Sunday, October 11, 2009

2010 Season

Now that the 2009 season is complete and I have taken my obligatory 2 weeks off from training it is time to start focusing on the coming year. This is a tentative schedule for next year and events can (and will) be added or subtracted based on how they fit into the overall Master Plan for next year. First some goals for the coming season.

  1. Run better off the bike-this has been an issue with me for many years and quite frankly I am sick of not running near my potential off the bike. I can run 1:26 for an open half marathon so I see no reason why I can't run 1:30-1:35 off the bike.
  2. Become a better swimmer-tired of the swim being a liability and having to go hard on the bike to make up time. Going to Masters 2-3 times a week and swimming on my own another time should take care of this.
  3. Raise my Functional Threshold Power to over 300 watts-besides going faster on the bike this will also set me up for a good run by going faster at a lower % of Threshold Power/HR.

Notice there are no "win my AG at such and such a race" or "break 5 hours at a HIM" as goals. If I take care of those 3 things then the AG placements and time goals will take care of themselves and even if they don't I will be personally satisfied with my performance if I feel like I raced to my fullest potential at my A races.

Now the "list":

  1. Wonderful Days of Winter 5k (1/2/10)-great race put on to benefit the preschool at our church
  2. Museum of Aviation Marathon (1/16/10)-flat 2 loop marathon around Robins AFB. Target is to Boston Qualify (under 3:15) and if I feel good maybe go under 3 hours.
  3. Tybee Island Half Marathon (2/6/10)-going to run and support my wife for her first half.
  4. Tundra Time Trial (2/20/10)-out and back time trial on the Silver Comet. Always a good indicator of preseason fitness (or lack thereof).
  5. Jog for a Cause 10k (3/13/10)-flat 2 loop course around North Point Mall area. Target is sub 39 minutes.
  6. ING Half Marathon (3/23/10)-hilly half marathon around downtown Atlanta.
  7. John Tanner Sprint (4/24/10)-fun sprint tri to open the season
  8. Gulf Coast Triathlon (Half Ironman) (5/8/10)-A race. I need to bring it for this one. Nuff said.
  9. West Point Lake Olympic (6/?)-Fun Olympic race in Lagrange GA.
  10. Peachtree Road Race (7/4/10)-world's largest 10k.
  11. Alaskan Cruise to celebrate 10th Anniversary (6/20-27/10)
  12. Chattanooga Olympic (7/?)-By far one of the best races in the Southeast. Target is to qualify for Age Group Nationals later on in the summer.
  13. Age Group Nationals-(8/?)-This year was brutal, hopefully next year won't be.
  14. Augusta 70.3 (9/26/10)-A race. I have a score to settle with the run course here.

The A races are Museum of Aviation, Gulf Coast, and Augusta. The rest are B and C races and will be added or subtracted as warranted by training.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

2009: A Season in Review

After a few weeks of doing absolutely nothing I am starting to feel the itch to get back at it and start training again. During the last 2 weeks I thought alot about this past year there were things that went very right and things that went very wrong. The good thing is that I seemed to have learned from both and I am ready to apply those lessons and have a great 2010 season.

Those of you who are fellow triathletes/endurance athletes know that the "season" doesn't exactly follow the calendar so my 2009 season actually started on Thanksgiving at the Gobble Jog in Marietta. Running off of residual fitness from 70.3 Worlds a few weeks earlier I was able to finally break the 20 minute barrier for 5k running a 19:50 and winning the M35-39 Age Group.

The first race of the 2009 calendar year was the Wonderful Days of Winter 5k the first of January. I had a couple of my Cross Country kids to chase (at least for the first mile or so) and ended up besting my 5k time carding a 19:15 good for 8th Overall and 1st M35-39 Age Group. The rest of the Winter/Spring race season was equally as good and I was able to set new PR's for every distance (10k-39:50 Jog For A Cause 3rd Overall/1st M35-39, ING Half Marathon-1:26:51).

As April started I was starting to feel very confident for Duathlon Nationals at the end of the month. I was hoping to qualify for Team USA and be able to race at Duathlon Worlds in Charlotte in September. I made some major errors that weekend that you can read about in my race report over to the right if you are interested. Short version is that it was hot as the surface of the sun and my race went very poorly. Needless to say I didn't make Team USA and my confidence for the rest of the season took a major blow.

Two weeks later was the Gulf Coast Half Ironman in Panama City Beach, FL. This was my first Half Iron in 2003 and I have done this race every year since except for 2005. I was looking to exact some revenge on this course for my poor showing in Richmond and felt confindent that I was going to have a good race. Again if you are interested in the details you can read my race report which is archieved to the right of this post. The short version is that the swim was either long or the currents were bad because everyone had a slow swim, to make up for the slow swim I went entirely too hard on the bike and then ran about a half mile out of T2, turned back around and turned in my chip for a DNF. What little confidence I had left was completely gone now after another poor showing.

The next weekend was the Brasstown Bald Buster Century ride in the North Georgia Mountains. While not a race, it is a very tough ride encompassing 11,000 feet of climbing over 100 miles and finishing at the highest point in Georgia, Brasstown Bald. The ride lived up to its billing and the last 20 miles were as tough as I have ever ridden, but I finished and reclaimed a little bit of lost pride.

West Point was the next event on the calendar and I was excited to get back out there and see if the changes I had made to my training plan were the right ones. Short story is that the swim was a little long (storm the night before blew the buoys off course) but I felt great on the bike and run. My finish time was almost exactly the same as 2008 but given the long swim was a much stronger effort.

My most sucessful triathlon of the year turned out to be the Sgt Audie Murphy Sprint triathlon at Ft Rucker Alabama. This is a small race (only about 200 people) that is put on by the Ft Rucker MWR at Lake Tholacco. I spent some time at Ft Rucker during my years in the Army and still have a few friends down there so it seemed like a great reason to go down. I ended up 2nd Overall and would have won had the Army not brought in their ringer from the All Army team. It was still a ton of fun and I plan on doing it again next year.

Due to the fact that I had run a sub 40 10k earlier in the year I was able to get a sub seeded number for the Peachtree Road Race. Normally the Peachtree is not what I would consider a PR type of course since it is a bit hilly and there are people you have to run around even up front. Fortunatly I didn't have to dodge too many people and was able to PR running at 39:41.

I had signed up for the Cardinal Harbour Half Ironman earlier in the year since we were going to be in Kentucky visiting at the time anyway. I knew that the course was going to be tough since it encompassed the majority of the IM Louisville bike course and had an upstream/downstream swim. Fortunately we had unseasonably cool weather roll in for race day and it turned out to be a fantastic race.

The TRI Peachtree City Sprint is one of my favorite races around. Kim Bramblett and her group do a great job of putting the race on, and the course is very fast. I felt like I was in great shape and was really hoping to get a Top 3 Age Group. The swim was fast, the bike was fast, and the run was solid. I was 1:15 faster than 2008 and ended up 17th Overall and tied for 4th AG, 25 seconds out of 3rd, 45 seconds out of 2nd and 1:01 out of 1st.

The week after PTC was IM Louisville and I went to spectate with a couple of friends. I had 4 athletes doing the race and many more friends who were doing the race also. It turned out to be a great weekend and everyone who competed had a great race. Even though I didn't compete I still had the "Ironman Hangover" and really had a hard time getting out the door to train. This wouldn't have been a big deal except that my season wasn't over yet and I still had Augusta at the end of September.

Augusta was a big disappointment but it was my own fault for not training properly leading up to the race.

Overall the 2009 season had more highs than lows and it's true that we all need to have bad races to truely appreciate the good ones. I hope to take the positives and the failures of '09 and build on them to have a great 2010.

My goals for 2010 are to become a better swimmer (going to Masters to remedy that situation), be more disciplined as an athlete (having a coach instead coaching myself should take care of that one), and run better off the bike (see previous statement).

Thanks again for reading. I hope that those of you who compete had a great 2009 and an even better 2010.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Augusta 70.3 Race Report

Ok here it is....the good, the bad, and the mostly ugly about my race at the inaugural Augusta 70.3.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon about 2pm and made it into the pre race briefing just as the doors were closing. The emails and phone calls that we had received in the weeks prior to the race stated that we wouldn't be able to pick up our race packets without first attending the mandatory pre race briefing, so naturally I assumed that there would be some important last minute instructions or something to that effect. In reality it was a rehash of the information that was already on the website, but the meeting didn't last too long so it wasn't a big deal. Packet pick up was relatively easy and we were out of there fairly quickly. After packet pickup it was off to the transition area to drop off our bikes. I was pleasantly surprised at how big the transition area was and how much room we had on the racks for our bikes and gear. One of my biggest fears coming into the race was that we were going to be jammed in like sardines on the transition racks since there were almost 3500 people registered for the event. After racking the bikes it was off to one of our friends father's house for dinner (you know who you are and thank you again for having us over!). Now this is where the story gets interesting, I was invited to stay at said friends father's house on Saturday night but had called the hotel to and made a general inquiry about cancelling my reservation and was told that I had to give 24 hours notice to cancel. Since I was already paying for the hotel I returned to Augusta and went to check in only to be told that they had no reservation for me. I checked with the other hotels in the area to make sure that A) I hadn't made an error and gone to the wrong hotel and B) to see if I could find a place to stay for the night. Well there were no rooms available at this particular cluster of hotels so I was about to call back over to our friends house to see if the invitation still was available, but it was after 9 pm and I thought everyone might be in bed already. Now if this wasn't already bad enough it had started to monsoon outside AND I was missing the Georgia game. About 9:30 I found a room at the Super 8 off I-20. It wasn't the greatest place but I was thankful to have somewhere to sleep. Since it was the Super 8 I didn't think that they would have ESPNU on their cable selection and I was right so I listened to the rest of the UGA game on the little clock radio that was beside my bed. The Dawgs won and I went to sleep.

Race morning started out well, I woke up in plenty of time and had my plain bagel with Nutella for breakfast. When I walked out of my hotel it was still pouring rain, but eventually stopped before I got to transition. I parked with no problem and walked down to transition and began to air up my tires and set up my transition area. I was one of the first people into transition so I was able to set up my area and then relax for awhile until it was time to catch the shuttle down to the swim start. I went down to wait for the shuttle to the swim start which was down about 1/4 mile from transition. There was a pretty good line already forming so I stood there and chatted with a few friends that were also waiting to board. The first few buses came and went and the line seemed to be moving at a fairly good pace, then for some reason the busses started stopping before they got to where we were waiting (which was by the sign that said shuttle bus stop), so we waited for someone to wave them forward but they continued to stop short of the sign. By now it was getting pretty close to swim time for me and so I walked down to where the busses were stopping and got back in line. The next group of busses went to the original sign (where I had just walked from) so I walked BACK down there and was able to get on the next bus. It sounds like a lot but it really wasn't a big deal and I actually remarked that if this was the worst thing that happened today then we would all be OK. I got down to the swim start, hit the port o potty for the last time and put on my wetsuit.

