Saturday, August 30, 2014

La Vuelta Stages 7 to whatever

Stage 7 turned out to be a pretty exciting stage, with a fair share of heartache and disappointment. There was Fabulous Fabian who was at the very front of the peleton pulling when he front-flatted. THAT was bad luck for sure...he ended up riding and waiting forever for his team car to FINALLY get to the time they changed his tire he was 3 minutes back. He worked like a maniac but never caught the main group sadly. I did not know that once a rider holds his hand up indicating a mechanical, his team car (wherever back in the group it is) needs to get permission from the race commissar (sp?) to move up to their rider for support. Fabian kept riding as he was dropping back...and finally he was WAY off the back when he got his tire.
And then there was the 4 man break with Garmin's Ryder Hesjedal in it and looking VERY good for a stage was hot, and none of the men in the break were poised to damage the GC aspirations of the hopefuls....and none of the teams seemed to have much interest in shutting it down. THEN...with just under 50k to go Hesjedal CRASHED out of the middle of the remaining 3 in a very routine looking left turn...(they front dropped the 4th off the front at that point) and the other 2 had no real idea what happened or why other than he went down..they briefly sat up waiting to see if he'd rejoin...however POOR Ryder...I could see it in the original video. As he slid his bike was spinning om a ccw circle...and just as he was grabbing it to leap back on and rejoin the break the rear wheel spun in front of the camera moto...and they RAN OVER IT. Being a rather pricey and delicate deep-section aero carbon wheel, I have no doubt it was could see the bike jump as the moto drove over it. I can't BELIEVE they weren't able to stop, or go a bit further away to the left of the crash...they had obviously slowed almost to a stop's like the driver didn't' even notice.I bet Ryder was FURIOUS..he was THAT CLOSE to getting right back in the break.

What that did was to knock Ryder COMPLETELY OUT of the break and any chance of the stage win...of which he had GREAT odds...being as he was obviously the strongest man in the break. Demarchi and the other man waited briefly for Ryder, then he sped away from the other rider in a solo attack. Neither of them had any idea how far back Ryder was...and it turns out that was a great decision to go, as he was a LONG ways back. Ryder eventually got a new bike, and was able to stay in front of the peleton and regained contact with the other 2 from the 4 man breakaway...and even finish 2nd on the stage. And then TODAY I learned that he was fined and relegated for motor-pacing after he got back in the race! We never saw hide nor hair of video of him after the crash, so have no idea how egregious his drafting was...but about insult to injury...poor Garmin can't catch a break thus far into the race. And Demarchi held on to win his first Grand Tour stage ever...good for him...he surely worked for it and earned it...but had Ryder been able to rejoin I think it might have been different....but that's water under the bridge...the history books show Demarchi won and that's it. Bad luck is all it was...for the crash and then the ruining of his bike by the moto.

Stage 8 was a flat stage, and had ho-hum written all over it...however it seemed to be a rather famous are for crosswinds....and the teams were all waiting for it knowing it was coming. And right on cue, right at about 30k to go BAM! The road turned, the trees melted away.....and the teams were all over it. For a brief bit both Fabian and Boonen were on the front driving HARD! Valverde, Froome, Quintana. Contador  and Rodrigiuez were all up in the very front....and the splits started forming right quick. It reminded me of that Tour stage LONG ago (back when we thought Vino was a hero taking back time, riding injured with bandages flapping in the wind). Today's stage had some priceless aerial views showing the damage a good crosswind can wreak.

And then the front group under a very hard pace from several teams working at the front split yet again...and this time both Quintana and Degenkolb (Giant Shimano's prized sprinter with hopes to win today) missed out in the chaos. Very quickly there was about a 15 second gap between the front group and the sub-group. Quintana looked rather calm about the affair (considering Valverde was IN that front group)...but he smartly latched onto Degenkolb's wheel and hung in there tight. And lo and behold, after a HUGE amount of work by Giant Shimano and a few other teams the 2nd group caught back on with just around 5 or 6k to go. The last few k had lots of turns and narrow roads...and the front end yo-yo'd from single file to a bunch more than a few times....until the final turn with about 800m left to go. Boonen was up there, Degenkolb, Bouhanni (trying for his 2nd win), Matthews,...and surprisingly, so was Cannondale's Sagan for the FIRST time this race! The sprint finish was looking GREAT! There was almost no leadouts...a few sprinters had maybe ONE guy due to the madness of the crosswinds...but all the teammates seemed spent and the sprinters were pretty much on their own.

