Sunday, July 27, 2014

Post tour thoughts and chit-chat's in the history books now. It's all over but for the crying (both good and bad).

THE GOOD (and there was a lot!):

Chris Horner coming back for more if he gets a team.
TWO Frenchmen on the podium.
Valverde NOT making the podium.
TJ jumping up to 5th overall (I'm warming to him slightly...maybe next year he'll grow on me). PLEASE lose the "Uhm and Uh" from your vocabulary and I'll do my best to root for you!.
Team Sky (the Yankees of pro cycling...the team w/ the largest payroll) getting zippo after leaving Wiggens HOME and losing their man to crashes. Still smiling at that one. Not a huge fan of Wiggo, but boy did they stick it to him, and did he get the ULTIMATE "TOLD YOU SO"!
Sagan winning the Green jersey (for the 3rd year in a row).He's quite a character and a great bike-handler. Also he apologized to the peleton saying HE caused the Stage 19 finishing crash.
The Panel. LOVED this years panel (both). P&P for most of the call, yet having Todd, Bobke and CVV in the beginning/end and off and on throughout...that was flat out the best overall panel(s) that I can recall. I like P&P but it's also nice to get a break from them, and also they did  a fair amount of cutting over to the threesome over and over during the live broadcast....sharing the air-time. GREAT JOB to NBC Sports on this!
Stages in the UK...watching snippets of the first 3 stages today. THE CROWDS still blows my mind. The first 2 stages were out in the middle of nowhere essentially (as compared to down near London)....yet the people drove and walked a LONG ways to get out to the side of the road, on the side of a hill, or even just anywhere NEAR where the riders were going  to was just SPECTACULAR!
Bringing in riders at the end of every stage to chat with the panel.
Team Saxo/Tinkoff's kits. Love or hate them, they were easy-peasy to spot in the peleton!
Certainly there's a LOT more, buy my tiny brain is overloaded and can't think of any more right this moment.


Jens (not coming back)
Not getting the ultimate GC-showdown that it looked like we were going to get.
Deleting stage 21 from my DVR today, knowing there won't be another stage tomorrow.
Vino running a team, let-alone the WINNING team. That just seems wrong.
The rain in those early stages. Sure, it's part of cycling, but this year it altered the dynamic of the race in a way I can't recall happening before.
Losing Cav, Froome, Contador and Talansky (among others) to injuries sustained from crashes.
Jens not coming back.
Not being able to TRULY believe the winner is clean (I'm NOT discussing it, just mentioning it as a thought that was with me throughout...ok, NOW I'm done talking about it! For REAL).
Team Trek. Where were they? It's like they didn't even SHOW UP, except for Fabian, who left early to save himself and train. He must have been pretty disheartened by the state of the team to do that.
July is almost over, summer's end is just around the corner. WOW did July go FAST (again).
Sagan winning the Green Jersey yet not winning a single stage. Somehow that just seems wrong...didn't Kittel win FOUR stages? I recall a few years back Cav won more than that and still didn't win the Green. I think they need to up the points for stage-wins a LOT. Sure, Sagan was in the top 5 a lot, but not winning ONE SINGLE STAGE yet getting the overall Green?
And just like with the 'good', there must be much more 'bad' that I'm just not thinking of right now.

So..what are YOUR thoughts? Let's keep this going for a bit, to help ward off the post-Tour depression that always sets in. Been great having you here...miss the 'old' days when we were a pretty large group.

And finally, JD, GOOD LUCK selling your house...sure hope it goes smooth and fast so you can get on with your life!

Game OVER.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The last of the mountains, and then into Paris!

Well...sadly I'm back.