SWIM-The swim started off of a dock in the river at the Marina. The pro's dove in for their start but we Age Groupers had to jump in and put our backs against the dock until the horn sounded. I jumped in and was able to take a few practice strokes before we started the race. The water was a cool 69 degrees so the full wetsuit was a good call. The gun went off and we started down river, with the 1/2 knot current, in wetsuits, on an (allegedly) short swim course. If you didn't PR this swim you have some serious issues! The water was surprisingly clear with the exception of some river weed (you can't really call it sea weed since it's in the river) and I got into a groove and felt great the entire swim. The swim exit came up really quickly and I looked down at my watch and saw 26 minutes for my time (which is just ridiculous since my 1.2 mi PR is from 70.3 Worlds last year was 33 minutes). I ran up the boat ramp and around the corner to transition ready to have a great bike. Total Swim Time- 26:25

T1-Transition was good. Wetsuit came off easily and I was able to get in and out with no problems. T1 time-3:10

Bike-I knew the bike was going to be an adventure since my training for this event was less than optimal (and I am being kind here). My plan was to really hold back on the bike and have a good run. I thought that since I was undertrained for the race that I would experiment with some pacing ideas and see what happened. In the past I have had a pretty average swim, super fast bike, and then hang on for dear life on the run. At Cardinal Harbour in July I was forced to hold back a little on the bike due to the difficulty of the course and that resulted in a 1:40 run off the bike which is a PR by 10 minutes. Even though this course was not very difficult I knew that my bike fitness (or lack thereof) would not permit me to hammer out a sub 2:30 bike which is what I am always going for at this distance. The bike started off flat and on good road surfaces so I was able to settle in to what I thought was a sensible pace. I had let one of my athletes borrow my Garmin 305 so I had my 310XT on my wrist as my only means of speed/HR etc. It quickly became a pain to roll my wrist over every few minutes to check HR so I decided to go by feel and pace that way. I felt like I was holding back the entire ride and was very pleased at how effortless the bike was feeling. When we hit the hill in front of the Savannah River Nuclear site I shifted down and easily rode up staying in the saddle. I did this for every incline on the course and was feeling like I was going to have a great run off. The last 5 miles were kind of rough because of the headwind out of the west, but I was still holding a good pace and my legs felt good. I really enjoyed this bike course and can't wait to ride it again next year when I am actually in good shape. Total Bike Time-2:36:38 (21.45 mph)

T2-After I got off the bike my right hamstring cramped up, but it did that at Cardinal Harbour also and I had a great run so I didn't think too much of it at the time. I was in and out in a flash. T2 Time-1:28

Run-I exited T2 at an elapsed time of 3:04 which was the fastest I had ever done the swim/t1/bike/t2 portion of a 70.3 race (to be fair the swim was 7 minutes faster than my PR and 3:06 at Gulf Coast was my previous best). I knew that if I had even a moderatly crappy run that I would break 5 hours which has been a goal of mine for the last 3 years. I could not have anticipated what would happen next. I started off at a good clip (~7:20 mile) for the first mile and slowed to about a 7:30 mile for Mile 2. Then the wheels fell completely off and I had to walk at Mile 3. After those first two miles by body decided it was done for the day eventhough I had another 11.1 miles to go to the finish line. The run became less a matter of turning in a good time and more a matter of just surviving to the finish. The run being a two loop course was both a blessing and a curse. It was great to see friends on the course cheering for you twice, but at the same time it was a bit humbling to be walking in front of them. I thought my legs were going to come back to me about Mile 7 but that lasted for about 1/2 mile then I was done. Mercifully the run was finally over and I crossed the finish line. Total Run Time-2:13:49

Total Race Time-5:21:30

Post Race-Right after I crossed the Finish Line one of the medical personel asked me if I was alright. I told her I was but I don't think that she believed me so she followed me over to get my medal. I started feeling a little light headed and so I went over to the med tent and sat down. They took my blood pressure and found it to be 60/40 (which is evidently not good) so I had to lie down on a cot and elevate my feet. After about 45 minutes and an IV bag of fluid I was feeling much better and my blood pressure had returned to 94/60 which is normal for me. I went over to the NAMC tent and sat out in the sun for about an hour until I started feeling better.

Overall this race was about what I expected from a performance stand point. My monthly totals for September look more like weekly totals normally. I thought coming out of T2 that my run fitness would at least allow me to run a 1:50-1:55 but I guess I burned up too much energy on the bike. After hearing about everyone else's massive PR's on the day I was angry with myself for not preparing better and embarassed at how I had performed. Needless to say this is what is going to get me out of bed to go to Masters when it is freezing cold outside or motivate me to push a little harder on those Power Intervals in February. Never again will I allow myself to be that under prepared for a race.

The race itself was fantastic. I can't say enough good things about the city of Augusta, the production of the race or the race course itself. I highly recommend this race and will definitely do it again next year.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Tour In Summary

First let me apologize to you all for completely dropping the ball on the last 3 stages of the Tour. I was on vacation and was having a hard time watching the Tour much less blogging about it. The race is over and we all know what happened and how each of the last few days played out on the road so recapping each day would be pointless. Instead I am going to offer my thoughts on what transpired over the 3 weeks and how I see things shaping up for the remainder of the season and next year.

First the Good....

  • The revelation of this year's Tour has to be Bradley Wiggins. Wiggo was able to stay with the big guns in the mountains and while not TTing as well as he has in the past he was still good enough for 4th place. If he continues to work toward the Tour for the next 2 years as he has said he would, Garmin has two legit Grand Tour GC guys in Wiggo and Vande Velde.
  • Lance's return-The guy is 37 and has been out of competative cycling for almost 4 years, yet still manages to return and finish on the podium. I think that his time away really hurt in the mountains where he was dropped by Contador and the Schlecks a couple of times and 10th and 14th in the two Time Trials would be completely unacceptable to the Lance of old. It will be interesting to see how he and Johan build Team Radioshack for next year and if another full year of training will make a difference in the 2010 Tour.
  • No postive doping tests (so far). Was this really a clean Tour or did the next generation of undetectable doping product make its debut? I really hope it is the former and not the latter.
  • Cavendish's six wins. The guy is virtually unbeatable inside of 200-250 m to go. He won on flat sprints, an uphill finish, and on Stage 20 where there was a Cat 2 climb near the finish. This is also a huge credit to the Colubia-HTC team for showing how teamwork and selfless dedication produce results.
  • Contador winning his second Tour and making it 4 Grand Tours in a row overall. The guy is a real douchebag but you can't argue with what he can do on a bike. He out TT'ed the best guy in the world (Cancellara) and out climbed everyone in the mountains. That is a combination that is hard to beat.
  • The "also rans" of the Tour. BBox, Skil-Shimano, and Agritubel all were very active in the breakaways and managed to get a few stage wins in the process. They all gave the Tour organizers exactly what they were looking for when they were invited.
  • Rinaldo Nocentini-Pulled a "Voeckler" and wore the Maillot Jaune for 10 days. His career is set from now on.
  • The Schleck brothers-Both had a great Tour and climbed very well. Andy did a phenominal job in the final TT to secure his second place position on the podium. No doubt Andy will win the Tour sooner rather than later.
  • The Bikes-Giant, Scott, Specialized, and Trek all rolled out new TT bikes for the Tour and they were all HOT!! The Giant bike (Trinity SL) will be available to consumers next year. You can bet I will be riding one as soon as they come out.

The Bad

  • Cadel Evans-One of the strongest individual riders in the Tour, his team let him down (are you reading this Contador??). This coupled with his incessant whining about how weak his team was really turned alot of people off to him as fans (myself included).
  • Denis Menchov-Classic example of how hard the Giro/Tour double is to accomplish. A combination of not being recovered and just plain bad luck made this a Tour to forget for Menchov.
  • Alberto Contador's "tactics"-he was obviously riding for himself and himself only in the mountains. To quote a certain 7 time Tour winner..."There is no "i" in "team". Without the team you don't win." And you certainly don't attack your own teammates twice!
  • Garmin-Slipstream pulling back the Hincapie break to the point that George was out of yellow by 5 seconds. Easily the winner of "Douchy-est Move of the Tour" award. There was no reason for it other than to prevent Columbia from having the Yellow Jersey for a day.
  • Only three mountain top finishes in the entire Tour-I understand that by design the race was supposed to be decided on Mt Ventoux and to a degree it was (at least second and third place were), however I feel like the organizers took too much of the sting out of the Pyranees and Alps by only having one summit finish in each. I would have liked to see another ITT in the second week also.
  • Carlos Sastre-Paging Carlos Sastre, Sastre, S-A-S-T-R-E. Was he even in the Tour this year? I can't recall another year where the defending champion was more anonymous.

The Ugly

  • Jens Voigts crash-Here's to hoping big Jens is fully healed and back on the bike soon. He is a great guy and a great rider. I got to meet him at the Tour de Georgia in '04 and he couldn't have been nicer.
  • The infighting at Astana-even though publically it wasn't there, privately we all could tell what was going on. It is hard to have more than one rooster in the hen house.
  • Levi Leipheimer crashing out of the Tour- Levi was riding strong when he overcooked a seemingly innocent curve and broke his wrist. Lance lost a valuable ally in the mountains and Levi may have lost a podium position as well.

The 2010 season seems to be shaping up to be a great one. The introduction of a new American team (Team Radioshack), Alberto vs Lance vs Wiggins vs The Schleck brothers, the Tour of California moving to May and competing against the Giro.

It will also be interesting to see who comes over to Team Radioshack with Lance and Johan. From everything I have read Levi, Kloden, Popovich, and Zubeldia are following from Astana. You have to assume that Chris Horner will do the same as will Jani Brakovic. After Jonathan (D-bag) Vaughters public statement of "all of our riders are under contract and loyal to the team, blah blah, yada, yada, meow, meow" it will be interesting to see if anyone jumps ship over to Radioshack. I don't see Vande Velde or Wiggins leaving since they are both team leaders on Garmin and would be support riders at Radioshack. I also don't see Tom Danielson leaving since Johan never gave him the opportunity to ride the Tour, but in fairness neither has Vaughters. Dave Z is the only one I could see maybe moving over, but again he and Johan didn't have the best relationship at US Postal so that one is a pretty small possibility as well. It could be some of the younger developmental riders leave and jump over as Taylor Phinney did last year.