The ensuing sprint started almost as soon as that last turn...Boonen went out quite early but faded...Sagan was working but didn't seem to have the legs. Bouhanni was the favorite of the lead group and didn't disappoint. HOWEVER. IMHO, I think he should be relegated. As they neared the line Matthews was up in his slipstream, and had pulled left to go around him, still accelerating. Bouhanni had his head down watching between his legs, and as Matthews was making his move he veered HARD left into his line, effectively shutting down the attempt. He won the stage and the adulations...however just a few stages ago HE filed a complaint against another sprinter for a far LESS obvious offense. I thought his move today was totally on purpose, and might very have stopped Matthews from winning as he had timed it near perfectly. We shall see overnight what the officials do....I thought it stunk to high heaven...but some say it's "just sprinting". Maybe...but he CLEARLY deviated from his line intentionally at the opportune moment to stop from being passed. Either way it was a rather exciting stage from what looked on paper to be a text-book LONG (the longest in this years race) boring day. The heat wasn't as much a factor for a it held around 90F for the day.

And then we had Stage 9 today (Sunday). A real summit finish on the 3rd rated climb of the day.It was a much better test of the GC men than stage 6...and I think MUCH more telling. Early on there was a THIRTY ONE man breakaway...that is quite rare to have one so large escape. They were over 8 minutes up at one time with Anacona in the virtual lead...and only Movistar had their guys working to contain it (yes, I know it falls to the GC leaders team to contain the days break...but SOMETIMES others will have to help, especially if/when it might affect THEIR GC hopes down the line). When it was apparent that Movistar's guys weren't bringing them back, finally Sky came to the front and started doing the work. They did bring it down substantially...but the announcers (especially Gogo) were wondering about the tactics...he thought all the other GC guys best play was to let Movistar destroy their guys so Valverde and Quintana would quickly be isolated in the big climbs to come. But I couldn't help but wonder why Froome had his guys go forward. I was wondering if MAYBE he wasn't having such a great day and was worried a bit about the break getting out of control....there were a LOT of guys in it. Also of note: it was raining on the peleton in the final third of the stage, and about 40 degrees cooler than the prior 8 days riding.

All of the "heads of state" were in the front of the peleton, about the most dangerous man in the break (IMO) was Ryder Hesjadal...I'd think you do NOT want to let him get back a big chunk of the time he's lost thus far in the race. I don't think they were TOO worried about Anacona...however he's an up and coming star...and it might be very unwise to let him have the lead and give him some huge dose of confidence....he'd be a real unknown and might end up being very dangerous. With about 20k to go the 30 man break started to fracture. Anacona broke free with 2 other from Movistar....but it appeared he was helping the break, which seemed rather odd considering his team had been working to contain the break with their guys sitting 1 and 2 in the overall lead.

The final climb wasn't especially steep nor long at only 8k...but it was enough. The front of the peleton started to grow thin, as they chased Anacona (who had broken free from the other 2 and was going for the win. It looked by all accounts that not only would Anacona win the day, but that he'd take the overall lead for his troubles. But Sky kept chipping away at his lead, and considering he was just a bit less than 3 minutes off the lead they did a great job (for Movistar I mean). With about 2k to go it was Contador of all people who lit it up from the diminished GC group....and it was only Quintana and Rodriguez (with one teammate)( who could follow. But Contador had a nice little gap and was pushing it, trying to gain time on his rivals. Froome and Valverde stayed back unable to follow. It appeared Alberto had timed his attack to perfection...his gap looked unsurmountable to Rodriguez and Quintana, who was sitting on the back of Rodriguez and his teammate while they tried to close he gap.

Anacona crossed the line for his first Grand Tour stage win...and then the clock was ticking. Alberto was killing it trying to maintain his gap, but the Katusha riders had different ideas about how the stage would play out....and with a heroic push just before the line Rodriguez (who had now lost his teammate and was pushing on his own) closed the gap to Alberto...with Quintana sitting pretty right there on his wheel. The three crossed the line with no gaps...Valverde had lost his red, and the real winner today was Quintana who was now the overall leader. But it was Contador who looked great...his attack was perfect, and if not for Katusha I don't think Quintana would have made it....but we'll never know. MAYBE he (Quintana) is biding his time, waiting for the proper moment to strike. No matter was a great stage and it was wonderful to see Alberto looking back in top form.

