Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tour Talk, final thoughts sum it all up in one quick sound-byte, it was a HECK of a Tour!

I loved it that Quintana FINALLY came alive in the Alps and made it a fight, showing the world what he's capable of in the BIG mountains. I also enjoyed it when Nibs attacked the lower placed guys and put THEM in duress (however controversial it may seem...whether it was right or wrong is debatable to the end of time and ultimately comes down to if you like him or not I'm afraid...and if you count lady Karma as a voting member, then she voted that his attack was wrong and he was punished the very next day losing time he so desperately fought to gain back).

I was EXTREMELY sad that TJ wasn't there to add his (and his teams) firepower to try to break Sky...MAYBE had they been there over those final Alp stages, they would have broken them sooner and MAYBE Quintana would have been that MUCH closer to the top step in Paris.

I loved it when ANY of the GC guys attacked Froome...Contador, Valverde, Nibali and yes, the new face of mountain-goatness, Nairo Quintana.

I LOVED it that after the carnage of the first week that ALL the pre-race favorites were STILL THERE! Name a year when that last happened (not to mention the sheer NUMBER of legitimate contenders this year!)

I thought there were some pretty epic of which sticks-out in my mind was when Jean-Christophe PĂ©raud (AG2R) had crashed pretty bad and was in the very back, and FINALLY when he got all bandaged up, started taking on a ton of water bottles to take back up to the team. THAT was a very class act for one of the real iron-men of le Tour.

TJVG stopping his bike on the climb, burying his head in his managers shoulder in the Alps was a moment that will stick with me for a long time...pure heartbreak for him AND the U.S. as he was our hope for a good GC place this year. After that Team BMC just seemed to disappear into the noise.

The crash of Sky's Geraint Thomas when he was clipped by Warren Barguil of Giant (says his hand slipped off his brake and suddenly overshot the turn)....Thomas was hit and basically stood straight up right in the apex of the turn, and he then went straight off the edge, over the rail, SLAMMING his body into that pole (or tree? can't remember which) looked REALLY BAD, but he got back up and back into the race apparently unhurt, only sad that he lost his favorite sunglasses in the crash.

The crashes of both Fabian and later Tony Martin, both wearing yellow at the time. Both of them got back on the bike and finished the stage, both in OBVIOUS pain... Fabian with a broken back, Martin with a compound fracture of his collarbone! Talk about IRON MEN! Those were two SERIOUS heartbreaks for their teams and us fans.

I loved it that we had a cobble stage that didn't decimate the peleton with crashes and injuries! (thank goodness it DIDN'T rain that day!)

I loved having time bonus's available at the finish...which really helped make the early stages more exciting as it gives GC guys a reason to not just sit and play it safe in the peleton.

Loved seeing Daniel Teklehaimanot of MTN Qhubeka wearing the polka dot jersey for a few days...the FIRST for an African! That helps remind us that anybody can become a pro bike racer, and it's great seeing their humble roots and having their small town/village anywhere in the world come together to recognize THEIR heros! Quintana has the very same thing going for him. I really like Quintana...he seems like such a quiet little guy, seems to ALWAYS be smiling!

Gosh....I'm sure there are DOZENS of more good and bad moments but right now my brain is on overload. What are YOUR memories of this fantastic Tour? What will you still remember about this Tour NEXT year?

And now sadly it's over...this moment we knew was coming ever since the FIRST stage, and never fails to be sad (however, now I can get to sleep earlier every night).

And Susie, you SERIOUSLY need to get yourself a DVR for next year! I drug my feet for YEARS thinking I really didn't need one, until I was at my brother in laws farm back in VA and he SHOWED ME why I did in fact NEED one. And I do mean NEED...not WANT. There's a BIG DIFF. You won't catch me without one from now on, that's for sure. I am in TOTAL COMMAND of whatever is on the TV...and can watch what I want WHEN I WANT! I wouldn't even bother to have a TV if I can't have a's THAT important!

And that's all for now. Thanks for showing up everybody and making this years Tour talk the best that I can remember! The rest of the year I really miss this daily chatting we have going on, much like the old (and I mean OLD) days....WAY back at he who shall not be named's site. Gosh...that seems like a lifetime ago that he brought us all together. He's written a number of books since then...busy guy.

OK. That is all.

Tour off.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tour Talk, the final week's true....the Tour is suddenly in it's final week, and then in the blink of an eye will be gone for another year. In it's wake will be all the memories, both good and bad. The heroes, the villains, those with good fortune and those with bad. The suspicions (as that's all is at this point) has to wonder if the suspicion of good performances will EVER go away? I can't say...all I do know is that IF Froome and Co. ARE indeed riding clean, then the world owes them an apology (I heard during the Sunday broadcast that sometime during the Saturday stage someone threw a cup of urine on Froome). THAT is pretty sickening, no matter what you think of someone. I think it was Bobke who said something like "you didn't see any of this when the French guys were high up in the GC" (speaking of last year when they finished 2nd and 3rd to Nibbles). I'd like to believe Froome...I really would. But he's just SO much better than all the other GC contenders that I'm having a hard time with it. But I'm not damning him either...I'm going Switzerland on him...staying as neutral as I can.

