Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stage Twenty: The decisive ITT

Update thanks to live updates:

"Adam our official Live Update La[n]tern[e] Rouge historian writes in to say: Hey Live Update Guy, It looks like Wim Vansevenant will be creating history tomorrow. He started today's stage 42 seconds ahead of Bernhard Eisel of Team Columbia. Fortunately (?) he took 1 minute 35 seconds longer to finish the stage. As of right now as I write this 29 riders have finished. So the lowest man in the GC who hasn't finished as far as I know is Arnaud Coyot. He'd have to take 1 hour 51 minutes and 14 seconds to displace Wim, which is almost 40 minutes slower than the average pace set by the first 29 riders through to finish the stage. Cheers to Wim Vansevenant! Who if he avoids catastrophe and finishes tomorrow will be the first participant to win the Lantern[e] Rouge three times, and will have done it for three tours in a row! Thanks for the updates, Adam"

It seems Vansevenant rode almost exactly the same relative pace as the first time trial in Cholet. I'm still searching for Wim's official time but the first rider out, Bernard Eisel, went in 1:13:12. Everyone seems to only post the top tens rather than the full list of results as they go! Aaargh!

"Lance has seven titles, I have another record," said Vansevenant, who loyally helped the Australian Evans to do well at the Tour.

Update: Thanks to Allen Gathman for pointing out the official times on Le Tour site!

Bernard Eisel: 1:13:12
Wim Vansevenant: 1:14:47 (1:35 gap)

Slowest times of the day:
Matthieu Sprick: 1:15:02
Thomas Voeckler: 1:15:09

It doesn't seem that Wim Vansevenant slowed down at the end of the time trial to hit a particular goal time, but rather rode it just as he did the first time trial and maintained a fairly consistent position through all the splits:

Classement général individuel : 144th at 03:46:29 (position at the start of the stage)
start 2th parti at 11:20:01
chrono 1 18.0 km 143th at 00:03:49
chrono 2 36.0 km 145th at 00:07:33
chrono 3 47.5 km 145th at 00:10:00
arrivee 53.0 km 142th at 00:10:56

Final five ITT times for today:

141. RIGHI Daniele 77 LAMPRE 01:14:44 00:10:54
142. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 01:14:47 00:10:56
143. ENGOULVENT Jimmy 84 CREDIT AGRICOLE 01:14:55 00:11:04
144. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 01:15:02 00:11:12
145. VOECKLER Thomas 149 BOUYGUES TELECOM 01:15:09 00:11:19

Before anyone scoffs at Thomas Voeckler's time, please go out and find a nice hilly course of 33 miles and ride it at an average pace of well over 26 mph, as he did. Not to mention doing it after riding over 2000 miles in the preceding three weeks over the highest mountains in the Pyrenees and Alps!

Christophe Riblon of Ag2R was able to move up today into 138th place by riding an outstanding time trial in 37th place for the day.

The final five in the overall standings after the final time trial, which (barring any withdrawals or serious crashes) will most likely be the final order of finish for the 2008 Tour:

141. GARCIA ACOSTA Vicente 34 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 87h 40' 26" + 3h 39' 26"
142. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 87h 49' 18" + 3h 48' 18"
143. KRAUSS Sven 116 GEROLSTEINER 87h 52' 55" + 3h 51' 55"
144. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 87h 54' 58" + 3h 53' 58"
145. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 87h 55' 51" + 3h 54' 51"

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Stage Nineteen: Roanne to Montluçon

Unexpected drama in the Lanterne Rouge standings: Wim Vansevenant finished at 1:54 after the stage winner today, while a group of nine riders (including former Lanterne Rouge Aleksandr Kuschynski, Sven Krauss, and Bernard Eisel) crossed the line well back at 14:45.

The group of mostly fatigued and injured riders had fallen off the back of the peloton with 40 km to go and limped in to the finish together. They're all trying their best to hang on until Paris.

This drops Bernard Eisel of Team Columbia into last position in the general classification by 42 seconds. It also means that he will be the first starter in the Saturday individual time trial. It is probable that Wim Vansevenant will not know a precise cutoff time (that would result in his elimination), but he may learn of Eisel's finish time before he crosses the time trial finish line and attempt to finish a minute slower. However, Vansevenant's primary and extremely critical task will be to scope out any peculiarities of the time trial course and relay them back immediately after his finish to his teammate Cadel Evans.

In the Stage 4 Cholet time trial, Vansevenant finished 60 seconds behind Eisel over a 29.5 km course. If both riders were fresh, he might be expected to lose something like 1:37 to Eisel on a 53 km course. But anything can happen! As Allen Gathman points out, the time trial will likely determine both the maillot jaune and the Lanterne Rouge for the 2008 Tour.

Will the time trial, and consequently the Tour's finish in Paris, see the peloton becoming a Silence-Lotto sandwich with teammates on both ends of the general classification? Oh, the suspense!

At least they're both soldiering onward! There were five riders who didn't successfully finish the stage today, reducing the peloton to 145 riders:
DNS Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre
DNF Christophe Brandt (Bel) Silence - Lotto
HD Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Rabobank
HD Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel
HD Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner

A fairly typical tale of woe is related by "Fabian Wegmann is experiencing . . . a nightmare. Numerous crashes have left their mark, as have the three weeks of stress. He had two nosebleeds during the stage yesterday, he says on his website, And not only do his injuries hurt, he is getting a rash from the bandages. "My fingers are so badly swollen that I can barely hold on to the handlebars. And my feet and bottom are bright red. They burn and itch like crazy. Normally you could treat that with cortisone, but not during the Tour."

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Separated at birth?

Marcus Burghardt and Evgeni Plushenko.

(Second in a very limited series. Here is my Wim Vansevenant "Separated at Birth".)

