Alberto Contador, Team Astana climbing the Col du Tourmalet on Stage 9 - Excerpted Q&A on rest day - Q: Armstrong has said yesterday that there was a little tension in the team. Do you feel alone? Contador: I have seen his statements, but for me there is no tension at all, I am very relaxed. /// Q:Do you feel alone? Is your principal opposition inside Astana? Contador: I do not feel alone at all, because I have around me people who completely support me in this Tour and that are being very important. In my team there are riders with many options and that are clear candidates, but I do not think about it either. There remains a lot of Tour to race and in any case, it's better that the victory remain in the team than goes anywhere else. /// Q: What will the situation be if Armstrong attacks in the mountain? Do you go to catch him or not? Contador: If Armstrong attacks I am not going to catch him. That will have to be done by others. Caption & Image Credit: Team Astana
TDF Stage 10 - Bastille Day Breakaway From The Red City
Today’s stage coincides with the French National Holiday, Bastille Day, on the 14th of July. We can expect to see the French teams and riders animating the stage from start to finish. Certainly, they have a chance to steal the day’s glory from the sprinters on this bumpy 194.5-kilometer ride from Limoges to Issoudun. But it will be far from easy, as the climbs all come early in the stage before it descends to a flat finish. Though the early kilometers favor the escape, the mostly descending finish shifts the advantage to the chase.
Limoges (famed for the production of porcelain) has hosted the Tour de France on 13 occasions. The city holds the nickname of la ville rouge, the Red City, because of its leftist political tradition. France’s main trades union, the Confédération générale du travail, originated in Limoges in the late 19th century. The stage finishes in Issoudun, and this year marks the first visit of the Tour to this town in central France.
As for a prediction for who will win this two-wheel epic when it reached Paris on Stage 21, July 26, 2009 now that we are through the first stages of mountains ... can not say, but there is a good bet that Team Astana may populate the podium.
Since 1976, there have only been five instances when riders from the same team have been on the final podium in Paris and the last time that happened was 13 years ago. Interstingly, Greg LeMond was involved in three of those:
* 1996 – Telekom 1st & 2nd – Bjarne Riis and Jan Ullrich
* 1986 – La vie Claire 1st & 2nd – Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault
* 1985 – La Vie Claire 1st & 2nd – Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond
* 1984 – Renault-Elf 1st & 3rd – Laurent Fignon and Greg LeMond
* 1976 – GAN-Mercier 2nd & 3rd – Joop Zootemelk and Raymond Poulidor
Today's stage begins after a day of rest and will not be much more than a hilly ride through central France. This stage crosses terrain wrinkled with small climbs and bumps, but none of them should cause the sprinters’ teams too much difficulty.
From the start in Limoges, the first ten kilometers are mostly flat. The first categorized climb of the day summits at kilometer 12.5. The category 4 Côte de Salvanet climbs 1.8 kilometers at an average gradient of 4.5%. It’s a nice warm-up and should serve to send an early breakaway off the front.
There is space here for a breakaway to hide, but the sprinters’ teams should prove able to bring back the escape before the finish. At kilometer 122, there is a second intermediate sprint in the town of Aigurande. The final intermediate sprint comes with 27.5 kilometers to race in Saint-Aoüt. From there, the course descends, passing through Meunet Planches on the way to the flat finish in Issoudun.
There are a few sweeping corners on the way to the finish, and a right-hand bend just before the red kite. Then, it’s a straight shot to the line. The stage finishes on the boulevard Roosevelt and should be a day for the sprinters.
(ht: steephill.tv & VeloNews)
This excerpted and edited from VERSUS -
The outcome of the stage, or at least what the peloton is aiming for is quite obvious due to who is on the front. Most of the top sprinters' teams -- Columbia-HTC, Garmin-Slipstream, Lampre, Liquigas -- are on the front setting the pace.
The time gap seems to be fluctuating much more than usual.
Regardless of the opinion, this will make for an interesting stage that would otherwise be a nondescript 'transfer' stage.
Riders are always given course maps and profiles, but you can see the riders using them more, as they are no longer getting information in their ear (team radio communications were banned for this stage by race organizers).
Even with radios the peloton has had trouble doing this in the previous few stages.
The question is whether the peloton will be able to time the catch of a breakaway close enough to the finish to discourage counter-attacks -- but far enough to still catch all the break riders.
Le Tour... unplugged. Today is the first stage that is without radio communication between the riders and their team directors.
This excerpted and edited from VeloNews and other race broadcast resources -
CPelkey: We still have no indication that the Tour has backed off its position on radios today, despite the vehement objections of 15 of the 20 teams racing in the Tour.
12:43 CPelkey: Johan Bruyneel and Jonathan Vaughters chat about the radio rule this morning.
CPelkey: Riders have passed the start. We have 171 riders in the peloton.
As they say, "you can't tell the players without a scorecard," so we've updated the roster sheet to reflect changes over the past week: http://tour-de-france.velonews.com/article/93739
CPelkey: You might wonder why reporters were glomping onto Niermann this morning. Perhaps this shot might show a little more of his small act of civil disobedience.
