Thursday, July 27, 2006

Steegmans moving

Gert Steegmans, the Davitamon-Lotto rider from Belgium who finished the Tour two slots above the Lanterne Rouge in the overall rankings, and who served as Robbie McEwens' leadout man, will be moving to Quickstep. Pez said, "Steegmans will both bolster Quick.Step for the Classics as well as Tom Boonen's lead-out train, which was lacking at the Tour this year."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Mountain fever survivor

It's nice to see that Tom Boonen bounced back so quickly from his sudden illness on July 18th during the Tour de France, which was severe enough to cause his withdrawal from the race, and he managed to drag his barely-recovered carcass up to the top step of the podium in the "After Tour Criterium".

Monday, July 24, 2006

2006 team standings

Even the team standings ended with a few surprises in 2006! The five teams who were on the road the longest in this Tour were:

16 AGRITUBEL 4h 45' 38"
17 FRANCAISE DES JEUX 5h 36' 05"
18 LIQUIGAS 6h 39' 10"
19 TEAM MILRAM 6h 40' 46"

Everybody seemed to think that Agritubel was a mercy slot, but they beat some long-established teams - in time on the road. Good for them!

The Quickstep boys ended as the Lanterne Rouge team in the overall standings. Their starting lineup was:
101 - BOONEN Tom BEL
102 - CRETSKENS Wilfried BEL
103 - DE JONGH Steven NED
104 - GARATE Juan Manuel ESP
105 - POZZATO Filippo ITA
106 - RUJANO José VEN
107 - TANKINK Bram NED
108 - TOSATTO Matteo ITA
109 - VASSEUR Cédric FRA

It's hard to do well when 44% of your team doesn't finish the game, though! Even Tom Boonen, their team leader, has only finished one Tour (120th in 2004).
Cretskens - abandoned Stage 11
Boonen - abandoned Stage 15
De Jonge - abandoned Stage 16
Rujano - abandoned Stage 17

However, Agritubel was indeed on the bottom in earnings (which are decided by such things as sprint points and finish positions, I believe). Pez says: "Phonak was the biggest earner in the 2006 Tour de France with just under 500,000 Euros: 496,280. 2nd? Caisse-D'Epargne with less than half that: 236,330. Agritubel rounded out the teams in dead last with 15,200."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A triumph!

Samuel Abt did a wonderful piece about Jimmy Casper pushing himself to the limit in the individual time trial to avoid being the Lanterne Rouge again this year for the third time. I'm happy to report that Wim Vansevenant seems to respect the title, as he should. He finished the Tour de France!

Thanks to Tour de France 2006 Blog for the link!

Stage 20: Finale in Paris

Florent Brard, a Frenchman riding for Caisse d'Epargne - Illes Balears, was a non-starter for the final stage of the 2006 Tour de France. It was his second Tour. He had been in 135th place in the general classification. According to the T-Mobile site: "He heavily crashed [in the Individual Time Trial] at the same place as Christophe Moreau, hitting the barricades and suffered multiple fractures in his hand. "My back is also extremely sore", he told cyclingnews, very frustrated about not finishing a race he enjoyed a lot in the service of Oscar Pereiro."

That left 139 riders to finish the 2006 Tour.

There were five stragglers over the finish line today, who just didn't want the Tour to end!

135 117 HINAULT Sébastien C.A FRA 00' 51"
136 062 AERTS Mario DVL BEL 00' 56"
137 113 CHARTEAU Anthony C.A FRA 01' 46"
138 068 VANSEVENANT Wim DVL BEL 01' 54"

139 166 GARZELLI Stefano LIQ ITA 02' 10"
was the final man riding his bicycle in this year's Tour.

That leaves the final ten places in the Tour unchanged after the Stage 19 Individual Time Trial:

130 135 COYOT Arnaud COF FRA 3h 35' 34"
131 158 MENGIN Christophe FDJ FRA 3h 35' 52"
132 165 CARLSTRÖM Kjell LIQ FIN 3h 35' 53"
133 105 POZZATO Filippo QSI ITA 3h 37' 06"
134 193 COUTOULY Cédric AGR FRA 3h 39' 00"
135 048 WROLICH Peter GST AUT 3h 39' 20"
136 124 HERNANDEZ Aitor EUS ESP 3h 50' 16"
137 067 STEEGMANS Gert DVL BEL 3h 59' 16"
138 133 CASPER Jimmy COF FRA 4h 00' 05"
139 068 VANSEVENANT Wim DVL BEL 4h 02' 01"

So the man who goes down in the history books as the Lanterne Rouge of the 2006 Tour de France is Wim Vansevenant, the Belgian rider on Davitamon-Lotto - the finisher of the Tour who spent the longest time in the saddle competing of any rider. He is pictured (left) in a crash with Salvatore Commesso on the outskirts of Paris.

This year 37 men who began the Tour did not even make it to the finish line (21% of starters), unlike the Lanterne Rouge.

It is notable that the penultimate finisher, Jimmy Casper, finished in the Lanterne Rouge position in the 2001 and 2004 Tours de France.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The race of truth

Robbie Hunter, South African on the Phonak team, did not make the time cutoff today for the individual time trial and was eliminated from the Tour de France. How very sad for that to happen nearly within sight of the Arc de Triomphe!

Pez said: "Robbie Hunter was time cut after the TT. He had to ride the entire 57k out of his saddle due to a cantankerous saddle sore, as a result, he didn't make the time cut, and officials showed him no mercy. No matter that he was a part of the Landis' Tour winning team - he'd be watching the final stage in street clothes." Over 35 miles standing on the pedals? OUCH! I'll bet everything hurt when he was done!

That leaves 140 riders in the 2006 Tour. Barring some disastrous accident, all should finish tomorrow in Paris.

The last five finishers in the Individual Time Trial today were:
136 123 ETXEBARRIA Unai EUS VEN 11' 57"
137 145 LOBATO Ruben SDV ESP 12' 29"
138 133 CASPER Jimmy COF FRA 13' 37"
139 192 CALVENTE Manuel AGR ESP 13' 48"
140 199 SALMON Benoit AGR FRA 14' 01"

Even though Jimmy Casper lost some time to Wim Vansevenant, he still is 16 seconds ahead of him overall. So unless he somehow manages to fall 16 seconds off the back of the peleton tomorrow, Casper may not achieve a third Lanterne Rouge finish of the Tour.

The final ten times for the 2006 Tour de France finishers are, at the finish of today's stage, are:
131 135 COYOT Arnaud COF FRA 3h 35' 34"
132 158 MENGIN Christophe FDJ FRA 3h 35' 52"
133 165 CARLSTRÖM Kjell LIQ FIN 3h 35' 53"
134 105 POZZATO Filippo QSI ITA 3h 37' 14"
135 193 COUTOULY Cédric AGR FRA 3h 39' 00"
136 048 WROLICH Peter GST AUT 3h 39' 28"
137 124 HERNANDEZ Aitor EUS ESP 3h 49' 57"
138 067 STEEGMANS Gert DVL BEL 3h 59' 24"
139 133 CASPER Jimmy COF FRA 4h 00' 05"
140 068 VANSEVENANT Wim DVL BEL 4h 00' 21"

It should be noted that Filippo Pozzato and Aitor Hernandez are both young riders under 25 years of age.