All in all it was a great Tour and I really hated to see it end. For those of you who are newer cycling fans I encourage you to watch the Vuelta Espana (Tour of Spain) on Universal Sports. It is a 3 week Grand Tour like the Tour de France but without alot of the big names and not as good of scenery.

Until next time thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Goodbye to the Alps

The 2009 Tour De France said good bye to the Alps with and epic stage from Bourg-Sainte-Maurice to Le Grande-Bornand that featured FOUR (count'em FOUR) Category 1 climbs and a pretty nasty Cat 2 climbed sandwiched in between. This was the day that the climbers had to make their move to take back some time from the Astana duo of Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong who sat in the top two places overall. The day began with a large breakaway of 13 going clear almost immediately on the first climb. This group held until Thor Hushovd (who also happens to be on my VS Fantasy Team) came across and went clear on the second climb of the day. Hushovd would stay clear and pick up points on the two sprint lines to all but secure the Green Jersey. The real battle of the GC men didn't start until the 3rd Category 1 climb (Col de Romme) when Carlos Sastre launched an attack that had a small gap but was quickly nailed back by Lance. On the slopes of the Col de Columbiere Andy Schleck launched an attack that dropped everyone except Contador, Andreas Kloden and his brother Frank. The Schlecks traded pulls at the front trying to put time into the second group on the road which was made up of Lance, Brad Wiggins, Vincente Nibali, and Christian Vande Velde . Vande Velde gets the teammate of the day award for burying himself to keep Wiggins in contact with Armstrong and Nibali. Meanwhile at the front of the race Contador launched another inexplicable attack and succeeded in dropping only Kloden from the group. Continuing with the attacking theme Armstrong put the hammer down on Wiggins and Nibali after Vande Velde ran out of gas with about 5k to go to the summit. There was really no way that Lance was going to be able to bridge over to the leading group as he did yesterday, but it was important not to lose too much time to the Schlecks before tomorrows ITT. The Schlecks and Contador finished in the same time so there was no time gained or lost between them, however Armstrong and Nibali (who came back on the descent) were able to catch Kloden and actually pass him for 4th and 5th place. Wiggins was 3:07 back of the stage winners so the Schlecks will have a bit of breathing room for the Time Trial tomorrow.

The way I see things there are six riders fighting for the three podium positions: Contador, Armstrong, A. Schleck, F.Schleck, Kloden, and Wiggins. Sastre, Evans, Menchov and any other rider mentioned as a pre race "favorite" are done. At the end of today the standings look like this:

1) Contador
2) A. Schleck @ 2:26
3) F.Schleck @ 3:25
4) L. Armstrong @ 3:55
5) A. Kloden @ 4:44
6) B. Wiggins @ 4:53

After the TT tomorrow I expect them to look like this:
1) Contador
2) Armstrong
3) Kloden
4) A. Schleck
5) Wiggins
6) Nibali

I don't expect Frank Schleck to be in the Top 10 after the TT tomorrow. The time gaps are 1:31 from Armstrong to A. Schleck in 2nd position and :30 seconds to Frank Schleck in 3rd so I can't see where either of them can hold Lance off. The gaps to Kloden are a bit bigger (2:18 to Andy and 1:17 to Frank) but very doable for a TT rider like Kloden. Wiggins is the X factor here and one would expect him to crush everyone except for Cancellara, Contador and possibly Armstrong and Kloden. It will be interesting to see how much time he makes up on the Schlecks and what position he is in for the Mount Ventoux showdown on Saturday.

The route is doing exactly as the Tour organizers intended and keeping the question in doubt until the next to last day on the Ventoux. I still would like to see more mountain top finishes in the future and one more ITT in the second week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stage 16

Finally I am home and able to watch the Tour in HD as it was intended to be viewed!

Stage 16 started off with a nasty climb up the HC Grand St Bernard almost from the get go. Franco Pelezotti went out with 12 other riders from various teams to consolidate his KOM lead and did just that being the first over both climbs of the day. The fireworks started on Le Peteit St Bernard with Saxo Bank coming to the front and upping the tempo to an insane pace shredding what was left of the peleton and setting up Andy Schleck for an attack on Contador and the Maillot Jaune. Contador was able to respond to the attack along with both Schleck brothers, Wiggins, and Andreas Kloden. Surprisingly Lance Armstrong was dropped by the big acceleration and seemed to be in difficulty, but in typical Lance fashion he hit the remainder of the peleton hard on a steep portion of the climb and was able to bridge across to the leaders and maintained his second place. The big loser of the day was Cadel Evans losing almost 3 minutes to the leaders by the end of the stage.

Tomorrow is the last stage in the Alps and it is a nasty one with 4 Category 1 climbs and one Cat 2 climb sandwiched in between. It's time to separate the men from the boys!

Lumping It All Together

Forgive me for my less than steallar posting of the past few days. I was out of town and did most of my posting from my Iphone which is less than ideal. This is a post to tie the last few days together and prepare for the home stretch of the Tour.

Sunday's stage 15 to Verbier was a classic....unfortunately my wife's Aunt doesn't have the Versus channel so all I saw was the highlights :( All I saw was Contador attack and no one else able to go with him.

The rest day saw Alberto Contador in yellow for the first time since 2007 and Lance Armstrong in second 1:37 back,with the big surprise of this year's Tour Bradley Wiggins 2 seconds back in third.

Stage 16 has two large climbs but also has a 30km decent to the finish which should allow anyone dropped on the climb to get back or limit their time losses to a minimal amount.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

You Can Be Competative Without Being A Douchebag

Stage 14 on paper looked like it would be a day for the sprinters and everyone expected a Cav/Hushovd/Farrar shoot out at the finish line. As with every stage the breakaway went and everyone expected them to be chased down, however something interesting happend. Big George Hincapie was away in the break and at one point was the Virtual Leader on the road. Everyone who follow cycling knows the career of George and how he was a faithful lieutenant to Lance on all 7 of his Tour wins. It look at the 10km mark like there was no way that the peleton was going to close the gap and George would be in Yellow. Then a funny thing happened. Garmin-Slipstream put three guys on the front for no real reason to do tempo in the last few k's of the race. For Garmin there was no tactical advantage nor was there a strategic mission for them to do work on the front of the peleton, other than to keep George from getting Yellow. Ag2r had already done all the work they were able to do and had shredded their team in the process. The gap still was at 6+ minutes when they pulled off the front so they weren't going to pull the time back on their own. Columbia still had intentions of leading out Cav for the 13th place points but were holding back as much as possible to protect George's lead. I don't know who made the call for Garmin to get on the front (Matt White or Jonathan Vaughters) but it was a douchy move to put guys on the front for no reason. I have lost alot of respect for Garmin who are the "we do it right we do it clean" boys. Well guess didn't do it right today.

Mountains start tomorrow!

So I Was Wrong....

The rain and cold pretty much neutralized today's stage. The temperature hovered around 50*F all day with heavy rain at times. No one really seemed to want to race in the slop the breakaway was sucessful and Heinrich Haussler was able to solo to a 1st career Tour win.

Tomorrow looks like a day for the sprinters.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Calm Before the Storm

Stage 12 was another low key stage. According to George Hincapie's Twitter "there were alot of tired legs out there today". The stage started quickly with the peleton covering 48 km in the first hour. Several small groups tried to get away but were brought back by the group until one group at 80km in managed to get some separation. The stage was lumpy enough that the sprinters teams didn't want to come to the front and close the gap, AG2R either couldn't or didn't want to bring back the group so the advantage swelled to over 6 minutes where it stayed until close to the finish. Nicki Sorenson attacked the break and was able to solo the last 5km and take the stage win.

The fight for the Green Jersey was exciting today as Mark Cavendish went out for intermediate sprint points on the course with Thor Hushovd right behind. Cavendish was also able to outsprint Hushovd and Farrar for the remaining points at the finish. With a lumpy stage tomorrow and the Alps starting on Saturday the chances for Sprinters to pick up points are dwindling.

I expect some shennanigans on tomorrows stage with a few Cat 2 and one Cat 1 climb in store. The GC men should come out to play on tomorrows stage.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It's Groundhog Day Again

It's Groundhog Day again! Another day another Cav win.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Stinker In Every Bunch

Every year there is at least one stinker of a stage in the Tour and today happened to be that day. A 4 man break went early but never really got away and the peleton rode a very easy race until the last 20km. In cooperation with the UCI the Tour banned the use of two way radios during today's stage as an experiement to see if it would spice up the racing. Well from my perspective it didn't change the stage in any way, shape, form, or fashion. Cavendish won in a bunch sprint which was pretty much a foregone conclusion at the beginning and the GC remained unchanged.

Let's hope for better racing tomorrow!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rest Day...What Have We Learned?

Lucky you (yes you there drinking coffee and surfing the net) today is your lucky day. Two posts for the price of one!

Today is the first rest day of the '09 Tour so let us take a few moments to reflect on what we have witnessed over the past 9 days of racing and look forward to what we can expect over the next two weeks.

  • Armstrong is back! Any doubts about his form or how his body would respond have been answered during the first week. He was able to stay with everyone on all the climbs and has even chased down a breakaway on his own.
  • Cav is unbeatable in the final 200m of a sprint. 2 stage wins already and a stint in the Green Jersey. I expect at least one more win this week with a couple of flattish stages on the menu.
  • The Tour is pretty much over for Evans, Sastre, and Menchov. Their teams really let them down in the TTT and it has buried them so deep that barring a catastrophic occurance by Astana and Garmin they basically have no shot at even being on the podium.
  • Astana really is as good as advertised, now can they keep the internal power struggle from imploding the entire team. The way I see it Contador's bush league attack on Stage 7 only helped to solidify the team behind Armstrong. Going in you could divide the team into Lance, Levi, and Popo on one side and Contador, Pauhlino, and possibly Zubeldia on the other side with Kloden, Murayev, and Rast being Neutral. Now I honestly don't know if anyone other than Pauhlino is on Contador's side. If push comes to shove it will be interesting to see how things work.
  • Christian Vande Velde and Brad Wiggins are having great rides and I really hope that it continues for them both. Garmin is a great team and it is good to see them doing well.
  • The French have to be ecstatic about how the Tour has gone for them so far, 3 stage wins, a KOM jersey and a Maillot Jaune (albeit an Italian rider on a French team).
  • I am still sticking by my prediction that Levi will end up on the podium and could possibly still win the Tour. If Lance and Alberto are marking each other don't be surprised if Levi goes up the road and steals some time.
  • Week 1 is in the books and no doping scandals (I hope I didn't just jinx it).

