TdF Stage 12 – Froome Gloom, Uran and Bennetts gains watered down

It always looked like it was going to be a cracking stage. With the climb of the Col de Peyresourde to soften the riders up, followed by a 4km descent and then a 2km nasty climb that reared up to 20 percent, fireworks were going to go off in the last 300m. Matthews had another cracking day for his Sunweb team. He took the intermediate sprint from Kittle to claw back 3 of the 133 points he was behind in the green jersey comp. If only the tour was 6 months long he might get the jersey! But he hung around in the break and took the sprint for the next mountain points to ensure no one could take the mountains jersey off his team mate Barguil. Trugarez vras Matthews!

Stephen Cummings, the most awkward looking guy on the podium, took off on the final climb on one of his famous solo breakaways. At this point I fell asleep for a few km only to wake up about 1km from the top, at which point Cummings had already been caught. Not sure what happened, I was cruising along on the couch in control of my TV watching and then bang, dropped, eyes closed. Anyway, by the top there were the usual suspects, the top 10 of the tour. Quick descent which saw Froome and Aru try and follow Landa into a picnic area off the side of the road, not sure why maybe hungry, but the rest of the field slowed down to let them catch up… Idiots. I suspect they were all saving themselves for the final 300m vertical wall. When it came, Bardet launched, then Aru, Martin, Uran and Froome struggled to follow. Landa left him behind to grab 4th, and for some reason the press are speculating about this. What can Landa do, push Froome? There is no headwind on a 20% gradient, Froome can only go as fast as his own legs will carry him. Maybe Landa was trying to stop other getting bonus seconds, or maybe, as he is leaving Sky, he is putting his resume out there… In the end the likable, always attacking, Frenchman, Bardet took the win, although one day early for Bastille day celebrations. Don’t be surprised to see him attack on the descent tonight. He is probably the best descender in the race, so it could be more carnage if the others try and follow him.

Uran and Kiwi Bennett were docked 20 seconds for taking water from the side of the road in the last 20km. Apparently Bardet did as well, but the referee apparently did not see Bardet drink it, so he escaped the fine. Makes you wonder if the commissars are colluding to give Bardet as big a chance to win as possible. This is nothing to do with Bardet, but the UCI do seem to be making some odd decisions in this years Tour.

Heard a funny story from one of my Seppo mates from when Bennett was interviewed on the US TV after the stage. Apparently Bennett was riding next to Froome in the final stages when he heard in Froome’s radio earpiece, “go faster”, so he punched Froome in the leg and said “Bugger off, keep it the same”.

Some small shuffling in the comp as Mrs Spunker proved she is not done yet, having Bardet in her team this week. She jumped over Heartthrobs01. No change at the bottom as Snicko 5 keeps the Lantern Rouge for another day, although he is closing in on 2nd last place. Big mover was Team Lurch up 54 spots to break into the top 200 at 164th.

Today is the Bastille day stage, so the team with the most points gets a prize I think, will need to go read the rules…

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TdF Stage 11 – Jolly Green Giant barely breaks into a sweat

I was thinking of just cutting and pasting yesterdays report and saving me some time. I have to admit I was wrong. With Sagan leaving the race I thought it might open up the green jersey comp. I think it has actually had the opposite effect. If Sagan and a fit Cav had been in the race then it would have been a much closer competition and Kittel would not already have won it, pending an incident. Geipel I think got spooked by the early messy sprints and is struggling to recover his coglioni. It is however no surprise that since Demare left the race the ensuing 3 sprints have been very clean affairs, with no real heart in the mouth moments. But in the end, Kittel is the Jolly Green Giant, and is ripping everyone’s legs off like a 7 year old with a spider, although not an Australian spider maybe. Boassen Hagen summed it up nicely in his post race interview “Marcel is the fastest in this Tour, but we’re getting close. Well not really close, actually, but he’s really good,”. Well said Eddy…

Oh yeah, and in other news Contador fell off his bike again.

