Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tour Talk!

Can you believe it's suddenly only SEVEN DAYS until the start of the 2015 Tour de France? Once again time has suddenly sped up on me, as I'm TOTALLY unprepared for this years race. I haven't seen diddly of racing this year, with the exception of the ONE stage of the Tour of California that came thru my town back in May. Other than that, zip. I really haven't even kept up on has been frantic to a degree I've not had before. The Giro went by almost unnoticed (by me) other than a cursory peek at Velo News now and then. All the Spring Classics....can't tell you who won what (I did try to follow some of them, but my pathetic short-term memory means I don't remember who won any of them).

Be that as it may, I think this years tour is going to be similar to the start of last years...the long awaited showdown we were/are all hoping for....a true cycling shootout on the roads of France. Only THIS year, we have four (IMHO) true contenders. Contador tops the list as he has shown great form in winning the Giro. However, can he hold/return to that form a month later? Time will tell.

Froome is back and hungry after his early depart last year. Can he stay upright and healthy this year? Will he show up with winning caliber form? I hope so.

You certainly can't count out Nibali....he was a surprise (for many) last year...nobody really had him as a true 'contender' until both Contador and Froome dropped out. However, he took last years race with a stamp of authority and has other Grand Tour he's definitely a TRUE contender.

And FINALLY...we have Nairo Quintana. If any of the contenders would be considered THE Dark Horse, I'd say it's Nairo. We know he's not a great Time Trialist....however it's like the organizers created this race to give him a shot, having only ONE short TT in the entire race! We know he's one of the ELITE mountain-goats. Contador used to be, but can he keep up with Nairo when it gets steep and long?

And how will their teams figure in? Obviously nobody wins the Tour alone....having a strong supporting team in every stage is key. You almost never WIN the Tour in any one stage, but you can certainly LOSE the tour in ANY one bad day. And also keep in mind that there are cobbles again this year. Only Nibbles will like that, as he has shown himself to be one of the strong-men on the Pave. IF the other three can survive (staying upright and limiting the time-damage) then we just might actually get the shootout we are hoping for. Can you IMAGINE a true 4-way fight for the podium all the way to Paris? FOUR riders w/in seconds of the lead? Possibly having the leaders jersey changing hands on a near daily basis?

However we all need to keep in mind that in recent years, the opening week has been nothing but carnage, and with top riders (no matter how carefully they plan and place themselves) end up hitting the deck. I just don't think that's avoidable these days. There's just too many teams with to many riders on too narrow of roads for it not to be a HUGE factor. There WILL be pile-ups. Many riders WILL be hurt and end up dropping out. How well will these four superstars protect themselves and their teams in the early stages will be KEY in having a shot at the final podium in Paris.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn't bring up the unknown factor. WHO will rise from near anonymity this year to suddenly become a star? Every year there are some...whether it's long breakaway stage wins, or suddenly popping up showing they ARE a contender. What GREAT moments await us in these 23 awesome days in July? What incredible memories will survive even MY pathetic memory? Will we see a new Johnny Hoogerland, having been flung into a barb-wire fence by an insane team-car, race on despite dripping blood and flying bandages and unimaginable pain, only to stand on the podium for a day with tears of joy streaming down his face? Cycling is a sport for the tough. How will we see that play out this year? I can hardly wait!

All I know for sure is that it likely WILL be another FANTASTIC race, and IF these four guys can stay healthy (and keep most of their teams healthy), it could very well be one of the best Tours in ages. Keep your fingers crossed and get ready. It's TIME for le Tour!

Game ON!


  1. Hi everyone, it's Barbara! Came over here to see what's up - I watched the NBCSN Tour Preview today - they were SO KIND to televise it at MIDNIGHT last night! Couldn't find it in prime time, glad I have a DVR.

    I have been watching the 1-hour per day of the Dauphine and the Tour of California. Contador, Froome, Nibali all looking good. Cav looking good. Apparently Froome missed a drug test a couple weeks ago while on vacation with his wife - the hotel wouldn't give them the room number or even call up. Hope this doesn't turn into a thing.

    Very excited! Let the games begin!

  2. Yeah, TOUR TALK! Glad to hear from you Barbara & Rae, I HAD written a comment to you last week that VANISHED the second I hit "Publish"! Anyhoo, glad to hear you've recovered & loved reading your Tour Talk too! :)

    2 more days! SATURDAY! SATURDAY! I finally got my hands on Velo's 2015 Tour de France Guide & think I will take at least 3 mornings vacation time. I am SO excited! Even IF there are only 3, count 'em, THREE, Americans in this year's race around croissant country.

    Do you think the '4 Faves' will ALL make it thru Week 1? I won't bet, but I think the odds can't be better than 50-50!

    According to CVV & Jensie's twitters, the NBC cast seems to be the same as last year with the addition of Jensie doing something. Yeah!

    Still don't know who I'll be rooting for (besides Cav winning at least 2-3 stages, I SO want him to break Eddie's TDF stage record next year, that would be AWESOME!). If Tinkov would keep his big mouth shut & not keep reminding me how much I DETEST him, I'd root for Contador. BTW, did you see Tinkov say it "wasn't fair" that AC "has" to race against "FRESH" guys (i.e. guys who didn't ride the Giro)? As if it wasn't HIS choice to stick Contador in both races! I just hope every rider saw how he's trashed Sagan & really think whether the extra money is truly worth the stress & humiliation to ride for that guy.

    Alrighty, gotta go. I won't have access to a computer till next Monday, so have FUN this weekend watching the Tour! ALLEZ, ALLEZ! :) :)

  3. And AWAY WE GO! Just picked up the DTV Sports package today...have the entire TDF ready to record...woo-HOO! Tomorrow morning I'll watch the pre-tour special...get a flavor for how they see it going, and THEN I'll watch Stage 1 (starts @ 4am). Hang onto your hats, it's going to be a FAST July (as it always is!)

  4. Well, what a satisfying TT that was (considering that ITTs are downright boring to watch)! The 4 main contenders within seconds of each other, and TJ ahead of them all! I'm a little surprised that AC was so far behind (still, only about 15 seconds, not too much for the 1st stage?). Bigger surprise -- Sagan bested all 5! Were they holding back just a bit?

