TdF: Andy Schleck in Pinerolo and more

I leave tomorrow for a bike ride in Veneto and will post nothing for a week. Life never ends to surprise me and I am just trying to understand what's on at the moment. Something good maybe. And you know, when I say 'maybe' I don't mean 'no': I just mean 'maybe'.

Tour de France reportage 2 - stage 19: At the start in Pinerolo

Tour de France is over since few days but looks already so far. Now riders ride criteria showing around their conquered jerseys like war veterans. A start of a Tour stage is a bit a criterium: you see everybody, especially this year given that signing is compulsory and if you don't you aren't allowed to start.
The new rule is a consequence of the reluctance of many racers - teams leaders especially – to get off the bus facing the hot sun – or the cold rain, the noise and pressure of press and people that ask for pictures, interviews, signatures. I understand they need to stay focused but reporters also have their job to do and all those people came from far away just to see in real a champion they admire and it's frustrating to wait for nothing with the best riders signing on the start line or passing quikly without stoping at the barriers.
To stay at the barriers – and better in front of the signing stage - I and my son woke up early in the morning, had a quick breackfast and went straight there, in spite of my ex's resistences. I don't know what he saw – probably he didn't even watch – but we were quite lucky. I took tons of good pictures but of course can't post all them here. Some racers also stoped to sign my son's LCL yellow hat: Hushovd and Oss amongh the others. Liveri was psyched.
Teams leaders arrived all together five minutes to the start, were surrounded by photographers and rode away just after they signed. To sign fortunately they had to go on the stage so everybody can see them – more or less. Some of them also said Hi waving and smiling, some others – like Andy Schleck – looked very concentrated and seeing nothing around them.
Not much to say about that. We were there, we watched everybody, told some people next to us the names of some riders – Italians are ignorant, just know Cunego and Basso – then went to the first curve to take pictures of the peloton starting. To do that Liveri climbed atop a gasbox geting many inviouse looks: he can, he's light.
So they started and we too. After a good second breackfast confortably siting at the café. No stress now. To go atop the Galibier was impossible so we just had to go home watching the race in streaming on my laptop.

Easy to say, much harder to do when you have to cross the mountain and your way is like a rollercoster! My internet connection got me nuts, moreover when I saw Andy attacking on the Autaret. Talking to your computer is normal in certain case, isn't it? The problem is its rude refuse to understand.
Anyway, I watched it. And it was great. But that you already know.


Tour de France reportage 1- stage 18 At the finish in Pinerolo

A bloger is someone who says 'I' and that's the difference with a reporter. There would be no point in publishing a journalistic reportage of two stages of the Tour de France when the Tour is over since many days but I like to write about what I saw, did and felt more then to collect facts you already know or can find in other places earlier and better.

Going to a race isn't the best way to watch it, you see almost nothing to be honest and it's tiring, in mountain stages especially. You have to travel and then often to walk and always to wait long hours in the sun or in the rain just to live that magic second the peloton passes – or starts or arrives. Finishes are better because you can run to the bus and if you are lucky to get a picture or a signature, but in the Tour de France that's hard: who has never been there can't imagine the crowd you find also in a small place like Pinerolo or atop the Galibier. Starts are very nice if you can get a place at the barriers just in front the stage where racers go to sign and for that you have to wake up very early and to wait fighting against people pushing you from every sides.

In spite of that I belove to go to races and to the Tour de France especially. I asked for a press accreditation this year and wasn't surprised I didn't get it. I decided to not go to the LEOPARD TREK press conferences in the rest days because they were too far away from the Alpes where I was sure the race would have been won – and lost.

For the first time I brought my son with me and that meaned to say bye bye to many opportunities to make interviews and to get 'special' pictures. I asked my ex hausband to come with us in order to have a bit of free time anyway and to use is camper: more confortable then a car and a tent and cheaper then an hotel. That meaned to stand him for almost three days LOL. I survived but my Tour experience was less adventurous then last years ones.

Traveling with my ex is a little an adventure itself: he uses to move just to go to the mountains – so Alpes were fine – and professes an ideological refuse for the highways. In add he's very messy and slow, so I had to prepare our bagagges and also to check he was ready to arrive to Pinerolo... before the race!
We left from Florence on the 19th of July quite late, the weather was awful – snow on the Galibier and torrents of rain on our way. We slept on the road near Bologna and on the 20th at midday we were still wandering in the country around Asti and Carmagnola – south of Torino just to have an idea. Landscapes were wonderful: old paesans houses lost in the yellow-green of fields and grasses, high white mountains in the background, the silence of narrow streets where cars don't pass so often and little cosy villages where no turists go taking sandwiches or pictures.
Lovely. But we were LATE and I was geting nervous. Ok I was geting NUTS. My ex was obviously jealous, so delighted by the idea to make me miss the right spot at the barriers. GRRR! It was his camper so... I just must stay cool and we finally arrived. I and my son jumped off where the trafic was no more allowed, ran to the finish and managed to find a decent place just near the tv camera, 100 m from the line. I must admit to go to races with your son has also positive sides: old ladies are glad to make him stay close to the barrier and he isn't so tall so you can watch everything standing behinde him. And that we did.

Pinerolo is in Italy but the Tour had colonized it so that it was all yellow and Italians were as many as Norwegians and Luxembourgers. In the shadow where we were it was fresh, almost cold like it uses to be also in summer in mountain towns but when the sun arrived on out heads it was really hot. A girl near us even fainted. Fortunately the carovane arrived too and we had plenty of Vittel water bottles. My son was fascinated by the show. Tour de France carovane is unique: so childish, so kitch but still... nobody can resist, everybody want a picture of the funny cars and fight for an useless gadget or some unhealty candies. Me included.