Bit dull in the competition today. Gaps are closing up, but the top 5 remain as they were with Heartthrobs01 still leading the way. It is good to see 5 Bonafide charity teams in the top 10 however with a couple of Beyond Blue teams creeping closer. Big mover was Digger up 71 spots, but the jumps are getting less as the gaps between the mid table teams begin to grow. Like the top, the bottom 3 also hold on to their spots with Snicko 5 the Lantern Rouge for another day.

Today’s cheesy headline is a bit cryptic…

TdF Stage 10 – Gorilla? More like Curious George or Zippy the Chimp *

Where are you Andre? Embarrassed by your own performance is what you said on cyclingnews.com. Come on mate, we need you to stop the jolly green giant walking away with the sprint comp. I never saw a lead out train melt like Lotto Soudal. 5 guys in front of Greipel with 2.5k to go, nobody in the last 1k. They looked to have it dialed in, but faded like the professor of fading from Oxford University. Matthews is having a crack but lacks the fire power against flat out sprinters. Boxer Bouhanni should spend more energy sprinting rather than punching other cyclists. He was lucky to still be in the race and only get a fine. Ride of the day has to go to John Dekankolb. A few days ago he ran over Cavs head and did a somersault that would have got him a gold medal in Olympic diving. Then last night comes 2nd to the fastest sprinter in the world, leaving others in his wake. Cracking job Dege!

So first stage after the rest day redraw hopefully the excitement of seeing your new team has not abated just yet. Apologies to Etienne, who is a worst position than the FDJ team. He drew 5 snubbed out riders in the redraw to be down to 4 riders already. At least one of them is try hard Tommy, you might get some points.

No movement at the top as our leaders had a bit of a buffer on the rest of the field. Hopefully over the coming days it will tighten up a bit. Joint big movers today with Technoboy and The Matador up 60 spots. Big news is the jostling at the bottom for the Lantern Rouge. Gjulia Ovest rising like a phoenix from the foot of the table to be replaced by Snicko 5. Snicko has the enviable position of being both leading and losing the comp.

As a foot note I was a bit disappointed only 2 people commented on my post from Sunday. I have been waiting 7 years to see Uran Uran win a stage in the TdF so I could use that headline. Plus I had the bonus of folding in quite a large number of Duran Duran song titles. I am wasted in IT!

* I have to attribute today’s headline and a few of the words to Pinnacle Insulting Group. I was struggling today…

TdF Stage 9 – Uran Uran hungry like the wolf for victory

Well what a day, despair and disappointment seemed to be the order of the day, even if you were not Falling Down. Where to begin. The first to Come Undone was Geraint Thomas who crashed on one of the earlier descents, hitting the deck for the 5th time in this tour. Maybe they should have been avoiding the White Lines on a wet descent. To be honest, he hits the deck quite a lot, but this time he did not get away with it and broke his collarbone. Alberto Contador is Notorious for coming off and surprised a lot of people by waiting until stage 9 for his first fall. But he made up for it by stacking it 2 times. This year he is still in the race but GC aspirations are gone.

Richies crash warrants a new paragraph. I thought he was a goner the speed and ferocity of that crash, but although out of the race he “only” has a broken collarbone, broken pelvis and has invested deeply in the Skin Trade. He either came together with Aru, or misjudged the apex, hit the dirt and then launched into the air on exit. To be honest he is not know for his descending skills. Dan Martin could not avoid him but The Reflex Uran Uran showed saved him from a more Serious outcome. Martin hit his rear derailleur with his foot I think, limiting Uran to 2 gears with just his front changer working.

Do you believe in shame Fabio Aru? Well you should. Froomes hand went up while all the favourites were together as he had a flat rear tyre. Aru dodged under his raised arm to attack. He was followed by Porte, Yates, Quintana and others but they refused to work with him, and had a word at which point he slowed up. He looked pissed off no one work work, and had pleaded ignorance that Froome had a problem. There are differing opinions, especially from Yates, who didn’t have a lot of positives for Aru.

