Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tour rest day update

So the Pyrenees are over and the first rest arrives.

As expected, the GC didn't change much, the only difference of note is that Contador stole a couple of seconds lead on Armstrong. It's impossible to know for sure, but Armstrong's and the team's reaction to Contador's attack seemed pretty genuine. So Contador's attack went against the team plans which Armstrong followed by not chasing him down. I would have done the same if I was Contador and if I was Armstrong I would be using his breaking of team plans to galvanise the team around me. It is going to be interesting to see how it pans out when we hit the Alps. An point of interest is Armstrong's improving fitness. I read an article by Armstrong's coach about how Lance needed to shed muscle from his upper body. He pretty much hit the targets just as the tour started, so in terms of form, the Giro is not going to be a good guide. The first two weeks of the tour could prove to be the perfect conditioning for Lance.

The only other significant event during the Pyrenees was the attempted breakaway by Cadel. He jumped onto a breakaway group and then jumped off the front of them to form his own breakaway. He was then joined by a number of other riders including Cancellara and Hincape. At Cancellara's prompting, the riders in the breakaway abused Cadel and refused to work with him until he gave up and returned to the peleton. They did this for two reasons, first of all Astana were always going to chase hard a breakaway with Cadel in it. Secondly a number of the riders in the breakaway had teammates with GC aspirations so their teams wouldn't let them support another rider gaining time on the GC.

Cadel received a lot of criticism from people for wasting energy on a stupid, doomed attack. This came from the same people that had a go at him for never attacking. Personally I think that while it had little or no chance of success, it was a great symbolic move. It showed that he is racing to win and won't accept that just because Astana are the strongest team, they will supply the race winner. Even Armstrong called the move "gutsy" http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,,25779408-5015775,00.html .

Many people are complaining that Cadel's team has lost him the tour. Yes they had a very poor Team Time Trial and even if they had had a trouble free run they probably still would have lost at least 1 minute. But watching the team in the mountains they have been brilliant. There have always been 1 or two guys with Cadel and they have even launched the odd attack to soften up Astana. If Cadel's team had performed like this last year, the results in Paris may have been very different.

Anyway, the race now has a couple of relatively flat days before we get into the Alps. The final week of this year's tour is supposed to be a monster week and looking at the stage profiles, the mountain top finish at Verbier on stage 15 will be critical, but some later stages with downhill finishes also offer some opportunities. The penultimate stage (20) is an HC mountain top finish coming after the Time Trial on stage 18. The tour may only just be decided by the time they start the stage into Paris.


  1. I hate thinking of you as insightful!

    Just rx'd a new quarter lined jacket - cotton with patch pockets - I heart it

  2. Armstrong's winning the PR battle, at least in the English-speaking media. He's making Contador look like a spoiled little princess. I understand in the Spanish press they're claiming Astana is 100% behind Armstrong, meaning Contador's lost control of the team to him and Bruyneel. Then again based on their coverage of MotoGP and football it's pretty clear the Spanish sports press have NFI and less ethical integrity than even the Fleet Street red-tops.

  3. We was right about Lance, and probably Bruyneel - Armstrong's had enough of the Borats and is off to work at Radio Shack instead. Johan'll presumably follow suit.