Those standings are unlikely to change tomorrow, but then again, this is the Crazy Tour.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Stage 18 of the Crazy Tour

Oscar Freire is out! The official Tour feed says: "The winner of of stages five and nine, Oscar Freire (RAB), has abandoned overnight. His first child, Marco, was born last Sunday and he finished last in the next stage... still, he was second in the points classification after 17 stages."

I think it's nice that it puts elderly Erik Zabel (36-year-old German of Team Milram) into second place now in the points competition now, though.

Also out of the Tour today: David Lopez Garcia, a Spaniard on Euskaltel-Euskadi.

No changes at the back of the standings. We all anxiously await the Individual Time Trial!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Stage 17 at the finish line

The edge of my seat is simply all worn out from this Tour.

About eighty riders arrived today at the finish line in two autobuses - one at 52:02 and one at 52:13 after the stage winner.

Wim Vansevenant remains in the Lanterne Rouge spot with a margin of 31 seconds until the next nearest rider, Gert Steegmans. Both riders are Belgians on the Davitamon-Lotto team.

The final ten in the standings - most moving up in numerical rank through the process of attrition - now are:

134 135 COYOT Arnaud COF FRA 3h 27' 21"
135 158 MENGIN Christophe FDJ FRA 3h 28' 22"
136 165 CARLSTRÖM Kjell LIQ FIN 3h 28' 34"
137 193 COUTOULY Cédric AGR FRA 3h 30' 56"
138 105 POZZATO Filippo QSI ITA 3h 31' 03"
139 048 WROLICH Peter GST AUT 3h 31' 16"
140 124 HERNANDEZ Aitor EUS ESP 3h 43' 21"
141 133 CASPER Jimmy COF FRA 3h 46' 37"
142 067 STEEGMANS Gert DVL BEL 3h 50' 05"
143 068 VANSEVENANT Wim DVL BEL 3h 50' 36"

Looking ahead - we might expect after the final time trial that those with previous slow time trial times will likely end up at the bottom of the GC rankings at the end of the Tour. Out of these ten, the five slowest in the Stage 7 Individual Time Trial were Coutouly, Casper, Hernandez, Vansevenant, and Wrolich (in descending order).

A move up was made today by Stephane Auge, French rider for Cofidis, who had been in 143rd place. He finished in 55th place at 33:05 today, bumping him up to 127th place overall.

I deeply regret to say that I'm probably going to miss the final individual time trial broadcast live, since I have a swim-run event that morning, so I won't be able to see the Grand Finale ITT until Saturday evening. My fingernails are going to be all bitten off by then.

More Alps, more abandonments

Stage 17: More riders who have turned their last pedal-stroke in support of their team leaders in the 2006 Tour de France:

Jose Rujano, a Venezuelan rider for Quickstep-Innergetic, did not start. He was 13th in the young rider competition.

Martin Perdiguero, a Spanish rider on the Phonak team, was the first of their team to abandon. He was in 145th position in the General Classification. He didn't quit, however, until he successfully launched his team leader Floyd Landis off the front of the peleton in the first climb.

Juan Miguel Mercado, the Agritubel rider and winner of the tenth stage which finished in Pau, standing 50th in the General Classification, withdrew on the road today.

Jose Angel Gomez Marchante, a Spanish rider on Saunier Duval, 60th overall in the general classification, also abandoned on the road.

We are down to 143 riders.

I'd like to tell the tale of every one of these abandonments - each one tells a story - but with all the other action up front in the Tour this year, the details of the other riders haven't been covered much in the international press. I'll keep working on digging up the details and adding them as I learn anything.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


(Lanterne Rouge notwithstanding....)

Oscar Pereiro proved it today with his special RED GO FAST SOCKS.

Although I'm never going to ride wearing some poser pro team kit, I'm definitely going to buy some of these socks.

Stage 16: Tossed like a salad

It was a busy day.

We're down to 147 riders in the 2006 Tour de France.

Here are the abandonments on the toughest stage this year: David Kopp, German rider for Gerolsteiner (9th in the sprinters' green jersey competition); Daniele Bennati, Italian rider for Lampre-Fondital (3rd in the sprinters' green jersey competition); Steve De Jonge, Dutch rider for Quick Step - Innergetic (131st place overall); Sébastien Joly, French rider for Francaise de Jeux (52nd place overall, not last like Paul Sherwen said today); Maxim Iglinskiy, Kazakh rider for Milram (8th in the young rider competition).

The final ten riders in the standings are looking a lot different than they did just a few days ago, like everywhere else in the standings.

138 158 MENGIN Christophe FDJ FRA 2h 43' 07"
139 165 CARLSTRÖM Kjell LIQ FIN 2h 43' 40"
140 193 COUTOULY Cédric AGR FRA 2h 45' 51"
141 105 POZZATO Filippo QSI ITA 2h 45' 59"
142 048 WROLICH Peter GST AUT 2h 46' 11"
143 132 AUGE Stéphane COF FRA 2h 52' 55"
144 124 HERNANDEZ Aitor EUS ESP 2h 57' 46"
145 133 CASPER Jimmy COF FRA 3h 01' 43"
146 067 STEEGMANS Gert DVL BEL 3h 04' 50"
147 068 VANSEVENANT Wim DVL BEL 3h 05' 31"

So Wim stays in the Lanterne Rouge position for the third day.

I'm intrigued by the notion that Jimmy Casper is only a mere 4 minutes away from being Lanterne Rouge for the entire Tour for the third year. Has anyone seen any (translated) interviews with him? (According to Dave Zabriskie, Jimmy doesn't speak a word of English). I'd love to know his thoughts on this.

Stage 16: Galibier and then a few other minor hills

I'm saddened to report that the rider who we have been following for so long, Sébastien Joly, the French rider on the Française des Jeux team, abandoned the Tour de France today (along with several other riders that we'll tally up later). He rode for nine days in the Lanterne Rouge spot, but had moved up significantly in the standings yesterday in a strong ride up Alpe d'Huez.

More details later today.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Stage 15: Alpe d'Huez

I loved this stage!! Talk about high drama and champion performances! Whew!

Riders finishing in the back of the pack today, but FINISHING: at 36:22 after the stage winner, Christophe Le Mevel, a French rider for Credit Agricole came across the line, at the same time as Oscar Freire in 152nd position, the Spanish rider for Rabobank. Yes, THAT Oscar Freire, the 2-time stage winner in this Tour. Whatever it takes to reach Paris! Keep chugging up those mountains, Oscar! Well give the guy a break, though, he must have been a teensy bit fatigued from flying back and forth to Switzerland to see his new son Marco Freire who was born on Sunday. Probably not as tired as his wife, but....