Then there was Demare. Obviously sick for the last couple of days, which is not good with a 7 climb day ahead of you. I can only assume his 3 team mates were also crook, as they are now all out of the race for being outside the time limit. Why would FDJ risk losing half of their team? They were in good company with Mark Renshaw and Matteo Trentin also out. Maybe they were banking on ASO not kicking Demare and his cohorts out, but unfortunately they backed the wrong horse, and they along with 3 others are out. You should check your teams to see if you have any riders left!

Other notable crash victim was Robert Gesink, especially after his 2nd place finish the day before, and Rapha Majka. Gesink is out, Makja is still in, for now.

Ride o the day needs to go to my other favorite Breton, Warren Barguil. He and his team executed an excellent plan to get Matthews the intermediate sprint points and Barguil a launch pad for the stage. They put the pressure on the early descents and got away with a group of riders. Matthews executed part one perfectly gaining the 20 points in the sprint. He then towed Barguil to the foot of the final climb before sitting up, job done. Barguil then attacked and rode over the final climb to gain the KOM jersey, and dream of a stage victory. However he was chased down by Bardet, an excellent descender, before being joined by the other chasers, Froome, Aru, Fuglsang and Uran. With the Pressure Off him for now, he sat on the back and let the others do the work, still hoping for the stage victory. Uran was struggling with his 2 gears, neither of which seemed the right one, but the sprint wound up and he dug deep. Barguil came from behind and lunged for the line, at the same time Uran got gear 2 up to speed. The Frenchman thought he had it, as I did, and we were both gutted when it went to the photo to show Uran take it by 1cm. It was little compensation for Barguil to receive the KOM jersey as well as the most combative jersey, he looked despondent on the podium.

So the final points before the rest day redraw. No change in our top 4 with Heartthrobs01 hanging on for the $30 rest day prize. Mrs Spunker gets the $20 for 2nd place and Heartthrobs04 the $10 for 3rd. Paddles just misses out. Big mover was Heartthrobs08 up 74 spots from somewhere near the bottom, to somewhere near the middle. No change at the bottom with Gjulia Ovest holding on to Lantern Rouge for notheing more than the honour.

What Happens Tomorrow is you get a new team, which you may or not be happy about. Especially if you bag a team full of riders already out of the race. Luck of the draw. Let the wild boys start the complaining, but this is not an ordinary competition in an ordinary world.

TdF Stage 8 – Cramp monster has a nibble but Calmejane stays calm

This was the first major mountain test, but with a fairly long run in to the finish from the top of the last climb, it was unlikely that any of the GC riders would get frisky. It always looked like a breakaway might succeed, and in particular the French were not disappointed. Lilian Calmejane is a new name to me, I wasn’t paying enough attention in Paris – Nice obviously, but I suspect we will be hearing a lot more of this fellow.  Over the various lumps of the day breakaway groups formed and flowed back to the diminished peloton. With the peloton closing in on the breakaway, Calmejane broke away on the final kms of the final climb and gapped Roche and Gesink. They were unable to close the gap, and even when the cramp monster took a few sizable nibbles out of the french mans thighs, they were unable to capitalize. He stayed calm, regrouped and pushed on to take the biggest win of his career, and Frances 2nd stage win from 8 in this years tour.

Some changes in the comp as those teams who had Calmejane made the most of his day in the sun. Getting a total of 135 points for the stage win, Mountains jersey and most combative ride of the day, saw a lot of teams move upwards. No change at the top with Heartthrobs01 holding on from the hovering Mrs Spunker. Big mover was Rower who rides up went up 107 spots from cellar dweller to mid-table mediocrity. Special mention to Pedro Bartoli, up 103 spots to now sit just outside the top 30. Finally we have our sole Lantern Rouge, with Gjulia Ovest getting zero points for the day to cement his place at the foot of the table.