As to the GC shootout that's pending...I think we have a real pressure-cooker awaiting us! Valverde did look great the other day (Stage 6 I think) on the first summit finish...he was pacing Quintana (much to my surprise) and near the end he went for it, leaving Quintana behind. I can't tell if he (Quintana) let him go on purpose, or if he indeed didn't have it in the legs to stay with the front. Froome looked vulnerable today for the first time, and maybe that was why he had his team help contain the break. Maybe he just had a bad day...the rain and cooler temps might have played a role in that.....but I don't count him out by any means. Contador looked quite good and seems ready for a fight. And Rodriguez....I wouldn't count him out either. He showed he still has the legs and the spunk....and also still has GC aspirations. For now at least I think the amazing race we were hoping for is still in the cards. Tomorrow is the first rest day, and after that on Tuesday Stage 10 is an ITT.... and should really let us get a glimpse of who's who this year. We'll see just how good Froome is or is not feeling....he could very well end up in Red if he has the kind of day that everybody knows he's capable of. Quintana isn't known as a top TT'er, so we'll just see how he does giong in as the last rider of the day. I'm sad that Talansky isn't looking to be in the mix...I really thought he might be a player in the Tour...after crashing out like other GC contenders he's made it here, and I thought he was looking to be a contender...but it appears I was wrong. He's nowhere to be seen in the front during the first week, and has lostway too much time to have any shot at this point. Same for Hesjedal....his GC hopes have surely been dashed to the rocks. But we still have plenty of racing left in this years Vuelta...that's for SURE!

Have a GREAT Labor Day weekend everybody!



  1. DISASTER yesterday during Stage 10 (the ITT)! Well, disaster if you're Nairo Quintana....when they showed the replay of his crash I could barely watch...he was SO lucky! Had his body hit one of those vertical guardrail support posts, he'd easily broken bones and destroyed his bike in a nanosecond, pieces flying all over the road...just wow. I haven't peeked to see how he's doing today (or if he even started).

    Now I must eat some crow, as I was blasting Movistar for suddenly bringing Valverde (after promising Quintana the Vuelta was his and sending Valverde to le Tour)...I guess I was not being fair. I blasted Sky during le Tour for NOT bringing Wiggins...same thing for Movistar...IF anything were to happen to Quintana then Valverde would be their guy. Good plan, my apologies Movistar. And Valverde did GREAT on the TT. I was dying for Nairo though...he gutted it out though after his crash...kudos for that. He's young...he'll have more shots at Grand tours. Needs to up his TT game though...look at Contador! He's totally in the drivers seat....Froome was obviously NOT on his A game, nor hs B game...just WOW. Wasn't expecting that...everybody was putting him in red by a minute or more after the TT.

  2. Didn't get to see Stage 11 yesterday, watched it tonight (Thurs)....and as I was afraid of...Quintana pulled out. However, it wasn't totally due to injuries from his Stage 10 crash...he crashed AGAIN. Turns out he has a broken bone in his hand, supposed to get surgery today. Rats. I was REALLY hoping he'd be the one. The high-mountain shootout with Alberto, Purito, possibly even Valverde, and looking like Uran is going to be in them too...well...I'm really going to miss Nairo in this race. Alberto looks to really be in the drivers seat...and actually Valverde is looking WAY better than I gave him credit for. Today's flat stage...BORING....but at least the sprint was exciting....Boonen right in there at the end...and even Sagan was there...not contending, but he finished 4th for the day. Maybe he's riding himself into condition too.

    OK...bedtime....stage 13 tomorrow. Party on!


    I saw a clip online of Quintana crashing in the TT & OMG! Just thinking of some of those Tour mountain descents that go straight DOWN on the other side of the barrier & if Q had flipped OVER the barrier on one of those, he'd be in really bad shape! That he actually flipped OVER his handlebars & still was able to get back on the bike was amazing. But then when he crashed AGAIN the very next day & had to abandon, well, Froome 2.0! Geeze, the cycling gods have NOT been kind to the Grand Tours this year! OR to cycling fans!

    Speaking of Froome - very surprised that he isn't his usual dominating self. And even MORE surprised that Contador is! Heck, I thought with AC's broken tibia, it was craaaazy to start this race! And didn't you think a broken tibia was worse than broken wrists & hand fractures? I don't really know but I would think either injury would have made it IMPOSSIBLE to train since they abandoned in the Tour.

    I was looking at the profiles of the coming days & WHOOEEE, the next 3 stages look awesome! All mountain stages! And another mt stage Thurs & Saturday! You know, Froome might not be out of contention if AC has one bad day. How is J-Rod doing? He was the guy "training" at the Tour for this race. I haven't been able to read the daily GC lists this week so except for the biggest news (i.e. Quintana crashing & abandoning, Froome not dominating in the TT, & Contador looking like the guy to beat), I don't know how most guys are doing. Hope to look at the various stage results tonight.