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No more dog days

Francois Thomazeau on Yahoo reminded me that Marcus Burghardt was the guy on T-Mobile last year who crashed out with an unfortunate encounter with a dog.

Well done today, Marcus!


Vansevenant profiled in Wall Street Journal

Bill Strickland posted a piece in the Wall Street Journal today about Wim Vansevenant and his probable historic triple Lanterne Rouge finish.

He concludes: "Some cycling fans discover the lore of the Lanterne Rouge and become captivated by how it rewards fruitless struggle and alchemizes failure into a kind of success. You'll know you've become one of them if, Friday, you look first at the bottom of the standings instead of the top."

Once again, I beg to differ with his assessment that Wim Vansevenant's string of Tour de France finishes - in any position - represent anything remotely resembling failure or defeat.

No. Ricco's departure was defeat in disgrace. Magnus Backstedt's and Jimmy Casper's agonizing finishes while failing to meet the time cutoffs are glorious defeats.

Wim Vansevenant is a survivor, and as he labors to support his team leader, Cadel Evans, every day of the Tour, he is perhaps the noblest representative of the self-effacing efforts of every domestique in the peloton who rides, unnoticed, in the essential support of every podium finisher. We fans have nothing but respect for him and his fellows.

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Stage Eighteen: Bourg-d'Oisans to Saint-Étienne

Concerning yesterday's valiant finish on Alpe d'Huez by two-time Lanterne Rouge Jimmy Casper, reports: "There was some discussion among the French about making Jimmy Casper the combative of the day yesterday. But the rules clearly state that a rider has to be classified to qualify. Casper crashed and bravely fought on by himself. It sure was an honourable performance. He reached the finish, but outside the time limit. "

It was sweet to see the teammates of the injured Damiano Cunego ride the only team time trial in this Tour and bring him home inside the time limits in a pink (magenta?) and blue Italian armada:

146. TIRALONGO Paolo 79 LAMPRE 4h 50' 33" + 20' 12"
147. MARZANO Marco 75 LAMPRE 4h 50' 33" + 20' 12"
148. RIGHI Daniele 77 LAMPRE 4h 50' 33" + 20' 12"
149. MORI Massimiliano 76 LAMPRE 4h 50' 33" + 20' 12"
150. CUNEGO Damiano 71 LAMPRE 4h 50' 33" + 20' 12"

Unfortunately that drops Cunego from 14th overall to 20th in the general classification, but he's still in the bike race. It seems he suffered a nasty chin injury that will require some patching up overnight. Update: According to VeloNews, Cunego will not start tomorrow. Sad to hear that after such a noble effort by him and his teammates in getting to the finish line on time.

Christophe Riblon of Ag2R-La Mondiale came in 19th for the stage, which moved him up one place in the final five.

In the TV coverage I was able to catch a very brief glimpse of Wim Vansevenant in his red and black kit, coming over the finish line protecting his Lanterne Rouge position in the last of the large group of 122 riders who came in between 6:50 and 7:07 after the stage winner.

The final five in the standings today, which will be shaken up somewhat in the final individual time trial on Saturday:

146. KRAUSS Sven 116 GEROLSTEINER 82h 47' 59" + 3h 31' 45"
147. RIBLON Christophe 108 AG2R-LA MONDIALE 82h 49' 52" + 3h 33' 38"
148. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 82h 49' 53" + 3h 33' 39"
149. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 82h 55' 54" + 3h 39' 40"
150. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 83h 02' 02" + 3h 45' 48"

Remember if you have local coverage of the start of the individual time trial on Saturday that Wim Vansevenant will probably have the honor (and challenge) of the first starting position. I'm sure Cadel Evans will be listening to, and benefitting from, every word he will relay about the course conditions afterwards.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stage Seventeen: Embrun to L'Alpe-d'Huez

Very sorry to see that 2-time Lanterne Rouge Jimmy Casper (riding for Agritubel) didn't make the time limit on Alpe d'Huez today and was eliminated. He is the 30th rider to depart the Tour this year. I believe that it was his seventh participation in the Tour. It may serve to highlight what a tremendous accomplishment it is for any rider to finally arrive at the finish line in Paris after making it through three grueling weeks - at any position in the standings.

The Daily Mail reported: "Such is the reverence in which the Alpe is held that Agritubel rider Jimmy Casper, in spite of the certain knowledge that he would be eliminated on time, refused to climb off his bike until he had crossed the line. He promptly burst into tears."

There were 69 riders in the autobus that arrived today at 38 minutes exactly after the stage winner. That means most of the guys that we have been following all got the same time today, and there were no rearrangements at the back of the standings. Wim Vansevenant is in a strong position to finish the 2008 Tour de France as Lanterne Rouge.

146. KRAUSS Sven 116 GEROLSTEINER 78h 10' 48" + 3h 31' 45"
147. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 78h 12' 25" + 3h 33' 22"
148. RIBLON Christophe 108 AG2R-LA MONDIALE 78h 12' 41" + 3h 33' 38"
149. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 78h 18' 26" + 3h 39' 23"
150. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 78h 24' 24" + 3h 45' 21"

It seems Bernhard Eisel had a rough day out there too, especially on the first big descent: "Eisel tumbles on the descent. Then Perez goes off road. Hincapie goes down. Eisel makes it a double as he falls again. My god, this has turned into a demolition derby."

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Stage Sixteen: Cuneo to Jausiers

Wim Vansevenant of Silence-Lotto is back in the Lanterne Rouge slot, since Sébastien Chavanel of FdeJ is apparently out.

However, the stage results are not coming up yet on the official Tour de France site. More later!