What to look forward to next week

  • The semi mountain stages on Thursday and Friday (Stages 12 and 13). If Evans, Sastre or Menchov want to get back into the Tour these stages could be fun to watch. Also you could see Armstrong or Contador for that matter launch an attack to steal some time before the Alps start this weekend.
  • More Cav wins. Tuesday and Wednesday should be bunch sprints.
  • Stage 15...the Alps...mountain top finish...Verbier. Nuff Said!
  • Another week of clean racing (could we be so fortunate?)

Thanks for reading my posts over this first week of the Tour, I have really enjoyed writing each of them and I hope that you come back for what is sure to be an exciting Week 2.

A Summary of the Pyranees

In lieu of doing an individual recap and break down of Stages 8 and 9 since nothing of real note happened I am just going to do a recap of the Pyranees in general. Stages 8 and 9 were very similar in that they featured huge climbs that were so far from the finish that they didn't cause any of the GC contenders to get any closer or drop any farther behind. Give credit to Cadel Evans for attacking early on Stage 8 (I can't believe I actually just typed that) even though it was shut down pretty quickly. On Stage 9 a large group went off the front early and were chased down by none other than Lance Armstrong himself, after that though the "right" break composed of 13 riders were able to get away and eventually the stage was won by Fedrigo of BBox in a 2 man sprint with Pellizotti of Liquigas. At the end of both stages there were no changes in the GC.

If I were giving grades for route design the Pyranees would get a D at best. The one stage that did feature a mountain top finish (Arcalis) wasn't all that hard of a climb as evidenced by the large number of riders still around at the end. Stages 8 and 9 featured some gnarly climbs, but they were so far away from the finish that they had no tactical significance at all. When you have an 80 man bunch sprint for 3rd at the end of a mountain stage then you know that it wasn't that hard of a day (by Tour standards).

Rest day on Monday and then a few transitional stages get us to the Alps.

Friday, July 10, 2009

And So It Begins............

Today the Tour started in earnest for the contenders, Stage 7 started in Barcelona and finished on top of the HC Arcalis. After an early morning break built up a lead of almost 13 minutes at one point, the peleton with Astana on the front started to pull back time. It was almost a given that the break would succeed and that barring something extraordinary from Fabian Cancellara, Armstrong would be in yellow at the end of the stage. Astana decimated the field and by the official start of the climb (which was actually 10k after the road started to pitch up) the field was in shambles and the breakaway's lead had dwindled to a mere 7 minutes. Young Brice Fellieu of Agritubel attacked and went clear of the break with less than 5k to go to the summit. By this time it was obvious that the peleton (or what was left of it) would not catch the breakaway and it looked as though the main contenders would ride to the summit together, however in an attempt to gain back some of the 3 minutes he had already lost Cadel Evans launched an attack which was quickly covered by Lance. Another Silence Lotto rider went off the front and it looked as though Astana was content to let him go when Alberto Contador launched a counter-attack and went over the top of the attacking Silence-Lotto rider. Andy Schleck and Evans tried to nail back the gap, but once Contador goes he GOES and no one was going to catch him. Lance playing the loyal teammate sat on Schleck and Evans to the finish line and lost 21 seconds to Contador in the process. Lost in all of the favorites attacking was the fact that Rinaldo Nocentini became the first Italian in 9 years to wear the Maillot Jaune.

Tactically Astana could not be in a better position teamwise. With Contador, Lance, Levi and Kloden all in the Top 7 they have all of their Aces yet to play. Kudos to Bradley Wiggins for a fantastic climb today and also to Christian Vande Velde for hanging with the favorites in the mountains. Cadel gets thumbs up for FINALLY attacking and not being a wheel follower as in years past (if he had done this once in each of the past two years he might be the two time defending champion). I will preface this next statement with 1) I am a Lance fan and 2) I want him to win his 8th Tour. That all being said in my opinion Contador gets the douchebag of the day award for the late attack. There was no reason to attack other than to put time into Lance plain and simple. The Lotto rider that went clear wasn't close on GC and posed no threat, Cadel had tried to attack and it had been neutralized, and Andy Schleck seemed to be in no shape to launch an attack. Contador went clear knowing that Lance wouldn't chase down an teammate and that he could at least take back the time he was behind and possibly grab the Yellow Jersey. If it were me I would put the hammer down on Contador in the next two days (assuming Lance is capable of doing so) just to show him who is boss.

Like sands through the hourglass so are the Days of Astana....the soap opera continues.

Stage 6

The rain showed up on Stage 6 from Girona to Barcelona, Spain. There were several crashes the most serious of which involved Michael Rogers of Columbia-HTC. At last report Rogers did not have any broken bones as was scheduled to start Stage 7. Here's hoping that Rogers is able to continue with the Tour, he is a strong rider and a great Time Trialist.

There were no changes in the GC on today's stage as the peleton finished together in the rain. The finish had a nasty little uptick the last 2km and it looked like David Millar of Garmin might stay away and win the stage, unfortunately he was caught about 500 m from the finish and the "God of Thunder", Thor Hushovd powered around Oscar Friere to win.

On a somewhat related note, Barcelona has to be one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. After watching yesterday's stage I really want to go to Spain and ride.

Mountains start tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thomas- Freaking- Voeckler!!!

Stage 5 looked like it might be a little squirrelly at the beginning with the crosswinds and narrow roads and true to form there were crashes and splits in the peleton. The day however belongs to the definition of "random French dude" Thomas Voeckler. Those of you who have followed the Tour for a few years may remember Mr Voeckler spending 10 days in yellow after snatching (or in reality US Postal gifting) the Maillot Janue the day after the TTT. We all knew that it was just a matter of time before Lance took the jersey back and that Voeckler was absolutely no threat at all to the overall GC contenders so it was nice to have the plucky little Frenchman scratching and clawing everyday to stay in yellow. One other note, Robert Gesink who was my pick to win the KOM jersey crashed pretty hard today and lost 10 minutes. It will be interesting to see if this affects his climbing at all when the High Mountains start in 2 days.

One more flattish stage tomorrow and then the fireworks start on Friday in the mountains!

Stage 4 Team Time Trial (or Astana's Smack Down)

I don't think that the outcome of this stage was ever in doubt, Astana came out loaded for bear and basically destroyed the rest of the peleton. At the beginning of the stage Lance was in second place 0:40 off the yellow jersey and at the end of the stage Lance was in second place in a virtual tie with Cancellara for the Maillot Jaune. Kudos to Garmin-Slipstream and Saxo Bank as well for a good ride in the TTT. Garmin shed 4 riders and crossed with the minimum 5 in second place 0:18 behind Astana, Saxo Bank (with Fabian Cancellara pulling the last 10km basically alone) came in third 0:40 behind.

I love the TTT because of what happened today, the riders with the strongest teams are the ones on top of the standings. Conversely the riders with garbage teams (aka Silence Lotto, Cervelo Test and Rabobank) are for all practical intents and purposes done. Barring some insane attack in the mountains that Astana can't cover (and I can't imagine a scenario where that would happen).

Tomorrow should be a day for the escape artists unless Cav decides he wants another stage win.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Stage 3

Boy I didn't see that one coming! Someone on here, on BT or on Facebook made mention that the winds might be a factor on this stage and I really didn't think that much of it. Today could have completely changed the race, all of the sudden Armstrong is sitting 3rd one spot ahead of Contador. With an Astana win in the TTT tomorrow (which I have no doubt will happen) Lance Armstrong, 3 years retired from professional cycling will don the Maillot Jaune once again. Now who does Astana back? Can Armstrong climb with Contador in the mountains (will he even have to?). Once again just when you think that it will be an average uneventful stage, the Tour surprises and gives a classic stage. Just goes to show that you have to watch every day!!

Sunday, July 5, 2009


In case you haven't seen it yet....

Stage 2

Stage 2 was a bit of a tester but went mostly as expected with Cav winning in the sprint. It was good to see Tyler Farrar mixing it up in the front, I fully expect him to win a stage before the Tour is over. It will be interesting to see how Frank Schleck is affected by his crash today, it didn't look too bad but I am sure he will be sore tomorrow. I pretty much called the "no-name French guy" going out on the break to get the KOM jersey (Veikkanen of FDJ). After Stage 2 the GC remains unchanged.

Stage 3 tomorrow should be another go for the sprinters, I expect Cav to make it two in a row.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thoughts on Stage 1

Stage 1 is in the books and the GC is looks like this

Tour de France Standings—Through Stage 1

1. Fabian Cancellara 19:32

2. Alberto Contador 19:50 @ 0:18

3. Bradley Wiggins 19:51 @ 0:19

4. Andreas Kloden 19:54 @ 0:22

5. Cadel Evans 19:55 @ 0:23

6. Levi Leipheimer 20:02 @ 0:30

7. Roman Krueziger 20:04 @ 0:32

8. Tony Martin 20:05 @ 0:33

9. Vincenzo Nibali 20:09 @ 0:37

10. Lance Armstrong 20:12 @ 0:40

My inital thoughts are that I am very impressed with Alberto Contador. His Time Trialing ability has greatly improved over the last few years and I see no one in the field that can rival him in the mountains (possibly Sastre). Second thoughts are that I wouldn't have thought that Lance would be the fourth best placed rider on his own team. I am not sure if the early start time and not having a time to chase was a factor or if he simply doesn't have it anymore. Time will tell.

Stage 2 tomorrow should see our sprinters come out to play.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

FAQ's For the First Time Tour Viewer (and A Refresher For The Rest of Us)

With the start of the 2009 Tour De France just 2 days away I thought it would be a good idea to address some of the questions that newer viewer of the Tour might have and to refresh (or possibly enlighten) those of you who have watched the Tour in past years. If there is something that I miss or a specific question(s) that you might have, leave them in the comments and I would be happy to answer them for you.

1) What are all the different jerseys for and how does a rider get to wear one?

