Sunday, July 8, 2012

Thoughts on TdF Stage 8

1. True to his word, Jens went on the attack today. But a lot of other riders decided that if Jens was going, it would be a good idea to go with him. The break, when it finally got away, included about 20 riders, which was really too big a group for the peloton to allow to get a big lead.

2. Several riders, including Jensy, tried to attack off the front of the breakaway, but the group wouldn't let him go. They did let Jeremy Roy go, for a while. But even he never got more than a 2 minute advantage over the chasing peloton, which was driven (as expected) by Team Sky in defense of the yellow jersey.

3. Of all the day's attacks, the only one that seemed to have a chance of going the distance was by Astana rider Fredrik Kessiakoff, a former mountain biker riding in his first TdF. But he was caught and passed on the final climb up the Col de la Croix (2.5 miles at an average gradient of nearly 10%  and sections at 17%) by FdJ's Thibaut Pinot, the youngest rider in the race. And Pinot held the advantage to get the win, the first by a Frenchman in this year's tour. All credit to the 22-year-old.

4. Pinot did a great job of holding off a group of hard-chasing pursuers, including Wiggo, Evans, and three RadioShack riders. At 4k, his lead was only about 40 seconds, but they couldn't catch him.

5. Cadel Evans was never going to attempt an attack on Wiggo on today's stage, unless something extraordinary happened. The stage was too short, and the climbs were too easy, for him to accomplish anything against a team as strong as Sky. He did make a few little surges on the final downhill, including in the final two kilometers. But Wiggins was not going to allow him to get away.

6. It's not clear to me what Liquigas were trying to accomplish today. They were really driving the peloton hard to the bottom of the final climb of the day. Were they trying to set up Nibali for a (futile) effort to gain a few seconds over Evans and Wiggans? Phil and Paul though they were trying to put Sagan in a position to get the stage win, but that strains credulity. As great a rider as Sagan is, he was never going to make up the Col de la Croix in the front of the pack.  

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