Ahhh, here we are:
Two more out, bringing the peloton down to 151 men:
162 CHAVANEL Sébastien (FRA) FRANCAISE DES JEUX withdrawal
63 CHICCHI Francesco (ITA) LIQUIGAS outside time limit

Chavanel must not have been feeling well - he dropped out about halfway up the first climb of the day. Epoch Times said, with a hint of disdain, ". . . he was in last place in the General Classification, and his team no longer needed his efforts." No reports on Chicchi, but he's a sprinter with enormous thighs and so probably not well-suited to the steepest climbs.

The big autobus that came over the line at 31:56 after the stage winner held 57 riders including most of the guys we have talked about on this blog. Again, I'm not sure what the cutoff was today but you're pretty safe from elimination at the Tour if you have 56 other riders in your grupetto.

Final five in the overall standings:

147. KRAUSS Sven 116 GEROLSTEINER 71h 24' 50" + 2h 54' 34"
148. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 71h 26' 27" + 2h 56' 11"
149. RIBLON Christophe 108 AG2R-LA MONDIALE 71h 26' 43" + 2h 56' 27"
150. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 71h 32' 28" + 3h 02' 12"
151. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 71h 38' 26" + 3h 08' 10"

It's worth noting that the time gap between the current Lanterne Rouge and the nearest rider in the standings is now nearly six minutes. Unless something unusual happens or he is forced to abandon, Wim Vansevenant is in a very strong position to make Tour de France history by finishing in the Lanterne Rouge position for an unprecedented third consecutive year.

Incidentally, the Silence-Lotto team website seems to take no notice of this other than on Vansevenant's individual page.

I'm sure they're all tired and dreading what tomorrow may bring. Best wishes and safe journey, gentlemen.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Stage Fifteen: Embrun to Prato Nevoso

I wonder what the cutoff time was today? Sébastien Chavanel, riding for the Francaise de Jeux team, crossed the line at 42:59 after the stage winner, 12:07 after any other rider. Maybe the cutoffs are different for French riders.

Chavanel had to stop at 44km into the stage when his jacket got tangled in his bike. Not sure what else went wrong for him today.

Cavendish did not start, as predicted, and Oscar Pereiro (of Caisse d'Epargne; official winner in 2006, Floyd's year) had a dramatic crash which took him out with a sprained shoulder. On the first climb of the day, the Col Agnel, Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) and Stijn Devolder (Quick Step leader) were dropped and abandoned the race.

Otherwise the last several riders over the line were familiar:
148. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 5h 17' 23" + 26' 39"
149. CASPER Jimmy 123 AGRITUBEL 5h 17' 40" + 26' 56"
150. KRAUSS Sven 116 GEROLSTEINER 5h 20' 30" + 29' 46"
151. CHICCHI Francesco 63 LIQUIGAS 5h 21' 36" + 30' 52"
152. BRANDT Christophe 3 SILENCE - LOTTO 5h 21' 36" + 30' 52"
153. CHAVANEL Sébastien 162 FRANCAISE DES JEUX 5h 33' 43" + 42' 59"

That shakes up the bottom of the general classification a bit and gives us a new Lanterne Rouge for the 2008 Tour!

149. RIBLON Christophe 108 AG2R-LA MONDIALE 66h 23' 20" + 2h 25' 59"
150. CHICCHI Francesco 63 LIQUIGAS 66h 26' 39" + 2h 29' 18"
151. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 66h 29' 05" + 2h 31' 44"
152. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 66h 35' 03" + 2h 37' 42"
153. CHAVANEL Sébastien 162 FRANCAISE DES JEUX 66h 39' 36" + 2h 42' 15"

Chavanel now has a significant gap of 4:33 behind Wim Vansevenant. If Vansevenant wants to score a record third Lanterne Rouge finish at the end of the Tour, he will have to keep an eye on Chavanel's position and be sure to finish well behind him on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stage Fourteen: Nîmes to Digne-les-Bains

Nicholas Jalabert from Agritubel abandoned about 90km into today's stage.

Hmm, seems like a lot of people are saying that current leader Cadel Evans has a weak team in Silence-Lotto, while Robbie McEwen has no leadout guys. Are Evans' team members purposely avoiding him? I'd love to be a fly on the wall inside the Silence-Lotto team bus. Cadel finished today with the first group and most of his team finished with the back of the autobus just behind Robbie:

145. MC EWEN Robbie 6 SILENCE - LOTTO 4h 20' 51" + 07' 43"
146. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 4h 20' 51" + 07' 43"
147. KUSCHYNSKI Aleksandr 66 LIQUIGAS 4h 20' 51" + 07' 43"
148. MÜLLER Martin 155 TEAM MILRAM 4h 20' 51" + 07' 43"
149. FÖRSTER Robert 112 GEROLSTEINER 4h 20' 51" + 07' 43"
150. FRISCHKORN William 194 GARMIN CHIPOTLE 4h 20' 51" + 07' 43"
151. CIONI Dario 4 SILENCE - LOTTO 4h 20' 51" + 07' 43"
152. HOSTE Leif 5 SILENCE - LOTTO 4h 20' 51" + 07' 43"
153. VAN SUMMEREN Johan 8 SILENCE - LOTTO 4h 20' 51" + 07' 43"
154. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 4h 20' 51" + 07' 43"
155. RENSHAW Mark 89 CREDIT AGRICOLE 4h 21' 37" + 08' 29"
156. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 4h 21' 41" + 08' 33"
157. CHAVANEL Sébastien 162 FRANCAISE DES JEUX 4h 26' 12" + 13' 04"

Naturally that keeps Vansevenant in the Lanterne Rouge position, although Sprick has reduced his time gap. Two-time Lanterne Rouge Jimmy Casper has moved up into 146th position in the rankings with some higher stage finishes. The final five have remained unchanged except Sprick moves down one notch:

153. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 61h 06' 47" + 2h 04' 52"
154. RIBLON Christophe 108 AG2R-LA MONDIALE 61h 07' 03" + 2h 05' 08"
155. AUGE Stéphane 182 COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE 61h 09' 13" + 2h 07' 18"
156. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 61h 12' 48" + 2h 10' 53"
157. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 61h 17' 40" + 2h 15' 45"

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Cavendish out and heading to Beijing

Just as predicted - sprinting sensation Mark Cavendish will not be climbing the Alps in the 2008 Tour de France. He does not plan to start tomorrow's stage.