There was a big screan but we can see few. I understood many racers were having troubles in the final descent while some others were attacking and breacking away. "Andy went out road into a garden!" my son said. "Lucky gardener – unlucky guy!" I thought. Few minutes and they were here: Boasson Hagen arrived first, too fast to be detected by my camera. But the second one was Bauke Mollema, one of my favourites, and I could take a pictures. YEAH! I kept shoting as I could – am not a photographer and would need a better camera – but couldn't get a pictures of Andy Schleck that day. I didn't make a drama: we had seen the LEOPARD TREK bus just after the finish line and slowly went there amoungh the thousand people pushing and fighting to find a way to the podium. I knew that probably Andy and Frank were already in the bus having a shower so I wasn't in a hurry. We stoped in front of the podium where the best climber and the most combactive riders were awarded. My son was quite combactive too: climbed a window and got a better view then me. I was amazed by the number of fans arrived from Norway to support Hushovd and Boasson Hagen: they were everywhere.

Somewhere we also found my ex: he had ignored the race and spent the afternoon in a shop of biological stuff. My son was very hungry, I left them in a bar and went to the bus. Riders were already inside but the fantastic Jens Voight was still out talking with everybody, signing, posing for pictures, giving interviews: what a man! Near him there was Brian Nygaard, who always seems to me the good brother of Bjarne Riis: bald, blue eyed... but what a different look in them! When I used to go looking for Andy at the Saxo Bank bus Riis' ice cold glimpes always upset me. Nygaard isn't so scaring even if not so smiling as well. Beside the bus there was also Kim Andesen: I like him. He looked sad or maybe just very tired.

Tired and madly stressed Joe Kirch, the bus driver, was making everything ready to leave. "Hi Joe" I said "Hello" but I am not sure he recognized me in spite we went out twice in Luxembourg last year. You have no time or way to recognize friends in the Tour: all is too big, fast, and cahotic. Moreover that was the first Tour for Joe, who used to be a racer like many team bus drivers – like Danny – started racing with Andy when they were both children and took part in the national champioship also last year. I'm sure he's happy with his new job! His family runs a nice bar in Ettelbruck and he couldn't make a life by cycling.

When Jens Voight finally disapeared into the bus, reporters and cameramen turned their attenction to the old glory of Italian cycling Francesco Moser and to Johnny Schleck. They were both and all about that fucking descent: "You can't bracke like that if you aim to win a Tour!" Moser was saying "People wanted to see the blood but that isn't a gladiators arena!" dad Schleck disagreed. He's cool Johnny Schleck: he looks older then his age and not so clever at first but when you listen to him talking about cycling and his sons you understand how smart and competent he is and how deep his passion is. I was there, asked nothing but listened all, aware I could learn something interesting for sure.

Many Italian fans were waiting for Cancellara but when riders are into the bus they hardly get off again. Disappointed many went away but many remained till when all the doors were closed and the bus started. It didn't go far nor fast: there was a massive trafic gem, like always after a stage: this movable feast has to move each day to the next stop and even if the next start was in Pinerlo many trucks and tv cars were going to the Galibier or directly to Grenoble. I waved to the bus: we can't see them, but they can see you. No time, no way to recognize friends. I know.

I took a last picture of Guercilena in the team bus and went to my family looking forward something to eat.
- More to come: stay tuned!


TdF 21: a movable feast

I'd like to be Hamingway, the best writer ever, to write about the arrive of the best race in cycling to the best city in the world. Paris. I'm not. But I was there one year ago, I was just there and yesterday felt so nostalgic, so definitely in love for that...
In add the guest of the day at the Italian tv Tour show was Stephen Roche, my greatest cycling hero ever. The greatest and the most 'mine', because I read about Coppi, Bartali, Gaul, Anquetil or also Merckx, as a child I was fascinated by Indurain but too young, in 1986 I was already 12, Roche won everything and I still have somewhere the articles about his duels with Kelly cuted and pasted on my diaries with my first childish cycling notes.
Paris on the screan, Roche was moved telling about the time he also arrived there wearing the yellow jersey: he couldn't really belive or conceive and still remebers the amazing view of the Champs Helysés completely empty inside the barriers and absolutely crowded outside, the roar of the people, the stunning beauty of the place.
Something you can't forget. Nobody can. Even the Lanterne Rouge, the last one in the final GC feel like a king riding in that special light: golden, warm, because the sun is already down and half the summer is gone. You come from far away, are exhausted and proud and just waiting forward that first slow lap to taste all the sweetness of a finish that's like a promise land.
They say the highest step of Paris podium is the closest to Heaven but Dante wrote "everywhere in the sky is heaven" and it's the same in the peloton arriving all mixed: no gerarchies, no classments for a moment, glory and claps for everybody. It's nice to see they go looking for each others and smile, make joskes, chater because they are often friends in spite they maybe race for different teams. I see Andy Schleck went to the back of the peloton to say hi to Richie Porte while the Aussies O'Grady and Gerrans where talking and riding side by side.
That's a last parade for an army of brave soldiers and captains. Then the race comes back: Paris finish is a dream for every racers but for a sprinter it's a dreamy line. Sprinters teams and sprinters race a day more in Tour de France: suddenly no pictures, no smiles, no champagne glasses, no jokes but a deadly serious stuff, the last chance to leave a sign – or not - for somebody, the last victory that makes the race perfect for some other.
Ben Swift attacks first and early – he didn't show that much in this Tour, lets him show his jersey in Paris at least. Lars Bak is the last man in the breack and the first one in the HTC train already launched to launch Mark Cavendish toward his 20th stage victory in a Tour de France. André Greipel – ex team mate and opponent - celebrates him still on the line. The Gorilla is 3th, behinde a wonderful Boasson Hagen – two stage victories, always atop the stages classment. Farrar only 4th: just one victory for him, but how moving, in the name of Wouter Weylandt. Fabian Cancellara is 5th and I say it's good: he worked full time for the Schleck, dismissing all personal ambitions, made a TT way too far from his standards and in Paris finally was there fighting at the sprint. Petacchi wasn't. Oss confirmed he's a great rider: 6th!
I was there one year ago and saw almost nothing of the race, in spite of my quite good position. I saw very well the podium instead: Andy's face so troubled, so sad watching Contador rising his cup. Menchov looked there for a chance, almost embarrassed. A completely different show this year: two brothers on the final podium of a Tour de France! It's the first time in the history of cycling! It's something enormous!
Andy and Frank were smiling on the screan and on the Italian tv was on their dad's live comment. "C'est de la bonheure" he was saying "Ah, c'est de la bonheure!" Andy on twitter called Frank his 'soulmate', much more then a brother, much more then a friend. We can discuss about the right and the wrong for them to race in the same team and to be both leaders in a Tour but they will never separate. "Ca serait domage" Johnny Schleck said "They were born to race together and to support each other".
Cadel Evans on the higest step really looked in heaven. "It isn't the work of a day" he said "I builded it day by day, month by month, year by year. I was dreaming of that since 20 years." He's 34, one of the oldest Tour winners. I think it's a good winner. Definitely that was a wonderful podium.
I got a fever on the TT day, when Andy lost the Tour. Now the Tour is over and my fever too. Time to work on my reportage... and to do some shopping given that – as every year - I almost missed July sales.


