Marie Helene Premont tackling this rocky incline. Superior technical skills allowed her to take her second win of the season!
With the Tour over for another year. I'm following the Women's World XC racing.
There's nothing like riding and enjoying the great outdoors. And, when it's out on country mountainous terrain is something else. I'm a roadie and make no bones about it. The enjoyment comes tearing down a hill in an aerodynamic tuck. Even going flat out on a nice long stretch gives a sense of controlled power. I'm in awe over these powerful images from this past Sunday's Elite Women's XC race held in Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec.
Home town Canadian Marie-Helen Premont(Rocky Mountain) won by breaking away and finishing alone. Something she does amazingly well, at. She basically left her adversaries behind dominating the race. Her compatriot, Catherine Pendrel did the same finishing by herself coming in second place. Premont won on her sheer strength and technical prowess, and being fortunate not to have any mechanical mishap or crash. Known for her tenacious riding Premont already leads in the Women's MTB World Cup XC standings and has a very good shot at podium in Beijing. The Canadian women rode well placing six riders in the top twenty.
With her powerful riding, the dominating Quebecois will do well at next week's race in Bromont, Quebec!
Canadian Catherine Pendrel(Luna) looks well amongst the beautiful landscape!
Sadly, I turned on my tv this morning hoping that there maybe just one day of coverage of le Tour. And after three weeks of exciting racing I'm left with Le Tour hangover! The race is so unique and long that one is left following and wanting to watch more... like a fine wine. One nice break from it is that the Olympics are close and I'll be following the track and road races. It's not Le Tour, though. Nothing is.
Come to think of it ... I'll check the tv one more time!
Ryder Hesjedal going strong to finish in 13th in the time trial, Stage 20.
Ryder Hesjedal rode very well at todays Stage 20, time trial finishing a stupendous 13th, 2'36" down. Just behind teammates David Millar(5th) and Chistian Vande Velde(4th). The young Canadian battled throughout this Tour in an supporting role for Garmin-Chipotle and is in 47th overall!
Carlos Sastre's amazing time trial today gave the Spanish rider the Maillot Jaune and bearing any incident, the final ride to Paris as winner of the 2008 Tour de France. He's on the threshold to become the 7th Spanish rider to win the Tour. His compatriots are:
1. Frederico Bahamontes - 1959
2. Luis Ocana - 1973
3. Pedro Delgado - 1988
4. Miguel Indurain - 1991-95
5. Oscar Pereiro - 2006
6. Alberto Contador - 2007
Sastre summed it up best after the time trial, "I was calmed, I was relaxed, I knew it was the chance of a lifetime. I think I deserved it."
It's definitely the beginning of a Spanish renaissance applauding the last 3 winners of the Tour from Spain.
And better yet, three-time world champion, Oscar Freire will celebrate as the first Spanish rider to claim the Maillot Vert.
The green jersey is solid. Friere wins at stage 14.
Ok who's going to win the time trial? Will it be Carlos Sastre or Cadel Evans for the final Maillot Jaune? I just finished reading an interesting article from the Guardian lambasting Cadel Evans lack of attacking and wheelsucking. Or as the French refer to, a lack of panache. He's not particularly exciting to watch as he bides his time behind other riders. Granted, but does he deserve to win without much effort? The romantic appeal is to watch him ride hard, win stages or die trying. The admiration from the fickle cycling fans would be the one of envy if he risks everything to win, again with the heroic effort.
That said, Evans mediocrity is more so as when he held a training camp in Spain. Only to find himself and his Belgian soigneur as the only attendees. His Belgium based Silence-Lotto squad has been virtually invisible and criticised for it's lack of initiative. I found it funny, that Silence is a company that specializes in... snoring. Somewhat appropriate. You can't really fault Cadel. He's more of a tactician and not the creative artist on the bike. His teammates are just as much deadpan. On the other hand, Sastre has the advantage of panache as portrayed on his epic victory to L'Alpe d'Huez. His advantage going into the time trial is that he's up 1' 34" over Evans. The downside is that the time trial is not his speciality. Cadel Evans strength is his own of a time trial monster. Last years Tour resulted with the expulsion of Team Astana and the exploits of Alexandr Vinokourov's erased victory in the Albi-Albi time trial. Thus it gave Evans his first Tour stage win. A victory nevertheless.