He made the appropriate noises to the media and was tactful enough not to mention his shot at a track cycling medal at the Olympics: "“It was really hard. We knew all along it was going to be hard. I tried to hang on, hang on,” Cavendish told Frankie Andreu at the finish line. “I’m just getting tired.”"

Thanks for the great show this year and good luck in your preparations for the Olympics, Mark! We'll be watching and cheering for you!


Friday, July 18, 2008

Stage Thirteen: Narbonne to Nîmes

Bunch sprints followed by the whole peloton crossing the line do little to shake up the General Classification either for the leaders or for those listed at the bottom of the page. No DNSs or abandons or dramatic doping arrests today, but the finish was sure fun to watch.

Three stragglers today (none of whom were in the long breakaway):

156. ROY Jérémy 168 FRANCAISE DES JEUX 4h 32' 59" + 07' 17"
157. LE BOULANGER Yoann 167 FRANCAISE DES JEUX 4h 32' 59" + 07' 17"
158. KRAUSS Sven 116 GEROLSTEINER 4h 40' 54" + 15' 12"

I haven't even looked up his name, but I'm betting Sven Krauss is the guy whose bike disintegrated on impact upon hitting a piece of road furniture. Amazing, sure to become a YouTube classic! Note to self: DO NOT hit something which is going to slice your bike COMPLETELY in half before it catapults into midair!! But if you do, tuck and roll and get up like that rider did.

Same old same old in the rankings, even though Jimmy Casper finished up in 20th for the stage:
153. CASPER Jimmy 123 AGRITUBEL 56h 44' 22" + 1h 55' 35"
154. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 56h 45' 56" + 1h 57' 09"
155. RIBLON Christophe 108 AG2R-LA MONDIALE 56h 46' 12" + 1h 57' 25"
156. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 56h 51' 07" + 2h 02' 20"
157. AUGE Stéphane 182 COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE 56h 53' 15" + 2h 04' 28"
158. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 56h 56' 49" + 2h 08' 02"

So how long do you think Cavendish will last before he bails to go train for the Olympics? He keeps saying how "tired" he is, in his charming manner. Yeah, if I sprinted at 10,000 mph I'd be tired too. Will he last through the two category 4 climbs tomorrow, the final one less than 10k to the finish? Or until Sunday, with an Hors Categorie and a category 3 climb followed by a category 1 finish? Or will he try to set a record for sprint stage wins and ride into Paris? I'd make a voting box but I don't know how.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Stage Twelve: Lavelanet to Narbonne

Ack! The whole Saunier Duval-Prodir team gone, Ricco positive for EPO from Stage 4, announced while he was wearing the polka-dot jersey and the young rider jersey! Two riders in the top ten!!

The official team statement reads like their entire team (whoops, I've been getting their name wrong) is shutting down:

"SAUNIER DUVAL-SCOTT announce that just an hour before the start of today's stage, the French anti-doping agency notified Riccardo Riccò that he'd tested positive for a banned substance after the fourth stage of the Tour de France 2008. Although the Tour organisers allow teams to continue to participate after a positive test, given Riccò's important role to the team in the race, SAUNIER DUVAL-SCOTT have decided to withdraw in order to preserve the positive image of the team´s sponsors and the Tour de France itself. Riccò has been suspended. Moreover, the team decided to temporarily abandon competition activities until this unfortunate incident is clarified."

Those gone include former Lanterne Rouge (stages 1-3, 2005) and stage winner Leonardo Piepoli, who previously had drug use issues of his own.

Here's the original 2008 Tour team lineup for Saunier Duval-Prodir (Sporting Manager: Joxean Fernandez):
171 RICCO Riccardo
173 COBO ACEBO Juan Jose
174 DE LA FUENTE David
175 DEL NERO Jesus
176 GOMEZ Angel
177 JUFRE POU Josep
178 PASSERON Aurélien
179 PIEPOLI Leonardo

Also: Baden Cooke from Barloworld went down today and abandoned.

And Mark Cavendish, a former Lanterne Rouge (Stage 7, 2007), now riding for Team Columbia, wins a historic third stage in the Tour! Well done! Side note: Over at Triple Crankset they seem to think Cavendish will soon come down with a nasty case of the dreaded Mountain Fever as soon as the Tour enters the Alps, in favor of leaving to train to represent Great Britain in the Olympics in track cycling along with Bradley Wiggins. Let's wait and see if they're right. It sounds likely to me, since Cavendish was originally planning to skip the Tour entirely. I'm thinking he will leave on or before Saturday (stage 14) to avoid the HC climb and category 1 uphill finish on Sunday (Stage 15).

There is some speculation that Agritubel's Christophe Moreau's causeless abandon in Stage 7 (immediately after Beltran was pulled that day for a positive dope test) was associated with abnormal pre-race blood values. Hmmm.