    And, the top of the standings, what a surprise, but kind of not (since he did hold the hour record briefly)-- Rohan Dennis for BMC bested our beloved Fabian, and Tony Martin, and up-n-comer Tom Doumulin. Valverde finished ahead of Quintana also, perhaps his reign as the star at Movistar is not coming to a close after all!

    Wish I could watch tomorrow morning but I will either be at work or, if I can find someone to work for me, at my cousin's funeral in Detroit. I wasn't really close to him but I was one of only 3 family members that he kept in contact with so I would like to be there for his daughter and brother. Unfortunately the hospital is not kindly disposed towards staff that call off on a holiday weekend (and a cousin doesn't qualify for a bereavement absence). So far no luck trading shifts.



  5. Hey Rae, sorry to hear about your cousin...funerals are for the living, and it would be good if you are able to go.

    Enjoyed the stage this morning (got up pretty early and watched the preview show first, THEN the stage). I was really rooting for Fabian (of he's still my still-riding Fav). Good for Rohan...a new TDF speed record. Overall I was MOST impressed with Quintana...of all the contenders, I think HE has the most to lose on a TT...and he limited the damage quite admirably (I think the organizers created this years course to give him a real shot...sure seems like it). Of the big 4 (Fab 4, Fantastic 4, 4 horsemen?) I'm rooting for Quintana. If I were betting MONEY I'd lay it on Contador. And my dark-horse outside shot man is Talansky (though he lost more ground than I thought he would this morning...he didn't really have a great day, as he's a better TT'er than that...and wearing the Stars & Stripes for the TT too!)

    BMC/TJ seem in a pretty good position for this first week of mayhem and madness...what a boon for him (TJ) to have one of HIS guys take the TT and get them the them the 1st position in the team cars, and also riding up front controlling the race...later on it's a huge burden that a team may not want, but for the madness about to be unleashed on the road tomorrow it's a good thing. I'm just SOOOOO not a TJ fan. Still can't lay a finger on why...he just rubs me the wrong way for some reason. Kind of sad that I'm rooting for a Colombian over an American I guess...but hey...cycling is an international sport, and there are only THREE Americans this year! That just seems impossible in this day and age....I guess we can partly thank the "reasoned decision" convicting the Devil of not only inventing doping, but running "the most sophisticated doping ring in sports history" (NOT!). And hey...cycling is clean now...didn't you hear?

    And what about Lars Boom and Astana (again)? He comes in with low cortisol levels (wasn't that why Horner wasn't able to defend his Vuelta title last year?) what do they do? They drop out of the MPCC cuz suddenly it's an impediment. I STILL can't believe they are AT the TDF, let-alone that they STILL have a Pro Tour license. Not that I know enough to say he should or should not be racing...but there's obviously a reason the MPCC asks teams who comply with their rules to NOT start racers with that condition. It sure hurt Horner last year...we'll never know how he would have done, and it sure crushed his chances of staying in in the Pro Tour.! It's TDF TIME AGAIN! Love the commentary team of Todd, Bobke and CVV and with Jensie as the man in the crowd...IMO probably the best team they've ever had. And don't crucify me here, but it wouldn't bother me at all they took over the play by play announcing (ie: doing the entire race)....I'm kind of over my P&P thing....but they ARE an institution...pretty much the voice(s) of the TDF for a LONG time now.

    OK...tomorrow is the real-deal...flats (DEAD flat stage), cross-winds, narrow's going to be GREAT! (and hey...what about Kittel not coming due to poor condition? I was REALLY hoping to see him and Cav go at it day by day...what a let-down). I'm not even going to bother making a team for the race...I SO suck at that.

    OK..gotta ske-daddle...things to do. Hope everybody is having a BANNER 4th of July...HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!

    Game ON!

  6. SPOILER ALERT, SPOILER ALERT! Talking about today's stage!!!

    WOW! For a boring flat day, it was FANTASTIC! Though considering I'm rooting for Quintana and Talansky, they both took a real beating..along with Nibbles (have to admit I didn't expect THAT!) From the Fab Four it's Contador and Froome, and then add TJ into the mix, there you have the likely winner. But Paris is a LONG ways off. As the old saying goes, you don't win the race in any one day, but you can surely lose it. I'd like to think that Quintana will have the legs to regain the time lost today, but against Contador and Froome, it seems like a rather tall order. Can TJ stay with the mountain goats when it gets crazy? Time will tell...but I have to give him and BMC kudos for today...they were certainly on their A game.

    And about Fabian!!! Even though my GC guys took a gut-punch today, I'm quite happy as FABIAN is in yellow! WHAT A GIFT!!! He is SO smart on the know exactly what he had to do, and then be RIGHT THERE in the PERFECT PLACE after that brutal day on the road. Still, he has Cav to thank for giving up after Griepel passed him.What's up with that? Quite honestly, I think it's PATHETIC. His guys DESTROY themselves all day on his behalf, and when it looks like he won't WIN he quits. If I were Tony Martin I'd be quite pissed, and I don't think I'd be talking to him for a few days. FINISH THE DAMN SPRINT MARK! 1st, 2nd, go till the whistle for crying out loud! Be a PRO. Sorry, but what a baby. He needs to grow up. Honestly after the position and work his team did to get him where he was for the finish, I can't BELIEVE he didn't win. But HUGE props to the Gorilla AND Sagan for still being there...Sagan mostly, as he did a LOT of solo work near the end after his flat to get back on...that was impressive all by itsself...then fighting for the win WITH Cav and Griepel? And NO HELP from his team? WAY TO GO PETER!!!! You ARE the MAN! He obviously knows he's on his own in the sprints, and that he is out there during the stage working for Alberto is even MORE impressive. Hopefully the boss man will back off some...what he did today was nothing short of FANTASTIC!

    As to tomorrow...should be another great day! Can Fabian pull off a Classics style ride and hold the Yellow? If anybody can do it, it's him. But BOY oh BOY will be a marked man! And I don't count Sagan out either...he's another iron-man, and considering how close he was today, well..all I can say is tomorrow should be another GREAT stage! And we'll just see how the GC guys do tomorrow. I must admit I'm pleasantly surprised at how little carnage we saw today. With the nervous peleton, knowing the crosswinds would decimate the race, and then the rain and wet-roads at the end, I expected HUGE pileups...and overall the crashing was very limited. A nice break from prior years. Hopefully the guys can stay upright tomorrow...time will tell.