Most importantly, Evans remembers last years close second place finish with only 23 seconds from eternal yellow. With the time trial looming. Can he break from his calculating mould? He may just show that panache needed as he can finally show everyone that he can win the time trial and grab that final Maillot Jaune with ... gusto!
Lampre riders go to the aid of leader, Damiano Cunego. The long march is on as all will limp in within the time limit, 20 minutes down!
Great teamwork comes in many forms. Look at CSC-Saxon and how they kept a protective envelope around the Maillot Jaune, Carlos Sastre. The Italian Lampre team did it another way.
Team Lampre leader, Damiano Cunego (the little prince) had a terrible fall early on stage 18. Around 32 km into the race Cunego fell face first onto a concrete barricade. And with a bloodied chin proceeded back into the race escorted and protected by teammates; Righi, Tiralongo, Mori and Marzano. It was truly an heroic effort by the Lampre team riders to bring back their leader and to finish the stage within the time limit. All finished 20 minutes down. The Little Prince showed his toughness and gut it out to the finish. His teammates rode a sacrificial race shepherding the injured team leader. Cunego was a Tour contender and proved himself with victories in this years Amstel Gold and in the 2004 Giro d'Italia. Back then, he rode to win. Today, he rode to survive.
His team managers wanted him to quit but he showed his undying appreciation for his teammates by making sure that they all finish within the time limit. He crossed the line dripping blood from his chin and injuries to his chest and thorax.
A proven battleground and the Little Prince bows out ... a battered Tour hero.
At the finish with scrapes and bruises.
The Little Prince turns in an heroic ride and soon will retire from the Tour.
Folks have camped at L'Alpe d'Huez a week earlier to get the best spots. Carlos Sastre alone on his way to the famous victory!
Carlos Sastre did something approaching fantastic on Stage 17's La Tappa Reina (the Queen stage of the Tour). In his eighth Tour de France he finally wears his first Maillot Jaune. Nothing short but uplifting, literally! This is the toughest stage of the race with brutish climbs of the; Galibier, Croix de Fer and the menacing L'Alpe d'Huez with it's 21 hairpins. With his great win, Sastre places the pressure on Cadel Evans to pull a do or die time trial this Saturday. And Sastre gets his name on one of the famous corners of L'Alpe d'Huez joining the ranks of famous conquering riders. He deserves it especially winning by a giant 2 minutes. Team CSC-Saxon did everything to control the pace by putting the pedal to the medal by keeping the tempo extremely high. Now, I can't help but think that there may be other surprises in store...
With a bystander in tow for help. John-Lee Augustyn makes his way up the mountainside without bike. I thought that I was going to fall off my couch when he dropped out of view!
This years exciting Tour is full of amazing riding and ... incredible nasty falls. I watched in horror as Barloworld's John-Lee Augustyn nearly became this year's angel of the mountain as he misjudged a right hand bend and flipped over the edge in a small cloud of dust. He's the youngest rider at this year's Tour, only 21, but proving to have a future as a very good climber.
As he became the first over the top of the highest road in Europe, the 2802 meter Cime de la Bonette-Restefond, he became a part of Tour history. Augustyn is in very good company as he's the third climber to ever reach the roof of the Tour. Spain's Frederico 'the eagle of Toledo' Bahamontes did it in 1962 & 1963. Scot, Robert Millar crested the top in 1993. Helicopter pictures caught him over the mountainside as a bystander jumped down to help him back up. There he waited a couple minutes for the team car for a replacement bike. He would finished in 35th over 5 minutes from stage winner, Cyril Dessel(Ag2r).
His words were blunt, "I was lucky to get away with no injuries. Just before I went over the side I thought, shit, I'm going to break something again and it's going to be terrible. I took the wrong line and was just going too fast. I saw the corner coming, and tried to brake, and I hit the corner and went over the side. I was lucky to come to a stop again and get back to the top."