Several riders withdrew today, as expected on one of the toughest days of the 2006 Tour. Say "So long, thanks for the memories!" to Tom Boonen, the Belgian rider for Quickstep-Innergetic who wore the maillot jaune for four days of this Tour (and who also simultaneously held the lead for the sprinter's green jersey on one of those days). Also abandoning today: Bram DeGroot, Dutch rider for Rabobank; Beat Zberg, Swiss rider for Gerolsteiner; and Andriy Grivko, Ukranian rider for Milram.

Sébastien Joly, the 9-day Lanterne Rouge, showed off his skills in mountain climbing and finished well up in 52nd position at 7:51 behind the stage winner. That puts Wim Vansevenant back into the Lanterne Rouge slot today, after he finished with one of the last large groups across the line in 34:11.

Today we saw an impressive finish by the Lanterne Rouge of the Prologue, Rubén Lobato, the Saunier Duval rider who finished in 6th position immediately behind Floyd Landis and Andréas Kloden. That moves him up to 34th overall, and we expect (like Leonardo Piepoli last year) to see his standings improve even further in the next two mountain stages.

It's not over until it's over!

Update on the abandonments: Cycling News says Tom Boonen had trouble breathing today. Too bad, since he was #2 in the green jersey rankings when he quit the Tour.

I haven't found any news yet on the other abandonments - I didn't hear of them involved in any crashes, but a lot happens on the road in the Tour that never gets reported widely.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Watching a Tour stage go by

I wanted to share the observations of a fellow triathlete (whom I quoted earlier) who was watching a Tour de France mountain stage from a French roadside last week, about 10 km from the finish. The main part of the peleton had already gone by at this point:

"A few spectators start to gather their stuff to head down the mountain. But the people I'd really wanted to see weren't there yet. I knew they'd be back there. After maybe 15-20 minutes more, here they come. Some are sharing a joke. Most are more likely to cry. The Lanterne Rouge. Hugely cheered by the crowds. The sprinter favourites are in here. That's not why I cheered. I cheered, as these were my people. The DFL of the tour. They're the best in the world, but there's no way they're going up that mountain like the skinny boys. Some have blown themselves out at the front of the pack on earlier climbs, given their all for their team and used up, destroyed, had drifted mindlessly the 40 minutes back to their friends. Some were having a bad day, just hoping to make the cut. It was clear watching them arrive that the old guys were in the front. These are the ones trusted by the kids to figure out the least painful way to get to the finish line at pretty much the last possible moment. These are us."

Bring it on!

I can't believe I was dumb enough to schedule a workout ride (and a babysitter) tomorrow (during our heat advisories) just at exactly the time I could have been doing something much more productive: watching the 2006 Tour's ascent of Alpe d'Huez live on TV and blogging about it. Just to whet my appetite (and make me really sick about missing it live), Pez posted a great pictorial review of the stage with some great photography:

Sigh. I'll catch up with the afternoon rehashed gruel.

Le Tour de France: 14th stage 2006 crash


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Whatever happened with Tyler....

. . . and I don't have a clue any more, but I'm sure looking forward to seeing how he does at the UCI World Championship Road Race on September 24 after he finishes his current suspension. As long as no other bad news turns up. It's going to be held in Salzburg, Austria. Will that be telecast or webcast anywhere, does anyone know? I can't seem to find that information on the competition website.

Stage 14: The fatigue follies

Abandonments today:

OLN says that Gilberto Simoni, leader of Saunier Duval, 5-time Tour veteran, 2-time Giro champion, one-time nemesis of Lance (and all-around loose cannon) was at one point about 8 minutes in arrears of the peleton and may sneak off the back today, although he seems to be attempting to rejoin the peleton on the descents. He was in 35th position overall in the general classification.

Milram rider Celestino Mirko has withdrawn from the Tour today on the road. He was doing quite well in the Tour at 46th place overall.

Magnus Backstedt of Liquigas (Lanterne Rouge after Stage 4) has abandoned today also, on the ascent of the Col de Perty. He was in 158th position in the General Classification. Pez sez (from the morning before the stage): "Unfortunately he has picked up ‘a bit of a cold’ which is holding him back a little. I asked him how his morale was and he said good but he was lacking a bit of energy. Not surprising after 14 stages which by this point, in his own words mean that he’s “so f*&%ed anyway it takes every ounce of energy to stay upright!”."

It seems the riders are quite fatigued from yesterday's long stage and aren't recovering well in the heat of July. (Will somebody please tell George Hincapie to eat a sandwich?) Probably many abandons to come on Tuesday, as well, when the Tour arrives at Alpe d'Huez.

Update: Well, Simoni managed to hang on to the autobus to finish in 151st place, and I imagine he's hoping to get lots of recovery on their rest day tomorrow.

We have two additional riders who couldn't quite make it through to the rest day, though: Today David Canada, a Spanish rider from Saunier Duval, and Rik Verbrugge, a Belgian rider for Cofidis, also abandoned after a crash (also involving Mathias Kessler of T-Mobile) in which both appeared to incur some injuries after Verbrugge went over a guardrail followed by Kessler. Martin Dugard described it succinctly: "Rik Verbrugghe and David Canada ended their Tour in an ambulance, having overshot a turn and broken a femur (Verbrugghe) and a clavicle (Canada). The pavement was hot from the weather and it seems they hit a patch of gravel going at too high a rate of speed. No matter the reason, the two of them were obviously in great pain. The cyclists know that crashing is part of the job, but when you see them just lounging around before a race the scars are discomfiting."

Philippe Gilbert, a Belgian from the Française des Jeux team, was the final rider across the line at 32:05 after the stage winner. His teammate Sébastien Joly remains solidly in the Lanterne Rouge slot, about 15 1/2 minutes cumulative time behind any other rider in the 2006 Tour de France. Joly seems to be content riding at the rear of the peleton most of the time - I noticed his number 155 a couple of times in the TV coverage riding just ahead of the team cars. He finished in 149th for the stage today.

Many riders lost time today. Gert Steegmans, a Belgian sprinter on Davitamon-Lotto and leadout man for Robbie McEwen, entered the Final Three of the General Classification in 154th place by losing 22:08 today.

There are 156 riders remaining in the Tour de France, and we will probably see several more withdraw on Tuesday.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The domestiques

Most of the riders that I mention on this blog are in the role of domestiques - the "worker bees" of the peleton.

Chris Carmichael provides a good description of their typical activities during a Tour stage.

Stage 13

So THIS is what CSC rider Jens Voigt saved all that energy in the time trial for! I was wondering when he was going to show his stuff! Going from last place in the stage a week ago to first place today - quite a remarkable difference!

Everybody but the breakaway finished with the peleton today. Well, except South African Robert Hunter and Frenchman Nicolas Jalabert, both from Phonak, came in 1:03 behind the main group. I'm not sure why, maybe a late flat or bike swap. Or maybe just tired from pulling the whole peleton along on a long, hot stage. Stefano Garzelli of Liquigas punctured with 5 km to go in the stage, and even he managed to finish 3 spots ahead of those two.