One good memory from this Tour will be Peter Sagan. That man has become the Energizer Bunny of cyclists. He's been in nearly every break that isn't a full-on mountain stage, and then after spending all that energy all day grabbing the intermediate sprint-points, still has the grits to place high in the sprint finish. When he was chasing Plaza down the descent to the finish in Stage 16, I was shouting at my TV hoping he would do it. He was a descending FIEND for sure, dropping everybody in the breakaway...but as the grade lessened his chances disappeared. Finishing second (yet again) a distant 30 seconds from what would have been his first Tour stage win in years. Once again, it was not to be...but certainly not for lack of trying. He was wearing the red "most Aggressive rider" number on Monday, and if it were up to me he'll be wearing it again on Wednesday in the Alps. Oleg seems to be happy with his performance, but we have no idea what is said behind closed doors. I have to think he's upset that Peter still hasn't gotten any wins, even though barring disaster in the Alps he'll wear the Green all the way to the end in Paris.

OK...get ready for the final week. I believe I can speak for EVERYBODY when I say that we are ALL hoping for some GC action...a shakeup (not via injuries though)...some competition for the FIRST podium spot, not just 2nd and 3rd. Hoping that TJ can come thru with his plan to attack and regain lost time. Hoping Quintana and Valverde will make it HARD on Froome and Sky. Hoping that Contador has regained his Giro fitness and is finally ready to fight Froome all the way to the top of every single climb. That the teams of the contenders gang up on Sky and break them FINALLY. In short, I want this to become a race again with no certain winner, and multiples of riders having a shot at the podium. And finally, in Paris on the Champs...I am hoping for a grand finish of sprinters doing their thing. And personally, it wouldn't bother me at all if Sagan were to somehow steal that show (the odds are very high AGAINST that happening, as it's always a stage for the "pure" sprinters). It's truly a shame that Kittel didn't come this year...his presence in the bunch-sprints would have made those stages all that much better. But he's not here, so no use speculating. Griepel is the man this year, with Cav seemingly having lost his extra gear he used to have. Will he be able to pull it off in Paris? If so, his Tour will end on a high note and should go a long way in easing the sting of the FOUR losses to Griepel.

We will know all this soon enough. In the meantime, let's enjoy the Alps!

Tour ON!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Tour Talk, week Two

Just like that, 7 stages are done. We are one third of the way through this years Tour! We've had lots of excitement, carnage and heartbreak thus far...including TWO riders wearing yellow abandoning AFTER finishing the stage. Has anybody heard anything at all about Fabian and how he's doing with his re-injured back? We know that Tony Martin had his surgery bright and early this morning and was watching the stage on the TV from his hotel room (he tweeted and emailed a picture even). He must have been quite happy to see Cav finally get the humongous silverback Mountain Gorilla off his back and win the day. And even though I'm not a huge Cav fan, I'm still happy for him and the team.

I AM however a huge Sagan fan, and will be anxiously watching Stage 8 to see if he can pull off some magic and take over the green jersey from Griepel (let-alone if he could possibly win the stage). A lot will depend on how much work he does for Alberto throughout the day. Obviously the team is giving him a reduced workload and protecting him as best they can without sacrificing anything for Alberto, as the overall yellow in Paris is obviously THE goal. Anything else (as long as it doesn't put Plan A at risk) is just icing on the cake. He has been having some fantastic results nevertheless (that's three 2nds and two 3rds after stage 7)....and consider that's with NO dedicated lead-out train whatsoever, AND after working for Alberto and the team most of the day. He's being paid a lot of money, but I don't think you can get a better value than that. It would be fantastic if he can win a stage, and I'll surely be rooting him on.

The race is really going to start heating up this week, as the GC guys will finally have to come out of the pack and show some cards. I'm SO VERY EXCITED that ALL the GC guys (and then some) are STILL in the race and (as far as we know) healthy and ready to rumble! Froome is right where he wants to be sitting comfortably in yellow. TJ (who I considered a dark horse) is RIGHT THERE not only knocking on the door, but already INSIDE the door sitting on the couch drinking a beer. He sits at a paltry 13 seconds back which is pretty fantastic! Alberto is also in a great position at only 36 seconds back. Nibbles has a bit more work to do, sitting at 1:36, while Valverde and Quintana sit at 1:51 and 1:56 respectively. Purito has climbed from obscurity in the pack and sits just behind Valverde and Quintana at 2 minutes flat. I never really considered him as even a dark horse pre-race, but he's showing that he IS a Grand Tour contender.. And then Talansky sits just back of him at 2:39.

Realistically, barring disaster up front with the fantastic 4 (or 6, or 8 even?) Talansky has almost no shot even at making the podium. That's a LOT of time to gain against the VERY BEST in the sport. And even Purito, Valverde and Quintana have am extremely tall order to get up into the top 3 (I hadn't considered Valverde pre-race as a podium contender, but he has shown he still has the fire and is capable) We'll see what happens on Movistar when the going gets can't have two leaders without suffering morale problems. The first one to blink will quickly find himself as a super-domestique. I believe Quintana will be able to drop Valverde like a bad-habit in the steep stuff.. but hey... it's the Tour...and ANYTHING can happen on any given day, and about the only thing I know for sure is that the current order won't last...and that we are in for surprises and changes during the next 2 weeks.

Take a breath for a moment and consider that we currently have EIGHT potential podium guys withing 2:39 of the lead going into week 2! That's got to be THE most exciting crop of possible winners surviving the first week in memory! The tour has changed so much in the last 10 to 20 years...the first week has become SO difficult to get through unscathed with most of your team.

And speaking of teams, let's not forget the Team Time Trial on Sunday...there will certainly be big winners and losers in this crop of protagonists. This might very well be THE most important TTT that I've ever seen! Add into the mix the time bonuses available at the finish lines every day (except for TT's)...and OMG are we in for an BATTLE-ROYALE all the way to Paris!

Hold onto your hats, it's going to be a WILD RIDE!

Tour ON!