JD, you said it...climbing on that plane in Hawaii, knowing it's taking me back to WORK is quite depressing. I sure hope it's in my cards to go back to Hawaii and live (again) someday....where EVERY-DAY is a vacation (especially if I can retire there....get a boat and just have FUN every single day). It was a long journey home, even just from Hawaii to Calif...problems with my bus getting from LAX to San Fernando Valley (where my car was parked) I didn't finally get home until the wee hours of the morning. But the babies were all quite excited to see me even in the middle of the night, and being as they don't look at a clock it didn't matter what time it was. It's safe to say I had LOTS of company snoozing last night (even though Jeannie is still in Hawaii, she won't be home until Friday). I had planned on working a half day today, but with my late homecoming I've nixed that plan, and instead have a cup of hot steamy joe in my hand as I watch the QUEEN STAGE! Tour for over a week now...I was in withdrawl! That and the fur-babies are the only good things about coming home from Hawaii.


Susie, I'm afraid there will be no Quint in this tour....Nibbles looks pretty much untouchable unless disaster in some form strikes. It wouldn't bother me to see some shark-hunter put a few barrels in him though...but I don't know who that would be. But the rest of the podium, and especially the top 5 slots are NOT EVEN CLOSE to being set in stone. Valverde really needs to watch his back if he hopes to hold onto 2nd. I'm totally rooting for the French guys! As to TJ...well, he cracked yesterday much like I suspected he would all along, and has fallen far away from the podium...and that just doesn't bother me in the slightest. I'm STILL not a fan. Right now it's Purito fighting his way into the Polka Dot jersey that is the drama in progress, and he has his work cut out for him to hold it thru tomorrow.

OK...back to the live coverage (that I've DVR'd so it's no longer 'live', but I'm watching it with no knowledge of how it comes out, so it's live to me). Susie, you're my Hero taking TWO days off to simply watch le Tour! I just don't have that kind of vacation (if I did, I'd have stayed in Hawaii with Jeannie for 2 more days). I need to scrimp my time if I hope to do any backpacking this fall with my brother Greg as we always try to do.

Aloha, and GAME STILL ON!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Tour Talk Three: the MOUNTAINS COMMETH!

Today (Saturday, Stage 8) was a real nice warmup as to what we will be seeing tomorrow. The last 30k having two cat-2's and a cat-3 finish, SWEET! The breakaway broke-down and the lone Frenchman Blel Kadri (riding for AG2R) pulled away from Sylvian Chauvenell and then held off him AND the peleton for the summit finish. It was beautiful! And back at the front of the peleton Saxo Tinkoff wound it up and tore the peleton to smithereenes, with only a few able to hold onto that pace.

Alberto looked calm and collected, as did Nibali (though his team was pretty much out of it by this time). TJ was there, as was Andrew....the only man missing sadly was Froome, and that indeed is something we can only wonder how it would have been. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: although I was not on his fan bandwagon, the Tour took a real blow when he abandoned. I was SO looking forward to this HUGE shootout with all these contenders this year. And other than Frrome, my dream is playing out so far.

All the way to the end Contador and Nibali duked it out, neither blinking  or showing any weakness. And TJ was there, gave it a huge dig but fell back a bit...but was still very close at the end. The only man missing in this first GC shootout (other than Froome) was Andrew, who crashed AGAIN. Although he wasn't hurt, he did lost contact with the lead group and wouldn't regain it. What a huge blow, but he remains completely optimistic and is just the breath of 'fresh air' that I've been looking for as a fan. They call him the "Pitbull" but he comes across with the exuberance of a young kid on his first bike, still enamored with the cycling experience.

You really have to hand it to Nibali and the entire Astana team...not sure but I'm guessing their holding the Mellow Johnny for an entire week thus far is a total surprise, but they are doing a QUITE admirable job of it. I'd even go so far as to say they / he is exceeding expectations every day. I'm actually becoming a fan, never having really paid much attention to him before. Not necessarily such a fan of his 'management' though...I think it's pretty much a fact that Vino rode juiced his entire career. And that Olympic Gold still reeks a bit...THAT was certainly a fluke.  But that's all in the past, and certainly HIS country/federation isn't out to erase his winning past like SOME. That he's managing a team is pretty interesting I will say though.