Back to black

Yesterday Amy Winehouse killed herself by drug and alchol. She was just 27 and such a wonderful artist. Now people talk bullshit but she wasn't a stereotype, she was just herself. 
Talent often kills too weak persons we love. We should know and take care of them when we are in time.

TdF 20: the warrior won his war

A name a destiny as people say. Cadel means warrior and he had always to fight to get results as well deserved for him as easier achieved for others. Deafeating opponents has never been enough for a rider strong in every fields – cronoman, descender, cliber, biker – because he must face always an incredible bad luck. This year he looked often alone against the world, forced to spend too much and to make his team work too hard. Finally in the decisive stage in the decisive moment Lady Luck set his punch: a mechanic problem, three stops, a change of bike, many many seconds running away. But he's used. Cadel Evans was born to go the hard way not the easy one and he knows. He lernt that in Mendrisio when he said no to his loser destiny and found out to be a wonderful winner... if able to belive in himself till the end, till the last page of the story.
The last page of Tour de France 2011 was yesterday ITT. Cadel Evans dominated it, almost wonn it, definitely won the race and definitely beated his main opponent Andy Schleck: + 57'' at the start, - 1' 34'' at the finish. Only Tony Martin did better and confirmed his great talent in TT.
Numbers so far. But have a look to faces. Before the start Evans was concentrated, probably nervous - but normally nervous: he's a cronoman, is used to fight and also to lose, loves TT and knows he can achieve his goals if he deserves them day by day. Andy's face was simply awful. Now Guercilena says he didn't a bad TT, that his time was 'normal' for him, that Evan's time was amazing. Ok. But Andy's face was scared as if he was panicing and thinking: "I can't do that, I am not able, I don't like, I don't want". That wasn't just my impression, many remarked the same. Of course facing in a TT a specialist like Evans is different then fighting against Contador: Contador is good at it but the gap isn't so scaring. In add last year Andy was quite down and full of rage: he had a great motivation.
No motivation yesterday? Difficult to say. Andy seems to feel the yellow jersey is something he deserves, it's 'his jersey' like yellow is 'his color'. What if you will never wear it in Paris? Many many many racers never wear it at all and many many many great champions too. Often in life you must let a beloved thing go to become really worth of it. I don't mean to forget, that's impossible, but to stop thinking it's something you'll get for sure one day just because you are you. This kind of thing – each one has his own - wants you nacked.
I don't know what happened yesterday, I think Andy didn't feel good – stomach problems maybe. His face at the start looked as if he just saw a ghost. Already on the bike he kept fixing his helmet, sign he wasn't in the zone but nervous, worried, still able to hear and see what was going on around. After the finish he looked empty, defeated, dead.
He couldn't get out his bike, Josue, the masseur, arrived running, holded him, gave him a cuddle on the helmet that he couldn't feel but still was meaning so many things. "Come on Andy, life doesn't end today. You did your best, you gave all but it wasn't enough because he was really too strong. You must be happy because in this Tour you were amazing, won on the Galibier, will be on the podium with your bro tomorrow!" Let him talk, he can't listen.
No more helmet when Frank arrives so Andy can feel his hands on his hair and maybe his worlds. He still says nothing. What can he say? Let him alone, he always loved silence and now I guess it's like a blanket to hide his face: a big silence espanding into his soul. "Of course I'm disappointed, I came to the Tour sure I was going to winn and I almost did. But I'm only 26 and will come back to winn it".
Tomorrow is the spare day. The day you would like to skip. Going home directly would be better. I remember another Sunday in July, 2008. A bittersweet Tour de France, with the victory of Sastre against the team mate Frank Schleck who was in yellow. Andy Schleck was 23, best young and 12 in the final GC. The last day in Paris was a dream because it was his first Tour. He was already on the highest podium of cycling.
I'd like to tell you Andy now that many many many racers never get it. Lady Luck loved you a lot, you must be glad and thankful. You got the gift of an amazing talent and a fascinating personality, are like a student who can be good at school without studying so much. I was the same so I know what I'm about. Life is different from school: you need to fight and to work hard day by day. Honestly – and I'm sure you know – some mistakes, some weaknesses aren't allowed at this level. And that is your level: don't be down, don't give up. Work on your limits since tomorrow. Future can be yours but you must deserve it everyday.