There are 4 different jerseys that the Tour gives out after every stage and each denotes the leader of a specific classification.
  • Yellow Jersey (Maillot Jaune, Mellow Johnny)-The wearer of the Yellow Jersey is the race leader on elapsed time. Whatever rider has the lowest elapsed time at the end of each stage is the wears the Yellow Jersey for the next days stage. Time is calculated by adding each stages finishing time together, for example Dave Zabriske of Garmin wins the Stage 1 Time Trial in a time of 25:15.33, second place is Levi Leipheimer in 25:15.48. In the final standings second place is rounded up and Zabriske would have a one second advantage over Leipheimer and wear the Yellow Jersey for Stage 2. Wearing the Yellow Jersey is a great honor if only for one day, it is an even bigger honor if that one day happens to be the last one in Paris!
  • Green Jersey (Maillot Vert)-Classified as the Most Consistant Finisher but in reality it is the Sprinters who vie for this jersey. This classification is done on a points system where points are awarded at the finish line of each flat stage on a sliding scale from 25 for 1st place to 1 point for 25th place and on a similar sliding scale for mountain stages (the points aren't as much for 1st and don't go as deep). There are also intermediate sprints out on the course that are worth 6,4 and 2 points respectively for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd on the road. If the competition is tight for the Green Jersey you will see the sprinters mixing it up for the intermediate sprints also.
  • King of the Mountain (KOM)-This is the red polka dot jersey given to the leader of the Best Climber competition. This is also done on a points system where points are awarded for classified climbs on the route. The harder the climb the more points are available and there are double points at the finish line for a stage that finishes on a mountain top.
  • White Jersey-The Best Young Rider (under 25 as of Jan 1) is done like the race leader on elapsed time. This is a very prestigious jersey to win for a young rider as several future Tour winners have won it in the years preceeding their Tour victories.

As far as some other jerseys you may see in the Tour, each country generally has it's national road race and time trial championship the week or two before the Tour starts and the winners of those respective races wear their countries colors during the race. There is also the road race World Champion and time trial World Champion jerseys that are worn by their winners.

2) Is every team trying to win the Tour and if not what are their objectives everyday?

No every team does not have a contender for the General Classification (Overall) victory. That being said every team comes to the Tour with objectives and can leave feeling like they had a sucessful Tour if those are met. For a team like Skil-Shimano their objective for the Tour might be to have a man in the breakaway everyday, or wear the Green or KOM jersey for one day. On the other hand for a team like Astana anything less than a Tour victory will be seen as a failure. Each team will plan their day based on the stage and what the standings look like at the beginning of the day. For some teams putting a man in the breakaway is no more than getting some "face time" on TV for their sponsors, for others it is a tactical decision based on what the standings look like and who is wearing what jersey, it also is affected by the long term goals of the team.

3) It's a race so you should try to be the first one to the line everyday right?

No, not at all. The Tour De France is 21 stages over 3 weeks covering 2,500 miles around France, Spain, and a small part of Italy. It would not be humanly possible to be first everyday.

4) If the riders don't all cross the finish line at the same time why are they given the same time as the winner in the standings?

This is a carryover from the days when all the timing was done by hand, it is also a safety issue for the riders. Bunch sprints are dangerous enough with only the sprinters taking part, if everyone wasn't given the same time at the line you would have 180 riders trying to get to the finish line at the same time and that would just be a giant crash fest. Also as a side note, if there is a crash within 3km of a flat stage finish, anyone behind the crash is given the same time as the winner of the stage.

5) Why do guys breakaway everyday? They know they are going to get caught right?

Sometimes the break does stay away and for an average rider that might be the only way he will ever win a stage of the Tour de France. Most of the time though the break does get caught though. Some riders are in the break for "TV time" for their sponsors, it is a huge financial obligation to sponsor a Pro Tour team and this is how the sponsors make their money back by getting free advertising. Other riders are in the break for tactical reasons, if there is a climb at the end of a stage the rider in the break can drop back and help his leader on the climb, also as cycling tactics work if you have a guy in the break then you are not obligated to provide help on the front of the peleton to chase the break down. This can save a team critical energy by not having to push through the wind on the front of the group.

6) How do the tactics of cycling work? What does all this attacking and counter attacking do and why do the riders do it?

I could write an entire post (and probably a book) on cycling tactics and why things are done the way they are done. The best way to answer this question is to discuss each day's stage and dissect the tactics that were employed on that particular stage.

7) What is a domestique?

Domestique is a French term for the "worker bees" or teammates on a particular team. Each teammate has a specific purpose during the race in order to give his team leader the best chance to win. Some of the duties include dropping back to the team car to get water bottles (called bidons), sitting out front, to the sides, and behind the leader to keep him out of the wind and safe from trouble. Giving up his wheel or entire bike to the leader in case of a crash or mechanical situation. The domestiques of the winning team are rewarded for their hard work at the end of the race. The winners share is 400,000 euros which the leader traditionally splits among the team and takes none for himself (he will make plenty of $$ at the post Tour crits and in endorsements). Lance always paid his guys an additonal bonus on top of splitting the winnings.

8) What is doping and why do riders dope?

Doping is a catch all term for the use of performace enhancing drugs and the practice of reinfusion of oxygen enriched blood to the body. Endurance sports are all about delaying fatigue and recovery. By enriching the blood whether through the use of a blood booster like CERA or EPO or by a transfusion of blood already enriched with oxygen the rider is delaying fatigue and aiding in recovery due to the higher count of red blood cells. The red blood cell acts as a courier taking oxygen to the working muscle and removing lactate, by having more of these than another rider it will allow the athlete to go harder for longer and recover quicker. Now to quote Lance it isn't going to "make a donkey into a thoroughbred" but it will allow an above average rider to possibly become a podium contender and a Top 10 rider a chance to win.

I am sure that I missed a few so let me know what you want answered.

Vive Le Tour!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mellow Johnny needs a home.....

Saturday will begin the 3 week quest for the ultimate prize in cycling....the Maillot Jaune (yellow jersey). Wearing the yellow fleece even for one day is the highlight of most cyclists careers. No less competative are the competitions for the Maillot Vert (green jersey) for the sprinters and the King of the Mountains Polka Dot jersey. There is one additional jersey that is given to the Best Young Rider (under 25 as of Jan 1) but since those riders are as a rule newer professionals I won't be previewing the contenders.


The King of the Mountains Polka Dot jersey has lost some of its prestige over the past few years, billed as the Tour's "best climber" the strategy in the recent past is for one of the decent climbers to lose a ton of time on a flat stage or a time trial and then go out on a long breakaway to accumulate points. The following predictions are based on the riders who are the best climbers in this years Tour.

  1. Robert Gessink (Rabobank)-I fully expect him to win the KOM by a large margin. I see a page out of the "Chicken" Rassmussen's book where he loses big time on one of the flat or rolling stages and then goes out point hunting on the big Pyraneean and Alpine stages. To be fair this guy can really climb and probably is one of the top 5 climbers in the Tour.
  2. Andy and Frank Schlek (Saxo Bank)-Both are outstanding climbers and if it becomes apparent after the team time trial and the first individual time trial that one or both are no longer GC contenders then I could see the focus shifting to the KOM.
  3. Carlos Sastre (Cervelo Test Team)-Sastre is the defending champion but I honestly don't think that he has the team support to repeat this year. Last year not enough credit was given to the Schlecks for deflecting attention away from Sastre and for how much work they both did in chasing down breaks and setting an insane tempo up Alpe D'Huez. Once Carlos loses a big chunk in the first two tests against the clock I think he will be given the freedom to out climb all the GC men.
  4. Thomas Voeckler (BBox Boo-Yah Telecom)-Voeckler is not a bad climber and if he can get out on a break in some of the early stages it is very possible for him to build up a nice cushion for the high mountains. This would be a major accomplishment for a French team in this years Tour.
  5. Christophe Moreau (Agritubel)-Not nearly the climber that he used to be and by extension not the GC threat that he used to be either. If he choses to target the KOM this year he can still climb well enough to wear it into Paris.

2008 KOM Final Standings

1. Bernhard Kohl 128 pts (disqualified post race for testing positive for CERA)

2. Carlos Sastre 80 pts

3. Frank Schlek 80 pts

4. Thomas Voeckler 65 pts

5. Sebastian Lang 62 pts

GREEN JERSEY (Most consistant finisher)

The green jersey is given for the most consistant finisher based on points awarded at the finish line of each stage and points awarded for intermediate sprint lines out on the course.

  1. Mark Cavendish (Columbia)-Cav had one of the greatest Tour debuts by a sprinter winning 4 stages before dropping out to rest for the Olympics. Had he completed the Tour Cav would have won the Green Jersey hands down. There is simply no one faster in the last 200m of a sprint.
  2. Oscar Friere (Rabobank)-Winner of the 2008 Green Jersey, Friere has the unique ability to sprint very fast and is a good enough climber to make it over the mountains before most of the other sprinters. Many of the points he accumulated last year were the result of not being in the last group of finishers during the mountain stages.
  3. Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team)-The God of Thunder is a former winner of the Green Jersey and is sprinting very well this season. Hushovd will win his share of stages and is also a fairly decent climber for a sprinter.
  4. Gerald Ciolek (Milram)-Last year he was the lead out man for Cavendish and still managed to win a stage for himself. Ciolek is a very talented young rider and it will be interesting to see him mix it up in the sprint.
  5. Julian Dean (Garmin-Slipstream)- Dean finished 9th in the points last year despite having no real help in the sprint finishes. This year he has young Tyler Farrar who is a fast sprinter in his own right for a lead out. I would expect Dean to be in the mix on all the flat stages.

2008 Standings

1. Oscar Friere 270 pts

2.Thor Hushovd 220 pts

3. Eric Zabel 217 pts

4. Leonardo Duque 181 pts

5. Kim Kirchen 155 pts

Maillot Jaune..Mellow Johnny..Golden Fleece...Yellow Jersey

How ever you want to refer to it, the leader's jersey of the Tour de France is cycling's ultimate prize. The man who stands on the top step of the podium this year will have undoubtedly earned the title of Champion.