TdF Stage 7 – Hello 6mm Kittel

The final sprint for a few days and it was nice to get a nice clean one without Demare trying to knock people off. A fantastic lead out from Dimension Data put Edvald Boasson Hagen in a great position and it looked like he had won it. But under close scrutiny it seems that Kittel pipped him by 0.0003 seconds or 6mm. Personally I could not see the 6mm looking at the photo finish. Not much else to say, Kittle took his 3rd stage win and is now in the Green Jersey.

Tonight sees the 2nd foray into the mountains, although I am not sure there will be much of a shake up, unless someone cracks.

Short report today as I am cooking for a few mates coming round tonight to watch the action. Plus after the last few days, it was nice not to have some controversy.

Not much to report in the comp either. Top 3 remain the same, question is can they hang on for the first rest day prizes.Big mover of the day was Rainbird up 78 places who came from nowhere to end up somewhere just north of nowhere. Good to see though as Rainbird works for Save the Children, one of the beneficiaries of this competition. No change at the bottom, although after tonight I suspect we will have our sole lantern rouge.

 

 

TdF Stage 6 – Hello Kittel!

After the calm of a mountain stage, we were back to the chaos of the sprint. With two fewer contenders and the UCI maybe making a statement to calm down by chucking Sagan off the race, one would have hoped for a bit less madness. It wasn’t to be, and tempers flared as the fast men hit Troyes. Dimension Data without Cav put their eggs in the Edvald Boasson Hagen basket, and Bora without Sagan are now going all in with Majka for a top 10 place. DD lead it out but put EBH on the front too soon and he was sprinting from around 500m. It was amazing he got 13th in the sprint, not because of how long he had to go from, but more the point that Demare did not knock him off. Demare decided to take Cav’s line up the barriers and barged his way past Marco Haller first, causing him to raise an arm in protest, and then EBH got the same treatment. Funny I didn’t hear of the commissars looking at the sprint, and I have not seen the head on or overhead view yet, but it did look dodgy. In the end it wasn’t enough as Kittel executed a clean sprint by himself on the left side of the road and beat them all to close the gap in the green jersey comp.

That wasn’t the end of the whining. Demares lead out man took a pop at Bouhanni saying “Bouhanni is an idiot. He didn’t just pass me, he also put his knee into my bars. He’s a dick, he’s always making people crash. We know he’s like that. He’s probably upset because he always loses…”. There has been bad blood between Demare and Bouhanni for a long time. Personally I don’t like either of them. Bouhanni is dangerous and Demare, after Milan San Remo is a cheat. He won the race, but was “allegedly” seen holding on to a team car up the Poggio climb. No video, but word was out around the peloton. If only Bryan Cocquard was in the race we would have had the likeable French sprinter, and a Breton as well. You can always trust a Breton, just ask Greg Lemond.

It is only a matter of time before Bouhanni or Demare either cause a crash or start punching each other!

Loads of people still whining about the tour being over without Sagan. The tour rolls on. Get over yourselves.

So, onto the comp. Heartthrobs 01 and 04 swap places, and Mrs Spunker makes a reappearance in the top 3. Big mover was Team Mayo Meath Memorial, one of my sisters teams, up 60 places into the top 100, whoo hoo! Dan McLay finally got a decent placing coming in 8th and giving our 3 cellar dwellers some points. We are down to 2 teams at the bottom now with Cat Six 5 and Gjulia Ovest holding up the table together.

TdF Stage 5 – The new Fab Fab

With the first mountain test last night I think all we have seen is that Chris Froome is likely going to be the winner of this years Tour, pending any crashes. Possibly the only one who might be able to stop that will be Fabulous Fabio Aru. He can’t time trial, so will need to get about 1 minute up before the final time trial. But without the weight of the Giro D’Italia in his legs he was able to fly up the final kilometer of Le Planche de Belle Filles and take a little bit of time out of Froome.