CPelkey: One item of VeloNews interest. Our friend and colleague, John Wilcockson was recognized at the start this morning for having covered 40 - yup, that's forty - Tours de France.
CPelkey: With the absence of rider radios today, we can imagine that riders will be paying closer attention to the "chalkboard man" on the motorcycle. The Tour has continued to rely on the chalkboard man to report time gaps to the peloton, despite the fact that riders have been getting more accurate information over their radios.
CPelkey: Mmmmmm... at 18km, the gap is up to 3:10.
CPelkey: While you suggest that the radio ban contributed to the rather rapid growth in the gap, but part of that may be due to ... less technological factors. There were several members of the peloton who needed to rid themselves of this morning's coffee before carrying on. Tradition dictates that the peloton will slow if a significant number of riders answer the call of nature at the same time.
CPelkey: At 22km, the gap is now 3:40. It looks like this one will stick for a while. None of these riders poses a threat on GC
Rumors of a potential pre-stage strike due to the radio ban swirled around the start line, however those rumors turned out to be just that - rumors - as the pack rolled away and did so right on schedule.
Others suggested the majority of the peloton might simply neutralize the stage by riding tempo, however given that it’s Bastille Day, the likelihood of French riders and teams giving up the opportunity to win on the national holiday seemed unlikely.
Another possibility is that each team that is against the ban would put two riders at the front to neutralize a potential French breakaway attempt.... but as you can see, that doesn't appear to be the case either.
Garmin-Slipstream’s Christan Vande Velde said he could see both sides of the argument, but didn’t like the added danger of team directors driving in and out of the peloton to talk to their riders.
Tom Boonen said the speculation surrounding possible ways to act out against the radio ban was just another classic example of chaos at the Tour de France.
“Today should be a perfect opportunity for riders to make a statement and tell the race that the ban on radios is bullshit,” Boonen told VeloNews. “But of course it’s the Tour, and everyone has different interests, and nobody knows what’s going to happen. It’s just another crazy day at the Tour.”
Rabobank’s Grischa Niermann made his own statement by implanting a car radio antenna on the back of his Giro helmet, drawing scores of photographers at sign-in. Niermann also used the term “bullshit” when discussing the radio ban, telling VeloNews, “we’ve been racing with radios for 10 or 12 years. Why are we going back in time now?”
Niermann’s teammate, sprinter Oscar Friere, said normally today’s stage would be ideal for a field sprint, however given the unpredictability of racing without radios, as well as the possibility of a neutralized stage, he didn’t know what to expect.
CPelkey: Our four leaders are being kept on a relatively tight leash today.
At 57km, their advantage is just 2:38.
CPelkey: We still haven't seen Mr. Hood in the press room today.
Checking in on his latest Twitter updates (at http://twitter.com/EuroHoody) it seems he hasn't made an entry since yesterday, when his focus appears to have been on things non-journalistic:
"Time to get some "rest" in this rest day; I think there's a bottle of chilled rose somewhere calling my name."
CPelkey: Andy Schleck has just returned to the peloton after getting a wheel change. He flatted, but had no difficulty getting back into the field.
The peloton is being led by a combination of Ag2r and Rabobank riders. Ag2r is obviously intent upon ensuring that Nocentini keeps the jersey, while Rabobank is probably interested in getting Oscar Freire to the line in a mass sprint. Of course, the three-time world champion has to get past Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar if he wants a win today.
[Comment From Gary ]
I know that the bikes have a sensor attached for their time checks but what happens if the rider has to switch bikes during the ride? How time checked in that situation?
CPelkey: A few replacement bikes have sensors, too. The Tour keeps track of bike changes and those codes are typed into the computer. If a rider gets a bike without a sensor, the rider's finishing position is double-checked on film. That's one reason preliminary results go through a confirmation process before they are declared to be official.
CPelkey: The Quick Step and Lampre teams are now lending a hand in the chase. Quick Step may be hoping to give Tom Boonen a shot at a stage win today. He's been having all sorts of trouble this Tour and a stage win might get him back on track in the points competition.
CPelkey: Back at the 58.5km mark, the four leader crossed the top of the Côte de Bénévent-l'Abbaye.
1. Thierry Hupond (Skil-Shimano), 3 points
2. Benoit Vaugrenard (Francaise des Jeux), 2 points
3. Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), 1 point
That's the last ranked climb of the day and the three Cat. 4s have had no significant impact on the KOM contest. Martinez will keep the polka-dot jersey for another day.
CPelkey: At 68km, the gap has bumped back up to the 3:15 mark.
CPelkey: With 46.5km to go, the gap is at 1:42.
We could predict a catch somewhere after the 20km-to-go mark.
CPelkey: With 42km to go, the gap is 1:39.
It's still a good mix of riders at the front of the peloton.
CPelkey: Here's a look at the finish line.
[Comment From Pedalingsquares ]
How many kms from the finish do you think Ignatiev will give it a go?