But enough on that. I've been loving the end of the stages when it cuts back over to Todd/Bobke and CVV, as they've been having 'guests' on the set. And as much as I love having CVV in there, it's just off the chart cool when they have Horner in. And speaking of Horner, I did him a disservice by not mentioning him being in that lead group. He may not have been on the front with TJ/Andrew/Nibbles and Contador, but he wasn't very far away. And that's pretty cool too. It may be beyond the scope of reality hoping that he could podium in this Tour, but I do hope that. But he has some FIERCE competition with the much younger GC contenders. But what can I say...he's still my man! (as well as Jensie and Fabian).

I really enjoyed Chris (Horner's) discussion tonight as to what's happening in the peleton. He was asked what the peleton was like with Froome's absence, and did it slow down things down any. He said that Saxo spun the pace up to just about as high as it could possibly go, so no...whether it was Sky or Saxo pushign on the front, it was still quite insane. He is just such an awesome speaker...he will (I hope) be GREAT as a fellow commentator in the future when he does finally retire (I hope he will do another year, same w/ Jensie).

And today (Stage 8) was only a warmup...a tiny snippet of what's to come. Stage 9 brings a ton of climbing, and even that will pale in comparison when we start hitting the HC climbs down the road. The GC shakeup today was expected and complete....all the pretenders are OUT of the top now. All that are left are those with actual ambitions for a top ten slot, and for those few a podium spot. The problem is there are only 3 spots on the podium, and we have more contenders than that. It's going to be QUITE exciting!

Hang onto your hats ladies and genelemen, cuz awaaaaayyyyyyyyy we gooooooooo!

Game ON!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tour Talk Two: into the fire

Well, we've made it to France. But first, Wow, the first four stages were pretty awesome all in all. LOVE LOVE LOVE the UK  stages...I think the Tour organizers really outdid themselves (as did pretty much all of the UK) with that idea. Just finished watching Stage 4...WOW, Froome kisses the pavement just 5k into the stage! And he wasn't even close to being at fault...the 2 guys in front of him off to the left...the guy on the far outside suddenly cut in, bumping the guy on his right and bam.. clipped Froomey's front wheel and that's all she wrote...down in an instant, and pretty hard too. I may not be on the Team Froome bus, but damn, I HATE to see that. Bike racers are tough, but tomorrow's cobbles are a different animal, and to race that hurt is bordering on inhumane. AND...watching the end as the crew was discussing things, it was reported that he went to the hospital for X rays after the stage...both CVV and Bobke explained how you DON'T do that unless you're really afraid there's something wrong, as it seriously cuts into your recovery time. He even skipped his cool-down spin session which is pretty important to clear the legs of the lactic acid built up over the last few hours of racing. And it was a pure shark-media feeding-FRENZY outside the bus, but Brailsford wasn't giving much away as I would expect...tomorrow morning will tell us the story. Looking into my crystal ball, I expect him to start as I'm hoping he doesn't have a broken wrist... but I'm guessing he will be in a great deal of agony over the course of the stage, not even counting the cobbles (much like Tyler Hamilton riding w/ a broken collar bone many years took an AMAZING amount of guts and determination to block the pain somehow...if I recall Tyler said he ground his teeth down to nubs during that tour).

 As to Peter Sagan...never did find out why he was at the back of the cars with only 15 miles left to appeared he might have had a brush w/ the damp pavement, but nobody as yet has affirmed that. He used quite a bit of energy getting to the front...and still was right there at the end. And Kittel looked entirely HUMAN today...if only Cav had been there.... but we'll be saying that the entire race I'm afraid. Marcel is looking to have no real competition for any normal bunch sprint stages I'm afraid. The others just aren't quite there in his league...though in a few years the kid from EuropeCar...Bryan Cocquard I think....I like's his first tour, and there he is, mixing it up w/ the BIG boys. Go Bryan...I wouldn't be surprised at all if he manages to sneak in a win before this tour is over.