Everyone else looked a bit ordinary, except maybe Dan Martin. Quinana faltered, as did Bardet and Contador. Pinot sat up at the bottom, presumably to say g’day to his family who are from those parts. Chaves, coming back from an injury looked less than match fit, with Simon Yates now taking over the lead Orica rider role and trying to add another white jersey to the Yates family wardrobe. Let’s hope before Saturday the other GC contenders can find some form and work out how to take time out of Froome. BTW BMC, riding on the front all day is not the way to tire the Sky riders out. Sky had the yellow jersey, let them do the work. I really am confused by BMCs tactics unless they thought Richie could win the stage and take the 10 second time bonus. That backfired as Froome got the last bonus seconds on offer.

I am really tired of the vitriolic comments from Sagan supporters. Not here obviously, but on more public forums. I agree he should not have been DQed, but it has happened and they need to move on. Most of them are looking at the head on video view and commenting on that. I still find the overhead view a bit disturbing. Sagan definitely looks like he closed the door on Cavendish’s line, and left him nowhere to go. It looks from that angle that he did in fact make contact with the elbow. There are also some rumors that Sagan may have caused the crash just over 1km from the finish. I will need to do some digging on that one… But what is interesting is from the above view here, take a look at Demares line. He totally chops across Bouhani causing him to swerve. That was far worse than Sagans swerve on Cavendish. Conspiracy theory, ASO saw the chance to have a French green jersey wearer, DQed Sagan and ignored Demares obvious indiscretion. I wonder why Bouhani and Cofidis did not object, Bouhani normally whines about something, and did in fact complain about Demares line in their National Championships, that Demare won.

A lot of Sagan fans are now saying the Tour is dead, there is nothing worth watching for. Well if you like your idol walking away with another green jersey then I agree, the tour is over for you, stop watching. No one can compete with the World Champion. He was destined for a 6th consecutive green jersey, and deservedly so, as he is a brilliant rider. But if you are honest, this year now has the most open green jersey comp since the days of Cav and Hushovd fighting it out. How many times in those days, when yellow was already decided with a week to go, did the green jersey give us some excitement by being decided in the final sprint on the Champs Elysee? Demare is in the box seat thanks to the commissars, but Matthews, Kittle and Greipel will all believe they have a chance now to win, something that would not have been possible with Peter Perfect in the race. I still wish he and Cavendish were in the race though…

Not a lot of change in the comp. Heartthrobs 04 and 01 consolidating their first and second places. They are joined in the top 5 by Heartthrobs10, I can sense global domination this year by Snicko and his teams. Big mover up 118 places is Joseph 1, who I suspect has no idea what I am babbling about. The lantern rouge is shaping up with 3 teams battling it out. Cat Six 5, Gjuilia Ovest and Les Trois Piglets all on 6 points. They will all be hoping their sprinter Dan McLay can do something over the next 2 days.

TdF Stage 4 – Demares victory in Vittel watered down by Cav carnage

Well I guess this could be my last day slagging Cav off, as he and Sagan are both out of the race. Cav with a fractured Clavicle and Sagan disqualified for irregular sprinting. I am sure I woke my neighbours up with my shouting at the TV as it unfolded. The first crash just inside the 1km to go that brought down yellow jersey wearer Thomas thinned the field out a bit, taking Kittel out of the sprint. To be honest he was too far back anyway. I though then that at least that will make the sprint a bit safer. But it was disbelief when I saw Cav hit the barriers, and Dekankold and Swifty flip over him.

I initially did not agree with Robbie McEwans assessment, but kept quiet, mainly because I was by myself at home and arguing with Robbie on TV seems a bit mad, but I was wondering if my bias to Cav was clouding my judgement. I am still not convinced after watching the video evidence many many times. Cav was on Demares wheel, but in my opinion not quite close enough. Sagan saw a small gap and moved across Cav’s line. Unfortunately in the overhead view there is a tree just at that point. I could not see if Cav was leaning on Sagan and if he was it was probably to try and stay upright. What I don’t get is Sagans elbow flick, as that looked to be what tossed Cav into the barrier. Reading some additional reports it seems Sagan had given Greipel an elbow flick the previous day in the intermediate sprint and it was interesting that Marc Sargent, DS from Lotto actually protested the sprint, even though Greipel was not really affected. In the end the race has lost 2 characters which is bad for the Tour. Maybe Sagan should have been penalized in some way. Although Mark Renshaw was thrown off the race a few years ago for some argy bargy with Thor Hushovd, and neither of them crashed, so maybe Sagan’s punishment is in keeping with the outcome.