  1. Alberto Contador (Astana)-The 2007 Tour champion is making his return to the race after Astana was excluded last year. Contador has won the Giro D'Italia and the Vuelta Espana in the last 12 months making him one of only a handful of men to win all 3 Grand Tours. Contador hasn't raced much this year, but won the Spanish TT championship just last weekend and appears to be on fine form. The only way that I see him not winning the Tour this year is if Astana completely implodes due to internal politics and even then I am not sure that he will lose. Contador can climb with the pure climbers and has raised the level of his time trialing to be at least competative with the likes of Leipheimer and Armstrong.
  2. Lance Armstrong (Astana)-Arguably the greatest Tour rider ever, Armstrong won the Tour seven consecutive times from 1999-2005 before retiring at the end of the '05 Tour. At age 37 Lance is making a comback and from all indications appears to be in fine form as well. My biggest concerns with him are team politics (see Contador, Alberto) and if his body can recover from day to day. There is no doubt that he can still put out the wattage to rival anyone in the peleton the question is if his 37 year old body can recover after a hard effort and repeat that the next day.
  3. Levi Leipheimer (Astana)-Lost in all of the Contador v Armstrong talk is the fact that in any other year Levi would be an odds on favorite to win or at least be on the podium. I am not so sure that is not what is going to happen this year. One of the advantages of having Contador and Armstrong on the same team is that when Levi attacks are the other teams going to be capable of bringing him back and at what cost? Do you expend energy to bring Levi back only to have Contador/Armstrong launch a couter attack which you can't cover? If Levi can put in a good attack and get some time on one of the mountain stages he can certainly defend it during the TT's. Now what? Does Contador attack his own teammate? I think not and I know that if Lance is in a position to help Levi win the Tour he would sacrifice himself to do so.
  4. Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto)-Poor Cadel, he had a chance the last two years to win the Tour and just couldn't make it happen. Now barring an epic collapse at Astana he will be lucky to make the podium. Evans has virtually no help for the mountains and has a reputation for following wheels and not attacking. He is going to have to put in an epic attack in order to win the Tour this year.
  5. Christian Vande Velde- IF (the proverbial big if) he has recovered from his crash in the Giro and IF (another proverbial big if) he can stay with Astana in the mountains, Vande Velde has an opportunity to be on the final podium in Paris. Like an other non Astana rider in this year's Tour it will take an implosion by Astana for him to win.

Best of the Rest

Denis Menchov-I toyed with putting Denis in the top 5 but there are two reasons why I didn't; one he just won the Giro and I am not sure he is recovered enough to challenge early in the Tour. By the time he comes into form his Tour may be over, and the second is that he has an uncanny ability to choke in the Tour. He could still end up on the final podium.

Carlos Sastre-Defending champion has no help on Cervelo this year.

Frank/Andy Schleck-neither can TT well enough to be on the final podium

Roman Kreuziger-great young rider who will win the Tour one day....just not this year.

Mick Rodgers-Great in the TT and getting better as a climber, he also rode high in the GC at the Giro and I am not conviced that he is recovered enough to compete early.

Podium Predictions

1. Contador

2. Armstrong

3. Evans

Tomorrow: A Viewers Guide for the First Time Tour Fan

Monday, June 29, 2009

Teams of the Tour

The following team list is reprinted from Velo News and is current as of 29 June. The comments below each team are my own and my opinion.

2009 Tour de France teams

Ag2r-La Mondiale
Manager: Vincent LAVENU
Cyril Dessel (FRA)
Stephane Goubert (FRA)
Lloyd Mondory (FRA)
Vladimir Efimkin (RUS)
Jose Luis Arrieta Lujambio (ESP)

Ag2r are the most competative of the French teams (which isn't saying alot), Vladimir Efimkin and Cyril Dessel are fine riders that given an opportunity may win a stage. As with all French teams though they have no real GC threat.

Manager: David FORNES
Maxime Bouet (Fra)
Sylvain Calzati (Fra)
Brice Feillu (Fra)
Romain Feillu (Fra)
Eduardo Gonzálo (Spa)
Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra)
David La Lay (Fra)
Christophe Moreau (Fra)
Nicolas Vogondy (Fra)

Agritubel is another French team that lacks any real punch save Christophe Moreau. They will be active in the break every day and depending on how the big teams are feeling may even get one of their riders in the Maillot Jaune for a day or two. The best case scenario for this team is to win a stage or two from the break and possibly have Moreau contend for the KOM.

Manager: Johan BRUYNEEL
Lance Armstrong (USA)
Alberto Contador (Spa)
Levi Leipheimer (USA)
Andreas Kloden (Ger)
Haimar Zubeldia (Spa)
Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr)
Gregory Rast (Swi)
Sergio Paulinho (Por)
Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz)

This quite possibly the strongest team in the history of the Tour De France. The top 4 riders on this team (Armstrong, Contador, Leipheimer, Kloden) have all made the podium in a Grand Tour. If these guys were on seperate teams they would be the top 4 contenders for GC. Throw in Popovich who has a 2nd at the Giro and Zubeldia who is a periennial Top 10 at the Tour and you have 6 of the top 15 riders in the entire race. The only thing that could prevent an Astana rider from winning the Tour (and possibly sweeping the podium) is internal politics. Popular US rider Chris Horner was left off the Tour roster for political reasons. The way I see it is that there are two very distinct sub teams (Armstrong, Leipheimer, Popovich, Kloden) and team two (Contador, Zubeldia, Paulinho) with the other two guys being caught in the middle. It should be interesting to see how this shakes out. I don't buy for one minute that Lance is "willingly" supporting Contador nor do I believe Contador will defer to Armstrong. More on this in the GC preview tomorrow.

Bbox Bouygues Telecom
Manager: Jean-René BERNAUDEAU
William Bonnet (FRA)
Pierre Rolland (FRA)
Thomas Voeckler (FRA)
Yuri Trofimov (RUS)
Pierrick Fedrigo (FRA)
Yukiya Arashiro (JPN)

Bbox Boo-Yah Telecom is pack fodder, nothing more nothing less. Voeckler might go out and grab the KOM jersey and hold it until the high mountains start when the real climbers come out to play.

Caisse D’Epargne
Manager: José-Miguel ECHAVARRI
Jose Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (ESP)
Oscar Pereiro Sio (ESP)
Xabier Zandio Echaide (ESP)
Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (ESP)
Luis Pasamontes Rodriguez (ESP)
David Arroyo Duran (ESP)

Caisse D'Epargne took a major hit when Alejandro Valverde was not allowed to take part in this years Tour. Former champion Oscar Pereiro is on the roster but I don't really expect him to do much in GC. Luis Leon Sanchez could be the big surprise of this team, I expect him to finish in the Top 15.

Cervelo TestTeam
Manager: Theo MAUCHER
Inigo Cuesta (ESP)
Volodymyr Gustov (UKR)
Heinrich Haussler (GER)
Thor Hushovd (NOR)
Andreas Klier (GER)
Brett Lancaster (AUS)
Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (ESP)
Hayden Roulston (NZL)
Carlos Sastre (ESP)

Cervelo Test is a new team this year but it has several familiar faces from past Tours to include defending champion Carlos Sastre. Thor Hushovd should win his share of sprints but other than that I don't expect Sastre to repeat as Tour champion since he no longer has the Schlecks to deflect pressure and chase down attacks. This team is simply not strong enough to stand up to the barrage of attacks from Astana and Saxo Bank in the high mountains. Stage winner Simon Gerrans being left off the team was a disappointment also.

Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
Manager: Éric BOYER
Stephane Auge (FRA)
Samuel Dumoulin (FRA)
Leonardo Duque (COL)
Bingen Fernandez (ESP)
Christophe Kern (FRA)
Sebastien Minard (FRA)
Amael Moinard (FRA)
David Moncoutie (FRA)
Remi Pauriol (FRA)

Cofidis is just a step above BBox and a step below Ag2r in the pecking order of French teams. Stephane Auge will be active in the breaks and David Moncoutie will possibly contend early for the KOM, other than that it will be a quiet Tour for Cofidis.

Manager: Miguel MADARIAGA
Igor Antón
Mikel Astarloza
Koldo Fernández
Egoi Martínez
Juanio Oroz
Alan Pérez
Rubén Pérez
Amets Txurruka
Gorka Verdugo

Euskatel is another team with no clear GC contender. Mikel Astarloza is a former winner of the Dauphine' but hasn't done much since. Expect Euskatel to be active in the Pyranees and when the Tour dips into Spain, but other than that not much to get excited about.

Francaise Des Jeux
Manager: Marc MADIOT
Sandy Casar (F)
Jerome Coppel (F)
Anthony Geslin (F)
Yahueni Hutarovich (Blr)
Christophe LeMevel (F)
Benoit Vaugrenard (F)
Jussi Veikkanen (Fin)

Sandy Casar was the Tour's Best Young Rider a few years ago unfortunately he hasn't won anything else of note lately. Casar may win a stage from a breakaway but don't expect alot from this team. FDJ should be happy they are French or they wouldn't be here at all.

Garmin - Slipstream
Manager: Jonathan VAUGHTERS
Julian Dean (NZl)
Tyler Farrar (USA)
Ryder Hesjedal (Can)
Dan Martin (Irl)
David Millar (GBr)
Danny Pate (USA)
Christian Vande Velde (USA)
Bradley Wiggins (GBr)
David Zabriskie (USA)

This is the second or third strongest team in the Tour. Christian Vande Velde (provided he has recovered from his Giro crash) is a legit podium contender. With the additions of Dan Martin and Ryder Hesjedal to the roster this year he should have some help in the high mountains. I would be shocked if Garmin doesn't win the Team TT and at least one other stage.

Lampre - N.G.C.
Manager: Giuseppe SARONNI
Marco Bandiera (ITA)
Angelo Furlan (ITA)
Marco Marzano (ITA)
Daniele Righi (ITA)
Simon Spilak (SLO)
Massimiliano Mori (ITA)
Mirco Lorenzetto (ITA)
Marzio Bruseghin (ITA)
Alessandro Ballan (ITA)

Lampre is a team without an identity. Alessandro Ballan could win a stage or two and with a stronger team Marzio Bruseghin could possibly be Top 5 in GC, it will be interesting to see which direction the team goes. Do they hunt for stage victories or do they go out and try to get Bruseghin high in the GC? Time will tell.

Manager: Roberto, AMADIO
Daniele Bennati (Ita)
Roman Kreuziger (Cze)
Alexandr Kuschynski (Rus)
Vicenzo Nibali (Ita)
Franco Pellizotti (Ita)
Fabio Sabatini (Ita)
Brian Vandborg (Den)
Alessandro Vanoti (Ita)
Frederik Willems (Bel)

With no Ivan Basso due to gastritis, Liquigas took a big hit for the Tour. Basso would have been capable of rivaling the Astana train for podium positions and wins in the mountains. What Liquigas does have is (in my opinion) one of the most exciting young riders in the peleton in Roman Kreuziger. Kreuziger has won the Tour of Romandie already and had a very good Giro as well, he may be one to crash the Astana party at the top of the leader boards. Expect Bennati to mix it up on some of the stages also.

