Sunday, July 16, 2017

le Tour, the final 7 stages

Here we are, fully 2/3rds of the way thru this years grand debacle. We've got a very tight grouping of FOUR GUYS for the GC win...29 seconds! That's amazing, and I can't ever remember such a thing since I've been watching. Knowing this means this final week could very well promise some extremely exciting racing! And on the 'glass is half empty' side, boo hoo! We ONLY have 7 stages left! In a blink of an eye it will be over and the PTD (Post Tour Depression) sets in.

I'm still "bach'ing it" as Jeannie is back east on her annual 'girls vacation' (which we both have decided July is a good time for her to do that, as she can't STAND to hear P&P, and for 21 days that's all we have here in July!) So this works out best for both of us...I have unlimited TV time w/ the boys, and she is out having fun w/ friends and family and MISSING the entire's a good system!

For a bit of catch up, Cal Fire has our local fire totally under control...I think they're calling it 95% contained, meaning they still have some crews putting out/watching for hot spots, but the rest of the OVER 2 THOUSAND 'boots on the ground' crews have been moved to other fires (about 30 to 40 miles south east we have the Whittier fire which is still going like's down by Lake Cachuma). On Friday afternoon I could see the huge smoke plume from that fire when I drove out to the base to pick up my muffins n stuff  (it was my 'every other Friday off, and I'm still fundraising for World Bicycle Relief so needed to gather my goodies and put them in the refrigerators for the weekend,  and then go to get groceries at the commissary). On the Alamo fire (the CLOSE on) they had all those ground troops, 5 aerial 'slurry' bombers, and 5 water-dropping helos. It was the biggest fire in California for a few days. I rode my bike on Friday morning on Santa Maria Mesa rd (runs east/west just below the base of some of the scorched hills)...they hadn't yet opened up Tepesquet Canyon Rd (which the fire crossed before they got it under control) but it is back open to the residents to start moving back in.

And speaking of the Alamo fire, here's a panorama I made looking over some vineyards at some of the hills that were burned (this fire burned 30,000 acres). You can see the hills are black starting on the left and going about 2/3rds across to the right, where you can see hills that are still 'brown' and didn't burn. Just a bit to the right of the not-burned hills is Tepesquet Cyn rd that goes north into the burn area (which I hoped to ride but isn't yet open to the public). I'm on Santa Maria Mesa rd (goes east/west) heading back into Santa Maria (west) where I took these pics.

OK..enough on the fires. This weekend I DID manage to replace the entire suspension on my old 2003 Jetta has 260,000 miles on it, and the suspension was still stock (meaning that it was LONG GONE). I didn't realize how bad it was as it slowly degrades over time and you really aren't aware of it until you put in new stuff. HOLY COW! I'm suddenly NOT bottoming out on small rocks and dips in the road anymore! But I have to say, what a huge PAIN changing out those McPhearson Struts are in my garage without a lift and a full professional set of special tools (I was able to 'borrow' the spring compression clamps from Auto Zone thankfully, instead of BUYING them). But I got it done..whew! The rear shocks and springs were rather easy in comparison (did those on Friday afternoon). But it's all good now, and I installed a nice Koni set w/ lifetime warranty (not sure Koni realizes that I may take them up on that in another 10 to 15 years when they get a letter asking for free replacement struts/shocks as I hope to STILL have my car!)

Weather is pretty good here of late (summer time).I was able to get in a nice road ride yesterday morning w/ my local Cycle Star crew (Cycle Star is a local bike shop about a 1/2 mile from my house). Scott Clark is the owner and he hosts a Saturday morning ride every weekend right from his shop, where he welcomes riders of all abilities. He really caters to the newer riders, teaching them the basics of group rides as they increase their skills and learn how to ride in a group. He's a FANTASTIC rider (used to race, and is STILL one of the stronger riders in the entire area). The more advanced riders always get plenty of time to 'play' on all the climbs and descents, and we frequently regroup so nobody is ever left in the 'wind'. ON longer rides he always has shorter loops available for the newer riders that aren't capable of the longer distances. Anyway, here's the group photo one of the guys took on top of "Rim Rock", a local 20% grade section (after the stage where Froome lost the yellow the other day he wanted everybody to realize how HARD a 20% grade is, so he took the group on this loop....NICE!).