TdF 19: Andy Schleck gets back his yellow jersey

Racing in the legend once again: Telegraphe, Galibier, Alpe d'Huez. Three legendary climbs, three races, because nobody waited the last one. Contador was jealous: "Andy attacked 60 km to go? Ok, I'll attack 90!" Why exactly? To re-open the Tour? Hardly when you are 5 minutes down. To winn the stage? Hardly: you should go later. To get the podium? In my opinion Contador doesn't give a shit for it. In my opinion he just attacked to attack, far away from the finish line to get back his dignity and a bit of rethoric him too by a generous press that loves heros even when they have no point. Contador had no point attacking like that: he couldn't winn anything, people respect excluded.
However, when Andy went away with him and Cadel Evans was droped because of a mechanic problem – Lady Luck definitely doesn't love him – when Voeckler killed himself trying to stay with them and the gap went up to many minutes.... Well, I really thought "It's done. They can go together to the finish: stage to Alberto, Tour to Andy. Sorry for Cadel who deserved more but....!"
But it's a long long way from the Telegraphe to the Alpe d'Huez, men can't make miracles everyday and Cadel Evans is a tremendous fighter. He was droped and he came back. It was simply amazing watching him in the descent, using all his biker skills and all his courage.
Just one peoloton again climbing and suffering on the Alpe d'Huez.. What are they thinking? Are they still able to properly think? They ate in the last part of the descent, easier then the first one but no guard rail, no wall, nothing beside the road running to the valley in the majestic scenary of these mythical mountains.
Basso, Voeckler and many many others sink. The yellow jersey is a yellow point at the end of a short green line some curves behinde, some curves down: his team stoped all his mates to help him to make it to the finish at least. All, one excluded: Pierre Rolland. He worked for him everyday, humble and unbelivablely strong, on the Pyrennes, on the Alpes. Today he's finally leader and runns away like a dog freed in a grass when Contador attacks again and Samule Sanchez follows. Presuming too much, Voeckler lost the jersey and Rolland won the stage.
Crazy presumption that makes a young helper go over himself and play like an old smart finisseur with Samuel Sanchez, who came back, leaded him to an exhausted Contador and was surprised by Rolland's sprint. Many criticized Rolland for that: he didn't help Sanchez and sprinted on him just at the finish. I think he was absolutely right. Not because his team mate was chassing in yellow but because he was aware to be 'Rolland' on the wheel of 'the great Sammy Sanchez': you don't help when you are about to climb the sky. The last French won on the Alpe d'Huez in 1986: "The year I was born" Rolland said.
Andy Schleck arrived with Evans: "We agreed to let Contador go" he said "He isn't dangerous for our GC". Of course. But could you have tried to drop Evans? He IS dangerous for YOUR GC. Probably you should. But probably you couldn't and also risked to be droped by him. Somebody say you should have helped Contador pulling on the Galibier to go together to the finish. I think I know your answer: It was a long way with a long descent where the peloton could come back, and they did in fact. If I spent too much there, Evans could attack me on the last climb and take seconds. - Exactly.
You wear the yellow jersey now. 'Your yellow jersey' I'd say. And it's matter of seconds again. 57. 53 on Frank Schleck, 57 on Cadel Evans. Nobody think that Frank can winn and he said: "No way: my brother is going to get this Tour". Cadel Evans said: "I'd prefer to be in yellow jersey and with 5'. 57'' are a lot." Stephen Roche thinks they are few, Mercks agrees they can be enough. Andy says "I'm sure I can arrive to Paris in yellow: Evans is stronger then me in the TT but 57'' is almost 1 minute, I don't think I'm going to lose so much. And I have a super motivation".
The last one is the most important.


TdF 19: GIEL!

Pic by RTL

The big flap (and the big flop)