Was he fortunate. I think he'll need to work on his downhills!
Luxembourg National Champion, Charly Gaul on his way to winning stage 18 on Mount Ventoux, 1958 Tdf.
From: 'Maillot Jaune.'
Luxembourger, Frank Schleck can feel a quiet confidence wearing the yellow jersey. After stage 15, and holding a slim 7 second lead over second place, KOM Bernhard Kohl the race is heating up in the Alps. Fifty years ago the great Luxembourger, Charly Gaul created an spectacular ride to win the 1958 Tour...
Charly Gaul already had the strength to win the time trials: first in the downpour of Chateaulin(stage 8), on the bald mountain of Mt. Ventoux(stage 18) where he defeated Federico Bahamontes. Then came stage 20, Briancon-Aix-les-Bains as the weather turned an icy windy rain on the Col de Luitell, Gaul reign supreme. He did so with a climbing finesse that most riders were incapable of. As the weather turned fouler in the mountains, Gaul seemed to go faster. And he loved it!
The other favorites; Geminiani and Anquetil were exhausted with cold and would lose huge amounts of time. Geminiani lost over 15 minutes while Anquetil finished 23 minutes behind. Many riders came in over an hour later. An memorable day that put the magnificent Charly Gaul in contention for overall victory. He won four stages including all three time trials and the coveted Yellow Jersey. No wonder he was called, 'the angel of the mountains!'
Can compatriot Frank Schleck do the same? He has the Maillot Jaune. And, he's shown that he could climb well with his l'Alpe d'Huez win at the 2006 Tour. The monster climbs in the Alps are due including l'Alpe d'Huez. And with the final time trail coming up this week ... it can't be impossible. Can it?
Luxembourg National Champion, Frank Schleck pouring on the pain, stage 15 Tdf.
The Tour was on this morning heading into Italy. I let the machine record it. So I headed out towards Jericho Beach on this beautiful warm sunny day here in Vancouver. Not too many sun worshippers yet, still a tad early. Although, I passed a lot of people heading to the Folk Festival on the other side of the park. On my way back home I stopped at City Hall for a closer look at the Olympic flag. Here's my pics from this morning.
Enjoy the day wherever you ride!
My bike on the beach soaking in the rays.
Jericho Beach with a killer view overlooking the North shore mountains.
The Olympic flag at City Hall.
The Olympic plague.
The first line reads, 'This flag pole was erected to celebrate the arrival of the Olympic flag...'
My first bike was something special. Growing up in Edmonton in the seventies my parents bought me a Sears Free Spirit 10-speed bike. A birthday present. I can remember it was beautiful yellow with black plastic handlebar tape. I rode that wonderful heavy steel bike everywhere and loved it! This was my first love affair for a road bike. Highly memorable.
Another thing that relates to summer riding was our back yard raspberry bush. After a ride I would raid that raspberry bush and have immense pleasure eating those delicious berries.
My perfect summertime relationship; bikes & raspberries...
Ok, I may have been a little rush on Saunier-Duval's exit of Il Cobra. Now as time has progress Leonardo Piepoli has been dismissed from the team. There again, I embraced his amazing mountain climbing prowess and what do you know?... It was also too good to be true. Now team management has kicked out Piepoli for 'doping practice.' You may remember my previous post on the amazing ride of Piepoli ('Fountain of youth') and his outstretched arms in victory. The caption read, 'Piepoli's first Tour stage win and feeling very high!'
Dazed, confused & quiet. The usually outspoken Il Cobra leaves for his appointment with the French police ... admist boos.
I'm floored like everyone else with the news of Riccardo Ricco's Cera doping implosion. I just talked to my friend, Victor, and still was livid from the shocking news. He didn't hear about it, yet so I was even more excited. Yes, I went through emotional freefall of disbelief, shock, frustration, and anger. And now in the wake of it I can easily agree on Stephen Roche with his direct comments, "We're going on 10 years now since the Festina affair. You can't say I didn't know or I'm very, very sorry. No, over. Anybody who is caught now, their licence should be torn up and forgotten about forever." This may be the only way for pro riders to understand. For Ricco who is 24 years old caught for doping, may get a 4 year suspension, comes back into racing after 4 years and continues earning a lot of money off of it. Unfair and downright criminal, I say. It's just a slap on the wrist and frankly the rider would not learn from his mistake. Or even admit it.