Quick Step
Manager: Patrick LEFÉVÈRE
Sylvain Chavanel (FRA)
Jerome Pineau (FRA)
Stijn Devolder (BEL)
Carlos Barredo Llamazales (ESP)

Quick Step has an excellent GC man in Sylvain Chavanel, unfortunately they don't have the team to support him. Ultimately the teams success or failure will depend on the decision by CAS to let Tom Boonen into the Tour. If he is in then the team can concentrate on winning the Sprinters jersey, if not then the will hunt stage wins with Stijn Devolder and Chavanel.

Manager: Harold KNEBEL
Denis Menchov
Grischa Niermann
Juan Antonio Flecha
Oscar Freire
Juan Manuel Garate
Joost Posthuma
Stef Clement
Laurens Ten Dam
Robert Gesink

Rabobank is one of the more intriguing teams in this year's Tour. Denis Menchov is fresh off of his victory in the Giro where he soundly beat Leipheimer and Armstrong in two Time Trials. The Rabo's also bring Robert Gesink to the Tour to provide climbing help for Menchov and contend for the KOM jersey. Oscar Freire is still fast and should be able to mix it up with Cavendish and Hushovd for some sprint victories. Expect Juan Antonio Flecha to be in several breaks and possibly win a stage from one of them.

Manager: Marc SERGEANT
Cadel Evans (AUS)
Thomas Dekker (NED)
Jurgen Van den Broeck (BEL)
Johan Vansummeren (BEL)
Greg Van Avermaet (BEL)
Staf Scheirlinckx (BEL)
Mickael Delage (FRA)
Matthew Lloyd (AUS)
Sebastian Lang (GER)

Ah poor close to winning the Tour for two straight years and now so far away. With the defection of Yaraslav Popovich to Astana, Evans has virtually no help in the mountains. Thomas Dekkar and Matthew Lloyd will do the best the can, but I don't see either of them being able to hang with the best climbers. All Cadel can do is Time Trial his tail off and follow wheels in the mountains. If he is close on Mount Ventoux then he could have a shot, especially if there is infighting at Astana.

Jonathan Hivert (FRA)
Piet Rooijakkers (NED)
Kenny Robert Van Hummel (NED)
Albert Timmer (NED)
Cyril Lemoine (FRA)
Simon Geschke (GER)

Pack fodder....I have no idea who any of these guys are!

Team Columbia - Highroad
Manager: Bob STAPLETON
Mark Cavendish (GBR)
George Hincapie (USA)
Tony Martin (GER)
Mark Renshaw (AUS)
Michael Rogers (AUS)
Maxime Monfort (ITA)
Kim Kirchen (LUX)
Bernhard Eisel (AUT)
Marcus Burghardt (GER)

This is a great team, with great riders, lead by a great manager. You can't say enough good things about Columbia. They are a true team and work for on another to get the stage or race victory whether it is a sprint for Cavendish or an overall for Kirchen. Sadly I don't think that Kirchen has the horses to hang in the high mountains, he should still be Top 10 at worst due to being a very good all around rider, don't count out Mick Rodgers either he was the World TT champion 3 year in a row and has become a decent if not great climber. Expect Cavendish to win at least 4 stages if not more, there is simply no one in the world even close to him in the last 200m of a sprint.

Team Katusha
Manager: Stefano FELTRIN
Joan Horrach Rippoll (ESP)
Serguei Ivanov (RUS)
Danilo Napolitano (ITA)
Nikolay Trusov (RUS)
Stijn Vandenbergh (BEL)
Filippo Pozzato (ITA)
Vladimir Karpets (RUS)
Mikhail Ignatiev (RUS)
Alexandre Botcharov (RUS)

With Robbie McEwen sidelined due to injury Team Katusha will look to Filippo Pozzato and Danilo Napolitano to bring home some sprint victories. Vladimir Karpets is the GC man and could be Top 10 if he can eliminate the one bad day in the mountains that he seems to have every Tour.

Team Milram
Manager: Gerry VAN GERWEN
Gerald Ciolek (Ger)
Markus Fothen (Ger)
Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger)
Linus Gerdemann (Ger)
Christian Knees (Ger)
Niki Terpstra (Ned)
Peter Velits (Svk)
Fabian Wegmann (Ger)
Peter Wrolich (Aut)

Team Milram could surprise some people this year and have a great Tour. No longer are they the lead out train for Petacchi and Zabel in the sprints, Milram actually has three riders in Markus Fothem, Fabian Wegmann and Linus Geremann that could be high in the GC. Gerdemann wore the Yellow Jersey for one day during the '07 Tour and with some help could wear it again this year. This is a sneaky strong team!

Team Saxo Bank

Manager: Bjarne RIIS
Andy Schleck (Lux)
Fränk Schleck (Lux)
Fabian Cancellara (Swi)
Stuart O’Grady (Aus)
Jens Voigt (G)
Nicki Sørensen (Den)
Chris Anker Sørensen (Den)
Gustav Larsson (Swe)
Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor)

Team Saxo Bank is again loaded for bear at this year's Tour. Cancellara should win the opening Time Trial, both of the Schlecks are very, very strong climbers, Jens Voigt can be counted on to be in a breakaway or ten, and Stuart O'Grady still has some pop in the legs to contend for the sprint finishes. Kurt-Asle Arvesen is another Tour stage winner on the team. Look for one or both of the Schlecks to ride high in the GC, if they can limit their losses in the Time Trials either one has a shot to win it all.

There you have it, a look at each team that will start the 2009 Tour De France. The rosters that aren't full yet shouldn't make any difference with the exception of Boonen being added to the Quick Step roster. In order of strength I rank the top 10 in this order:

  1. Astana-they are like the Yankees of cycling
  2. Columbia-close between them and Garmin for 2nd, the health of Vande Velde and the strength of Cavendish in the sprint is what gives them the edge.
  3. Garmin-Slipstream-very strong team this year, hopefully Vande Velde has recovered from his crash in the Giro and can ride like he did last year.
  4. Saxo Bank-Climbers, Time Trialists, and a Sprinter (Oh my!). They should be in the mix on every stage.
  5. Cervelo Test Team-Sastre and Hushovd will bring home some victories for the Cervelo boys. Plus they ride the P4!
  6. Milram-Scary good, lots of really good young talent.
  7. Silence-Lotto-Cadel is riding solo again. Thomas Dekker could surprise though.
  8. Liquigas-Roman Kreuziger will win the Tour one day in the near future, probably not on this team though.
  9. Rabobank-They should probably be a bit higher, but I am not convinced that Menchov is fully recovered from the Giro enough to contend.
  10. Lapre, Quick Step (with Boonen), or Caisse D'Epargne.....flip a coin.

Tomorrow is the GC, Sprinter, and KOM preview.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Vive Le Tour

The 96th Tour De France will kick off on July 4th with a 15km Time Trial in Monaco. The race then moves across the southern end of France with a slight dip into Spain prior to the Pyranees. The race then makes an air transfer to the north and proceeds across the nothern part of France to the Alps and finally makes it's way down to the "Giant of Provence" for the penultimate stage....Mount Ventoux.

Stage 1 (and it is a Stage this year as opposed to a Prolouge as it is over 10km long)-Monaco>Monaco-Stage 1 promises fireworks from the get go, at 15.5km there is the opportunity for the favorites to put some time into each other on the first day. The stage itself is a challenge with a gradual 7.5 km climb to the top of the Category 4 Cote de Beausoliel, followed by a screaming descent back into town.

Favorites: Cancellara, Zabriske,Evans, Leipheimer
Next Cut: Menchov, Hincapie, Armstrong, Millar, Van De Velde
Outside Shot: Pate, Kirchen, Moreau, Contador, Kloden

Stage 2-Monaco>Brignoles-Stage 2 looks to be a chance for the sprinters to mix it up although with one Category 3 climb and three Category 4 climbs a breakaway could conceivably get up the road and steal the sprinters day. The last climb is 60k from the finish so I expect that Columbia will have pulled any breaks back by that time and will control the race to the finale.

Favorites: Cavendish, Hushovd, Ciolek
Next Cut: Dean, Farrar, O'Grady, Benatti, Ballan
Outside Shot: Napolitano, Casar, Auge

Stage 3-Marseille>La Grande Motte-If ever there was a stage that screamed "Bunch Sprint" this one is it. Two Category 4 climbs in the middle will give some no name French rider a shot at wearing the Polka Dot jersey for a few days, but the end of the stage is flat. The last 100k has zero elevation change so the sprinters teams should be able to pull back the break and set up for an exciting day of sprinting.

Favorites: Cavendish, Hushovd, Ciolek
Next Cut: Dean, Farrar, O'Grady, Benatti, Ballan
Outside Shot: Napolitano, Casar, Auge

Stage 4-Team Time Trial-Montpellier>Montpellier-39km of pure red line hell. The Tour won't be won here, but if you are on a weak TTT team (I am looking at you Sastre) then you could lose enough time that your Tour may be over prior to the high mountains.

Favorites: Garmin-Slipstream, Astana, Columbia-High Road
Next Cut: Saxo Bank, Rabobank, Milram, Cervelo Test Team, Caisse D'Espargne
Outside Shot: Everyone else....this is going to be UGLY!!

Stage 5-Le Cap D'Agde>Perpignan-This stage is a breakaway artists dream. With the big guns resting their legs after yesterdays TTT and looking forward to the High Mountains in two days time a break composed of the right riders should stay away until the end. Look for some no name French rider to win the stage and possibly take the Yellow Jersey.

Favorites: Some dude off of a French Team
Next Cut: Some other dude off a French Team
Outside Shot: Someone not French on a French Team

Stage 6-Girona>Barcelona-The Tour visits Spain for this rolling stage before the High Mountains. With three Category 4 and two Category 3 climbs on the route, look for whatever no name Frenchman wearing the Polka Dots to go out and consolidate his lead before the real climbers come out and play tomorrow. The sprinters will want this one since their opportunities from here on out are few.

Favorites: Cavendish, Ciolek, Hushovd
Next Cut: Some random dude that is an hour down already.
Outside Shot: Anyone from BBox, Cofidis, Agritubel, FDJ, or Ag2R

Stage 7-Barcelona>Andorre Arcalis-The first of the High Mountain stages and the longest stage of this year's Tour should make for an interesting day. There are 5 categorized climbs starting off with a Cat 4 climb and then two Cat 3 climbs sandwiched around a Cat 1 climb. The stage finishes on top of the HC Arcalis. I don't think that the big boys are going to duke it out on this first climb, but rather they will mark each other so as not to lose any time. Expect a pure climber to win this stage.