Alberto Contador made flop – couldn't attack, couldn't respond, couldn't even keep the wheels: 15th at 3'50''. Cadel Evans made flop – misjudged the risk, was late to respond, had to make almost all the work in the chassing group: 3th at 2'15''. Samuel Sanchez, Cunego, Basso... I save only Voeckler who saved his jersey and not his breath. Frank Schleck of course could save it till the finish where confortablely attacked: 2nd at 2'15.
Andy Schleck opened finally his too big wings and flap: as beautiful to see as impossible to follow. He's like that. Three days ago scared like a kid, almost stoped in the descent to Gap and was brutally droped. His tears on the line was confused in the rain but not the pain and shame on his face. Two days ago the sun shining on the awful descent to Pinerolo didn't avoid crashed and sorrows: Andy was still behinde and Contador even released some sarcastic joke.
"I don't like Andy" Vincenzo Nibali told me once "Frank is more regular". That's true. "Andy a fait un nombre sacré" Eddy Merkcx said yesterday. That's also true. Andy Schleck is young but came directly from the old age of cycling, when gaps were calculated in minutes not in seconds, champions used to attack far away from the finish not on the last climb, risking to lose all, risking to winn. "I took my destiny in my hands" Andy said "I had not will at all to be 4th in Paris". Of course no. Maybe 10th or crashed and retired, but 4th no. And that's the Andy we used to know.
Andy Schleck needs often to be very down to find into himself the tremendous strenght that makes him fly so hight. He's lazy, rebel, messy. Discipline isn't his thing. Pride: that's the word. Many of his great exploits were reactions to an offence. Many times he had just offended himself by a behaviour that couldn't suit him. I'm hard on him but am sure he also is. Andy Schleck isn't a commun guy and he perfectly knows. He must fly hight to be at his own level, and happy.
He looked happy yesterday. He looked Andy. Graceful, strong, resistent and smiling. A scream crossing the line and three puches in the air as if all the rage could finally go out. As if all the pain and sorrow was over. As if after one year all the lost was back, all the wrong right again. Andy Schleck entered the legend on a mountain that is legend as well: the Galibier of Georget, Bartali, Coppi, Bobet. Many say he won few, but what he won says all: Liège, Avoriaz, Tourmalet, Galibier. And how he won says also more: he attacked more then 60km to go, on the Izoard, bridged to the breack where found two team mates, Posthuma and then an eroic Monfort. He simply destroyed the breack by an unstandable pace, he simply made impossible for the chassing group to come back and kept a 3 minutes advantage till the last km, when he was exhausted, solo and already in the history of cycling, while Evans understood he must chasse by himself, Contador cracked, Voekcler gave his blood and Frank made the LEOPARD TREK game perfect.
As I thought and wrote after his victory in Liège: that belongs to Andy forever or better he belongs forever to it, because true champions become a part of the history of a race, of a place. The Galibier was worth of him, Andy was worth of it. That will never pass.
I was there and you'll have a full reportage: just the time to write it and to check my pics.
1 Voeckler
2 A.Schleck 15''
3 F.Schleck 1' 08''
4 Evans 1'12''
5 Cunego 3'46''
6 Basso 3'46''
7 Contador 4' 44''
8 S.Sanchez 5' 20''
9. Danielson 7' 08''
Nice to see Rein Taaramae in white!


TdF 16: no comment

1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo 3:31:38
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
3 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:00:02
4 Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad 0:00:38
5 Mikhail Ignatyev (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:52
6 Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:01:25
7 Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ
8 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:01:55
9 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
10 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Pro Team Astana 0:01:58
11 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:04:23
12 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:04:26
13 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
14 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team 0:04:44
15 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
16 Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
17 Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad
18 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar
19 Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
20 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling
21 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
22 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
23 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD
24 Jerome Coppel (Fra) Saur - Sojasun
25 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
26 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
27 Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ
28 Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:05:02
29 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Katusha Team 0:05:17
30 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
31 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar
32 Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
33 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling
34 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo
35 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek 0:05:32
36 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 69:00:56
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:01:45
3 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:01:49
4 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:03:03
5 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:03:26
6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:03:42
7 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:49
8 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:04:01

TdF: ready to go...

...and I go for yellow!


TdF: Buuuu poll result

Ok, probably if you were there you didn't buu but maybe looked around smiling deeply glad, ehehe. A 22% of you is also ready to buu. Only a 10% is scandalized but a 24% thinks buuing is unsporty. I agree: it is indead. 
After that cold welcome Contador became a bit more popular in France, especially when people saw him crashing and geting droped. That's the 'Poupou Syndrome': unlucky losers (Poulidor) look nicers then cold winners (Anquetil). But is Alberto Contador a loser? we will find out next days! I leave tomorrow to the Tour, stay tuned.
Contador buued in TdF teams presentation
Normal! stay at home doper!
  13 (22%)
I don't like but can understand
  25 (43%)
I don't like at all: it's unsporty
  14 (24%)
What a shame! he has been cleared, deserves respect!
  6 (10%)


TdF 14: the long way...

I didn't see it. I was driving my car bringing my son to his race and then watching it screaming like hell at every laps. It was a MBK race, Liveri is very good at it and never scared. We left Forte dei Marmi early in the morning, ate few - too few - and went directly there. I think he should have eaten more but no way. He did a great race, always in front and was a bit droped just in the final lap: the itinerary was really hard, some kids didn't want to start. He ended 10th and it's a very good result. And he was crying after because he wasn't satisfaied. 
I was about to cry me too: I had my laptop but there was no signal so no internet and no streaming GRRR!!! I texted around asking friends "WHAT'S ON IN TDF?!" and got good news: "Andy attacking" GOD!!! "...and I can't watch!!" I thought. I was also a bit depressed because my ex hub and Liveri's dad was supposed to be there too and didn't come. Not nice nor easy to explain to an exhausted but proud biker. Anyway: "Vanendert, Samy Sanchez, ANDY!" The last text made me litterally jump. "With a gap??", "Yeah". WOOOW.
We arrived at home late, I had just the time to check and post the stage results and to watch the last kms. I understood immediately things weren't so rosy. There was a gap, ok, but it was just 2 seconds. Andy attacked, right. He even attacked for three times. But the general impression was that he couldn't really go away and that the main contenders were simply loocking at each others. 
Today Pastonesi wrote heavy words on the Gazzetta: "No legs, no courage, levelled performances dued to controled blood values...". Sorry, I can't agree. That is the same as saying that before - last years - they were all doped. Or that somebody attacked more because he was. Before that stage Andy said: "Plateau de Beille will not decide the Tour", after it refused criticisms and accused: "We are the only ones who attacked, the others didn't". Cadel Evans replies: "Fine like that for me: I can wait the last TT". 
In my opinion LEOPARD TREK strategy is correct, they raced with authority sofar, working but without wasting energies. They always said this Tour is going to be won in the Alpes and I think they are right. They just have to decide who must winn it. Two leaders are better then one but when you are at the real end of the race you need to know who has to give all for the other: often it's just impossible to go together to the line and the Schleck brothers risk to be 2nd and 3th again while a one leader winns.
It's a long way to Paris yet. Too often we are impatient but champions are able to wait.
Stage 15: Daniel Oss was great. He was furious after the sprint but look who beated him: Cavendish, Farrar, Petacchi. The best sprinters in the world. And Oss isn't - or wasn't - a sprinter.