That means no shakeups of the standings in the back of the pack, and Joly remains in the Lanterne Rouge spot for the eighth day. Probably we will wait for some Alpine finishes to see things shaken up again.

Joly was interviewed before the stage (the first I've seen from him in the English-language press). ""One could say it's a flat course but it will not be a restful journey," said Frenchman Sebastien Joly [sic] of La Francaise des Jeux team, who was born in Tournon-sur-Rhone in the Montelimar area. "There will be escape attempts but I don't think the sprinters and their teams will allow them to go all the way." "

Wrong! It was indeed an unusual stage.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Shoulda worn a helmet

Is two-time Giro d’Italia champion Paolo Savoldelli now out of the Tour de France because he made the dumbass mistake of not wearing his bike helmet after the stage yesterday? I'm not certain, but it sure sounds that way:

"Discovery team director Dirk Demol gave us some more info on Paolo Savoldelli, who abandoned earlier today. "We [were] driving up the Pla-de-Beret and suddenly we saw a rider standing next to the road with a rag to his head. I hoped it wasn't Paolo, but of course it was him. Paolo said that a fan suddenly, unintentionally, jumped on the road. He couldn’t brake anymore and crashed into the person. He hit the ground with his head. We rode back down immediately to investigate the wound. He needed ten stitches and has got quite a headache now."

From all accounts, this injury could have been prevented with a proper bike helmet.

A dispatch from a spectator who was present on the site at Val d’Aran - Pla-de-Beret that day (who also happens to be a triathlete and medical doctor):

"Ok, this is really dumb, but this is what they were doing - they got to the top. A few teams put vans there, all had to leave their buses about 5km from the top. So they could wait for the van, or ride their bikes down. The police won't let any cars on the road for an hour or so. So they come down with the 150,000 people lining the crowd. And this is the retarded part - they were riding no helmets (one of the Disco boys gave his hat to a fan at the bus, asked for another guys hat to give to that fan's friend - they both had them on, no helmets) and it gets mo stoopid. They were riding the descent NO HANDS!!!!! It was steeper than the yellow lake descent. I'd buy that they can handle a bike way way way better than me with no hands on the bars, and can do it. But with 150,000 morons going down at the same time? There were the usual yahoos, kids on mountain bikes, bikes deeking left around a stopped car, some right, some both ways.... Not surprising what happened."

Savoldelli is pictured at left after a crash cycling in the mountains in 2003, following which he needed reconstructive facial surgery. I don't see any helmets in the photo, either. Yes, he should have known better.

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Back in the back

Sébastien Joly's abortive escape attempt on Bastille Day must have worn him out, because he finished last again (in the autobus at 12:07 after the stage winner), while yesterday's Lanterne Rouge Wim Vansevenant finished well up in the stage, in 16th place with a time gap of 4:25. That puts Joly back into the Lanterne Rouge spot with a group of very familiar names:

153 133 CASPER Jimmy COF FRA 1h 29' 11"
154 124 HERNANDEZ Aitor EUS ESP 1h 29' 51"
155 086 RIGHI Daniele LAM ITA 1h 32' 05"
156 113 CHARTEAU Anthony C.A FRA 1h 32' 36"
157 105 POZZATO Filippo QSI ITA 1h 32' 39"
158 163 BACKSTEDT Magnus LIQ SWE 1h 36' 58"
159 068 VANSEVENANT Wim DVL BEL 1h 41' 34"
160 155 JOLY Sébastien FDJ FRA 1h 49' 08"

To give these riders credit, they're some of the hardest-working men in the Tour, riding back and forth through the peleton throughout the day in support of the leading riders, fetching their water and bringing information from the team car.

The peleton is down to 160 riders now (16 riders now gone), with two additional abandons today, both on the Agritubel team: José Alberto Martinez, a Spaniard, and Frenchman Samuel Plouhinec.

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Discovery all over the place

I'm just kind of shaking my head and rubbing my eyes at the Discovery team. What is UP with them? Their favorite son George Hincapie tanked yesterday, then two-time Giro d’Italia champion Paolo Savoldelli abandoned the Tour today at 43 km (after his run-in with a spectator on the road after the stage yesterday), then Benjamin Noval abandoned about about 60 km.

Then Yaroslav Popovych won the stage and moved up into the top ten in the standings.

Maybe Lance can figure this all out when he gets there. I sure can't. Now it's sounding like every man for himself fleeing the sinking ship!

Stage 12: Bastille Day

I'm sure everyone (except maybe the Disco boys) are heaving a sigh of relief that yesterday's monster stage is over. There have been no new abandonments overnight. I haven't heard of too many crashes from yesterday's stage, except for the unfortunate crash with a spectator that Paolo Salvoldelli had after the stage was over!

In the absence of broken bones, sprains, and massive contusions, the riders can cope with tired backs and fatigued legs. That's their job, and they do it well.

Today stage is rolling, with an early Category 2 climb and three Category 4 climbs, then a long road to Carcassonne for a sprinter's finish.

ACK! I spoke too soon, and jinxed them all! Isaac Galvez, a Spaniard riding for Caisse d'Epargne-Illes-Balears has abandoned about a half-hour into today's ride. There have been a couple of small crashes in the peleton, but I don't know if he was involved.

Sébastien Joly, our former Lanterne Rouge, attacked briefly for a solo escape early on Bastille Day, as Frenchmen like to do, but he was caught within ten minutes.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Separated at birth?

Lanterne Rouge cyclist Wim Vansevenant and actor Ed Harris.

Today is Sinko de Mayo

Iban Mayo's sunk. The highly-regarded Spaniard, leader of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team and once thought to be a podium contender, abandoned about 3:40 PM local time, after struggling all day yesterday and in the first part of today's stage. "The Spanish team said earlier on Thursday that Mayo had caught a cold on the plane from Lorient to Bordeaux on Sunday." It was also reported that he had knee problems.

Another interesting account: "Euskaltel team leader Iban Mayo showed his anger at a cameraman tracking his progress on Thursday afternoon as the Spaniard was unable to keep pace with the peloton. Apparently unwilling to be filmed abandoning the race, Mayo instructed the cameraman tracking his progress to continue up the road, before eventually stepping down off his bike. The 29 year-old has been suffering from a sore throat for the last couple of days, reportedly brought on by air conditioning in his hotel room." Gosh, I forgot that air conditioning is so rare at the riders' lodgings that when it's encountered it carries the threat of disease.

Giovanni Lombardi, an Italian on the CSC team also abandoned earlier in the day. Additionally, Wilfried Cretskens, Belgian rider on the Quickstep-Innergetic team, abandoned today. No news yet on the reasons for these withdrawals. (CSC cycling is usually prompt with their news updates, but nothing about Lombardi yet. Nothing new has been posted on the Quickstep team site for an entire week! Jeez, help us out here!) (Update: CSC's site says now that Lombardi had stomach problems.)

That leaves 165 riders still in the 2006 Tour.

The final finisher of this monster stage was Cristophe Mengin, French rider on the Française des Jeux team, at a colossal time gap of 46:13 behind the stage winner. Our former Lanterne Rouge and his teammate, Sébastien Joly, finished well up at 107th place at 35:47 today.