Favorites: Gessink, Hesjedal,Kruziger, A. Schlek, F.Schlek, Sastre

Next Cut: Any of the GC guys should one of the other favorites attack

Outside Shot: One of the mountain goats from Euskatel. It is their home turf after all.

Stage 8-Andorre-La Vielle>Saint Girons-With two Cat 1 climbs and a nasty Cat 2 sandwiched between them this stage could be fireworks, or with its downhill finish could be nothing. I expect that the GC contenders will again be content to mark each other and barring an attack from a contender, sit in for this stage. Expect a breakaway/climber to win this stage.

Favorites: Gessink, Hesjedal, Kruziger, A. Schlek, F.Schlek, Kirchen

Next Cut: Any of the GC Contenders if one attacks

Outside Shot: Euskatel guys

Stage 9-Saint Gaudens>Tarbes-Two of the Tours most famous climbs make an appearance here, unfortunately they are so far away from the finish line that it won't make a difference. The Col de Tourmalet and Col de Aspin fall right in the middle of this stage and are only 30km apart, however even if one of the GC men should faulter on the the Tourmalet his team should be able to bring him back to the peleton in plenty of time to reach the finish without giving up time. Expect whomever is the KOM leader to go out point hunting today to consolidate his lead.

Favorites: Gessink, Dessel, LL Sanchez

Next Cut: Moncoutie, either Schlek

Outside Shot: Random guy no one has ever heard of that is an hour down already.

Stage 10-Limoge>Issoudun-After a rest day in Limoge, the Tour heads north on a relatively flat stage. There are three Cat 4 climbs in the first 60 km but after that it is pretty flat. Expect the sprinters (that are left) to contest this stage as the opportunities for a stage win are growing small. It is July 14th (Bastille Day) so you can expect a Frenchman to make a go of it either in a breakaway or in the sprint.

Favorites: Cavendish, Hushovd, Ciolek

Next Cut: Moncoutie, S. Chavanel, some random French dude.

Outside Shot: Any random French dude.

Stage 11-Vatan>Saint-Fargeau-Another flatish stage heading north. The only bumps in the road are two Cat 4 climbs one at the beginning and one at the end. I would be shocked if this is not a bunch sprint at the end.

Favorites: Cavendish, Hushovd, Ciolek

Next Cut: Eisel, Farrar, Dean

Outside Shot: Some guy no one has ever heard of.....

Stage 12-Tonnerre>Vittel-This is an interesting stage that could feature some fireworks toward the end. There are six catogorized climbs ( five Cat 4 and one Cat 3) none of which are all that difficult, however the placement of the Cat 3 climb 30km from the finish could allow a breakaway artist to go and stay away until the end.

Favorites: Voight, Asle-Arveson, Flecha

Next Cut: Eisel, Pate, Pozzato

Outside Shot: Anyone....this stage is hard to predict.

Stage 13-Vittel>Colmar-The Tour visits the Vosges for the first time in a couple of years. This stage has all the makings of an attack-fest. With the Alps starting in just two days (and only one stage being a true mountain top finish) expect one or more of the GC men to attack on this day to try and either get back some lost time or gain time going into the mountains and the final TT. There are 5 catagorized climbs on this route, with the tricky Cat 1, Cat 3, and Cat 2 trifecta in the last 70km (the Cat 2 climb coming just 20k from the finish). This is definitely a can't miss stage for viewing.

Favorites: Leipheimer, Menchov, either Schleck, Evans

Next Cut: Krueziger, Vande Velde, LL Sanchez, Gessink

Outside Shot: Dessel, Moureau, Popovich, Hincapie

Stage 14-Colmar>Besancon-A relatively benign stage, this should be a bunch sprint. After yesterday's attackfest and the high mountains starting tomorrow, expect the GC guys to sit in and save their energy. Depending on the fatigue factor the win today could also go to someone in the breakaway.

Favorites: Cavendish, Hushovd, Ciolek, Freire

Next Cut: Farrar, Dean, Eisel

Outside Shot: Close your eyes and pick one....this has the potential to be an "I don't care" stage by the peleton.

Stage 15-Pontalier>Verbier-The Alps begin today and here is where the GC contenders will position themselves for the last week of the Tour. There are 6 catagorized climbs on this 200k stage, however the first 4 are Cat 3 climbs and fall in the first 74km. The remaining 2 climbs (one Cat 2 and the finshing climb of Verbier {Cat 1}) should separate the men from the boys. The final climb is 8.8 km long (relatively short by Tour standards) and has a maximum grade of 7.5% so it isn't that steep either. Don't expect the true contenders to lose too much time on this one.

Favorites: Contador, Armstrong, Sastre, Menchov, Vande Velde, Evans, either Schleck, Gesink

Next Cut: Leipheimer, Kloden, Rodgers, Hesjedal, Kruziger

Outside Shot: Anyone from Euskatel, Karpets, Gerdeman, Popovich

Stage 16-Martigny>Bourg-Saint-Maurice-Day 2 in the Alps. Only 2 climbs on this stage but boy are they both tough! Just 40k into the stage the Col du Grand Saint Bernard is a leg burning 24.4 km long at an average of 6.2% grade. This earns the higest classification of an HC climb. The second climb is equally as tough if not as long. The Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard comes at 128 km in and is 22.6 km long with an average grade of 5.1 %. With 30k from the summit of the last climb to the finish line, I don't expect that this will blow the GC apart. That being said if you get dropped on the first climb and can't get back on by the second one your Tour is pretty much over. I expect the main GC guys to stay together and whomever is the leader of the KOM competition to go out on a solo break and win.

Favorites: Gessink, All the main GC contenders

Next Cut: Voeckler, Moncoutie

Outside Shot: anyone who is a decent climber and is so far down on GC that the peleton won't bother to chase.

Stage 17-Bourg-Saint-Maurice>Le Grande-Bornand-Here is where the GC will be thinned out and we will see the final podium start to take shape. There are 5 catagorized climbs (4 Cat 1 and one Cat 2) all of which are long, steep, and hard. The summit of the last climb and the finish line are only separated by 15 km so whomever crests the last climb first should win the stage. The climbs are as follows:

Km 18.0 - Cormet de Roselend (D.902-D.925) - 18.1 km climb to 5.7 % - Category 1
Km 56.0 - Col des Saisies - 15.1 km climb to 6 % - Category 1
Km 111.5 - Côte d'Araches - 6.3 km climb to 7 % - Category 2
Km 140.5 - Col de Romme - 8.8 km climb to 8.9 % - Category 1
Km 154.5 - Col de la Colombière - 7.5 km climb to 8.5 % - Category 1

All I have to say is OUCH!!

Favorites: Contador, Sastre, Armstrong, Gessink

Next Cut: Evans, Menchov, Leipheimer, Kloden, Vande Velde, Gerdeman, Rodgers

Outside Shot: Kirchen, Dessel, Moncoutie, S. Chavanel

Stage 18-Annecy>Annecy-Normally this would be the day that shakes up the GC and sets the final podium for Paris. Not this year! With the Giant of Prevance looming in just a few days the GC men will approach this TT differently than in years past. Last year it was a climber (Sastre) who had to hold off a Time Trialist (Evans) in order to secure the yellow jersey and win the Tour. Today's TT will be more about the strong time trial riders trying to gain back time on the pure climbers that might be ahead of them on GC and the climbers trying to limit their loses so that they still have a chance on Mount Ventoux.

Favorites: Armstrong, Leipheimer, Menchov, Evans, Cancellara, Zabriske, Millar

Next Cut: Contador, Kloden, Rogers, Hincapie, Karpets, Gerdeman

Outside Shot: Sastre, Gessink, S. Chavanel

Stage 19-Bergoin-Jellieau>Aubenas-This stage on paper is a breakaway winner's dream. It's the day after the final TT and the day before the showdown on Mount Ventoux so in theory the GC contenders (what is left of them) should sit in and save their energy for tomorrow and the sprinters aren't going to make it over the last Cat 2 climb in time to make it a bunch sprint so a breakaway rider or riders who can climb should win this stage....right? In the words of Lee Corso..not so fast my friend. The last climb on this stage is a nasty little Cat 2 that is only 14km from the finish. If one or more of the GC men are within a minute or two of a podium position then expect an attack on this climb to try to take back a bit more time before tomorrow.

Favorites: Voight, Moncoutie, anyone a long way down on GC

Next Cut: any Frenchman that hasn't contended for a stage win

Outside Shot: Anyone..literally. It could be a GC man or someone 3 hours down.

Stage 20-Montelimar>Mount Ventoux-The Queen stage of the Tour. Today will decide the final podium in Paris. There are 5 catogorized climbs on this stage none of which should factor in the final results except for the final one....Mount Ventoux. The Giant of Prevance is 21.1 km long at an average gradient of 7.6%. This stage could go either way, it could be a final showdown between 3,4, or 5 remaining GC contenders or it could be a matter of the Maillot Jaune just surviving to the top to seal his victory. I expect Lance to win this stage one way or the other, if he is wearing yellow then it will be a crowning acheivement to an 8th Tour victory, if he is not in yellow then I expect him to win to try and erase the regret of gifting the stage to Marco Pantani in the 2002 Tour.

Favorites: Armstrong, Contador, Gessink

Next Cut: Leipheimer, Evans, Kloden, Sastre, Vande Velde

Outside Shot: No one outside the Top 5 on GC

Stage 21-Montereau-Fault-Yonne>Paris-The final stage! Who will be drinking champagne on the way to Paris? Expect a sprinter to win here.

Favorites: Cavendish, Hushovd, Freire, Farrar, Dean

So there you have it, a stage by stage breakdown of the 2009 Tour de France. Tomorrow I will preview each team and then the GC contenders, Sprint and KOM favorites on Tuesday.

It's That Time of Year...

It's the end of June which can mean only one's Preview Season. The two loves of my life (other than my wife and kids of course) are getting ready to swing into high gear. The Tour starts next weekend (July4th) and then it won't be long until College Football starts. Over the course of the next few days I will be doing a comprehensive preview of the Tour stage by stage and then give thoughts on who are the Contenders and who are the Pretenders.

Sometime before the beginning of August I will do a preview of the SEC team by team and give my thougts an predictions on what is going to happen and who will be in Atlanta come December 4th.

Until then....Vive Le Tour!