Ricco is young, if he's bandished from professional cycling life he can probably collect himself and find a new career. For his deceit, he most certainly created the worst mistrust to cycling fans everywhere. I became one, sensing that this young up and coming rider can win the mountain and young riders competition. Now he won't. If found true, he will have his two stage wins annulled. And rightly so.
It's unfortunate that the Saunier-Duval team left the Tour. They could've stayed, like Liquigas and Barloworld. I think about how Leonardo Peipoli is feeling, and how tainted his stage 10 Hautacom victory is. Now the team is gone and talking about disbanding from cycling completely. Sadly everyone will know that this Tour was the one that the idiotic Ricco pissed away and the talented Saunier-Duval team walking out. I still love this wonderful sport and will continue to follow it, no question about it.
But for now, the DOPE HOTLINE is open ... just ask for Ricco!
Piepoli's first Tour stage win and feeling very high!
Stage 10, Pau to Hautacom.
It was another fine display of riding from Saunier-Duval grimpeurs, Leonardo Piepoli and Juan Cobo Acebo finished an amazing one two. By the way, Leonardo Piepoli is the oldest rider of the team and at 36 year old prove that he is among the world's climbing elite. Light as a feather he weights in at 110 Ibs standing 5 foot 8, the perfect grimpeur. And in a way this was fantastic to see the Italian climber beat out the younger guys. Only Frank Schleck (Saxon) could stay with the Saunier mountain goats. But with 2-3 kms left he cracked and Piepoli went to solo victory urging on Acebo for a close second.
Piepoli is not unknown to the mountains. At last year's Giro he won the Maglia Verde as best climber. And during the 2007 Vuelta a España, having won stage 9 only to pull out to be at the bedside of his wife who suffered complications during birth. By the way, Mother and son are well.
There's hope for all of us older guys and I'm optimistic for one of my favorites, Erik Zabel (38 years old) for a sprint win. How about tough man, Jens Voigt (36) for a win? And with the Alps glistening, a Piepoli double is not far off.
One for the old guys!
Piepoli & Acebo getting down to business.
The towers of power; stage winners Ricco & Piepoli on rest day in Pau.
Monks and beer go way back in mountainous stages of the Tour
From: 'Ascent. The Mountains of the Tour de France.'
In 1910 the 2,000 meter high Pyrenees made their debut. The dirt trials were nothing more than cow paths but a bike race? Tour de France organiser, Henri Desgrange balked at the idea but relented because it would be a showcase for the fans. And virtually a hot reason to sell L'Auto newspapers.
The legendary Col du Tourmalet was introduced and thats where on stage. 10 that Octave Lapize captured the first victory. Many withered, struggling up the soon to be famous passes; Aspin, Aubisque, Toumalet, and Peyresourde. Most of them ended up walking. Desgrange also introduced the 'voiture-balai', or broom wagon, a van to pick up the poor riders who could not continue on.
During those early years, high up on those mountain passes religious monks would greet the riders with tins of beer. A nourishment for the walking riders that made it over the top.
Octave Lapize walks up the Tourmalet. Lapize screamed, "Assassins!" as he passed Tour officials.
And as for the fans, if they wanted to follow who was leading in the days new mountain stages they were obliged to buy L'Auto. The sports newspaper was the winner with a circulation from 1908 of 150,000. Doubling in 1910 to 300,000!
The Cobra struck again, winning todays mountainous stage 9. No one but no one could stop him from sinking his fangs into the 1489 meter high Col d'Aspin. The plucky 24 year old grimpeur chased and tossed aside the lone leader, Sebastian Lang(Gerolsteiner) 1.1 kilometers to the top of the Col d'Aspin. Powered past him, making him look like a lifeless rag doll. Then the Cobra time trialed all the way to finish alone into Bagneres-de-Bigorre. Riccò's ride was legendary like another Italian climber, the late great Marco Pantani. The stage 6 win into Super-Besse was Riccò's first Tour stage victory and now with this one he ties his two 2008 Giro stage wins. Tomorrow's big climb to the Tourmalet & Hautacam will be a huge challenge for all the riders and I bet that the Cobra is ready to strike again!