Lanterne Rouge Wim Vansevenant increased his time gap to the nearest rider today by arriving toward the end, just in front of the exhausted Gerard and Dumoulin who had ridden in a breakaway all day:

155. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 3h 43' 04" + 02' 12"
156. GERARD Arnaud 164 FRANCAISE DES JEUX 3h 43' 32" + 02' 40"
157. DUMOULIN Samuel 185 COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE 3h 43' 32" + 02' 40"
158. VERDUGO Gorka 29 EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 3h 44' 58" + 04' 06"

The bottom of the General Classification remains largely unchanged other than the number in the peloton and a bigger gap in front of Vansevenant, and will not change much until we have an Alpine finish.

153. CASPER Jimmy 123 AGRITUBEL 52h 18' 40" + 1h 55' 35"
154. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 52h 20' 14" + 1h 57' 09"
155. RIBLON Christophe 108 AG2R-LA MONDIALE 52h 20' 15" + 1h 57' 10"
156. AUGE Stéphane 182 COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE 52h 24' 53" + 2h 01' 48"
157. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 52h 25' 25" + 2h 02' 20"
158. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 52h 29' 19" + 2h 06' 14"

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Stage Eleven: Lannemezan to Foix

The peloton is down to no more than 168 today since Spanish rider Moisés Nevado Dueñas of Barloworld (their top rider since Soler is out, at 19th overall) was busted for EPO. The positive test was from the Stage 4 time trial, and was a followup to suspicious hematocrit levels before the Tour began.

Two other Barloworld riders abandoned today:

53 CARDENAS Félix (COL) BARLOWORLD withdrawal

Longo Borghini broke his collarbone in a crash. Cardenas stopped at about 35 km left in the stage.

It may be that Jimmy Casper is considering contesting the Lanterne Rouge position! If either he or Wim Vansevenant take it at the end of the Tour, it will be a historic and unprecedented third time. Casper came in last for the stage again today, 16 seconds behind the autobus that arrived at 22:14 after the stage winner:

164. DUMOULIN Samuel 185 COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE 4h 20' 27" + 22' 14"
165. PORTAL Nicolas 38 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 4h 20' 27" + 22' 14"
166. CASPER Jimmy 123 AGRITUBEL 4h 20' 43" + 22' 30"

In the overall standings, one less rider separates the two Tour de France Lanterne Rouges - now they only have 4 riders between them, 3 of them Frenchmen:

161. CASPER Jimmy 123 AGRITUBEL 48h 37' 48" + 1h 55' 35"
162. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 48h 38' 09" + 1h 55' 56"
163. RIBLON Christophe 108 AG2R-LA MONDIALE 48h 39' 23" + 1h 57' 10"
164. AUGE Stéphane 182 COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE 48h 42' 46" + 2h 00' 33"
165. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 48h 44' 33" + 2h 02' 20"
166. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 48h 46' 15" + 2h 04' 02"

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The last shall be first

The sorting has begun, and the tremendous talents are starting to show of many of the professional cyclists in the peloton who haven't yet gotten much recognition this Tour. It simply underscores the fact that every rider out there is a phenomenal athlete in his own right. (And also why it truly rankles me when riders at the bottom of the General Classification are derided as "losers". Unfortunately, since I'm catching up from being away I will have to skip most details of stages 8, 9 and 10).

Losing significant time in Stage 9: Sprinter, 2006 stage winner, and former two-time Lanterne Rouge Jimmy Casper, dropped at about 65 km to go:

169. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 6h 10' 51" + 31' 23"
170. CASPER Jimmy 123 AGRITUBEL 6h 10' 51" + 31' 23"

Two former Lanternes Rouges were making the headlines in Stage 10 yesterday.

Remy Di Gregorio (Stage 4 Lanterne Rouge, 2007) was recognized as the most combative rider for the stage and later said: "It was a beautiful day for me. I had planned to escape and I managed to spend a good part of the day in the lead. I was also able to climb well on the Col du Tourmalet and I went over the top with a lead of two minutes. This might have been sufficient if circumstances had been a little different in the race but with way that CSC swapped off behind me – to ensure that they put time into the Valverde group – I found myself in a situation that was rather dire despite the advantage I’d been able to build. I did not lose so much time in the valley and am proud of the way I raced. I loved this day, especially when I think that last year I only got to see the mountain stages of the Tour on television because I’d broken a rib in the first week. The experience of climbing at the front of the Tour de France as we went over the Tourmalet is something that provided me with a good revenge for the situation I found myself in last year.”

Leonardo Piepoli (Stages 1-3 Lanterne Rouge, 2005) came to the forefront finally as the stage 10 winner in an impressive ride along with his Saunier Duval-Prodir teammate Juan Jose Cobo Acebo.

Yuri Trofimov, a Russian rider in his first Tour riding for Bouygues Telecom, withdrew from the race on Stage 10, reducing the peloton to 169 riders.

Arriving at the back of the bus on the Hautacam on Stage 10:

167. CASPER Jimmy 123 AGRITUBEL 4h 53' 33" + 34' 06"
168. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 4h 54' 22" + 34' 55"
169. CAVENDISH Mark 43 TEAM COLUMBIA 4h 54' 22" + 34' 55"

Eisel had been visiting the doctor as early as 36 km into the stage. Cavendish crashed at about 15 km before the finish line. Cavendish, the 2008 double stage winner riding for Team Columbia, was the Lanterne Rouge for Stage 8 of the 2007 Tour.

The final seven riders in the overall standings as of the first rest day of the 2008 Tour de France include two two-time Lanternes Rouges separated by only 8 minutes 43 seconds:

163. CASPER Jimmy 123 AGRITUBEL 44h 17' 05" + 1h 47' 56"
164. CHICCHI Francesco 63 LIQUIGAS 44h 17' 11" + 1h 48' 02"
165. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 44h 17' 42" + 1h 48' 33"
166. RIBLON Christophe 108 AG2R-LA MONDIALE 44h 18' 56" + 1h 49' 47"
167. AUGE Stéphane 182 COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE 44h 22' 19" + 1h 53' 10"
168. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 44h 24' 06" + 1h 54' 57"
169. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 44h 25' 48" + 1h 56' 39"

I also happened to notice that in the last 20 places in the overall rankings there are 9 French riders, and no French riders at all in the top 20 places in the standings. That must be very difficult for the French to see in their national race on their national holiday!