 I'm 4th from the left. Scott (the owner of the shop and host of the weekly ride) is in the middle, 7th from the left. The guy on my left (in the red/black kit) is Tony G, probably the best mechanic in town (he works over at Main Street Cycles, our local Trek dealer...Cycle Star sells Cannondale and Giant). Tony is a big guy and as such isn't a fantastic climber, but boy, get him on flats, rollers or downhills and he's FANTASTIC! (and on a mt bike he's an absolute DEMON descender!) On our way back into town Tony split the group (as usual) as he can really plow into the wind like nobody's business (he claims it's all 'the bike' as he rides the new Trek Madone aero road frame w/ the sweet Bontrager deep dish carbon wheels...benefits of working at a bike shop). I was one of the guys 'caught out' by his acceleration as our group fragmented, and had to soldier on alone to the next regroup point. Like Aru, I should have been closer to the front, knowing he was going to go fast.

And that's a wrap from here. Time for me to go watch the current Stage (15). Go Bardet and Martin!!

Viva le Tour!


  1. Stage is in the history books, and WOW! LOVE these kinds of stages...mountains but not crazy mountains...great breakaway with LOTS of drama, and HUGE drama back in the peleton! LOVED AG2R's well planned attack! I was really rooting for them to hold it...and a tiny bit of bad luck for Froome but he recovered nicely (darn it, but well done). And then at the end, WAY TO GO DAN MARTIN!!! Gosh I just love that guy! He is the new Jensie...shut up legs and GIVE IT A TRY! That he jumped a spot in GC is awesome! I'd love to see him jump another one or 2 spots (or more!) in the coming days.

    Tomorrow being the 2nd rest day he gets a chance to heal some more...and we can all hope he comes back even stronger! It was nice to see that GC group was pretty much EVERYBODY today...even including Alberto and Quintana (who are pretty much out of contention even for the top 5 barring disaster for other teams).

    OK...gotta go finish my chores and prepare for Monday (urgh!).

    Viva le Tour!

  2. Wow....stage 16 was a knifefight! What a brutal stage! Climbs, winds, attacking teams almost from the start, NO often do you see THAT? Sunweb wouldn't let one get formed...they kept the pace so high that no break could succeed...and they executed their plan for Matthews to perfection...50 points to Kittels ZERO! Only 29 points behind in the green jersey competition...LOVE IT! (though I miss Sagan and still think he was royally gypped!) And the GC battle...oh, poor Dan Martin today...caught out by the wind just a teensy bit too far back when the groups split. Strange how that works, and no matter how hard you try, you just can't get back to the front group. So sad for him...he's been SUCH a fighter! But Aru, Bardet and Uran are all RIGHT THERE with Froome! Tomorrow should really be something...can they crack Froome again and take ANY time from him? Time is running out...and any comers need some time on him before the final TT the day before Paris if they want any shot at yellow.

    Ladies and gentlemen, we have a REAL RACE on our hands...woo-hoo!

    Viva le Tour!

  3. Today's going to be a BIG day (in more ways than one)! Will Mathews get up the road to take the 20 points intermediate sprint? Will Aru, Bardet and/or Uran attack and get any time back against Froome? Will Kittel SURVIVE the day (he wasn't looking so great yesterday, and today's MUCH harder)? For the answers to those questions and more, tune in for the next edition of Soap!

  4. I'm in the midst of watching stage 17 and it is another great stage! I keep hoping that Contador can make an attack stick but so sad, he just can't. Just finishing the climb of Galibier...Froome holding his own so far, but Uran and Martin sticking with him...

    But those commercials have passed the annoying point. I need someone to explain the end of that Land Rover ad to me -- what do the aquatic vehicles have to do with anything? Are they rescuing the people in the car? Do they just happen to be racing by? Does Land rover make boats?