Getting closer to his 2nd win at the Tour.
The Cobra strikes out alone to Bagneres-de-Bigorre.
Team Garmin-Chipotle: Groovin!
I wanted to mention one of my favorite riders, Maggy Backstedt dropped off the back of the peloton finishing 4 minutes outside the time limit. That was on yesterday's stage 8. The big Swede will be missed!
Team leader, Christian Vande Velde finished a strong 20th, 1'57" back and now lies in a well deserved 3rd overall. Kudos to the rest of the team with special emphasis on Canada's Ryder Hesjedal, 78th 9'04" back. Hesjedal is the 4th Canadian to ever ride the Tour and the first in more than a decade. That's a long time coming. Alex Steida, Steve Bauer and Gord Fraser weere the other Canucks. Hesjedal spotted a Canadian flag hanging from a balcony off a farmhouse during stage 5 from Cholet-Chateauroux.
"That was cool. They(Canadian fans) are out there." And when asked about his first Tour. "It's crazy. There were people lining the route the whole way. From the yards in the towns and villages to the rural fields, there is not a moment when the route is not lined with people," says Hesjedal. After todays stage, look for Hesjedal to climb up in the standings. He's in 82nd overall, 37'30" back.
Love the artwork & the beer! Kind of a catchy name?
You know when the day is going well when quite by accident I stumble onto something unexpectedly nice. Here goes, I jumped on my Marinoni early(around 9:30 am), out into the beautifully warm weather. I'm making my way to Jericho Beach when I discover the street is closed due to a half triathlon. Ok no problem, it's my half way point anyways, so I turn around and head for home. Two hours later and after a nice ride I decide to go to the local beer & wine store. And, with stage 9's mountain stage on, a nice cold one sounds right.
I walked into the shop and though and behold, what's this? 'Slipstream Cream Ale.' From Phillips Brewing, local brewer from Victoria. It turned out to be a wonderful tasting beer and nice artwork to boot! The description on the box reads with key phrases in italics...
"Slipstream is a precision crafted cream ale, smooth as apedal stroke. Malt and hops are balanced like a sweet curve in the road. Cooperative fluid dynamic techniques create a beer that is greater than the sum of its parts. The path of least resistance is actually through a bottleneck. Duck into the slipstream &enjoy the ride."
A great compliment to the days mountain stage. And the words are just like the beer ... smooth!
A beautiful day for a ride and race.
The half-triathlon and my turn around point. Right beside Jericho Beach, Vancouver.
Thanks for the win. Cavendish the 'Cannonball' charges to win in Toulouse.
His invaluable Team Columbia teammates helped him win his second Tour stage!
Young, über-sprinter 23 year old, Mark Cavendish(Team Columbia) does it again. He beat a hot field during todays cold & clammy 172.5 km stage. 8 into Toulouse. He did it in frightful conditions on a rain swept course. After watching Riccardo Ricco(Saunier) fall I was ready for more. I swear that on the final tight corner the peloton would fold like a house of cards. But, these professionals approached it gingerly and snaked around the corner without incident. With the Tour stage win, Cavendish equals his Giro two stage victories. This man is going places, fast!
One guy that almost came through was Frenchman, Jimmy Casper(Agritubel). He charged to a splendid 3rd place. He's one of my favorite sprinters along with sentimental favorite, Erik Zabel(6th today, Team Milram). I still believe that the on form Zabel can get a stage win before it's all over. This will be his last Tour. And, having reached the ripe age of 38 on July 7th, a late birthday present is still in the offering.
Two Liquigas riders indulge in oysters on Stage 5.