As to Stage do you think Frank Schleck feels? I'm sure he misses Andy in a HUGE way already...and tomorrow....well, it should be one for the Ages. I totally expect Spartacus to step up in the right moment and show us how it's done. Susie, I totally agree about the stupid team colors....Trek is almost invisible, seems they are too close to the Giant Shimano colors...but it just seems that any black and white kit I see is Giant...where is Team Trek hiding at??? At least the phosphorescent kits of Saxo stand out...I'm pretty sure the Space Station crew can peer down and watch and see where the Saxo guys are at, maybe with a set of binoculars but that's about all they'd need! I'm pretty sure if there was a night stage those guys would GLOW.

Oh, and one final thought before I hit the sack (watching le Tour always takes away sleepy I get up SO early every morning)...lets just say for a moment that Froomey IS hurt....WHAT A MISTAKE NOT TO BRING WIGGO!!!!!!!!! Wouldn't THAT be the ultimate "I told you so" from  Sir Bradley! He promised to work for Froome if he went...but they left him out anyway. It could be one of the biggest mistakes a team has ever made if Froome is out. That would be IT for Sky, they might as well pack up all their bags and depart silently in the night.

With that said, and as much as I am NOT a huge fan, I truly hope he's NOT out and IS OK. I really want to see this enormous five-man showdown for the entire duration. It could end up being one of the best Tours in ages if that comes to pass. Any bets as to who is in Yellow tomorrow after Stage 5? I'm betting it WON'T be Nibbles, nor any of the other top contenders. Maybe Fabian??? I can dream!!

Keep the rubber side down everybody, and stay cool and dry out there in the heat of the summer and storms.

Cheers! GAME ON!!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tour Talk

Holy Moley, hang onto your hats, THIS SATURDAY is the start of le TOUR! Can you believe it's here already? I can't...that means that Summer (unoficially) is almost half way over (not that I know much about summer...we get the stinkin marine layer here nearly every day, highs in the 60's or low 70's...ok for riding but gosh, I LIKE warm weather! (and speaking of warm weather, Jeannie and I are headed to Hawaii on the 15th for a week...that will put a serious damper on my tour watching for sure). I'll get to see the beginning week plus, then miss most of the middle, and be home for the last few stages...whew!

ANYWAY...who's gonna do well and who's gonna bust? Susie, I agree w/ you on your assessment of Andy Schleck (and Frank too for that matter)...neither of them has been worth much since, uhm, err....theoretically the peleton got clean. HOWEVER...Impy (wore yellow last year for 2 days) has just been busted for a masking of the new, young, clean generation (supposedly). SO maybe things haven't really changed all that much? It's hard to say...I mean, Froome has been riding like an alien for 2 years (or so) now...his numbers are off the charts into 'unreal' do I believe him (or Wiggens for that matter)?? Can't really say that I do...sure, I have no proof...and what about the REST of the guys? How on earth would we know? It's not like Lance or any of his 'crew' ever tested positive...oh, sure, we have the biological passport now...THAT ensures that nobody is cheating. NOT. Don't believe that for a second...I think they (the dopers) have just continued to refine their skill at riding the fine line of not getting caught...which may be harder than in the past but obviously still not impossible. In Talansky we seem to have an American I can believe in...he hasn't garnered any bad feelings from me, and he's riding w/ Garmin Sharp which bodes well for him I believe. He just came off a huge win, is his form still on the rise? If so then he might be able to be a GC factor...but I'd say he has a lot to prove to win a Grand Tour. How about Nibali? hard to say which guy will show up. In the past he's shown good things...but the TDF is another animal altogether, so we shall see.

