of RS co-Capts are right up there at 6 seconds....what a way to start the tour! And yes, what the hay was that w/ Fabian? I KNOW he can sprint out better than that...I agree he DID seem to back down. I guess the managers shut him down being as their focus is to WIN overall...having yellow might be a damper. But I don't think today's win would have been a problem...tomorrow is the TTT and most likely will be a new yellow. And it could very well be somebody very cool and deserving yet a HUGE surprise. Whoever is in the lead as the winning team crosses the line...could be pretty much anybody on 3 or 4 teams. I can hardly WAIT!!

    And I have to say, this morning (I DID get up early to watch, to help lessen poor Jeannie's barrage of P&P over the next week) I had my coffee, and was just lying there on the couch, and sucking it all's TOUR time. I LOVE JULY! And being as this is the VERY FIRST RACE I've seen (on TV anyway...I did get the ToC back in May) I'm like a kid in a candy store!

    As to Liam vs Hummer in the booth? Well, I have to admit I've NEVER been a Hummer fan. In fact, I haven't watched the prime time very often because I just CAN'T STAND him. Don't know why I guess. But Susie, you're right...he sucks at on the road interviews. I don't know anything about Liam though, so giving him the benefit of the doubt. I might have to sneak into the bedroom (2nd TV, tho not HiDef) and give the prime time a shot I DO love Bobke!

    It is HOT today here (well, not HERE exactly, but 10 mile inland I mean!) Did my usual ride, and boy, did I STINK! Last Saturday (and Sunday) I was strong like bull. Today, not so much. I actually thought I had a shot at a new personal best on my Tepesquet Canyon ride...light winds predicted (light being under 10mph). All I can figure is my eye-ointment that I've been slathering on the last 5 days is affecting me. I looked it's a corticosteroid. Seems that unlike Anabolic Steroids, this kind (among it's other good attributes) affects how your body uses energy, and one of the side effects is weak muscles. kidding. By the top of my last big climb I was 11 minutes slower than last Saturday. It was HORRIBLE! And the entire final 15 miles I was just crawling along, in LIGHT FREAKING WIND! I have to get off this stuff asap....tho I still need a few more days of slathering my eyelid stitches I'm afraid. Oh's not like I make my living on being fit on the bike...if I did they'd have to find something else to use.

    OK..enough for now..I must go to the NBC website and sign up for MY VERY OWN fantasy team, and also do the Zoic word of the day thing ("Breakaway" in case you were under a rock and didn't get that in the broadcast).

    And so....Go CHRIS and LEVI and Klodi and Jani! And CADEL too! Let's just see what he can do...if he can break his ways of being his own worst enemy.

    GAME ON! Woo-HOO!!!

  13. Here's the link for the NBC Fantasy game (free)...I had a heck of a time finding it, thought I'd save you some time if you are interested.

  14. I'm watching the evening replay right now because I wanted to see just where Alberto was when the crash at 9k happened, and when I freeze the picture and try to count the riders in the vicinity of the crash it looks like about 60 or so, which means Alberto was in the first third of the group. In general I suppose you'd want to be in the front 20 but everyone can't be in the front so I guess if you don't fight for position OR your team isn't experienced enough to take you up, then you find yourself slipping back right quickly. He will probably lose some more in the TTT tomorrow, but I would presume he could make up 2-3 minutes overall. I'm sure he hopes he won't go out to that. In the meantime it will make for exciting racing, because he's a champion and will fight like a dog to make it up. Will he succeed? Who knows, but for sure he will try. The booing, the immediate loss of will all fortify his resolve as well as that of the team. But will it all be too much, too early?

    Saxo starts first in the TTT tomorrow so that sucks for them. We head out fifth from the end which isn't bad, but coming behind us are HTC-Highroad, Leopard Trek, BMC and Omega, so we will already know Garmin's time and of course they will be trying to win it, so their time will be a good rabbit for us to chase.

    Today's stage = hours of boring, then 15 minutes of rush.

    And if you don't follow Mark Cavendish on Twitter, then you should. He is hilarious. Today's priceless gem: "Just saw todays last kilometre. Gilbert humbled everyone with the equivalence of pulling down his pants to reveal a 13incher. #YIKES"

    5AM again tomorrow - Go Shack!!

  15. Matt, I would be surprised if you are getting enough steroid into your system to affect you from the topical ointment -- although it is possible to some degree--but it might just be the effect of your body trying to heal up the surgical site along with the pain and inflammation combined. How is the eyelid, by the way?

    RE Fabian--at the time I thought I saw a little bobble in his peddling, like something wasn't right with the gear--and thought I saw it a second time, too. Although, it could just be that once he saw that he hadn't gotten clean away he just shut it down, since he usually depends on opening that big gap with his jump then time trialing to the end--maybe he felt he wouldn't be able to succeed on the uphill with Gilbert on his wheel. Gilbert has been on fire this season, just like last fall!

    The Saxo team, with the exception of Richie Porte, is pretty seasoned, isn't it? With the Sorensons, Vandborg, Noval and Tosatto--not sure about Hernandez. I think it was more bad luck; Iglinsky was close to the front when the collision occured, wasn't he? Interesting to see all the Euskies working to bring AC back though wasn't it?

    I have to work tomorrow and Monday, so I really REALLY hope they are showing more than 60 minutes of the TTT in the prime time version. I am taping the NatureValley grand prix tomorrow afternoon (have you noticed that since NBC took over we are getting more domestic races shown? AND they showed the Tour today on the main NBC channel too!) but lately taping hasn't worked too well--the sound doesn't come through; I think it is the digital to analog converter that I now have to use with my cable. I should have my new TV by the end of the week! but don't know if my old VCR will work with it.