Ever wonder what procyclists eat? Pretty much anything! After watching what seems like minutes that turn into hours at this year's Tour, one quickly develops an appetite. Well, I do. And as I eat and watch I ask, "what do the pro's eat?" Here's a little taste of what I mean ...
Bon appetite! A typical riders' musette.
'Zone de ravitaillement': The feed zone placed around mid way on each day's route. Lunch time means musette. Of course, every riders' needs are different. Inside the basic musette consists of: 2 bottles of carbohydrate and tonic. A Coke, half a banana, energy bar, carbohydrate gel, a small sandwich of meat & cheese and maybe an apple tart.
A bakery on wheels
During the second half of a stage race, the team cars will hand out cakes, pastries and soft drinks. It's at this point of the stage a rider have burned up their carbohydrate fuel stores that means one thing, more sugar! The tasty pastries offer the simple carbohydrates needed and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream providing an energy boost for that final sprint to the finish line.
Fluid ... and lots of it!
The key to keeping the riders energy levels topped off is with plenty of food and fluids. Riders generally go through two or three 20-oz bottles of fluid every hour and more if it's extremely hot. In a 3 week tour, each team will use around 3,000 waterbottles.
Back in the glory days...
Raid the soft drink truck, 1960 Tour.
That precious fluid, 1951 Tour.
It's hot and the great Hugo Koblet grabs another waterbottle. Back then the waterbottle was made from aluminum and stoppered with a cork!
From: 'Cycling's Golden Age.'
Note: From the famous saying, 'An army marches on it's stomach.'
Force to withdrawal. Soler gets ready for his team car on Stage 5, Cholet-Chateauroux.
My favorite, for the maillot à pois rouges competition, Mauricio Soler abandon during stage 5. After riding with a broken wrist and a arm injury from a fall on stage 1 the Colombian grimpeur will not defend his 2007 KOM jersey. Give him credit for staying in the race up until now. He skirted with the Lanterne Rouge and finished very close to the bottom of the overall standings. To make matters worst, Soler fell off his bike at the start of the 5th stage thus provoking his withdrawl. He rode only 11 km stopped and retire from the Tour. Even holding his handlebars was a study in pain. This year's Giro started his woes as he was forced to retire after his fall. Unlucky again, as he exits from the Tour. He's reported to go to Italy for treatment and then to reexamine his season. Good luck to him.
I'm sure he'll once again be back on top!
Barloworld leader, Soler just before he abandons on Stage 5.
Hans brought over a funny account of the 2007 Tour de France as seen through Aussie eyes. It's a dvd called, 'DeTour The Movie.' I really enjoyed the docu-comedy with a twist of the famous Aussie wit. In case if you haven't seen it, it's about 3 Australian blokes, all in wonderful disarray as they show a personal and very entertaining view of that Tour. Sure they have the inside view as press dudes filming for, 'Australian TV,' chumming with fellow Aussie's; Cadel Evans, Robbie McEwen, Michael Rogers, Stuey O'Grady & Simon Gerrans.(Who?)
All in all a fun, unpretentious look at the Tour for everyday folks.
With a few pints in between!
Note: After the movie, you may feel like yelling, "Go Cadel Go!"
1. Honourable aggression award goes to Frenchmen: Samuel Dumoulin(Cofidis/stage winner) & Romain Feillu(Agritubel/Maillot Jaune). Will Frischkorn(far left) nearly misses out for stage victory nirvana. His aggressive tendencies will put Garmin-Chipotle first in team classification and he'll receive the most aggressive rider prize!
2. Garmin-Chipotle is having a heck of Tour. A close second place by Tour rookie, Will Frischkorn almost gave the team it's first stage win. But, It landed the American the most aggressive rider prize and he will have a special red bib for the Tuesday's time trial. With his hard work, Garmin-Chipotle moves up to first place in the team classification. The team will have special yellow bibs highlighting their numbers.
The badger lunges for the kill. This protester will soon be nullified.
3. Prize presenter, Bernard Hinault made quite an aggressive move today by showing his claws. As stage winner Samuel Dumoulin mounted the podium a protester jumped in front him. Little did he know that the badger reacted rather quickly and shoved his victim off the stage.