    GAME ON! What a RACE!!!!

    All in all, just a FABULOUS start to the race!

  7. Well, the 1st 2 days were GREAT! Just like you Matt & Rae, I was cheering & hoping Spartacus would win the 1st stage & the Yellow jersey but since he'd barely ridden since his bad injury right before the Classics & that he's kinda pulled back from TT-domination the past 2 years, I wasn't sure how he'd do. I'm sure he's not happy in 3rd, but I was still impressed! Dennis rode out of his mind to get that win! And Fab was only 1-2 seconds behind current TT dominator Tony Martin. Pretteee damn good! But then, Fab's effort & result on Sunday's stage was even MORE impressive I thought! (Even if I am NOT happy that the finish bonuses are back in the Tour & yes, I know you like them Matt, but I liked that the Tour was based on "pure time".)

    Sunday reminded me SO much of the stage in 2013 (I think) - remember - it was windy & flat & Cav got into a break with Contador & a few others & they put lots of time into everyone? It was my FAVE stage that year since I was mighty unhappy that Froome won. Unfortunately, this time, Froome was WITH Contador & Cav! But at least they put time into Nibbles & Quintana & the 2 French podium guys from last year. I haven't read anything yet but I heard on the TV coverage this morning before I left the house that the BMC & SKY guys did NOT really pull during the 1st part of that breakaway! I guess I understand BMC because they left their Yellow jersey behind but hell, Rohan wasn't going to keep that jersey for too long anyhow, & Tejay is the FOCUS! They SHOULD have put EVERYTHING into it! And I have no idea why Sky didn't work at 1st, Just stupidity?! I think both teams will regret not going harder - they COULD have put 3-5 MINUTES into the other GC faves!

    One thing that totally shocked me was yesterday's finish - of the 25 guys in that front group, only 6-10 had ANY interest in the sprint. Cav had several guys with him, especially his set-up guy, Renshaw. The final 1K was STRAIGHT, seemed PERFECT for Cav! But, I've seen the footage several times & I have to agree that Renshaw went a bit too early & then Cav had to too & then he didn't have the strength to keep it going. Wow, can't remember those guys getting such a final wrong before. I realize only a tiny thing separates the perfect sprint from "failure" (i.e. anything other than victory) but they usually nail those finishes. And Matt, I'm going to give Cav the benefit of the doubt & think he didn't realize in those split seconds that his easing up ever so slightly would cost Tony the Yellow jersey. You KNOW Cav only cares about the win, he ALWAYS eases up when he realizes he won't cross 1st, so it was just habit. I bet he feels just terrible for Tony.

  8. Damn it - this thing just ate another one of my comments!


    Well, guess we can't get past Stage 3 in the TDF without some BIG crashes! Sounds like 20 or so guys hit the floor & some had to abandon. It COULD have been worse as it was on a flat, straight section & the speed was HIGH, & some pole thing was on the side of the road & several of the guys slammed into it as they slid on the ground. Someone could have died! For the past 5-7 years, I've said it EVERY YEAR - thanks to Prudhome, the 1st week of the Tour is becoming a FREAK SHOW! I understand he wants to make it "exciting" for viewers, but there are just TOO MANY DAMN RIDERS! They should cap it at 20 teams (180 riders).

    Anyhoo, the finish sounded (well, read on the live blog) exciting, even if I wasn't overjoyed with the top 3. Tejay did great! Finished 6th, either right with or ahead of most of the GC guys. Try to give Tejay another chance, Matt. He's matured a lot the past 3 years. But, I understand. I'm not a fan of Quintana. I don't dislike him, I just don't feel any kind of connection. I also wonder if the ASO planed this route especially for him. Do they own a race in South America? Maybe they WANT to & for a Columbian to win the Tour, well, that would open up that market for them instantly!

    Tomorrow is the cobbles. I PRAY FOR SUNNY SKIES! I do NOT want a repeat of last year when half the faves were basically eliminated from the race.

    And did ya'll know that the Team Time Trial was not until Stage 9?! Who knows how many teams will be missing at LEAST one rider! Has it ever been this late in the TDF before?

    And Matt - this Saturday's LIVE AM stage is NOT on NBC-SN but on NBC. Set your DVR. I THINK it's the only stage like that this year.

  10. And did you all watch the Women's World Cup last night?! WHOO-HOO! USA! USA! USA!

    Wow, our girls came out blazing! So VERY happy for them, especially Abby Wambach. I hope she keeps playing thru the Olympics as I will miss her terribly when she's gone from the USWNT. Don't you wish your fave athletes could just stay at their peak for 20 YEARS or so? :)

  11. Thanks for the SPOILER ALERT Susie...I had NOT yet seen the entire stage today when I got home and was peeking in here. OMG, what a CRASH! I heard about it at work even, and w/out finding out any specifics (so-as not to diminish my watching the stage when I got home) I was stunned by it's ferocity. I can't believe nobody was KILLED, or even really seriously hurt...just a miracle! And Fabian, oh Fabian...I"m so sorry to put my 2015 Schleprock jinx on you by rooting for you...(ask Quintana and Talansky how that worked out for them in Stage 1)....I believe he had a good shot to hold his yellow today, and then tomorrow,'s Fabian in Cobbles...but now we'll never know. I'll be surprised if he even starts tomorrow. He went off to the right and then slammed as his front wheel caught something in the ditch...he hit pretty hard as evidenced by how far his bike was flung while tumbling (easy to see him and his bike...all yellow).

    He looked pretty stunned when the Dr was looking him in the eye. And when he did finally get back on his bike, you knew it wasn't good. Even w/ the stopped race he just hung out at the back, and when they took off, he instantly fell off and single-handedly started the grupetto, soon to be joined by the sprinters and the rest of the riding-wounded. He ended up finishing near dead last...can't remember ever seeing such a thing from him before. And poor Tony Martin...ONE FREAKING SECOND away from yellow!

    Can't take anything away from Froome...he and Sky were perfect today. And TJ was right in there with him. What DID surprise me was Contador. When it got really steep in the final few hundred meters, and Froome lit it up, AC dropped off BIG-TIME (ended up 18 seconds back). I would have thought after the Giro AC would be in pretty decent shape...that's quite a gap for just the very end of a climb. Quintana lost a few to Froome and TJ....still he's pretty far back (almost 2 minutes I think). I just need to stop rooting for guys this year (well, maybe all-time...seems nearly every year my guys get hurt or bad luck lately).