That allowed Joly to move up one place in the standings and means that we have a new Lanterne Rouge: Wim Vansevenant, a Belgian rider on the Davitamon-Lotto team. He finished in the autobus today at 44:20 for the stage. He actually had been in 166th place yesterday and moves UP to 165th, but with the three abandons today that gives him the greatest aggregate time of the riders remaining in the peleton. He finished the 2005 Tour in 154th place, the penultimate position.

Stage finish positions for the other previous Lanterne Rouges of the 2006 Tour: Rubén Lobato 28th (7:22), Aitor Hernandez 108th (35:47), Filippo Pozzato 109th (40:32), Magnus Backstedt 140th (44:20).

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Stage 11: The fun begins

They're rolling on Stage 11, the first really brutal mountain stage. No withdrawals overnight, and no abandons yet, but the first hour of riding at a 28.5 mph average is eventually going to chew up some riders and spit them out all over the Pyrenees.

By the way, I adore Dave Zabriskie. There are some new short little recordings from him from Stage 9:

Who else would ride up to Floyd Landis and start singing, "My hips don't lie" or ride up to Oscar Freire and ask him if he knows he shares a name with a Sesame Street character?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Brochard's withdrawal

Trying to find out the reason for Laurent Brochard's withdrawal before the first mountain stage today, I found this on the Bouygues Telecom cycling website in French, which I translated into really, really bad English on Babelfish. For whatever it's worth:

"This 11th stage will be done for Bouygues Telecom without Laurent Brochard. The Resident of Sarthe did not take the departure with Cambo-the-Baths. "Laurent recovered well (of its slipped disc), explains Christian. But it had a small problem with an which incarnated nail which made it pedal through. Ca disturbed it on the level of its back and taking into account its preceding problems... One is really unhappy for him." Turquoises will not be thus any more that eight to align itself at the beginning Thursday morning of the first stage whose arrival is judged at the top."

I assume that "Turquoises" is the team nickname, appropriately based on their uniform. Do you think this means he has a painful back and an ingrown toenail? I truly have no idea. Are those symptoms of early-onset mountain fever?

Stage 10: Into the Pyrenees

Kaboom! That is the sound of the peleton blowing apart. But not, I should add, causing the "Tour favorites [to] fail", as Julian Pretot claimed - sheesh! - though it did look like an unexpectedly rough day for Iban Mayo.

Jimmy Engoulvent, the French rider for Credit Agricole, did withdraw today after a slow finish yesterday where he appeared ill. He turned in his race number somewhere just before the peleton reached 68 km on the road.

Another French rider, Laurent Brochard of the Bouygues Telecom team, was a non-starter as well. He finished with the front group in yesterday's stage; no information yet about why he quit the Tour. He was the top finisher of the Bouygues Telecom team in the 2005 Tour.

That brought the peleton down to 168 riders, who were spread all over the road today. But by the end of the stage, the last 58 riders managed to all catch up with the autobus, which crossed the line 24:24 behind the stage winner.

That autobus today included Sébastien Joly, the French rider on the Française des Jeux team, still firmly in the Lanterne Rouge spot for the sixth consecutive stage, with no riders losing time to him. Anything can happen tomorrow, though, another tough mountain stage lies ahead.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Stage 9: The last quiet stage

No one abandoned today, and there were no big upsets. That's the main news.

Jimmy Engoulvent, a French rider for Credit Agricole, appeared to be ill and was dropped by the peleton and riding alone towards the end of the stage.

Then there was a crash of 4 riders just 12 km from the finish line that held up a few arrivals at the finish line. Daniele Righi, the Italian Lampre rider, was one of those, and he arrived at the finish line along with Engoulvent in the final two places, 7:52 behind the leaders.

Sébastien Joly arrived at the finish line just ahead of those two, losing another 6:05 for the day, which keeps him even more firmly in the Lanterne Rouge position. He's now about 7 1/2 minutes behind all the other riders at 49:30 total time gap. He may be soon replaced, however, when some riders fall off the back of the autobus in the steep Pyrenees stages.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Julich checks in

Bobby Julich recounts the details of his crash here. He sounds like quite an intelligent and even - dare I say it? - sensible guy!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Note to triathletes

Today's stage of the Tour de France was 181.0 kilometers. Which equals 112.5 miles, almost exactly the distance of the bike leg of an Ironman triathlon. The leading rider covered the distance in 4 hours, 13 minutes, and 18 seconds. The average speed was 42.874 kph, or 26.62 miles per hour.

It was a relatively easy day for those that rode in the peleton.

Faris Al-Sultan's winning ride at the Kona, Hawaii Ironman World Championships of 112 miles took 4:25:24, for an average speed of 25.3 miles per hour.

It was a pretty tough day for him.

Before you say, awwwww, but Faris didn't get to draft off the whole peleton - the fastest individual time trial yesterday was at a speed of 55.5 kph or 31.4 miles per hour. If someone could keep that up for a whole 112 miles, that would be a bike leg time of 3:34.

Heck, the very slowest time trial of the day had a 27.0 mph average speed.

Of course, Tour riders don't have to swim 2.4 miles beforehand, nor run a marathon afterwards. But I sure wish Lance would head over to Kona for the fall of 2007, after he gets done running the New York City Marathon this fall.

Or even the Lanterne Rouge.

No major changes

Sébastien Joly is still the Lanterne Rouge, and is likely to remain so until at least Wednesday when the mountain stages begin. At least he got to ride first in the time trial yesterday, at 10:48 AM, and relax the rest of the day, right? Joly has a brief Wikipedia biography here, by the way.

Daniele Righi (pictured), Italian rider on the Lampre-Fondital team, was the sole late finisher today, crossing the line 55 seconds after the main peleton. He was a member of the long breakaway in Stage 5 which was caught within 3 km of the finish line. He rode a respectable time trial yesterday for 128th place in that stage.

It's nice to note that the current yellow jersey wearer, Serhiy Gonchar, and today's stage winner, Sylvain Calzati, both abandoned on this very same day of the Tour last year, July 9th. That was the same day that Dave Zabriskie, who made up time in a breakaway today, was hanging on for dear life after his famous team time trial crash, trying his best to continue riding in the Tour (followed by his abandonment the next morning). I'm sure they each remembered the events of July 9, 2005 at some point today! Seeing those kind of delightful comebacks are one of the great rewards of this blog, along with the stage win this year of Jimmy Caspar.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


This blog wouldn't be complete for 2006 without some mention of the team in last place in the standings, which will most likely remain there: Agritubel. They were a last-minute wild-card selection and they "will be attempting to get in as many breaks as possible to show the sponsor’s name."

Their team is profiled here, and their team website is here.

I'm still trying to figure out what kind of product Agritubel markets. Something about tubulaire bovin? Cow tubes? Cow tuberculosis?

Aha. They make stanchion systems for dairy cattle farms. Must be hard to go up against mega-corporations like CSC and T-Mobile with just the financial backing of some dairy farmers. At least they should get along with the Lactose Lads of Milram.