I know this incident will cause some polarized views as the thousands of comments on cyclingnews.com have shown. There are a lot of Sagan lovers and Cavendish haters out there. But I tend to agree with Cavs comment, what was with Sagan’s elbow flick, it looked more like a flick than a lean. Doesn’t help that Sagan is 80kg and Cav is 68kg. Maybe I am biased, but I like both of them, I wonder what it will do to their friendship. Sagan apparently went to Cavendish after and apologies, which Cav apparently accepted, we shall see.

Oh, BTW, Arnaud Demare won the stage. Taking his first ever Grand Tour Stage win. He has been talking himself up for 5 or 6 years, but finally delivered. The first French winner of a Tour sprint stage since Jimmy Casper in 2006. The French have some good sprinters, Demare, Bouhani, Coquard, but it just shows the dominance of Cavendish, Greipel, Kittel and Sagan over the past years as to why they couldn’t get a stage win.

Onto the comp, and charity teams Heartthrobs04 and Heartthrobs01 take over at the top with Rebel fading, his challenge potentially over with the Sagan DQ. Big mover was Grumpy Guts, yesterdays joint lantern rouge, up 144 places almost breaking into the top 100. A bit more consolodation at the bottom with a totally different group taking over the cellar dweller spots.

TdF Stage 3 – Hulk wins but green evades him

Cracking stage last night, not a night for the pure sprinters, but for the lumpy ones like Sagan, Matthews, Gilbert and Van Avarmaet. SBS coverage started at 6:30 with about 200km to go. I know some of you are missing endless French translations of “Tete de la course” – Front of the bike race, The suitcase of courage and various other sayings. I have to be honest, criticisms, a key part of my reports are sadly wanting without Phil and Paul. I did enjoy Matt and Robbie trying to sound interested as they talked about yet another chateau.

The stage unfolded well with Australian legend, Adam Hansen, in the breakaway. For those who don’t know, Hansen, or the Croc man, has ridden and completed 17 Grand tours in a row. He doesn’t win much but when he does he really enjoys it, and he is often know to have a beer while racing up Alpe d’huez. Mark Cavendish could take a leaf out of Lumpys book in the toughness stakes. Anyway, the break formed and eventually the race caught them at the usually ordained time. Then it was on as the major players jostled for position for the final climb.

BMC seemed to be setting it up for Van Avermaet and Porte and the pace was high. A few other GC players like Contador, who for some reason hasn’t fallen off his bike yet, were having a look. But as it pinched up the strong sprinters started to hit the front. Sagan went a bit too early, so decided to unclip his pedal and coast for a bit before re-engaging. This gave Van Avermaet and Irishman Dan Martin a chance, which they failed to take. Matthews came from too far back but finished strong, almost catching The Hulk on the line. Sagan was just too good as he slam dunked another victory for his adorning fans.

This is an interesting year in the tipping contest. We are only in the 3rd day but everyone has some points already. Some don’t have very many, with Grumpy Guts, Snow White and The Spaniard sharing the lantern rouge spot with 4 points. However some big movers, with many teams up a 100 or more places. The biggest of these was Snicko 1 up 172 places to hit the top 30. Snickos other charity teams, the Heartthrobs, are massing at the top of the table in 2nd, 3rd and 5th. Mrs Spunker was a big loser as she dropped down 4 places to be replaced by Rebel at the top. Looking at his team, most of his riders seemed to be action yesterday, I suspect he will be hard to topple.