    What did everybody think about the race-stoppage? I was all for it...apparently after THE big crash (the one you can watch on U Tube already) there was ANOTHER crash ahead of that one...but all the medical staff and Team Cars were back at the FIRST Crash...we have ZERO footage or info on that one....that's when the organizers stopped it...and it was CVV in the booth that first speculated the real reason...all the medical people and ambulances were busy...IF there had been another crash, there'd be NO help for some time...also no team cars w/ wheels...good call on the officials! Of course, when they first stopped them everybody was ticked...(they didn't get wind of the reason until after the race).

  12. Part II (comments are size-limited):

    WHAT A CRAZY DAY! Jensie said it from the booth...they're on that long straight downhill, coming up on the first climb, EVERYBODY is fighting to have their guys at the front....and "nobody will give 2 centimeters" ...and there was a touch of wheels...and blammo...the horrific pileup. thankfully that light-pole was far enough away from the initial crash-point so that only a few actually hit it, and then only as they were almost stopped (almost being the operative word there...hitting a NON-movable post at ANY speed whatsoever = instant stoppage for the poor body)...had they hit that at speed it would kill them. Gives me shivers how close that was to actual dead or maimed riders. We'll know tomorrow morning how many MORE will drop out ...I"m sure there'll be a few. I tried to count but it was just too much too fast...but I'm betting it was over 20 riders in the first crash, probably close to 30...and we have no idea about the 2nd one.

    ANYHOO....Susie, I know we've hashed this out and you don't like the time bonuses, but I LOVE Them! I think it really makes the race SO much more interesting...there's some actual payoff for risking things and mixing it up at the finish...brings out things like Fabian trying to finish 3rd or better yesterday. W/ no time bonuses, that would not happen. I makes even the top guys pay attention and sometimes have to get in there and mix it up w/ not team-mates to defend (or take) a position.

    And I'm SO GLAD they finally fixed the Green jersey was NEVER supposed to be for the most was supposed to be the BEST can one guy win FOUR stages in a single tour and NOT get the green?? That seems to have been fixed w/ MUCH higher points for the first few finishers each sprint stage...not that I hated to see Sagan get the jersey as I like him...he's a tough guy and a player. He was in there today again fighting at the top of the climb...and finished pretty high up...not too shabby whatsoever for a big strong-guy.

  13. Wow, what a terrible start to the Tour! Reportedly Fabian has new spinal fractures so he is off the bike for some time again -- I hope this doesn't lead to his retirement, he had already said this was his last Tour! Even worse, William Bonnet has a cervical spine fracture that was described as "multi-fragmented" but not life threatening -- let me tell you, he is one very very lucky young man because any displacement of a fragment WOULD be life threatening! Scary! and I believe he is the one I saw bouncing up to his feet as the crash occurred. So sad for Tom Dumoulin too, doing so well and out with a fracture. Gerrans, Impey out too. Can't believe that Laurens Ten Dam started today after having a dislocated shoulder popped back in on the side of the road! What a true hard man!
    Amazing how He Who Must Not Be Named escaped without any significant crashes all those years!

    Just like you can't warm up to TJ (he WAS excessively cocky early on, but although maybe still too confident he seems to have tempered a bit) I can't warm up to Froome. Even though he seems to be a really fine fellow in interviews -- I can't get over the skeletal, scarecrow visual of him on the bike!

    Yay for NBCSports, they are actually showing the Tour as they always have -- live, then 2 shorter repeats, plus the evening. So I can do things without missing a stage (except on my 12 hour work days, I just can't stay up until 11). I love watching the race SO much. And, I am really enjoying the work of Christian, Jens, Bob, and the other color commentators. Christian has really developed his confidence it seems, doing really well. I wonder if he will be working on becoming a race "caller" to take over from P&P? Although I think now that Phil intends to continue until he drops, I've seen Paul and Bob call other races without him.

    Settling in now for a little brekkie and stage 4! Enjoy! COBBLES!


  14. Rae...I think this last decade or so of Tours (and the utter carnage of the first week) shows how completely miraculous it was that the Devil (he who shall not be named) was able to win 7 in a doesn't matter where you are or how careful you and your team are...disaster can (and does) strike ANYWHERE at ANY MOMENT.

    I'm devastated that Fabian is horrible! I hope he comes back next year...and he was SO perfectly situated this year too...he could'a/would'a/should'a crushed todays stage...but now we'll never know. I also agree on Froome...I'm still having a hard time becoming a big fan. I can see his talent, but just can't get onboard that bus for some reason. Though I'm still closer to his fan-bus than TJ's. I'm having a hard time finding guys to root for these days...although I DO like Ryder....and was also rooting for him to step-up as a dark-horse outside threat..(he has the capabilities tho...we've seen that over the years).

  15. So upset/depressed about Fabian. Pretty much the ONLY race we Americans get to see him race LIVE these days is at the TDF & last year he left early & he skipped it entirely in 2013. So, I was really excited he'd be here this year & it even sounded like he'd ride all the way to Paris. And then, he got the Yellow Jersey! Whoo-hoo! Less than 24 hours later, catastrophe. How he was able to finish the stage, especially up the WALL, well, holy crap! That this is his LAST Tour makes it even worse. I'm hoping ASO will maybe change next year's Stage 1 to be a Time Trial, just to get Spartacus one more time! Of course, I know he would drop out early to prepare for the Olympics & World Championships, but a week would be better than nothing. sigh.

    I agree totally about the Green jersey competition. Should have been like this ages ago, but maybe they didn't want it to just be a "sprinter's competition"? BTW, I'm really surprised the sprinters & their teams haven't complained more these last 4-5 years as more & more sprint stages are removed from this race. I know you weren't a fan of them Matt, but I liked them for several reasons - great countryside viewing without having to worry every bleeding second that a crash will take out your fave riders, knowing that this respite (if you can call zooming along at 40-60K/hr on too narrow roads with 198 of your co-workers a "respite") helps most of the riders recover a bit for the insane mt stages, & of course, the craziness nailbiting of the sprint finishes.

    Speaking of countryside viewing - I get such a kick every year seeing what the local peoples do as the Tour zooms thru their town/land - tractors, animals, people that form "moving" bikes, etc. LOVE IT! Even the banners & paintings on fields & buildings make me smile.

