2008 Tour de France Update #1
One week of the Tour is over now and everything has pretty much gone to form. Cadel Evans has lost no time to his rivals and sits comfortably in second place behind Kim Kirchen; a man Evans probably feels he can out time trial and out climb. Kirchen, in yellow, has given Evans’ Silence Lotto team a chance to rest in order to be able to support him in the mountains. The advantages to being a time trialer in the Tour are obvious. First, with a lead going into the mountains you can ride defensively and pick which attacks to follow knowing you do not need to gain time, but merely hold on to your lead. Second, after the mountains you get another time trial which obliges you opponents to attack in the mountains knowing that they have to gain significant time on you in the mountains in order for them to win. Evans is right where he wants to be heading into the Pyrenees and the first week could not have gone better for him.
For the other GC contenders there were few opportunities to gain time on Evans and several chances to lose time. Valverde grabbed a nice stage win and a few seconds in Stage 1, but also predictably lost a great deal more time in week’s lone time trial. More discouraging for Valverde were a crash and the inability to drop Evans on Stage 5, a stage in which several GC contenders lost a few seconds.
Denis Menchov was caught behind a crash and lost time on what should have been an easy flat stage. He rebounded with a nice time trial but showed no ability out climb Evans; something he will need to do in the coming week if he is to win the Tour.
Carlos Sastre showed nothing in the time trial and nothing in the little climbing that took place. Given he has not shown good form we can expect CSC and Bjarne Riis to change their focus to another rider for the overall; probably one of the Schlecks (editor's note: Yay! I'm rooting for Andy Schleck). Look for CSC to be all over the place with no focus for the rest of the Tour.
Several other hopefuls eliminated themselves. Damiano Cunego combined a crash, a poor time trial and some relatively poor climbing into a deficit he will not make up. Darkhorse Mauricio Soler crashed out. Roman Kreuziger turned in a poor time trial and has not looked quick on the hills. Ricardo Ricco of Saunier Duval had a nice stage win in Stage 5, but lost enough time in the time trial to make it clear he will not contend for the podium (and he’s crashing as I write this). Euskaltel’s Haimar Zubeldia had another predictably poor time trial and was not competitive.
If we’ve seen several weak peformances, we’ve also seen some impressive performances from some riders. Kim Kirchen was competitive everywhere and his Columbia team appears strong enough to support him for the full three weeks. I don’t think Kirchen is good enough to win, but he is certainly good enough to finish on the podium. His being in contention may benefit Evans as the Columbia team has been doing a lot of work with Kirchen in yellow and if Kirchen stays close they will be useful allies chasing down breaks in the mountains. Well done Mr. Kirchen and Team Columbia.
Another rider to watch in the next week is Euskaltel’s Samuel Sanchez. He currently sits eleventh and I think this will improve in the upcoming week on his home field of the Pyrenees. Sanchez turned in a respectable time trial (for him) and also kept with the lead group on the little breaks where people lost time. In past years Euskaltel would never have kept up front on these stages and this is a very good sign that both this team and rider are serious about a top placing. With the descents that we have in this race Sanchez stands an excellent chance at a high finish and an outside chance at the podium.
For the green jersey contenders, the first week told us nothing. This was an unusual year without a lot of guaranteed sprint finishes, but I think in the end Thor Hushovd is the strongest man and will find a way to win the jersey.
In the quest for the polka dots we saw Soler crash out and Voeckler try to get into every breakaway to get climbing points. There are way too many points available in the high mountains for Voeckler to maintain his lead, so I think someone like Ricco, Piepoli, Kreuziger or even one of the CSC riders to take a shot at the jersey.
On the doping end of things we’ve seen one rider, Manuel Beltran test positive and quickly get booted from the Tour. This is the right way to do it. Beltran is yet another former Postal/Discovery rider who has been booted for doping. Explain to me why the Tour would want a Johan Bruyneel team, Astana, in the Tour. (editor's note - are you trying to imply that perhaps Postal, Discovery, Bruyneel and L - - C - maybe have a systematic history of cheating? ;-)
That’s my take on the first week. I still think Evans looks good for the overall and I don’t think Valverde and Menchov have the goods to stop him. For the coming week there will be some tense riding in the mountains followed by some dangerous descents. Tomorrow’s Stage 9 should be the best one yet and fortunately it will be on live TV on the Versus channel and not part of the horrible weekend afternoon network coverage. Tune in tomorrow morning for some good racing.
Posted by BVBigBro at July 12, 2008 10:09 AM
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|# July 14th, 2008 10:38 AM kris|
|Huge ride by Vande Velde today. Any chance he could win the GC, BV? |
|# July 14th, 2008 10:51 AM BVBigBro|
|No. CSC did a mammoth effort today to get a Stage win for Piepoli and a Yellow for Evans. They did put Frank Schleck into contention and will now back him instead of Sastre. That means, of course, that Schleck is likely to get dropped on the next mountain stage and Sastre will shine.
Menchov hung around. He is the most dangerous man. Also, Ricco and the Saunier Duval riders are still near and are obviously tops in the mountains. If Evans shows any trouble I would expect Ricco to launch an attack and see what happens in spite of his not riding for the overall. If Evans has a bad day and Ricco launches an attack he could easily get 5 minutes and be near the threshold of being able to overcome his inevitable losses in the final time trial. There is still a long ways to go, though, and Evans is the man to beat.
|# July 14th, 2008 4:35 PM kris|
|So why isn't Vande Velde a contender? I get that he's not a favorite, but is there something about him that prevents him from winning - is Garmin Chipotle not a strong enough team? Will he melt in the Alps? |
|# July 14th, 2008 10:33 PM BVBigBro|
|Today was a pretty defensive stage, especially when you watch the TV. Evans and Menchov didn't want to chase Schleck and drag the other man and Sastre along, and Sastre wasn't going to chase his teammate, thus Schleck was allowed his break. Vande Velde hung with this group when they were just riding tempo. Had they chased Schleck hard I don't think he would have stayed with them. In addition, Menchov and Evans did ALL the work on the final climb. Vande Velde sat on the back the whole way and even then was just barely able to hang on when they sprinted for the finish line. |
|# July 17th, 2008 8:49 AM kris|
|So now the entire Duval team is out. Hilarious. They obviously didn't realize exactly what the doping controls could detect.
I know some people will think this is bad for cycling. I disagree. It's great. At least cycling is doing something. Look at tennis - 'ole Nadal is up to his ears in PED speculation yet tennis does nothing about it and his match with Federer is hailed as the greatest thing ever. That sport still has its collective head up its ass.