TdF 14: results!

1 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 5:13:25  
2 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:00:21  
3 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:00:46  
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:48  
5 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling    
6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard    
7 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar    
8 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek    
9 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
10 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar    
11 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
12 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:01:27  
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 61:04:10  
2 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:01:49  
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:02:06  
4 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:02:15  
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:16  
6 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:03:44  
7 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:04:00  
8 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:04:01  
9 Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:05:46  
10 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:06:18  


TdF 13: About madness, greatness and dreams

Hushovd is a wise man. He wanted a stage victory, he can't compete with Cavendish in pure sprints, he can't really compete with Gilbert in short explosive climbs. When you see a man like him flying away at the start of a col hors cathegory like the Aubisque you think: "He's mad".
I thought of Miguel Indurain, a big man too – talking about kg and palmares – he used to attack just before an hard climb so could go by his pace leting the peloton come back and almost pass him, then in the descent filled the gap easily and was ready for serious moves in the flat.
Hushov wanted that stage victory and got it, made no mistakes, spent no energies before the decisive moment, when said good bye to his temporary mate Moncoutier and flashed to the line. Hushovd isn't beautiful to watch – matter of taste here, but let me say he isn't beautiful in general – but effective he is. When he starts you get the impression it's impossible to stop him, inesorable like some authomatic machines. A workers of cycling he looked today, an honest hard workers. But he was an artist. No mistakes in his paint, no exitations in his sculpture. Sometimes races are perfect – like Andy's Liège – and you can't conceive that has not been decided before.
It wasn't! Roy didn't agree to let Hushovd winn, he was painting another story, as beautiful, as perfect: first yesterday on the Tourmalet, first today atop the Aubisque, lauched to the finish line in Lourdes like a pilgrim one km from the Holy City of miracles. He was great, Roy. He saw looking under his arm Hushovd arriving as a sprinter in the sprint and sprinted: a long neverending sprint against the destiny, so obvious, so perfect. You think: "Hey guy! That's Hushovd arriving, you have got no chances, you'll be better to stop now. Be wise." Roy isn't wise but mad with courage and passion. 3th on the line he was almost crying and put his hand on his chest as saying: "You see, I gave my heart!". Moncoutier, 2nd, had an angry gesture: he tried to play poker with the big man in rainbow jersey, but it wasn't the case.
Behinde, in the group, Voeckler too was angry and nervous: his team wasn't enough to lead the chasse and in front there were some dangerous men like Gushev and Gilbert. He stressed Andy Schleck so much that finally some Leopards went to pull. Now in my opinion Voeckler could also stay cool and let the guys relax: both Gushev and Gilbert had a quite big delay and he didn't risk at all to lose his yellow jersey.
I agree that Gilbert's way to race is irritating: he always puts an exploit in the finish, he always tries something even just to gain few seconds. This time I was finally happy to see him full screan: he had Bauke Mollema on his wheel. I was surprised to have never seen Bauke in a break sofar, but probably he had to look after Gesink. Today also Lars Boom retired so we can say Rabobank riders are free to play their cards: Ten Dam was in the front yesterday, today Tjallingi was in the breack and Mollema ended with Gilbert. It was really funny to see them crossing the line: Gilbert made a kind of solo sprint, very concentrated and serious as if it was a serious sprint. Mollema almost stoped pedaling and watched him: "That's mad".
Madness seems the key of today amazing stage. As somebody wrote: "A great genius never existed without a big madness". Of course: you must be mad to belive in your dreams so much to make them reality. But also wise, inesorable and strong.