  16. It did it again! Just ATE my comment after I hit publish!

  17. Try again! Hmph! *(^$%#@%^%^@#

    I don't want to say too much about TODAY'S STAGE 4 but it sounded exciting & Matt, you will be happy with the winner! Those Tour Gods - they take away & they give. Can't wait to watch it tonight! However, unlike you Matt, I'm NOT a fan of having cobble stages in a grand tour. MAYBE 2-3 sections would be ok, but the potential for disaster like last year is just too great. I know I watched the entire Tour as usual last year, but was bummed from the minute Contador had to pull out. I do NOT think a GREAT sporting event is when 2 of the probable podium guys are eliminated before the half-way mark. Actually, watching AC not keep up with Froome in the mts back in 2013 was pretty awful too (STILL can't quite figure out what happened that year with him).

    Speaking of Froome & Contador. The former definitely seems on better form than last year & Contador may be regretting "his" decision to go for The Double. I think maybe since he won the Vuelta last year (beating Froome) that he thought he COULD do 2 grand tours back-back. But he seems to have forgotten 2 things - his disastrous 2011 attempt AND that he only rode HALF the Tour last year & almost nothing in the mountains! Unless Froome cracks on a mt stage or gets taken down in a crash, I don't know who will be able to beat him. Of course, Quintana MAY be able to make up a bunch of time in the mts. And Nibbles & AC ain't dead yet. Meanwhile, TVG is looking the best we've seen him! I think he can really get a podium place this year IF his mt legs are as good as the Dauphine hinted! Fingers crossed!

  18. Hey Susie...your comment is here...(unless that one starting with "So upset/depressed about Fabian." isn't it?)

    In all honesty, I understand the reason for the "sprint stages" (they can call them "transition" stages too) does give the majority of the riders some down-time...but that's all up to the organizers. Was it Vaughters that said something about this years race is like having 9 spring classics in a row for the opening 9 days? But hey it IS good viewing...I'll give it that. (except for the crash yesterday...that was hard to watch). Maybe the intention of how the green jersey points were given was to TRY to get more than just the few hard-core top level sprinters going for it...make them come out from the peleton for mid-race sprints...but it didn't really happen that much...guys like Cav just let them go and save everything for the win. Which is actually a pretty good strategy...a win is worth more than the jersey in the big scheme of things...especially when it's more than one win.

  19. One more thing about Froome - I dislike him for several reasons but one is the way he LOOKS when he goes up a mountain - I swear, he looks like a Praying Mantis on a bike! Elbows out, hunched over, that weird spinning motion, just NOT attractive! ;)

  20. Just did it again! I was commenting that I had written another comment after the "so depressed" one & just like yesterday & last week, when I hit PUBLISH, it disappeared! VERY frustrating!

  21. Hey Susie, I have found that I need to do this to actually get to publish: when it asks "prove you are not a robot" I click that, then I click on EDIT but do not make any changes, then click publish. Seems to work every time.


  22. I'm coming in late after all your comments about the crash, Spartacus, Froome (I like the praying mantis imagery, Susie), so you've all said pretty much what I have to say, too. Everyone at work was asking me about the crash today - it was all over the news. It looked like a tornado had run through the peloton! So a few random thoughts:
    - Anyone else want to smack Steve Schlanger when he keeps pressing the same question on someone who obviously doesn't want to talk? Like Tony Martin last night.
    - Love the Roll-VDV combo in the booth. VDV has come a long way since he started - good thing he had the classics to train for the Tour!
    - Every year when I see Bob Roll I thank Fatty for getting him to shave his head.
    - I'm not a big fan of Contador, but he is so damn beautiful on the bike, especially climbing. Especially next to Froome.


  23. HOLY GUACAMOLE WHAT A DAY!!! A cobble stage doesn't HAVE to be disaster...and today proved it! ALL the fav's were right there at the end! And WHAT AN END! Tony Martin pulled a SPARTACUS!! And that was AFTER flatting, swapping bikes, riding like a MANIAC to get back on the BACK of the speeding front group, fight his way to the VERY FRONT, and then taking the flyer with a few K to go! It was just FABULOUS! I was YELLING at my TV for him to hold on! All I can say after that stage is that if Fabian wasn't able to win it, then that was the next best thing!

    And HOW ABOUT QUINTANA!! That guy weighs 20% more if he gets wet he's so small...yet he stayed right there with ALL the top guns and finished in the top group! I'm still hoping he can hang in there and gain time back in the mountains. It truly looks like we might just get that shootout....Froome and Sky are looking mighty good (for a praying mantis on a bike I mean...THAT is really FUNNY Susie!!!) TJ and BMC are doing pretty fabulous also....Contador right there with his team, and even Talansky/Cdale had a good day!

    I was thanking God the sky didn't open up right as they were nearing the cobbles (it looked like it might)...that was a would have been a totally different day had that happened...but we can be thankful it didn't. And Cav gained a few points back from me with how happy he was for Tony...NOW if the team puts him in position he BETTER DANG WELL WIN tomorrows stage! Oh..and how about Sagan!! Another fabulous day...working for Contador, single-handedly pulling back the entire chase group....and THEN having the energy to be right there at the finish for THIRD!! What an amazing young man he is!!

    Wow...I'm just gushing over the stage...I thought it was truly FABULOUS! I have to think THAT was what the organizers were hoping for.

    GAME ON!!!!!

  24. I KNEW you'd love that stage! And I have to say, that is a FAR more FANTASTIC way to get into the Yellow jersey! Not from some fluke second thanks to a teammate but from his OWN efforts to win the stage! AWESOME! And that he punctured right before the final section & he had to try like hell just to get BACK to the front bunch, well, that has made this a CLASSIC TDF win! I loved watching all the teammates embrace him & also the videos of the Ettix guys in the follow cars & bus.

    And hey Barbara - I KNOW, I'm surprised one of the riders hasn't tried to pop Schranger! He's become like 1 of those TMZ guys! So glad you're watching the Tour & chatting here. :) :)

    And thank Rae, but these weird times when my comment vanishes, I don't even get to the "Robot" part. Right after I hit the publish key, my comment will have just disappeared & the comment box is empty. I thought the 1st couple times it was because my comment was too long, but the 2 yesterday were short.