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Lanterne Rouge coverage

Bill Strickland blogs about "First at being last" at Bicycling. Worth a read for followers of the Lanterne Rouge: "Yellow is fine, but this Tour's record-setting race for the Lanterne Rouge can't be missed." Although I would never categorize finishing the Tour de France - whether in 2nd or 162nd position - as anything remotely akin to "abject defeat".

(Thanks to The Wrench for the tip!)

What about those who drop out of the Tour along the way? Repeatedly, even? Indeed, this is just about the time in the Tour when we typically start seeing our first cases of that notorious disease which strikes down pure sprinters who aren't doing well in the green jersey rankings, "Mountain Fever". Let's all keep an eye out for those.

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Tribute to Maggie

Over at Cycling Fans Anonymous in the July 12 entry, there was a wonderful tribute to Magnus Backstedt (be sure to follow the link to the photo), in contrast to the dopers who have disappointed us:

"Magnus Backstedt was caught by photographer Patrick Hertzog in an indelible portrait of agony, after sadly missing the time cut due to illness and exhaustion in yesterday's stage. Note the poignancy of the phantom hand of the spectator above him, attempting to keep him from falling. Something about this picture encapsulates the Tour for me. The epic scale of the human struggle, and the warmth of the true fans towards the deserving riders, whose great sacrifice is well acknowledged and honored. For every doper who sadly disappoints us, there is another valiant and clean rider whose courage and dignity even in the face of the bitterest defeat cannot be forgotten or overlooked."


Friday, July 11, 2008

Stage Seven: Brioude to Aurillac

A big group of 61 riders crossed the line today at 21:53 after the stage-winning rider. Lanterne Rouge Wim Vansevenant of Silence-Lotto crossed the line just before them at 20:16, not far behind teammate Johan Van Summeren (who crashed on a descent).

It was a bad day for several riders - Manuel Beltran of Liquigas was pulled from the race for a positive EPO "A" test from stage one after finishing 33rd for the stage (26th overall), and there were four abandons:

166 JEGOU Lilian (FRA) FRANCAISE DES JEUX withdrawal
121 MOREAU Christophe (FRA) AGRITUBEL withdrawal
106 GADRET John (FRA) AG2R-LA MONDIALE withdrawal
95 FACCI Mauro (ITA) QUICK STEP withdrawal

According to the Cyclingnews coverage: Moreau attacked and was dropped on one of the first climbs at about 85 km into the stage, and abandoned at 96 km (but had not crashed). Facci abandoned at some point before that. Gadret abandoned at about 110 km in the stage/49 km to go.

Former Lanterne Rouge (2006, stage 4) Magnus Backstedt of Garmin-Chipotle was eliminated for finishing outside the time limit for the stage.

The last four riders in the standings (with 170 riders left in the race) remain mostly the same - although Nicki Sorensen of CSC-Saxo has moved up to 141st overall, and the margin between the last two riders has decreased to 33 seconds:

167. HAUSSLER Heinrich 114 GEROLSTEINER 29h 14' 29" + 50' 49"
168. KUSCHYNSKI Aleksandr 66 LIQUIGAS 29h 15' 51" + 52' 11"
169. AUGE Stéphane 182 COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE 29h 16' 38" + 52' 58"
170. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 29h 20' 52" + 57' 12"
171. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 29h 21' 25" + 57' 45"

Note: Apologies to my regular readers, but I'm going out of town tomorrow to a race and may not be able to update this blog for a few days.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stage Six: Aigurande to Super-Besse

Climber extraordinaire Leonardo Piepoli of Saunier Duval-Prodir finished in 10th place today, 7 seconds back from the top finisher, while David Lopez Garcia of Caisse-d'Epargne finished well up in 87th place today, at 6:02 back from the first finisher, which pulls them both well up in the individual standings.

Meanwhile, Wim Vansevenant finished back in the final huge grupetto at 17:46, as did Nicki Sorensen and Matthieu Sprick.

So the last five riders in the standings today have changed only a bit from yesterday:

172. KUSCHYNSKI Aleksandr 66 LIQUIGAS 25h 01' 05" + 30' 24"
173. AUGE Stéphane 182 COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE 25h 01' 52" + 31' 11"
174. SORENSEN Nicki 18 TEAM CSC SAXO BANK 25h 03' 17" + 32' 36"
175. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 25h 06' 06" + 35' 25"
176. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 25h 08' 16" + 37' 35"

Note: Aurélien Passeron of Saunier Duval-Prodir did not start the stage.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The cutoff rules

Those riders at the back of the peloton need to be acutely aware of the cutoff rules in play for each stage in order to finish the stage without being eliminated. This becomes even more important in the difficult mountain stages that lie ahead. The cutoff rules are summarized here. (Thanks to Allen Gathman for the link!)

The problem to the rider having trouble on the road becomes that the cutoffs are a moving target and aren't determined exactly until the stage winner crosses the finish line - and even then they're often modified by the officials if a large number of riders would be affected. So sometimes a rider doesn't know with any certainty until well after the finish line if he will be permitted to continue.

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Stage Five: Cholet to Châteauroux

Some days it's not even worth it to get out of bed. Juan Mauricio Soler of Barloworld went down again today in the neutral zone and by 12 km into the stage he abandoned. VeloNews has the details on Soler's situation - his earlier wrist fracture "made it nearly impossible for Soler to brake". Better luck next year, Juan.