Um, are those udders on their team uniforms?

David Millar

David "Did I mention that I'm clean?" Millar (British Saunier Duval rider coming off a 2-year suspension for doping) is going to ride to Paris, come hell or high water.

"Saturday, I hope to do really well in the long individual time trial, but maybe I might do really crap," Millar cautioned. But he is still sure of his overall objective: "I’m pretty sure I can get to Paris! I don’t know if I’ll be 'lanterne rouge' or not, but I will get to Paris!"

Millar rode a 37th-place time trial, which is certainly respectable, but may have been a disappointment for a former time trial star. He's in 25th place in the general classification after the ITT. But we do hope to see him finishing the Tour along the Champs Elysees.

The Individual Time Trial

It's in progress. There were no overnight abandonments prior to the ITT.

So far Jens Voigt, the German rider on CSC, has (surprisingly) turned in the slowest time of 1:11:44. (Still, keep in mind that that 'sluggish' time is a brisk 27.0 mph average over 32.3 miles). Alain Gallopin, a directeur sportif at CSC, claims nothing is wrong. "No, he’s okay but he wants to save energy today. We didn’t want every rider on our team to give one hundred per cent in the time trial. That’s all."

Former Lanterne Rouge Aitor Hernandez, one of the Spaniards on Euskaltel-Euskadi, is 6 spots up at 1:10:28. I'm guessing he may go further in the direction of the LR spot tonight, but we'll have to wait on the tabulation of results. Perennial Lanterne Rouge Jimmy Casper is just two spots above that.

Sébastien Joly, French Française des Jeux rider and Lanterne Rouge of the last two days, turned in a great ride, up in the mid-pack at 1:09:07, but a minute or two may not be enough to dig him out of his time-hole of nearly five minutes. The times are close enough together that it won't help making up very many minutes of accumulated gaps.

Bobby Julich, American on the CSC team, crashes out of the Tour, bringing the field down to 170.

Yes, Sébastien Joly, French Française des Jeux rider is still our Lanterne Rouge. At 43:25 accumulated time gap behind the leader, he's 170th in the overall standings. He's about 5 minutes behind the next-closest rider Anthony Charteau, Frenchman on Credit Agricole.

The last 8 riders in the overall standings are all names familiar to us. These standings will not change much until we enter the mountains on Wednesday, unless we have some crashes or major mechanical problems late in a stage.

163 133 CASPER Jimmy COF FRA 32' 30"
164 143 DE LA FUENTE David SDV ESP 33' 37"
165 105 POZZATO Filippo QSI ITA 35' 32"
166 068 VANSEVENANT Wim DVL BEL 35' 42"
167 163 BACKSTEDT Magnus LIQ SWE 35' 58"
168 124 HERNANDEZ Aitor EUS ESP 36' 23"
169 113 CHARTEAU Anthony C.A FRA 38' 23"
170 155 JOLY Sébastien FDJ FRA 43' 25"

Here are the slowest five performers in today's time trial, with their time gaps. Team Gerolsteiner seems like it was at the very top (3rd place Sebastian Lang) and bottom of the standings:

166 108 TOSATTO Matteo QSI ITA 08' 50"
167 068 VANSEVENANT Wim DVL BEL 08' 55"
168 049 ZBERG Beat GST SUI 09' 02"
169 048 WROLICH Peter GST AUT 09' 47"
170 017 VOIGT Jens CSC GER 10' 01"

It's worth noting that our first Lanterne Rouge from the Prologue time trial,
Rubén Lobato of Saunier Duval, rode into a respectable 108th place for the stage, just ahead of triple stage-winner Robbie McEwen. Lobato now holds a solid mid-pack overall placement of 128th place in the general classification. He may have had a mechanical problem in the Prologue that simply went unreported by the mainstream media, since he's clearly a solid time trial rider.

Side note: I don't usually talk about the leaders on this blog, since they get media saturation everywhere else, but - it was wonderful to see the ITT winner, Serhiy Gonchar (or Honchar in the results or Gontchar as they're spelling it on OLN-TV), Ukranian rider on T-Mobile, make a decisive victory of the ITT and then he was obviously touched (blinking back tears on the podium) and elated to be the first Ukranian wearing the yellow jersey of the Tour de France. They will be partying in the streets of Kiev tonight! He says: "I’m not so young anymore but I feel young inside and that’s the most important thing. I want to thank the T-Mobile team because they really trust me and also because they gave me the option to prepare how I wanted to for the Giro and the Tour. That’s really important to me. If the sponsors and the team are happy, then so am I. My real name is Gonchar, with a ‘G’ but there was a problem with translation or a computer error when I got my passport which states Honchar, with an ‘H’. As a consequence, to avoid problems when I traveled, I had to change it on all my documentation so it’s now written with an ‘H’ but please call me Gonchar because this is my real name."

On the other hand, there will be much hand-wringing over the dinner table for the CSC and Discovery teams in the next few days. Out of all of their big guns, Dave Zabriskie is the only one who placed in the individual time trial higher than 17th place, and he was forecast as a possible ITT winner. I'm sure Lance is shaking his head right now at former (emphasis former, and former friend) teammate Floyd Landis doing so well (in spite of a mid-TT bike swap) and his protege George Hincapie doing so poorly.

TV gripe: I'm getting so freakin' sick of the ageist cheerleader "stay in school" commercial (how about instead 'pursue your education at any age'?) and the Ad Council one with the sullen taciturn kid at the dinner table. They've been playing at least 3 years. Couldn't OLN sell all their commercial time this year? Apparently their Tour viewership has tanked now that Lance is out of the picture, which is a shame.

Friday, July 07, 2006

I want these

It's going to be all bike porn, all the time, tomorrow. To us dumb Americans, it's a 32.3-mile time trial. I can't wait to see if anyone cracks an hour over the course - wouldn' t that be awesome? Podium Cafe says Lance's equivalent time would have been 1:11, though. Pez has a nice course preview.

And you thought your butt was wide

More great photos over at PezCycling, after you get out of the buttjam.

Quiet day in the peleton

Today was comparatively calm and uneventful, the calm before the storm of the long 52-km time trial tomorrow which will tell the tale for many of the riders. For reasons which aren't yet clear, French Credit Agricole rider Anthony Charteau (looking kind of Forrest Gump-ish in the photo) finished by himself 4:47 behind the leaders today, which dropped him from 168th to 170th in the general classification with an accumulated time of 32:33. He seems to be holding fairly steady at the back of the pack, since he had already been as far back as 170th place at the end of Stage 1.

Fellow Frenchman Sébastien Joly riding for Française des Jeux remains the Lanterne Rouge, though, with an accumulated time of 36:26.

Fisticuffs in the peleton?

David de la Fuente, of Saunier Duval, and Walter Beneteau of Bouygues Telecom, are apparently inventing a new sport combining aspects of boxing and cycling.