    Looking forward to another night of Le Tour! Although the weather was apparently nasty today. I HATE when it rains at the TDF - so fraught with peril for the guys & WE can't see clearly as the motorcycle lenses always get fogged/wet. But, like you said Matt, at least it mostly was dry yesterday on the cobbles. Thank GOODNESS!

  25. Pretty crazy wet-road pileup at the back of the lead group today (Stage 5)...what a bullet dodged by NOT having this rain yesterday during the cobbles...that would have been catastrophic. I heard that Cav publicly blamed Renshaw for leading him out too early in his sprint-loss in stage 3. REALLY Cav? You needed to say that PUBLICLY? The video clearly shows him coming around Renshaw right at the 250M point (in his blast on Renshaw he said he was left out on his own from 300M). Gee Mark...Griepel didn't have ANY leadout and he seemed to do just did Sagan AND Fabian. And then again TODAY...Cav lost Renshaw's wheel as they were around the 1000M to go point (I can't blame Renshaw for that...he doesn't have eyes in the back of his head, that's on Cav to fight and HOLD it). And when Cav did break out and wind up his sprint...well, it seems he just doesn't have it like he did 2 years ago. Griepel flat out-sprinted him AGAIN. And what about Sagan! Had he started his sprint TWO seconds earlier, he would have won I think...he was catching Griepel FAST! He is going to win a stage before it's through me-thinks. And honestly, we might not see Cav win any stages this year if his sprint has indeed slipped some (as it thus-far appears). Can you imagine if Kittel was here? It would be quite a fight between him and Griepel and Sagan (and again, consider Sagan was working all day for Contador just like the prior stages...making his finish all that more remarkable).

    Susie, you mentioned special stages you will take days off for...which ones are you targeting specifically? Just curious as I have NOT studied the stages to come at ALL.

    OK..bed time for the Mattster...July is always a month where I'm tired nearly every morning at work, as I'm staying up late watching stages.

    1. Hey Matt - Renshaw DID go way too early on Monday & then stopped pulling & went slightly to his right so Cav could go past him on the left. I have no problem with Cav mentioning it as EVERYONE else already did. Plus, he blamed himself too. Plus, Cav gets SO MUCH CRAP when he doesn't win a TDF sprint stage that it's only fair that when his other guys don't go perfect that they share in the blame. There are still times when I get disappointed or upset with Cav's actions or words, but Monday was not one of them. The pressure on HIM is SO much HIGHER than anyone else on his team. He's considered one of it not THE best sprinter of all time & is expected to win every time he gets on the bike (in a sprint). He crashed out of the Tour on the very 1st stage last year in his home country which just had to be devastating. And even though pro athletes rarely lack confidence (haha), he must know that his sprinting dominating days are numbered so he needs to win NOW. Plus, he has a team boss that CONSTANTLY TALKS TO THE PRESS that CAV MUST WIN or else he won't get a new contract or at least a contract close to his current salary. The only guy worse than Lefevere is Tinkov.

      I actually fell ASLEEP last night after 10:00 & woke up at 11:30. I was so pissed! I tried to stay away for the midnight broadcast but ended up falling asleep almost at the same place. Crap! I did see the clip this morning of the finish & Cav just got beat. It seems he lost Renshaw's wheel fairly early so was on his own & had no one to draft from, then he went but Greipel was behind HIM drafting & then shot around Cav for the win.

      One of the reasons I was so upset for Cav missing last year (ok, most) is that I knew his TDF sprint chances would start being very limited. And that's not even counting how the Tour is basically screwing this type of rider compared to the "old days". My goodness, there used to be 7-10 sprint stages in every Tour! From my 30 year observation, most sprinters lose their sprint ability in their early 30s if not sooner. Some struggle on but just don't really win much anymore (Petachi), many become another type of rider - Classics guy (Boonen & O'Grady) or road captain (O'Grady again). Only Robbie McEwen stayed mostly as a sprinter but his last few years were sad to watch. Cav was better than all of them as a sprinter & I don't know if he can really be a full-on Classics guy. I know he won Milan San Remo but he's not really built for the cobbles or hills so most of the Spring Classics would not fit him at all. Man, I was really hoping he'd break Eddy's Tour stage record & there is STILL a chance he can win 4 more stages in the next 3-4 years but it sure won't look or be "easy" like his 1st, er, 25. :) :)

  26. Sagan doesn't seem to have the "instinct" of the great pure sprinters - guys like Cav, ole Robbie, Cippollin seemed to know when & where to go to get over the line 1ST. Sagan is a better OVERALL rider than any of them but as a pure sprinter he's missing than 1 thing. Maybe it can be taught (or learned thru experience like Greipel) but I think instinct separates the good from the great.

    But today's stage is supposed to have kind of a hilly finish so YOUR guy has a great chance in getting over the line 1ST! :) :)

  27. Gotta go to a meeting. Will chat more later. :) :)

  28. Good observation about Sagan, Susie! He definitely has the talent but not the finesse.

    Spoiler! a TERRIBLE day for the race IMO, I can't figure out what caused T. Martin to swerve like that. Fortunate that no one else seems to have a significant injury but my heart is breaking for him. What is up with this race!!!??? Almost as bad as last year, we've now lost 2 maillot jaune in a row and both men who I will greatly miss in the race. I really like TMart and was soo happy to see him finally get that jersey.

    I've been hoping that Tyler Farrar would show some of his old spark (although, he never seemed to quite get it right either, even when he had the whole team riding for him) and be able to be a player in the sprints, but maybe I shouldn't cheer for him because then he would just crash out too...

    Well, Stybar lived up to his potential today! Did you know that he has been world cyclocross champion 3 times, along with his successes this season ( won Strada Bianche, 2nd at Paris-Roubaix) so this finish was right up his alley I guess. I don't hear him talked about much but he seems to be a new star for Quickstep for sure.


  29. Interesting finish today...I would have thought Sagan was a lock...but again a bridesmaid (that's THREE 2nd this year for Peter!) I agree Susie that he seems to be missing that instinct on when to go...but you can't deny he's a strong finisher...and consider he's still a "young rider". We'll see how he morphs as his career moves on in the coming years. Right now he's more of a Thor Hushvold kind of sprinter...not really one to take a full on bunch sprint, but he's a good bet when it's a tougher stage with climbs. And also consider that he's been WORKING for Contador in each of his 2nd places (and one third) this year.