    And, just one day after I told myself to be grateful that the horrible Axe deodorant ad hasn't appeared, today there it was... I am sure making teenage boys everywhere afraid to touch themselves anywhere on their bodies because it's "weird".

    Really have to admire Bling Matthews, he's shown a lot of gumption this TdF!

    I mentioned at work yesterday that I have been watching the tour, and one of the young men co-workers told me that he has been also, for the first time, and just bought himself a bike too hoping to get into riding (not racing); so he was popping into my rooms all afternoon asking me to explain the team dynamics, the jersey competitons, etc He had no idea that there is a long season with many races including 2 other grand tours -- I was so happy to be able to share my enthusiasm!


  5. Wild hard stage yesterday....the abandon of Kittel didn't surprise me, he's not been himself the last few days. What IS interesting is Steve Perino talked to the Quick Step director after Kittel pulled the plug and was told 'his abandon wasn't because of his crash earlier in the stage, but rather from something that happened on the rest day'. When Perino asked what that was the director said 'you will need to ask that to Kittel'. HMMMM! So what the heck happened on the rest day?

    Good finish yesterday...the final 2 climbs were brutal, and it was fun watching the top GC guys all there. And Dan Martin...that guy is just amazing! He is the new Jens...attack is always the answer. Loved it that Uran pulled tied w/ Bardet and Aru is back...(not a huge fan for some reason). I'd sure like to see Bardet and Uran gain some serious time today on the final climb...but I doubt it...Froome and the Super Team look pretty fantastic.

  6. Well, Stage 18 is in the history books, along with it, all the mountains in this years Tour. Boo Hoo...always sad to see the mountains go. We have a sprinter stage (hopefully) tomorrow, an ITT and the ride into Paris on Sunday. I was hopeful Bardet and Uran could gain some time back on Froome today, but he was just untouchable. Dan Martin list a bit more, but he sure tried. He's the new Jens...attack!

    It was quite exciting to see Barguil give it a whirl from the yellow jersey group and pull back 7 minutes and WIN the final Mt stage wearing the KOM jersey, how fitting and well-earned! And he's up to 8th idea what kind of TT he will ride, but if he's any good at all he might be a full-on contender in a year or 2.

    So I'm done watching the stage earlier than yesterday (and the day before, and the day before)...the Tour always wipes me out (HA HA! I'm just WATCHING it, not RIDING it, and I'm still wasted!) Bailed out on my Thurs after-work-ride today to get home earlier so I could get to BED earlier. 4am comes awfully early when you were up LATE. But it's almost over...tomorrow is my last EARLY wakeup this Tour...which is very bittersweet. to le Tour!

  7. Sorry I've been absent, it's been just thing after another. The cable box or cord on my main & only HD TV died last Friday & so I was not able to watch the Tour on a big HD screen again till late Tuesday. I missed a morning of work for Comcast to FINALLY get out to my house & I have no idea if the guy fixed it correctly or not. I KNOW he lied to me about several things. The only other working TV I have is in my bedroom & it is an old non-flat screen, half the size as my main TV & is not HD & the color is off & I can't see the small print on screen. I was NOT happy!

    I did take yesterday as vacation time & enjoyed the stage at home. SO BEAUTIFUL even if no action till the end! I've been rooting for Rigo (Uran) for the past 2 weeks so am happy he's in podium position. It seems Aru has not been the same rider this week - don't know if he's been sick or what but that stage where he lost the YJ was the 1st sign. I was very sad & shocked that Dan Martin missed being in the front the day it was very gusty & everybody expected a split & thus he lost a chunk of time after clawing back seconds almost every day. Who knows how he would have finished without being crashed into by Richie.

    I have to give it to Froome - even though this was his LEAST dominating win, I am actually more impressed, for example, that day when he had the wheel problem & had to come ALL the way back after AG2R was going full gas? Of course, without his strong team that still had riders ahead of him to help he would have lost the Tour that day, but HE still had to pedal all the way back up. I just thought that was super impressive.