Five stragglers today:

173 Brett Lancaster (Aus) Team Milram 0.33
174 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Team Columbia 0.57
175 Adam Hansen (Aus) Team Columbia 1.41
176 Aurélien Passeron (Fra) Saunier Duval - Scott 4.55
177 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner 6.30

But no shakeups in the back of the GC:

173 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval - Scott 13.59
174 David López García (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 14.09
175 Nicki Sørensen (Den) Team CSC - Saxo Bank 15.06
176 Matthieu Sprick (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 17.55
177 Wim Vansevenant (Bel) Silence - Lotto 20.05

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Vansevenant gets attention

With the usual stories already covered by now, and the first time trial over, and no big heroes to write about, writers are starting to cast around for some human interest stories from the Tour and one of their old standbys is mentioning the Lanterne Rouge.

Lionel Birnie in Cycling Weekly: "By the way, what's the deal with Wim Vansevenant? He just likes being last! The Belgian Silence-Lotto rider was Lanterne Rouge in 2007 and 2006. And he's last overall already, the crazy fool. And he's opened up a healthy lead of 2-10 over the next nearest rider, Matthieu Sprick. By the way, Vansevenant was second last in 2005."

Whereas Road Cycling Blog just does a cut-and-paste on the Wikipedia entry. You're welcome.

I'll try to include links to more of these mentions - there are sure to be many of them in the next couple of weeks. We've still got 17 stages to go.


Stage Four: Cholet Time Trial

Today eight riders finished more than five minutes behind the lead rider in the first individual time trial of the 2008 Tour. Some of them are tired and sore from the first three stages; and some of them are saving themselves for the upcoming mountain stages. They include our current Lanterne Rouge Wim Vansevenant and former Tour de France Lanterne Rouge, climbing specialist Leonardo Piepoli (stages 1-3, 2005).

171. GADRET John 106 AG2R-LA MONDIALE 40' 44" + 05' 00"
172. CHICCHI Francesco 63 LIQUIGAS 41' 00" + 05' 16"
173. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 41' 01" + 05' 17"
174. DE LA FUENTE David 174 SAUNIER DUVAL - SCOTT 41' 18" + 05' 34"
175. COOKE Baden 55 BARLOWORLD 41' 26" + 05' 42"
176. WEENING Pieter 139 RABOBANK 42' 03" + 06' 19"
177. PIEPOLI Leonardo 179 SAUNIER DUVAL - SCOTT 42' 28" + 06' 44"
178. BICHOT Freddy 122 AGRITUBEL 42' 54" + 07' 10"

Four riders now have accumulated more than 15 minutes time behind the leader:

175. SORENSEN Nicki 18 TEAM CSC SAXO BANK 14h 19' 47" + 15' 06"
176. SOLER HERNANDEZ Juan Mauricio 51 BARLOWORLD 14h 22' 27" + 17' 46"
177. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 14h 22' 36" + 17' 55"
178. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 14h 24' 46" + 20' 05"

So Wim Vansevenant retains his position as Lanterne Rouge today with a time gap of over 2 minutes to the nearest rider.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Update: Vansevenant's goal

The rider page for Wim Vansevenant at the Silence-Lotto team website makes it clear that him earning an unprecedented and historic third Lanterne Rouge at the Tour de France is a personal - and perhaps team - goal.

Here is a lovely translation of that page courtesy of Rose Cantine - many many thanks! (Earlier I had posted a very bad machine translation).

"Vansevenant can seem cold and standoff-ish when you meet him for the first time. But don’t let first impressions fool you. This is his last season as a professional rider. For years, Vansevenant has served as the loyal domestique to Peter van Petegem. But, along the way, he has also proved to be very helpful in many races. Vansevenant is one of the few riders who can cover a lot of kilometers, close gaps and still maintain that pace for days thereafter. Last season, he succeeded in bringing the Lanterne Rouge title to Belgium twice in a row. A unique achievement, as only two riders have ever done this in the past. In 13 years as a professional rider, he won one stage in the Tour of Vaucluse, more than 10 years ago."

"Vansevenant is comfortable with his role as a domestique. It is a role that one must not underestimate: closing gaps in the peloton, picking up bidons, riding in the wind, climbing mountains, etc. Few riders have developed the expertise that Vansevenant has in this role. He looks back on his cycling career with satisfaction. He is positive about the future of cycling especially given recent success in anti-doping campaigns and in training techniques. In 2008, Vansevenant will be an important participant in the greatest cycling competitions – the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France. This year, he can set a record by becoming the only person to win the Lanterne Rouge title three times in a row."


Stage Three: Saint-Malo to Nantes

There were three stragglers over the line last today: Wim Vansevenant of Silence Lotto at 7:57 after the stage winner, Matthieu Sprick of Bouygues Telecom at 12:20, and Nicki Sorensen of CSC-Saxo at 13:24. Sorensen had a nasty crash at a road divider at 23 km to go, but he fared better than Angel Gomez of Saunier-Duval who was forced to be the second withdrawal from the Tour.

There are now 178 riders in the race.

Wim Vansevenant has taken his familiar position as Lanterne Rouge of the 2008 Tour de France for the third consecutive year, at 16:40 cumulative time behind the overall leader, just 8 seconds behind Matthieu Sprick. It's still very very early in the Tour - it's fairly unlikely that he will hold the position for every stage all the way to the final day (although he did hold the spot for 13 stages in 2007). The mountain stages often have exhausted stragglers come over the line just before the official cutoff time after which riders are eliminated from the race.