    Sure do wish Horner was there. That STILL pisses me off! I still can't believe that the "rules" of some organization (that most of the BIG teams are NOT a part of) & NOT the rules of the UCI are what kept Horner out of this race. As for being "too sick" to compete, well, the day he heard he was out, he went on a 6 hour training ride. Not exactly ready for a sick bed...

    Did you see that Jensie is training for the Hour Record? Here we thought he'd be kicking off his cleats & taking it easy in retirement! Go Jensie! :) :)

    Well, it's been a crappy week for me so I'm glad it's over. I look forward to some college football tomorrow & may or may not watch some of the pro games on Sunday. I'm still so FURIOUS that Tebow is not playing in the NFL & so SICK of hearing about the that league EVERY DAMN DAY (off-season, WHAT off-season?!) , I'm just not that interested.

    Have a good weekend, Matt! Hope you get some riding in & a LOTS of Vuelta watching! I'm SO envious that you have Universal Sports - I miss that channel EVERY day! Sniff, sniff.

  4. Stage No, I take that back, I mean WOW! What a ride...those 2 final cat-1's really did a number. But the final climb...quite narrow and STEEP...the upper few k were holding average around 15% grade...with switchback kicks up near 30...Gogo and Schlanger said they were the steepest pitches EVER included in la Vuelta! And speaking of Gogo and Schlanger...they're really growing on me! During the Tour they had Schlanger out doing what Bobke used to do and more...but I never knew he worked commentating for Universal (never got to watch USN before). They're a pretty good team and they don't make you crazy.

    OK...back to the stage...the final cat-1 summit finish climb, the break was out and away with enough time to hopefully hold off the charging GC front-end. Interesting that Saxo gave the green-light for their guy to go for the win...pretty confident of Alberto to let that happen rather than have him drop back and pace him up....that gives me some new respect for Alberto (it's not ALL about him, even though he's emerged as the favorite).

    Not long after they hit the final climb Valverde attacks! Wow...sure he needs to do just that, but I guess watching too many tours when everybody plays it SAFE....gets old...LOVE that he lit out giving it his all. Alberto followed, with JRod...Uran was a bit off, and Froome had been spit out the back of the elite group but fighting hard to maintain contact. JRod had a teammate....and he buried himself Pulling JRod back up to Valverde...and Alberto wisely took the free ride. And then suddenly, there's Froomey in FRONT! Where the hay did he come from? He may not be in his Tour form, but he's also showing grit I haven't seen before! Just like back the other day, stage 11 I think, when he kept pulling himself from the back to the front, over and over! Today's was even harder on the grade they were pulling!

    Not too long after that it was Contador attacking! Why on earth did he do that? WHO CARES! I LOVED IT! He could have easily sat on the wheel of Valverde who WAS his biggest threat, but no...he lit it up and dropped Valverde! And Purito dragged himself up there, and they fought hard to hold on to Alberto's speedy attack.

    Meanwhile up front, at the finish the Saxo man was passed in the final hundred or so meters by Ryder Hesjadal! He had been in the break all day, and had been holding 2nd to the Saxo man, keeping him in his view...and then gave it a heroic burst as they neared the summit...and passed and took the win for Garmin!! VERY NICELY DONE!!! Loved that gutsy attack for the win, and Garmin sure needed a bit of morale after their valiant efforts with no payoff.

    And then the GC battle....Froomey attacks and briefly drops ALBERTO!!!! (And Purito is also with him, Valverede too). But Purito fights his way out of the lead group and he also drops Alberto....Froome has a pretty nice gap going, but Purito closes it down a LOT in the final few hundred meters...and they both end up getting a bit of time back from Alberto!! And Valverde...he was the loser today...He's still in 2nd, but lost some valuable time.... while Froome climbs up into THIRD can you believe it!! OMG!!! And I wouldn't count neither Froome NOR Valverde out at this time...Valverde took a HUGE gamble and it didn't pay off and he paid dearly for it..but what a chance he took! I'm seeing these riders in a new light...seems in most Tours there are very few chances taken like that...but here it's a FREE FOR ALL!

    I LOVE IT!! What a race we have going here! And Tomorrow (Sunday) is an even HARDER stage!! Woo-HOO!! Hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen, it's a real pressure cooker we have here!

    Game ON!

  5. Still watching today's stage live, but yesterday's stage was definitely some of the best grand tour racing I've seen in years! Everyone was willing to go for it, no one was holding back for another day. It was hootin' and hollerin' fantastic!! Purito wants on to the podium. He's only dozen-ish seconds from third place. Let's GO!!