    It's sad to think that Cav's time as the "Manx Missle" might be nearing it's his day, when he winds up in a 250-300m sprint NOBODY would be able to pass. He seems to have lost that top gear he used to have. Maybe it's just in hibernation and we'll still see it...I'd hate to think he could go this entire Tour w/ NO wins....I just don't see that happening. But nobody is going to GIVE him the day...he has to take it by force. I'd just be happier if he'd do what he did yesterday (nice one Griepel..or however he tweeted that one) and leave it at that. I think making excuses (even if they are true/partly true) is sad. BE the captain...take responsibility and move on...throwing your teammates under the bus won't help. You get beat, you get beat. There can only be one...everybody else is just finishers.

    The sad part of today is Tony Martin...when he went down, they had a camera on him almost right away, and he was holding his left collar bone area...then when they HELPED him on his bike, he held his left arm like it was in a sling all the way to the line...I (sadly) betting he broke his collar bone...he slammed down HARD on that shoulder in the slo-mo replay of the crash. What a horrible blow to him AND the team if he is indeed hurt...can't recall EVER seeing a Mellow Johnny not start the next day (and hey...I didn't get to see the podiums...did he even come up for his yellow? If so, how did they put it on? My DVR cut off just before Talansky came into the studio w/ the I missed that and everything after).

    And tomorrow is Stage first week almost DONE! It starts and all is well..and before you know it, the end is in sight. But for now, we're still in the early euphoria of le let's just suck it in and ENJOY! There's SO MUCH more to go...we haven't even seen a real GC shake-out yet..but it's coming! Any bets on the Team Time Trial this weekend? THAT should be interesting for SURE!

  30. Theme music for Tour de France, Week 1 - crank up some QUEEN :

    "Are you ready, hey, are you ready for this?
    Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?
    Out of the bunch, the cyclists rip
    To the sound of the beat

    Another one bites the dust
    Another one bites the dust
    And another one gone, and another one gone
    Another one bites the dust
    Hey, it will get you, too

    :) :) :)

    1. That's freaking BRILLIANT Susie!!! now I'll be singing that to myself all day long, and then whenever there's a crash! I might be cursing you soon...

  31. Yep, if I was NBCSN, I'd play that music going into & from EVERY commercial during the 1st week of the TDF! Anyhoo, Tony was the 2ND Yellow jersey in just this Tour to not be able to start the next day (Spartacus, we miss you!).

    When I saw the footage of Tony jerking his bike to the right, I couldn't understand what he was doing. Apparently, he touched the back wheel of the guy in front of him, who barely seemed to notice, but Tony then did that jerk-zoom to the right move which then took down Nibali & TVG & ALMOST Froome. Why on earth Nibbles thought Froome was the cause is beyond me except that he's now LOOKING for someone to blame for his troubles this year. Not a good sign for him.

    Well, the Tour Gods once again gave & then they took. Sad for Tony but at least he had a day for the ages on Stage 4. And a yellow jersey to dry his sniffles. AND Etixx won the stage! Goodness, if Cav had been winning the sprints, that team would have won almost every dang stage so far!

    And Matt, I realize it seems like Cav threw Renshaw under the bus, but they are mates & Renshaw said he went too early to the press before Cav did. Also, remember that the media descends onto Cav's team bus like a horde of locusts after every sprint stage, DEMANDING to know why he lost (or won, if he does). And many of THEM said to Cav - "Hey, it seemed like Renshaw went too early, do you agree, was that the problem etc, etc". Over & over. And then in the papers & on TV that night. And then the next morning & afternoon before the start. And even though Renshaw DID go too early on that stage, it's STILL Cav that gets the blame for losing as he's the star. On the 2nd sprint stage, Cav lost Renshaw's wheel or chose to leave it but he ended up in FRONT of Greipel too far out & that probably sealed his defeat right then as Greipel drafted off him & then zoomed past at the last moment. One tiny thing wrong & you can lose a sprint or it all comes CRASHING down. I'm telling ya, I've never understood how sprinters do it. And Cav has the added pressure of being "the best of all time" & is just EXPECTED the win every time. I remember something Fabian said 3-4 years ago after he didn't win either the Prologue or the ITT in that year's Tour - "I'm not a machine, I'm just human doing the best I can at any moment".

    As for TODAY - FRIDAY : don't want to give away too much but YEAH! Whoo-hooo!!! :) :)

  32. Hey Rae, I read an article about Tyler right at the start of the Tour (can't remember if on cyclingnews or velonews) & it said that he wasn't expected to be a sprinter at this Tour. His team wanted him to "educate" the new guys on being at a grand tour & maybe also try to get in some breakaways for some stages & maybe get in on the sprint action IF he was in a good position. I was happy to read that as I think Tyler's top days as a pure sprinter are probably over. But for a couple years there, he was the ONLY one who came close to beating Cav (& did on some days). His crashes/injuries /abandonments really killed his last few Tours (he's been away from this race 2 years now I think, maybe 3), plus age had now caught up with him. He seems like such a great guy, I hope he's able to continue as a Classics rider or "road captain" as long as he wants.

  33. I had to leave early for the dentist yesterday so didn't get to answer your question Mat, so here goes. The one stage I'm MOST looking forward to is the final Saturday, Stage 20 : Alpe d'Huez! Yahoooo! They were supposed to go up the Galibier 1st but they had to change the rte as there were landslides in the spring & they weren't able to repair the roads.

    As for the weekdays : the 1st mt stage (Pyrenees) is next Tues, 7/14 but even though I'm sure there will be "fireworks", I'm not taking time off as I can only pick so many days. There's just the 1 final mt on that stage. The next day, Wed 7/15 features the Tourmalet, then a long descent & then a final short uphill finish. I'll watch that stage LIVE at home but the NEXT day, Stage 12 on Thursday 7/16 features 4 mountains & the finish on HC Plateau de Beille & SHOULD be a honey! I'll definitely watch that one LIVE. In the 3rd week, there are 2 ALPE weekday stages that I'll stay home to watch LIVE : Stage 17 on Wed 7/22 (5 mts & finishes on a mt I don't know - Pra Loup) & Stage 19 on Fri 7/24 (4 mts & finishes on HC La Toussuire!).