According to CSC's Jens Voigt, "the two were riding next to each other and all of a sudden, the Spaniard hits Beneteau full in the face! It was really loud, just like in a boxing match! Beneteau's helmet and glasses practically flew off his head! He swerved, because of course he hadn't been expecting anything like that. Behind them everyone was shouting, 'Hey, are you crazy? If you're going to fight, go to the side of the road! Leave us out of your problems!' Beneteau didn't blink an eye but went directly to the commissaire. I think, that they will throw de la Fuente out of the race."

The two were fined for "irregular behavior".

[Thanks for the tip, neca!]

Update from CyclingNews: "Andrew, an Aussie living in Switzerland, has had an interesting idea regarding the fight between De La Fuente and Walter Beneteau (see above). "Let's take this de la Fuente idea further. For the long (and sometime boring) flat stages, they should have intermediate fighting sprint points where anything goes - kicking, biting, punching, head butting (a la Robbie McEwen) etc. Points for the top 3 in these fighting sprints go towards the "Hardman" jersey - which should be red."

What the heck is going on?

For those of you just becoming Tour cycling fans, or still trying to figure out the green jersey from the polka-dot, here's a good online explanation of the Tour de France for you. [Thanks for the link, Jeanne!]

Here is my own brief explanation from last year.

The actual Tour de France rules in English can also be downloaded in a PDF document here, and aren't too difficult to wade through.

Stage 6 nonstarter

Fabio Sacchi, Italian rider and one of the Lactose Lads of Team Milram, did not make the start this morning in Lisieux. He's a 2-time veteran of the Tour and was in 46th position in the General Classification. He's one of the leadout men for Erik Zabel.

Why did he abandon? One might speculate that over six days of hard riding by now he's incurred some massive chafing from those gold chains.

Actually, according to CyclingNews, he has bronchitis.

It's still too early for mountain fever to strike the peleton. That will come, though. It seems to selectively affect sprinters and larger-bodied endurance riders with marginal climbing ability. Look for the epidemic to begin on Wednesday or Thursday of next week.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fast Freddie checks in

Fred Rodriguez, American rider on Davitamon-Lotto who crashed out in Stage 3, reports in post-accident on his blog with some harsh words for the race organizers:

"It happens that they had left some roadwork unfinished. There was a cut out of the road that seemed like a perfect box. Something that should not have been left uncovered, especially when the Tour knew we would be flying down this road. Robbie [McEwen] said he had no idea how he missed the hole, but he had no time to call it out. I was on his wheel and just dove straight into it without any idea it was there. [Erik] Dekker probably had enough time just to realize what was happening, but no time to react. So, there we both lay on the road with serious problems from a mistake that can only be blamed on the Tour de France organization. They need to understand that they put our lives in their hands with that mistake. "

Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Fred.

Where the Tour bikes come from

I just wanted to shamelessly steal this list compiled by PezCyclingNews just so that I have it on file for reference:

Stage 5: A French Lanterne Rouge

Sébastien Joly, a French rider on the Française des Jeux team, limped over the finish line in 171st place today, 7 1/2 minutes after the previous finisher. He was followed a minute later by David de la Fuente, a Spaniard on the Saunier Duval team. Their previous accumulated times put de la Fuente in 167th place overall and Joly goes into the 172nd Lanterne Rouge slot, 5 minutes behind previous LR Magnus Backstedt (who was on the front of the peleton again today).

De la Fuente was involved in the crash which took place near the time of the 3rd sprint on the road. Velogal reported: ". . . a Saunier Duval guy hit his brakes hard and went ass-over-teakettle, or rather handlebars, and caused several riders to go down. My guess is that he heard a sound from ahead that sounded like brakes, so he instantly grabbed his."

I haven't found any mention of Joly getting in trouble on the road today nor being involved in the crash that occurred about 7 minutes before the finish, nor whether he was involved in efforts to help his teammates such as Bernhard Eisel who crossed the finish line in 10th place for the stage, or Sandy Casar who finished with the front group today. Nor for that matter any of the young riders on the FdJ team who hold an impressive 2nd (Vaugrenard), 3rd (Gilbert), 4th (Lovkvist), and 5th place (Eisel) in the Young Riders category. I'll keep looking for the story. There's a brief mention of Joly being injured in a crash in Stage 3, two days ago, but I have no other details. The FdJ website is no help, nor is Joly's personal news page!

Update: No news found yet about the problem yesterday, but Joly is apparently serving well in his domestique role, and that may have caused his delay in finishing Stage 5. From Stage 3, about the problems before the Cauberg climb, Philippe Gilbert told Eurosport: "I was on the wheels of Valverde when we both fell... I then had to borrow [team-mate] Sébastien Joly's bike. I only got back in the pack with seven kilometres to go and I was already shaken up after the spill, I didn't have the strength to contest in the climb up the Cauberg."

On the road on Stage 5

All 172 riders started this morning, so everyone is soldiering on, broken backs and all.

Giving us a chance to catch up on our reading....

"The doctor [Fuentes] at the centre of the Spanish doping investigation has defended himself by saying that the objective of the treatment he administered to sportsmen was to safeguard their health. . . . Although Fuentes said he used blood extraction techniques, he said he did not administer banned substances to his clients and said that the quantities of the blood booster erythropoietin (EPO) that were found in the raids were for family use."

Yeah, that's right. I keep a big jug of EPO in the fridge for my family, right next to the milk. And we enjoy routine blood extractions for our health. Don't you?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Dietary advice from the peleton

On the Team Milram site, sprinter Erik Zabel offers his nutritional advice, which cracked me up. (Milram is a German company that apparently markets dairy products. Like, uh, yogurt.)

Cycling keeps you fit and slim – what foods can help with that?

[Way to suck up to the sponsor, Erik! It's not cycling a billion miles per year that keeps your weight down, nor eating the number of calories you burn, nor good genetics, it's EATING YOGURT!]

What would you advise recreational cyclists in terms of diet and keeping fit?
A basic rule which I have stuck to for years now is: if you ride a lot of kilometres a day you can eat a lot too. If you don’t ride much, you should watch what you eat. If you don’t cycle at all, you are better off going to bed hungry.

[Heh. Take that, all you non-cyclists! STARVE!]

Cycling is one tough sport

Just wanted to point out the essay on that topic by James Raia. Well said. "The [Tour de France] field has ridden nearly 20 hours in five days and it's averaging nearly 27 mph."

One moment's inattention and you're peeling asphalt off your face.

Backstedt new Lanterne Rouge

Bradley Wiggins, a British rider on the Cofidis team, and Aitor Hernandez, Spanish rider on the Euskaltel-Euskadi team and Stage 2 Lanterne Rouge, finished at the back of the pack today, 2:54 and 3:06 behind the stage winner. Wiggins had been part of a 180-km breakaway group that got caught 2 km before the finish line. [Wiggins interview.] Hernandez was likely kept busy today with his domestique duties after team leader Iban Mayo crashed.