    Speaking of Froome - do you think this is the beginning of his age-decline? He's 32. I'm not saying he can't win another Tour but he definitely is not as strong as before. And look at Contador at 34. If Bardet improves his TT, he will only become more of a YJ threat. Especially if they design a course with even less TTs than this year. Quintana will come back even more determined after this year's debacle & Richie & Dan have at least 1 or 2 years efforts in them. Oh, & there's Tom Dumoulin! And MAYBE even Tejay can get himself back into Grand Tour fighting shape. I can't help wondering how the Tour would have played out this year if Richie had not crashed. Geesh, I know that will just drive you crazy but I can't help it.

    And even though I was not TOTALLY shocked when Kittel abandoned as we all could see he'd been struggling for several days, I was STILL shocked that the Green Jersey actually quit the race only 4 days from Paris without being hauled away in an ambulance. Right?!

    Even though there were tons of surprises in this Tour, I don't think I want them to design a course again like it too soon. I like MT-TOP finishes! The more the better! And honestly, for me, any year without the Alpe d'Huez just isn't a great Tour.

    And Rae, you make me laugh about the commercials! I don't know what the Land Rover one is trying to push but I like that one guy in the middle of the next seat back - the one with the headphones & he closes his eyes - he's a cutie! And don't you like the GEICO commercial - Running of the Bull DOGS! I bet SOPHIE must like that one, Matt! :) When all those bulldogs come charging around that corner, I laugh every time.


  8. (Contuinued from above)

    Hope your family had fun on the Yellow Brick Road, Janann! You'll have to tell us more about that next week or after your West coast trip.

    And Matt, you've been GREAT keeping this site going! You have nothing to apologize for! I disappeared months at a time as things at work have not been great the past 3 years but I still love to stop by to read anything you put up. I hope all us can keep chatting. :) :)

    Alrighty, I have to get going. Have a great time watching the final 2 (3 counting tonight) stages, everyone! Luckily, I think my PTD (post-Tour depression) will be held off at least a bit by the Swimming World Championships that start this Saturday & last all next week.

  9. Well, Stage 19 is done and done. A typical flat stage except for the closing k's...SO happy for DiData and BosHog! He really deserved a win...he really got screwed w/ that 'loss' by .0003 to Kittel...there's NO WAY their equipment is sophisticated enough to determine that. Bob and Christian both mentioned it...if the camera is not EXACTLY centered on the line, it will skew the results one way or another depending on which way the camera is off. .0003 is three TEN THOUSANDS of a second. Even the most sophisticated equip would have a hard time. It SHOULD have been a tie. But he got it today with no doubt, awesome that he got a gap off the round about and took it to the line from there!

    Susie, I do think this is the beginning of Froome's decline...we saw it with just can't hold your unbeatable form forever. He cracked for the first time EVER. Sure he's been up to the task of keeping Bardet, Uran and Aru in check, but JUST BARELY! 23 seconds going into Stage 20? 29 to Uran? This is not the same Froome we've come to know. And you know what? I LIKE this Froome much better...last year he FINALLY showed that he's NOT a robot with his 2 attacks (one off the top of the climb, the other w/ Sagan in the wind). We hadn't seen that side of him before. This year we've seen he used his INCREDIBLE team to their limits and still BARELY leads.

    And as Christian alluded, one flat tire, one miscalculation on a turn and crash and it could very well lose him the race. And also they've ALL been on their "A" game for almost 3 weeks now...these are NOT the same riders who did that opening ITT. So even though everybody THINKS Froome has it locked, that may not be true. Bardet or Uran may well have the ITT of their LIFE knowing what's at stage, and MAYBE Froome won't be able to match it. Sure, it's not likely, but possible.

    And we go...stage 20 tomorrow. The race of TRUTH. What is the TRUTH? We'll know tomorrow afternoon.