CPelkey: You're right. Of the four, Ignatiev has done the least amount of work. He may be saving himself for a last frantic dash to the line. I'd still bet on a field sprint today, though.
CPelkey: Columbia is moving up. They are beginning to smell the finish line.
CPelkey: With 33km to go, the gap is 1:13.
It's a mix of Columbia and Rabobank riders at the front.
[Comment From Sean ]
I think Cavendish needs a cool nickname to be the best sprinter. I miss Robbie the Rocket McEwen.
CPelkey: Cavendish, who grew up on the Isle of Man, is know as the "Manx Missile." That's pretty cool, no?
CPelkey: Under a minute. Our leaders are 31km from the finish and now just 58 seconds ahead of the peloton.
CPelkey: Tick, tick, tick ...
[Comment From Guest ]
I saw that Bicycling magazine misquoted Cavendish once as the 'Man Missile' .... that drastically changes the moniker
CPelkey: That would have to rank as one of the cycling world's most unfortunate typos, yes.
CPelkey: Okay, our four leaders are now 26km from the finish. The gap is holding at 1:00.
CPelkey: The peloton is 25km from the finish. The gap has dropped to 45 seconds.
[Comment From Peter ]
Do the riders in the break away get regular reports on how far back the peloton is?
CPelkey: They also benefit from the Chalkboard Man ... who is delivering bad news to the four leaders.
22km to go, 40-second gap.
CPelkey: Carlos Sastre has pretty much accepted he won't be winning this year's Tour: "I am resigned? No. I am a realist. There's one team (Astana) that's clogging up the of the GC, holding up the race. This Tour didn't have the prerequisites for me to win again. The second week is tough enough and then the third week will decide everything. Whoever has the legs will win this Tour."
CPelkey: Arvesen is still hanging at the back of the peloton. We think he'll make it to the finish and we hope he's able to continue tomorrow.
CPelkey: With 16km to go, the gap is 41 seconds. If any of these guys want to win, one of them is going to have to make a move soon. You can see the peloton coming up fast.
[Comment From Steve ]
Is there a jersey for the current holder of the Lanterne Rouge?
CPelkey: No. No there is not.
CPelkey: Benoit Vaugrenard (Francaise des Jeux), Thierry Hupond (Skil-Shimano), Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) and Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) continue to hold off the chase.
They seem to have a bit of reserve in the tank after the moderate pace today. Are we gonna see a drag race?
[Comment From Westy ]
What is the Lanterne Rouge?
CPelkey: It is an honor given to the last rider on GC - the overall standings. The name is based on the red light on the back of a train.
[Comment From Brian ]
Don't they wear red numbers..?
CPelkey: No. That is awarded to the most aggressive rider.
CPelkey: With less than 8km remaining, the gap is in the 20-second range.
CPelkey: Actually, we're at 6.5km from the finish. Time to chase boys.
CPelkey: Twenty-one seconds, with 5.8km to go.
CPelkey: Columbia and Garmin are massing at the front.
CPelkey: Mmmmmm.... five km to go.
CPelkey: Garmin, Columbia and Quick Step are driving the chase. There are no attacks out of the front group.
CPelkey: Are these guys gonna make it? They still have 20 seconds with four kilometers to go.
Ignatiev tries a dig. The others were expecting it, though.
3km to go, 12 seconds.
CPelkey: 2.5km to go, the gap is down to 11 seconds.
CPelkey: The roads are twisty here at the finish....
CPelkey: With 2km to go, the gap is seven seconds.
Farrar is goin...
CPelkey: Cavendish and crew have control again
CPelkey: Cavendish charges ,.... and makes it look oh so very easy.
CPelkey: Wow he is good.
It looks like by coming in second, Hushovd keeps the green jersey.
Farrar was third.
CPelkey: 1. Mark Cavendish (GB), Columbia-HTC
2. Thor Hushovd (N), Cervelo
3. Tyler Farrar (USA), Garmin-Slipstream.
[Comment From Matthew ]
Wow. not having radios changed everything!
CPelkey: Yeah, we noticed that, too.
CPelkey: As expected, there was no real impact on GC:
# 1. Rinaldo Nocentini Ag2r-La Mondiale
# 2. Alberto Contador Astana, at 0:06
# 3. Lance Armstrong Astana at 00:08
# 4. Andréas KlÖden Astana at 00:54
# 5. Levi Leipheimer Astana at 00:54
# 6. Tony Martin Team Columbia - Htc at 01:00
# 7. Bradley Wiggins Garmin - Slipstream at 01:01
# 8. Christian Vande Velde Garmin - Slipstream at 01:24
# 9. Andy Schleck Team Saxo Bank at 01:49
# 10. Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas at 01:54
CPelkey: We're still waiting for KOM and points standings, but there is no change in ownership of either of those jerseys. Hushovd keeps the points jersey. Martinez keeps the KOM.
Tomorrow: Stage 11 - Wednesday, July 15 - 192 km - Vatan to Saint-Fargeau
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