In the overall standings, however, Magnus Backstedt, the big Swedish rider on the Liquigas team, and perennial favorite of Clydesdale athletes worldwide, has accumulated a gap of 29 minutes 9 seconds behind the Tour leader by finishing 52 seconds back in Stage 4. This puts him in 172nd place in the general classification. The Lanterne Rouge from the previous day, Filippo Pozzato, moved up by finishing in the front group with a 0:00 time gap for the stage.

Backstedt had reportedly suffered severely from yesterday's heat and may still be bouncing back. He was also working hard at the very front of the peleton today with 7 km to go to the finish line, in support of sprinter teammate Luca Paolini.

Fun with Tour spectators

At the foot of the Cauberg climb yesterday, France's Sandy Casar got entangled with a drunken spectator and got taken down.

"It's crazy", Casar said. "Everything was going smoothly and then suddenly, bang, I was thrown off of my bike and sent into a black hole."

The spectator then got into an argument with the Francaise des Jeux race manager Marc Madiot, while others allegedly tried to steal the Frenchman's wheels.

"There was this guy in a group who was dead drunk on the side of the road," said Madiot. "After he got knocked down, the guy started making fun of him because he had fallen."

Casar finished 137th in Stage 3. However, he was credited with the time of the first group (five seconds behind winner Kessler), and therefore is just 39 seconds behind the leader in the overal standings.

Idiots. Everybody knows if you steal wheels, you ought to go for the time trial bike wheels instead.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

O'Grady in doubt

CSC's Australian sprinter Stuart O'Grady trailed in slowly by himself today, arriving at the finish line 11:35 behind the stage winner, raising speculation that he was injured in his crash that occurred at 9 or 10 km to go. A post-race CAT-scan revealed that he had a small fracture of his fourth thoracic vertebrae. It's possible that he can continue in the Tour, but clearly he will be in some considerable pain.

O'Grady has had a stellar record in the Tour, recently placing 2nd in the sprinter's competition for the green jersey in 2005, and winning a stage in 2004.

Update: He's still riding! At the start of Stage 4 on Wednesday: "Stuart O’Grady (CSC) is one rider who had to visit the hospital for x-rays after slamming into a lightpost near the end of the stage to Valkenburg but he’s still in the peloton for the moment." 172 riders began Stage 4.

Update 2: He reportedly rode well in Stage 4 and finished the day.

Team standings

The top three teams in the 2006 Tour de France - Discovery (Lance's former team with George Hincapie and Paolo Salvodelli now leading in the general classification); CSC (Ivan Basso's team, now with Dave Zabriskie and Bobby Julich leading in the standings); and T-Mobile (Jan Ullrich's team, with Michael Rogers and Serhiy Honchar now leading in the standings) are still only 2 seconds apart in the overall team standings. It's going to be quite interesting to see how this team competition plays out, although it gets little attention in the press.

Pozzato new Lanterne Rouge

Filippo Pozzato, an Italian rider on the Quickstep-Innergetic team (teammate of race leader Tom Boonen), was dropped by the peleton just after the border of the Netherlands. He arrived at the finish line 18:36 after the stage winner, along with the Tour's largest rider, Magnus Backstedt (Swedish rider for Liquigas). They arrived over 4 minutes after a grupetto which included former Tour de France Lanterne Rouge Jimmy Casper.

The result is that Pozzato becomes the new Lanterne Rouge in Stage 3 of the 2006 Tour de France. Yesterday's Lanterne Rouge Aitor Hernandez rode toward the back of the peleton for a ways during today's difficult stage, probably still fatigued from the long breakaway yesterday, but moves up in 170th place in the overall standings, and still holds 4th place in the King of the Mountains competition.

Pozzato was the winner of this year's Milan-San Remo race.

But more importantly, Pozzato got special mention in PezCyclingNews for his stylish curls.

Update: According to Eurosport: "The big Swede [Backstedt] suffered more than most from the heat, vomiting several times and finding himself unable to keep up with the peloton on the closing, undulating stages. The Wales-based Liquigas rider, who has spent relatively little time on his bike since crashing in Majorca in February, told Eurosport: "It's just the heat has taken its toll on me. I've thrown up four or five times. It's just one of those things. Normally I don't mind the heat. Give me a day or two and I'll be back."

Valverde down!

Alejandro Valverde, the Spanish leader of the Caisse-d'Epargne-Illes Balears team, went down hard on the Dutch road today (probably from a wheel touch in mid-peleton) and seems to have a clavicle injury bad enough to cause him to withdraw. A horrible break for a top rider forecast to have done well in the overall standings in the Tour. He was taken off in an ambulance, bringing the field down to 172.

The podium spots for the 2006 Tour are more open than ever. Anything can happen!

Stage 3: Two more out

Freddy Rodriguez (American Davitamon-Lotto rider) and Erik Dekker (Dutch rider for Rabobank) are out of the Tour following a bad crash on the roads today in Belgium. It's reported that Dekker broke his clavicle. The field is down to 173.

What a shame! Fast Freddie only managed to make one entry in his Tour de France blog before he was out of the game. And Dekker didn't even manage to make it into the Netherlands on one of the rare Tour visits there.

Update: According to Cyclingnews, "Rodriguez didn't break any bones, he suffered heavy concussion" and "Dekker suffered concussion and serious facial injuries: abrasions, facial trauma, a contusion, a ripped upper lip, as well as a couple of broken teeth. He was kept unconscious on Tuesday night so that his face could be cleaned. Thus ended what is almost certainly his final Tour de France."

About Dekker, team spokesman Jacob Bergsma said, "Some of the guys thought he was dead. The tar from the road was all over his face."

Monday, July 03, 2006

Stage 2 crash-fest

Today was one of those traditional dangerous early stages in the Tour, where riders are not yet fatigued from the wear and tear of long distances in the saddle, and they wage battle for points and position and take lots of risks.

Aitor Hernandez,
a Spanish rider on the Euskaltel-Euskadi team, is the new Lanterne Rouge of the Tour de France. He's 14:13 back in the overall standings and finished the stage 3:56 behind the penultimate rider, Filippo Pozzato, an Italian on the Quickstep-Innergetic team. He was in breakaway in the first kilometer, achieving a lead up to 11:20 in front of the peleton, and racked up some climbing points, but was caught before the end of the stage. His efforts earned him a 3rd place standing in the King of the Mountains competition with 10 points.

" [spoke] to the manager of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team, Miguel Madariaga, to find out what prompted him to try his luck today. "Aitor has been a professional rider for three years," said the ’directeur sportif’. "It’s his first Tour and he really wanted to do something for the team. We decided to give him the chance to try an attack. "The team’s objective this year is the mountains classification and so, for the moment, we’re pleased that Aitor has been able to win the first two climbs of the stage. We are realistic, however, and know that it will be really difficult to stay in the lead through to the finish of such a long stage. "In a Tour that’s as open as this one, riders like Aitor could make an impression... and today is a good test of his form."

Jimmy Casper, Stage 1 winner and 2-time Tour de France Lanterne Rouge, was involved in a late crash today and finished 172nd for the stage, dropping him all the way to 168th in the overall standings. Rubén Lobato, Lanterne Rouge in the Prologue, has improved his position to 160th in the overall standings.

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