Tdf 12: a cloud of hope and fear

Not very motivated. Sometimes it's like that: you wait so long, you look forward so pasionately and when you are 'there'... suddenly all the tension goes down. 'There' in my case is 'le Tourmalet'. Yesterday I was so projected to that first serious mountain stage that felt absolutely indifferent about the new victory by Cavendish. I watched it, yeah, I did. But all I kept from that day is the heavy rain at the finish, Andy's face as if he was just under a shower – but a cold one I presume and pedaling full gaz to stay in front anyway.
I watched today stage since 1 pm, didn't lose a second of it. And still I get some dificulties to remember properly what happened today. There was a breack, there was a crash – I was already praying at that point – there was a fantastic try by Hoogerland to keep his polka jersey, there was also the French national holyday with a fantastic Chavanel in national champion jersey flying away.
Cycling is cycling also because of those useless fantastic acts. I think Chavanel wanted to show his jersey and his courage in front of his people – he didn't have a nice strat in this Tour – but he ended to give a basic help to Hoogerland and doing so in my opinion really honoured the flag he was wearing. Voeckler was wearing yellow and surprisingly will wear it also tomorrow. The most suprised was just him. Fairly holded his helper crossing the line in the group of the absolute winners. For a rider like him to stay with Andy and Frank Schleck, with Basso, Cunego and Contador, with Evans on the Tourmalet was like to winn the stage. But Sanchez won it and for a Basque rider to winn on the Pyrennes is like to winn twice: for himself and for his country. Bravo! Bravo also Thomas, in spite of some scaring crash in the descent. Bravo Taaramae – one of my favourites – who maybe managed to get the white jersey today. Gesink lost it, sadly sinking on the hardest of the climb. But he wasn't alone... many strong racers went off the fight for the GC definitely.
So... that fight... waited so long, so long disired and feared... It came and was great. Finally the best climbers in the world stay face to face and nobody could hide himself anymore. Liquigas made the decisive move when Basso asked Shmitd to go to the front of the already small group and pull. He simply destryed it. Contador had three helpers till there but one by one they were all droped. LEOPARD TREK had pulled like hell in the first part of the mountain – Jens Voight is simply an animal! - allowing to Andy and Frank to wait confortably on the wheels while some dangerous guys were left behinde. And they were two. In fact they talcked, Andy smiled, looked very relaxed and in a good mood. Contador watched him, maybe trying to understand...
The point just was: who is going to attack first. Frankie was the answer: he attacked, then Andy, then Frank again. Contador was only able to control and nobody could follow when Frank attacked again. He went away fast and quiet. Looking at him you couldn't understand how fast he was because his position the bike was very firm and his pedaling constant. In a really few he came back to the breack and was 3th in a kind of sprint. Behinde Andy didn't pull and didn't sprint but still Contador was droped and got a delay. It was simply amazing to watch Contador fighting and failing to arrive with the micro-group of Schelck and Evans. Even more amazing to see that Basso and Cunego was in front of him.
Andy almost crashed against a barrier just before the line and that remembered me his incredible exploit on the Zoncolan in the Giro 2007. He was very young and exhausted there. Today he looked strong and moreover strongly motivated. There he was playing like a kid, nothing to lose, a world to winn. Here he's achieving the results of an hard, long, patient work.
I didn't feel motivated at all to write tonight, felt as if I have got nothing to say. Sometimes emotions are so deep to refuse to be expressed. You would like to keep them for yourself, like a confused cloud of hope and fear.


TdF 10: A bitter taste

Mhm... Last stage I should like, shouldn't I? No crashes – thx god – a brave breack away, an excting exploit by Gilbert just before the last KOM, a moving victory by Greipel in a thrilling sprint.
I liked a lot Marco Marcato: he went away in order to winn all KOM allowing his team mate Johnny Hoogerland to keep the polka jersey. Hoogerland was pedaling and suffering in the peloton: "I will never forgive as the scars on my body will never disapear" he said.
I didn't like at all when Gilbert went away in order to... to what exactly? "Van den Broeck is no more there but I told my sport director we should start thinking to this jersey": the one he wears is green and many others are thinking about. The other one... well, it's yellow you know. Many wanted it but many went home too early, Gilbert now says he's also thinking to the GC. On that climb he attacked as if he was the yellow jersey and we saw Voeckler responding as if he wasn't: I mean, when you are the leader of the race, you make your team move. But Voeckler is an attacking guy and probably his team couldn't do that much against Gilbert and Omega Pharma. Gilbert is a blast. He blasted and wasted the poor Marcato's attempt to get also the last KOM for Hoogerland. That I didn't like. Could have Gilbert waited? I must admit, probably no. But I didn't like as well. Mhm... I don't like Gilbert and can't tell way... but am working on it.
Gilbert attacked in order to get some seconds for the GC, in fact Basso and others lost something. He also managed to destroy HTC train helping Greipel to winn the stage: forced to work too early to try to bridge to him, they couldn't help Cavendish at the sprint. Cavendish demonstrated once again he can help himself, but was second behinde the Gorilla who looked super happy.
My impression is that after the abandon by Van den Broeck the mood is much better in team Omega: Greipel can sprint, Gilbert can think to something more then stages and points jersey, something more 'apropriate' to his cannibal-size. I am not sure he can really fight for yellow in the next weeks but it seems he needs to make his mind up to that to interpretate the race in his way. For sure Gilbert in this role will make it less predictable: he could not be able to winn but is definitely able to make somebody else lose.
Finally two sad news: Contador's knee isn't good and many in the peloton started talking about his probable abandon. I wrote he looked thinking "I want to go home" and that would be a decent way to close the case. He started – so demonstrated he's 'clean' and free – he came from a super victory in the Giro – so demonstrated he's still super strong and no doped – he just had bad luck and maybe the fault is of TAS that told him so late he could race the Tour: he had no time to get his top shape back. But maybe he will remain. We will see.
Kolobnev is already gone. To prison. To home. Tested positive to a substance used to hide doping. What a disappointment dudes! He was in the old good Saxo Bank, my dream team. I also chated with him a few times and he sounded nice. First time I saw him in real was in Siena, at the finish of Eroica 2009, the first time I 'talked' with Andy, got a signature and took him a picture. Kolobnev was the first one, with Kroon who opted fr BMC, to left the team. I understood him: he's Russian and prefered a Russian team. But I have to say riders who left Riis' team with big hopes didn't achieve that much. Kroon went to BMC after a super season in the classics but never was again at that level. Arvesen went to Sky: his career was almost finished. Bak went to HTC, I see him often in front but he kept doing the good old helper job. Kolobnev... he was so quiet recently... Of course we can't say he doped yet. But still... what a bitter taste into the mouth!


