Thursday, July 12, 2012

Throughts on TdF Stage 11

1. Tough, tough day for the peloton, which is exploded on the beast of a climb know as the Croix de Fer. Frankly, I don't know how riders can make it up all those climbs in a single day, let alone racing them. Just like yesterday, only four of the two dozen or so riders who made the initial break survived to the end of the stage.

2. Kudos to stage winner Pierre Rolland, who was the protagonist of the lead group, always pushing the pace. He even survived a crash on the final downhill, and finished the race with blood streaming from his left elbow. For his efforts, he took not only the stage victory but also the polka dot jersey in the King of the Mountains competition.

3. A third victory for France in the last four stages, and the second win in as many days for the small French  Europcar team. Are we witnessing a renaissance of French cycling?

4. Cadel Evans had to attack today, and Team BMC had a good plan. On the Croix, they sent the white jersey wearer, Teejay van Gaarderen, up the road. Evans then attacked and bridged up to him. Once they were together, Teejay paced Cadel to the top. In fact, it looked like Teejay was the stronger rider on the day, as he had to slow up from time to time to keep Evans on his wheel.

5. Team Sky knew fully well that Evans had to attack, but their defense was impregnable. With four riders protecting Wiggo on the Croix de Fer, they never allowed Evans get more than a 15 second advantage. They chased him down well before the summit, using up only one teammate in the effort. 

6. Nibali held his fire until the final climb of the day up La Toussuire, when he launched a couple of violent attacks. Wiggins' teammates pretty easily pegged back the first attack, but the second succeeded in momentarily hurting Wiggins' final defender Chris Froome. Wiggins was isolated for a time and took up the chase himself. Evans must have wanted to attack the yellow jersey at that point, but Wiggins set such a pace that Evans was dropped. Froome eventually recovered and came back up to pace Wiggins. They caught Nibali again, but then, inexplicably, Froome attacked, which served mainly to isolate his captain, facilitating yet another attack by Nibali. Eventually, the team car radioed Froome to back off and pick up Wiggins. They caught Nibali once more, and prevented any time losses. 

7. At the end of the day, Wiggins extended his lead in the overall competition, with Froome in second place and Nibali in third. Evans lost about a minute and a half, falling into fourth place.

8. Clearly, Chris Froome will be team leader next year, but for which team? RadioShack, perhaps? The Schlecks certainly won't be there to get in his way.

9. The Phil Ligget quote of the day (about Chris Anker Sorensen, who kept falling off the pace on the climbs and fighting his way back): "This guy's yoyo was bought in a cheap shop."

10. Teams that have done little or nothing in the Tour so far include Rabobank, Euskatel (which I keep expecting to attack in the high mountains, but may be waiting for the Pyrenees), and Vaconsoleil, whose GC hope, Lieuwe Westra, abandoned today.

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