  16. Oh, Matt and Susie you got us off to a roaring start to the Tour chats! And of course Cathy and Rae - I'm so excited that you are all here! Wish Cat and T would come back for the Tour. I'll shoot them an email :)

    Thanks for the Fantasy link, Matt. I just found it myself after much looking. I think that they just put it up in the last couple of days - or changed where it was located. That whole NBC Tour site seems to be a work in progress. So, usually I go with the riders that I especially like to be on my fantasy team and fail miserably (i.e. Jens, DZ, George - who are all working for others). This year I went with as many big names that I'm cheering for as I could afford - backed up with 8 guys who were $4 each ;) Susie, you'll be happy to know that I'm finally over my prejudice against Cadel that was initiated with all of his whining a few years back and I've chosen him and Andy as my BIG GC guys. I've also got CVV (even though he had a lousy start today, I've gotta stick by him and hope he can put in a big effort), Cav, Farrar, Dean, and Horner. AND.....a bunch of guys I've never heard of on my "bench". We'll see how this system works. Who did you choose Matt and Rae?

    I was so stoked for the first stage today! EXCITING - even though most of the stage wasn't extremely captivating.

    I'm leaning toward liking the big mid-race sprint points. This means that Cav is going to have to really ride for places instead of immediately giving up when he knows that he won't "win" like he tend to do (and did today). Tyler looked great and I'd LOVE to see him succeed in a big way this year. Besides being a super talent, he is such an amazing down to earth, sincere fellow.

    I'd sort of gotten used to Craig and so far I'm wishing that he was still in the studio with Bob. We'll see how it goes. For some reason I'm NOT a fan of Grogowski (or whatever his name is). He just rubbed be the wrong way during the Giro coverage online and I wasn't thrilled to see that he was joinging the VS team. Oh well, the race will still be awesome to behold.

    You're so right about VN, Susie. has taken over as the first site to visit for tour info, videos, etc.

    I should be getting my DirectTV tomorrow morning (yes, DURING the TTT) - luckily it will be on a few more times during the day :) I'd love to see Garmin take the TTT after they had such a rough start today. Also cheering for RS and always look forward to seeing Jens and Fabian pulling that train, too. I'm thrilled that they added the TTT back in this year. It is a skill that we really should include in the world's showpiece of cycling and one that draws fans into the sport for sure. Also great that NBC will be showing this during their Sun afternoon broadcast.

    I've become addicted to Twitter lately (reading, not tweeting) and Cathy, you are so right. Cav cracks me up on a regular basis with his comments and pics. I loved his pics from the team pres. where he was playing around in the props like a little kid. And the saga about Bernie E's snoring always makes me chuckle.

    Go Garmin - Go Shack - ride like the wind!!

  17. I tuned in last night for the "Prime Time" and no Bobke??? Did I miss something? There was the 2-man pre-race w/ Bobke and Liam, and then it was edited bits of P&P...(this was the 8pm E/5pm Pacific time slot). It was only an hour and a half I tuned in again at 6:30 and same thing...what's up with THAT? No Bobke broadcast??

    I also like the mid-race sprint does really make the entire peleton regroup for those very important points (VIP's). It was a travesty when Cav WIN's SIX stages and doesn't get the green jersey due to ONE day (when he was relegated) I think the rule changes in the points will eliminate that...if ANYBODY wins six stages they would be pretty tough to beat in points. But as Thor has shown, those 'other' points up for grabs can mean a big diff if things are close.

    My guys for the Fantasy:

    I think that my strategy was too much 'overall' and not enough concentrated on day to day stages (where whoever win's overall will have to do very well). Anyway, I picked Alberto, Andy and Chris (H) and also scooped up TJ Van Garderen as my overall GC guys. I have Cav and Tyler as my sprinters. After that it's real tough, trying to go thru the myriad of names to pick your fillers / bench. I have Tomas Vaitkus, Ben Noval and Vladimir Gusev as my fillers on the 'starter' team for most days, then a bunch of 4$ guys on the bench...of course, some of those 4$ guys will do very well on any day in breakaways, the trick is to have THEM picked as a starter for that day...which would require a super crystal ball. I just looked and today I only earned 40 pts for horner out of my entire fantasy team. I'm gonna get slaughtered. (I'm watching the TTT right now, just paused it to check in here and let it build up some time, so I can ff thru the incessant commercials).

    Tho I did really enjoy Bobke's zany commercial yesterday...where he wakes up George H seeing if he's ready to ride at the crack of dawn... It was a Road ID commercial...very funny! (I have 3 road ID' I already support them).

    OK...back to the race...Garmin is out on the course, Rabobank has the best time so far... is good!

  18. Hi everyone! It's our favorite time of year! I couldn't wait to come here to check out what you all had to say...

    Worst thing... I'm afraid we are going to be getting the 90-minute NBC summary at night (twice) and NOT the Bobke narration. I am so disappointed because as much as I love P&P, there is no one who explains the cycling arcana as well as Bobke- or as entertainingly. The good news for me is that I can now just DVR the morning show and watch it as soon as I get home from work and not have to decide which to watch. But I'm still bummed. Le Tour is one thing I want to STAY THE SAME. I also don't like the new opening music/sequence.


  19. I'm with you Barbara. The way they've changed the prime time broadcast is disappointing. It seems shorter maybe..? I like to hear Bob's take on the stage, as well as the different interviews, but it seems to be just a rehash of the morning. I wondered if NBC was going to ruin it for us :(