TdF: 1st rest day - Up and down

Yesterday was the first rest day and a rest day never was so goodtimed. Given that I wasn't there for that – fucking – press conference I wondered what I was going to do that afternoon, feeling depressed and kinda disoriented. You know, cycling is addictive and Tour de France is a true drug. Like shopping. Now I'm a cycling addicted but shopping lets me quite cold: usually I just buy what I 'need' – in a 'large' meanining – and often only when I already saw it somewhere, so I enter the shop and ask for it. Simple and quick. However shoping is therapeutic. When you are down or just a bit bored going out to watch shops windows without a definited idea or a true need and allowing yourself some unnecessary shopping is nice. Then I like to buy presents for family and friends. Finally I am in Forte dei Marmi, one of the most exclusive and cool sea town in Italy, where you can find the best of fashion brands shops like in the center of Florence but 50 m from the beach. The right place to spend a TdF rest day, isn't it?
I'm satisfaied. I bought some very nice stuff and even found a little cosy shop where they sell Superdry clothes: the first place I saw in Italy! To be exact they sell only Superdry men clothes sofar, women clothes are supposed to arrive next week and I'm looking forward. Meanwhile I bought a t-shirt for my...ehm... not sure how to call him. Everybody told me I need a man so... I have a date :) But I will take my time...
Fortunately today the race is on. No more shopping, no more dates. There are more serious things in the world. I had a look to the GC: it changed dramaticly after the last stage, delaies became bigger, contenders group became smaller.
I kept in my memory the picture I saw yesterday on the Gazzetta: Hoogerland crying on the podium conforted by Poulidor. He made it to the finish, got that fucking polka jersey, got also – with Flecha – the red number for combactivity. But what happened can't change, can't be forgot or forgiven. I really hope he can start today.
Andy was good and lucky in avoiding Vinokurov crash: he was just after him. Contador crashed again – not so bad, but he has pain at his knee: "Not my Tour" he said. Yeah, I think so.

GC after stage 9 after stage 8
1 Voeckler Hushovd
2 LL Sanchez 1'49'' Evans 1''
3 Evans 2'26'' F.Schleck 4''
4 F. Schleck 2'29'' Kloden 10''
5 A.Schleck 2'37'' Fuglsang 12''
6 Martin 2'38'' A.Schleck 13''
7 P. Velits 2'43'' Martin 13''
8 Kloden 2'43'' P.Velits 19''
9 Gilbert 2'55'' Millar 19''
10 Fuglsang 3'08'' Gilbert 30''
11 Basso 3'36'' Vinokurov 32''
12 Cunego 3'37'' Van den Broeck 39''
13 Roche 3'45'' Basso 1'03''
14 De Weert 3'47'' Roche 1'12''
15 Gesink 4'01'' Cunego 1'12''
16 Contador 4'07'' .....................
17 Danielson 4'22'' Gesink 1'28''
18 Taaramae 4'52 .....................
19 Vande Velde 4'53 ....................
20 S.Sanchez 5'01 Contador 1'42''
........... 36 LL Sanchez 3' 23''
24 Hushovd 5'13'' 42 Leipheimer 4'43''
........... ......................
28 Millar 5'39'' 55 Marcato 8'10
36 Leipheimer 7'16''
72 Marcato 23'14''


LL Sanchez
P. Velits
De Weert
Vande Velde


F. Schleck


TdF 9: Not amusing...

...to see Hoogerland and Flecha hited by a tv car and losing their chances of victory after a day in the breack. Hoogerland was going to wear the polka jersey today, after pain and fight: he barely finished the stage. Vinokurov and Van Der Broeck didn't: their race finished to the hopital after one more terrible crash.
What's that? Tour de France? I'm not sure. I'm scandalized. Once there was a strict control and a profesional organization, tragedies happened sometimes but honestly nobody can tell that's normal. Road cycling is a dangerous sport maybe but not an extreme sport, you can't risk your life like that. Cars and motorbikes drivers must be profesional: what we saw isn't profesional at all. Policemen must prevent people to be in the road when the peloton is arriving. That's basic.
But probably that isn't enough: riders are falling and crashing all the time also in large streets and not dangerous points. Stress is at the top, everybody want to stay in front and that's simply impossible: final victory contenders are many more then in the past: 10 or 15 instead of 3 or 4 while roads are much more dangerous, narrow and full of roundabout etc.
Not amusing to watch your friends racing in these conditions. Somebody find it exciting but as I already wrote that isn't a fiction, riders are real persons with a family at home. Courage and tollerance of pain are required for a pro cyclist, that's true. But they race to make their dreams reality not to get injuried, not to go home after two stages with some brocken bones and their dreams in pieces. In this Tour we saw it too many times already.
Who won today, who got the yellow jersey for a day, who attacked in the finish and who was ready to respond... I don't feel like to write about. Amoungh that mess Andy Schleck looked like the Pale Knight of a tale, riding in the storm, his guards side by side, an enigmatic expression on his face, as if the world around doesn't exist, his eyes only staring one aim. He always was in the front, he never lost Evans' and Contador's wheels, he even sprinted and is something like 7th. I have never seen him so focused, so cool and strong. I don't feel like to say: Allez Andy! But just to whisper it, like a pray. He's on his way and you can see: that is only and just HIS way. There, we can't go.
Grrr! I got the invitation for tomorrow press conference and of course can't go. Hopefully there will be another one in the Alpes.
Bennati won in Austria, after a 3th place and after the crash that forced him to skip the Giro. Good!!
Sacha Modolo finally won - and twice - in Cina: bravissimo!!