With all that said, yep, I'll still be watching and rooting for....gasp....Contador for the overall win, and like Susie, hoping Talansky can show us something to believe in. Never in my wildest dreams would I think that AC would be my guy...the ol' Pistolero himself. Yep...that's what it's come down to...that he's my GC man of choice (other than Horner, but he'll be lucky to stay upright and healthy I'm afraid...don't believe he's anywhere NEAR 100%, but I sure can dream that he will be). And also like Susie, I'm NOT a fan of TJ...he's rubbed me the wrong way for quite some time now...never really been a fan....he's got some work to do to convert me. The Schlecks? No way...I just don't see either of them putting up much of a fight, though it's a real shame as this year is MUCH closer to what they would need to have any chance. One more thing I truly hope for this Tour is some NEW talent to rise to the top, much like Quintana did last year. That he's NOT here to defend (and better?) his 2nd place last year is a crime. This tour with only 1 TT would be custom made for him to de-throne Froome and Team Sky. What a shame. But he came out of the woodwork last year as a breath of fresh air. And hey...remember way back when AC did the same? So that's what I'm hoping for...another breath of fresh air.

It's pretty awesome that Jens is riding, and will be even with George's record for number of tours ridden! NICE!! Can't happen to a finer guy! I hope he can come back NEXT year and take that record and make it his own.

What else....oh, the start in the UK! If ONLY I could have arranged a work trip...we typically fly into Leeds (where Stage 1 is!) and catch a cab to Harrogate (where we rent our flats, and is the finish for Stage 1), which is only about 50 miles away! I'd have been RIGHT THERE, at a REAL TOUR STAGE, WALKING from my flat to the finish! But wasn't to be ( not that I didn't try). And yes, those roads are really something...every time I go over the first week plus I'm terrified when driving. Even 2 or so weeks later when your brain has made the 'flip' of which side you're supposed to be on, you still need to be on your A game pretty much every the roads are typically narrow, twisty, pretty high speeds, near zero shoulder (typically a rock wall or a hedgerow is just past the line)...and there's lots of sudden things happening in the road that you must QUICKLY adapt to (things like a big honkin' tree growing in the road, and a 2 lane (already narrow) road goes down to 1 for a brief  moment as it goes around the REALLY need to watch the signs and read the road paint...lots of obstacles where the 1st car there gets it, everybody else needs to yield...things like that are EVERYWHERE off of the motorways! Here in the states I drive with a coffee or soda in my cupholder all the time, don't even THINK about it's just no big deal. Not coffee sits in it's little slot getting cold as I have all my focus and attention on driving, no time to even glance down to find your drink...and both hands are pretty busy keeping from getting killed. But it IS very exciting I have to admit, especially in the dark that first week!

But I digress....we all know the start will be tense and hectic as always, as everybody who even THINKS they MIGHT have a shot at a podium slot will be trying to be at or near the front (along w/ their entire team)...and as always, there's only so much room up there. It should be quite interesting, that's for sure! zI don't have to be the Amazing Karnac to predict lots of crashes and carnage.

As to the sprints, I'm hoping for all out tribal warfare! There's a LOT of hungry talent with Cav, Sagan, Kittel, Griepel off the top of my head....and I'm sure I'm leaving out guys who WILL win stages. That bodes well for us fans, and maybe not so well for the carnage in the finishing kilometers of the flatter stages as all these teams will be fighting to control the finish and get their guy to the win. That Cav is now with Renshaw again bodes well for him....I think we'll see some greatness for sure from that combo. 

OK....well...TOMORROW is the Fourth of July! HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!! Woo-HOO! I hope to go for a bike ride all 3 days of this long holiday weekend (SWEET!). We're grilling burgers (turkey) tomorrow and having baked beans, corn on the cobb and red-potato salad...pretty much an all American 4th of July meal if you ask me! (and maybe we'll have A&W Root Beer floats for dessert...ok, not MAYBE, for SURE!)

Have a GREAT weekend, and lets get busy talking TOUR!!

Game ON!