    Stage 18 looks good too but since it's not a mt-top finish, I decided not to use vacation time for that one. There's ALWAYS at least on one stage that I don't think will be that exciting or impactful & it turns out to be both. Probably Stages 10 & 18 this year. ;)

    1. Thanks for the stage updates Susie...I really should peek thru the stages (but hey... that's what we've got YOU tell us which ones to watch live!)!

  34. Susie...looking at the helo footage of Tony's crash, here's what/how it happened (and it makes prefect sense). Whether it was Tony drifting right or the guy in front of him drifting left I don't know for sure (maybe a combination of both?), Tony "half-wheeled" the guy in front (he was not drafting but actually had his front wheel partly alongside the man in front's rear wheel. When their wheels first touched, that's when things quickly go tragically wrong. When that happens, suddenly your steering goes to the left (as your front wheel goes that way if you hit the left side of the wheel in front of you). That immediately throws off your vertical balance as you start to fall to the right. Tony was attempting very hard to steer to the right (his wheel rubbing) but the rear wheel of any rider has about 60 to 70% of their weight on it, and the front wheel has only 30 to 40%, so the front wheel is the one that always gives. AS Tony was attempting to steer right to stop from going down he was also slowing just a bit (probably from said wheel rubbing). The moment he had slowed enough (keep in mind this is all happening VERY fast) his wheel no longer overlapped and his steering slammed to the right....which was the violent move we saw where he crashed into the guy on his immediate right....and then the steel balls on a line-thing came into play as that rider slammed into his guy on the right, etc etc until there were no more guys on the right to crash-into keep them semi-upright, and they all go down like dominoes on top of each other (and anybody directly behind, such as TJ, slams into the instant-pile-up).

    I've never yet been down, but I have had that exact thing happen. Half-wheeling is very scary and dangerous....anybody who's ever ridden in a paceline knows the danger of this. ANY side to side movement of either rider can be catastrophic for the guy in back. In a peleton, everybody is overlapping everybody as there's no way NOT's honestly amazing that there aren't huge pile-ups like that multiple times every day...only their incredible reflexes and their skill from riding ga-zillions of hours on a bike keep them upright most of the time. IF nobody had been alongside Tony he might well have saved that and not gone down (he would have veered hard quite a ways across the road doing it tho).

    As to Cav's answers to questions and Fabians...THAT is the big diff to me...Cav says so and so led me out too soon, and Fabian just says I'm just a human being doing the best I can. If anything, Cav should say something like "WE made some mistakes and we'll study them and try to do better tomorrow". there you go should study that and practice it, and stick with it. WAY better than blame and excuses. Just IMO. THAT is partly why I have SO much respect for Fabian.

    1. Hi again! Compared to his early days when he would stomp to his bus, refuse to answer questions from the media & then THROW things around on the bus, Cav has come a long way! :) And right after that stage, Cav's 1st comments actually did NOT state that Renshaw went too early, just that he & the team made some errors & that they would try again. It wasn't until various media kept prompting him about "Renshaw going too soon" that he finally said it too. Plus, he wasn't being nasty or whiny about it, just matter of fact. And the reason I offered up that Fabian quote is that I thought what he said was so great & so very, very true - back in those days, Spartacus won almost every TT he entered & when he didn't, fans were shocked & the press hounded him - why, why, why?! And you know, Fabian could sometimes offer excuses with the best of them (weather changed, another guy able to draft off a motorbike). Also, an ITT is pure individual effort whereas Cav partly depends on his teammates & the actions of the other sprinters - possibilities for blame is all around. You know I love Spartacus, but the possibility of catastrophe is at least 10 TIMES more with a sprint finish than a TT. Sprinters are at least a bit nuts! :)

      I guess I can't change your mind but thinking back to his early years at the Tour & the amount of early failure at this one and that he hadn't had a TDF win since 2013 (when he lost a few to Kittel & had the cycling world agog then) and the INCREASING pressure to WIN, (& worry over a new contract), I'm actually amazed & impressed Cav hasn't spouted off. And he did take all the blame for the 2nd sprint he lost. Even when I thought it was also partly his team then too.

      Anyhoo, I can't imagine how the TTT will go Sunday when almost half the teams are missing 1 or more riders. Personally, I think it a mistake to have the TTT this late. And dreadfully unfair to GC guys who may have lost teammates. There COULD be big time differences because of the varying # of riders in each team AND the physical condition of the ones still here. I THINK most of the Fave 4 & TVG's teams are mostly intact & healthy but I've kinda lost track. But what if it had rained on the cobbles? Goodness, many teams could have lost multiple guys. ASO was playing Russian Roulette with their own race.

  35. Agree w/ the TTT this late in the game...they should have had the TTT for the prologue, then the ITT on Sunday. They really got lucky it didn't rain on the might have been really terrible. Even so, to have not one but TWO Mello Johnny bearers crash out in the first WEEK is pretty crazy! Can anybody recall when it happened last even once? I liked it that Froome refused to wear yellow today saying he was in 2nd place, that Tony was still in 1st until he doesn't show up at the start.

    I guess I have selective amnesia for Fabian making excuses...and it's not that I dislike Cav...I just remember his early days all too well (he had a lot of non-fans back early on from what I recall) but won them over with his rocket-ship sprint. I guess I just kind of miss the days of Robbie...when P&P would be looking for him and unable to find him somewhere in the mix, and suddenly he slips out of a tiny hole and wins it I don't really recall him working from a sprint-train. Ahhh...those were the days. Maybe that's why I like Sagan so much...he's working from the same playbook and mostly doing it on his own (mostly). And that he's working for Alberto, and maybe it's the lack of press coverage on him at this race, but I don't seem to hear about him crying over spilt milk very often.

    OK..time to skedaddle...have a great weekend everybody!

    Tour ON!

  36. Well.....Cav showed he's still got it...they did everything right and he came from BEHIND Griepel instead of leading HIM out...he timed it right and came around with power. And Sagan...once again, missed it by THAT much! He and Griepel are fighting it out for the Green jersey for sure! Though Cav did a bit of catching up with today's win. But for now, only 12 points separates Sagan and Griepel..with Cav back around 35 to 40 points. Tomorrows stage might very well be another chance for Sagan...won't THAT be interesting! If he can place high and Griepel isn't there again, he could jump into green. We will know soon enough.

    OK...we've got enough mileage out of this opening post..time for a fresh chalkboard.