Note: Vansevenant wears number 9 on his back and a red-and-black jersey, so he should be easy to spot on TV in some of the rear shots of the peloton, but they seldom show the hindmost riders once they get near the finish line.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

On Wim Vansevenant

John Flynn blogs for Australia's SBS on domestique Wim Vansevenant's role in the Tour working on behalf of GC favorite Cadel Evans (if I may note, with much greater respect than the average writer who simply makes a facile joke of the two-time Tour de France Lanterne Rouge):

". . . I spoke with [Evans'] team-mate and self-described “guardian angel” Wim Vansevenant. “Seve” as his team-mates call him is the heart and soul of Silence Lotto. He is listed in the Tour’s Guide Historique as a two-time winner of the Lantern Rouge, the prize for finishing last in the Grande Boucle. In any other sport, that would be a dubious honour, but not in this sport and especially not this race. “Seve” is a bloke who already should be awarded the Order of Australia for his work protecting Robbie McEwen over the years. He brings with him a working class “roll your sleeves up” attitude to getting the job done. It’s typical of the Belgians who live, eat and breathe the sport of cycling. The look in his eyes Saturday revealed more than words could say about the importance of his role protecting Cadel Evans. If you think it would mean a lot for an Australian to win the Tour de France, believe me, the Belgians feel just as strongly about bringing home cycling’s ultimate prize. If they can pull it off, Australia will owe a debt to this Belgian team that, from the outset, took a chance with an Australian G.C. rider who’d been plagued by injuries. It was concerning to hear both Vansevenant and Yaroslav Popovych were involved in incidents on course Saturday. I’m yet to get the full details, but according to Robbie McEwen, his good mate “Seve” went through a car window. Let’s hope both riders are fit to race on. Evans will need their help."

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Stage Two: Auray to Saint-Brieuc

Juan Mauricio Soler bravely made it to the start line and all the way to the end of the stage today, but it was NOT a fun day for him. VeloNews reports: "The Colombian condor had his wings clipped in a stage one crash that left him battered and bruised. Riding with bandages wrapping his tender wrists, Soler was dropped by the peloton with about 25km to go. He was able to hang on to finish the stage, but his overall GC hopes are done. "

Soler finished 7:18 after the stage winner along with Rubens Bertogliati of Saunier Duval-Scott, which dropped him into the Lanterne Rouge spot at 10:22 behind the overall lead. Let's wish him a better day tomorrow. Contrary to earlier reports, he did not have any broken bones.

Bertogliati crashed at 136 km, lacerating his hip and right elbow, and required stitches. Ouch.

Additionally, in today's stage, "Haussler (Gerolsteiner), Dean (Garmin-Chipotle) and Bonnet (Credit Agricole), all crashed at 163km without serious injury."

That's better than former Lanterne Rouge Magnus Backstedt (Stage 4, 2006) of Garmin-Chipotle, who was injured by whacking his kneecap against the shower door inside the team bus after Stage One.

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Stage One followup

Donald Munro speculates that Wim Vansevenant and Aleksandr Kuschynski were doing track stands on the way to the finish line.

Cyclingnews reports that one of the early favorites for a top GC finish, Juan Mauricio Soler of Barloworld, may already be out of the Tour due to a fractured wrist bone, previously injured in the Giro d'Italia.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Stage One: Brest to Plumelec

A group of six riders, many of them familiar to us, finished the first stage of the 2008 Tour at the back of the pack. These included teammates Christopher Froome and Gianpaolo Cheula from Barloworld (4:04 back from the leader). Final group finishing at 4:56 back: two-time Lanterne Rouge Wim Vansevenant of Silence-Lotto; Stéphane Auge of Cofidis; Magnus Backstedt of Garmin Chipotle (stage 4 Lanterne Rouge in the 2006 Tour); and officially the last rider over the line today - becoming the first Lanterne Rouge of the 2008 Tour - was Aleksandr Kuschynski of Liquigas.

This is a repeat performance - curiously, Kuschynski was also the Stage One Lanterne Rouge in the 2007 Tour. (Note: his team website spells his name Aliaksandr Kuchynski).

It already seems that Wim Vansevenant truly wants to retain the position of Lanterne Rouge for the third year and set a new record. Since it's a tremendously difficult accomplishment to even finish the entire 3500 km of Le Tour, let's wish him the best in accomplishing that goal. It should be noted that he is a teammate of favorite Cadel Evans and will be working on his behalf throughout the Tour.

According to Cycling News: "Wim Vansevenant (Silence-Lotto), the flamme rouge [sic] in the past has some plays on repeating for 2008. "It is not a goal, but why not?" he stated to compatriot Decaluwé at the day's start in Brest. He warned is not all that easy to be the last placed rider by the race's finish in Paris, "You need to do something for it." Vansevenant's team-mate Van Summeren joked, "wasn't there a day when you fell before the finish to gain time on your rivals!""

Two-time Tour de France Lanterne Rouge Jimmy Casper (Agritubel) was involved in a crash at 52 km to go, but went on to finish 1:52 behind the leader.

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First crash

Our first rider is out of the 2008 Tour: Cofidis rider Hervé Duclos-Lassalle went down and broke his wrist at the first feed zone 55 miles into the race, after getting his front wheel entangled in another rider's musette bag. Bad luck for him.

The starting roster for the 2008 Tour was 180 riders, now down to 179.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Happy news

Jimmy Casper, Tour de France Lanterne Rouge of 2001 and 2004, has been named to the start list of the 2008 Tour de France by his team, Agritubel.

Wim Vansevenant, also a two-time Tour de France Lanterne Rouge (2006 and 2007) has also been named to the 2008 Tour de France start list by his team, Silence Lotto.

We fans of the Tour de France have been somewhat battered and disillusioned by events in recent years, but this is the kind of storybook matchup that will make the 2008 race worth watching.

Good luck, gentlemen. Let the best man win!

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