    (oh, and also Susie, OMG, losing your TV DURING the Tour? I'd be SO PISSED! Glad you got it fixed in time, and I also quite enjoyed yesterday's Mt top finish stage...don't think I ff'd any of it (except for that stupid Range Rover commercial that they must show 50 times a day!) And all the other commercials too mind you...the beauty of a DVR. What commercials?

    Viva le Tour!

    The game is ON!

  10. The TT is on right now (Taylor is sitting in the hot seat w/ the best time so far, and what a goof...he's a total riot!)...just some thoughts I've been meaning to jot down. I can't help but wonder how much Sky is paying Landa and Kirienka to keep them on the they BOTH could be obvious podium contenders on a decent team. They are BOTH phenomenal climbers AND TT'ers...pretty much the mix of ingredients required to win in Paris (which is why someone like Quintana will likely never win...he's just not very good in the TT). Can you imagine what Landa and/or Kirienka could do if they were protected by a decent team and then turned loose on the big climbs? Just look at what they've each done to the other teams riding tempo on the front...they've decimated the peleton and left nobody but the other top contenders. Hate to say it, but I'd LOVE to see those guys go out for themselves...can you imagine next year, contenders being Froome, Bardet, Uran, Martin, Porte AND Landa and Kirienka? Jimmeny Crickets...That's SEVEN actual true contenders! And with Froome on his slow spiral down from his top game, the others have caught up. Next year could really be something (it will anyway, but the other teams need to beef up their support just a tad).

    OK...back to the TT!

  11. Oh shoot, I even forgot about Thomas! He's been gone for so long I totally forgot about him...that's THREE of Froomes team that could very well be podium on a decent team! That makes EIGHT contenders if they all were to leave! (not to mention how much more vulnerable Froome would be without those three guys...can you IMAGINE Froome on an 'average' team? THAT would make it more fair!

  12. And Stage 20 (the ITT) is also in the history books. WOW! Didn't expect Bardet to fold so badly...really thought he'd be a BIT closer than that. Uran however did FANTASTIC! 7th OVERALL! Sure he lost more time to Froome, but WOW! And Froome's teammate Landa was a MANIAC! And NEXT YEAR he's on a different team! (not sure who yet, but it's been announced he's going elsewhere). Whoever that team is, hopefully they build a TDF core team around him, he is definetly a threat for podium! Missed THIRD by ONE SECOND! (and quite honestly, as Christian said, there ARE gaps in teh finish if Bardet isn't up front and only needs ONE small gap to open assuming Landa stays up front w/ Froome tomorrow). Hats are off to Uran and Cannondale for the awesome job they did, total surprise podium place for sure!

  13. Cannondale has surely had a great tour, above anyone's expectations I am sure! I had sort of lost interest in the team but perked up and got excited when I heard they signed Van Marcke and Phinney for this year -- even though they already had some solid riders, including Uran, it seemed that they didn't have that something but they seem to have found it!

    Uran used to ride for Sky also, remember a few years ago he was another like Thomas et al -- super domestique. I wonder how much of their success comes from the synergism of the team, will it carry over if/when they leave? It seems to have taken Uran a couple of years to find his footing. Thomas has surely blossomed this year.

    Giving credit where due to Bardet, I think this was the best TT he could pull out of himself; the NBCSports team kept saying that he wasn't great at the TT! I am a fan now for sure and hopefully he will work at it over the off season. BTW, is he the rider who a couple of years ago was having a problem with fear of descents?

    Susie, hope your TV was working fine now -- I am glad that I took your advice and got the HD a few years ago! Oh, I can FF through commercials too, when I'm not watching live, but I'm usually multi-tasking while the race is on so I don't bother.

    Well, with some of the time honored traditions of road cycling seemingly fading, I wonder if that of the last stage being a parade into Paris will see a little change? If I were Bardet I would keep my eyes in the back of my head wide open!

    I will be sad that the Tour is over, as always, but there is plenty more cycling in the season (although I don't give the rest of the season the same attention that I give the spring classics and the Tour) Seems that there has been a new race organized for Colorado, only 4 days though.

    Happy Sunday, all!