7.30.2013

Tour de France sum up

Bakelants' win
ABOUT JUDGING A TOUR: How do you judge a tour? a preliminar question is: should you judge a tour? should you take the time to look back at it when it's over, examinating data? should you examinate your own fresh memories instead, trying to recall your emotions? Of course there are many ways and many reasons to judge a tour. The first criterion in my opinion is the most natural and spontaneous: did I enjoy it? it's also the less exact. I often tell myself: What a boring race! then I give a look at the single stages and I must admit some of them have been exciting and am surprised because I had totally forgotten about that. At the opposite I can keep the memory of a thrilling race when actually it had been awfully boring for the whole first week. Judging one day races is easier and usually your subjective impression coincides with a more objective examination.
Jens Voigt
Voigt's break-away
The point is still the same: a tour lasts. A tour is like a novel: in a masterpiece each part is perfect but in an average book some chapters are better than others and it's interesting the way you form your final judging of it. In a tour it's the opposite than in a book: you can forgive a boring start but not a boring end. Many books have got a promising first part and a week conclusion but you often get so involved at the begining and feel so much more its characters that your disappointment is moderate while a boring ugly irritating first page can decretate a definitive end of your reading. That's probably dued to the fact that we know the whole route of a tour: "I'm loking forward to the last week!" we say or "Bring on the Pyrennes and you'll see!". Like in a bad book there are splendid descriptions of lovely places, in a boring tour you can always save some splendid landscapes.
My answer to my first and preliminary question is: but you CAN'T avoid to judge! it's a very sophisticated and hard request to suspend your judging and try to 'take it like it is'. That means: don't consider your personal taste, culture and values so that you can get the intention and feeling of somebodyelse. Sometimes it's good but it's never easy. You watch and you judge: "GREAT!" or "WHAT A DRAG!". I'm personally few interested in sprints and must admit I love cycling but it takes me some effort to really follow - not just watch - a race Andy Schleck is not in. So we can't avoid to judge and judging has few to do with objectiveness. Oh my.... Don't let my start about 'objectiveness' itself! 
Subjective judging is unbattable: "I didn't like at all the Tour 2012. The last one has been better but not as fun as Tour 2010 or 2008". That could be me. I can argomentate but basicly I have very personal reasons to think so or better: to feel so. And it isn't interesting, is it? Interesting is something you can share and debate, something 'objective' at some extent. That's why I put together some data. However also a personal memory is interesting when it's well written and you can almost 'touch' it, feeling yourself that feeling like in a transfert. That's the big art of writers: look by my eyes, feel by my heart, stay you, try me. Literature brings you quite close to that hard and sophisticated suspension of your judging, enlarge your soul without asking you to leave it apart. That's why I add a collection of personal highlights.

1. STAGEs victories are the daily show in a three weeks race and in the last Tour the show has been poor. That was my subjective impression and data confirm it: take off sprints, TT and GC riders' wins, you are left with Bakelants, Martin and Rui Costa. Trentin if you want. I'd add Sagan's in Albi. Froome's preponderance put the GC riders in need to use all stages to attack him and that made it hard for every break-aways. 
Normally there are many races in Tour stage: a break-away for the stage victory - big mountain stages partially excluded - fights for KOM  and intermediate sprints points - fight for placement by White Jersey contenders and Team Classification, finally the big fight for the Jellow Jersey AND for the final victory - those can also be two different goals: wearing the Jellow Jersey is a goal itself in terms of prestige and money. This year the fight for the final victory crushed all the rest. It isn't nice. 

STAGE VICTORIES (and Yellow Jersey)
http://www.procyclingstats.com/race/Tour_de_France_2013-Stages
29.06
Stage 1 | Porto-Vecchio » Bastia KITTEL Marcel   KITTEL Marcel 213
30.06
Stage 2 | Bastia » Ajaccio BAKELANTS Jan   BAKELANTS Jan 156
01.07
Stage 3 | Ajaccio » Calvi GERRANS Simon   BAKELANTS Jan 145.5
02.07 Stage 4 (TTT) | Nice » Nice ORICA GREENEDGE   GERRANS Simon 25
03.07
Stage 5 | Cagnes-sur-Mer » Marseille CAVENDISH Mark   GERRANS Simon 228.5
04.07
Stage 6 | Aix-en-Provence » Montpellier GREIPEL Andre   IMPEY Daryl 176.5
05.07
Stage 7 | Montpellier » Albi SAGAN Peter   IMPEY Daryl 205.5
06.07
Stage 8 | Castres » Ax 3 Domaines FROOME Christopher   FROOME Christopher 195
07.07
Stage 9 | Saint Girons » Bagnéres de Bigorre MARTIN Daniel   FROOME Christopher 168.5
09.07
Stage 10 | Saint-Gildas-des-Bois » Saint-Malo KITTEL Marcel   FROOME Christopher 197
10.07
Stage 11 (ITT) | Avranches » Mont-Saint-Michel MARTIN Tony   FROOME Christopher 33
11.07
Stage 12 | Fougères » Tours KITTEL Marcel   FROOME Christopher 218
12.07
Stage 13 | Tours » Saint-Amand-Monrond CAVENDISH Mark   FROOME Christopher 173
13.07
Stage 14 | Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule » Lyon TRENTIN Matteo   FROOME Christopher 191
14.07
Stage 15 | Givors » Mont Ventoux FROOME Christopher   FROOME Christopher 242.5
16.07
Stage 16 | Vaison-la-Romaine » Gap COSTA Rui   FROOME Christopher 168
17.07
Stage 17 (ITT) | Embrun » Chorges FROOME Christopher   FROOME Christopher 32
18.07
Stage 18 | Gap » Alpe d'Huez RIBLON Christophe   FROOME Christopher 172.5
19.07
Stage 19 | Le Bourg d'Oisans » Le Grand Bornand COSTA Rui   FROOME Christopher 204.5
20.07
Stage 20 | Annecy » Le Semnoz QUINTANA Nairo Alexander   FROOME Christopher 125
21.07
Stage 21 | Château de Versailles » Paris Champs Elysées KITTEL Marcel  
118
21.07
General Classification FROOME Christopher  

21.07
Points Classification SAGAN Peter  

21.07
Mountains Classification QUINTANA Nairo Alexander  

21.07
Youth Classification QUINTANA Nairo Alexander  

21.07
Teams Classification TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF  

Froome's on Ventoux
2. GC: Andy Schleck said it wasn't Froome too strong but the others weaker than usual. I reflected about it because very often Andy tells things that are different from the 'main stream way' to read a fact and get a unseen side of it. Froom's aceleration on Ventoux made me perplexed. I read on the Italian magazine CyclingPro a analysis of it based on Sky's data and confirmed by Sky rider Cataldo: Froome's move was accurately calculated, he didn't change his gear but just speeded up in a point where the percentage of the climb dramatically drops. Andy was doing something similar when his chain went down. That's smart but you must be able to manage it because not everybody can change his pedaling cadence in such a minimal lapse of time. Normally you attack on the hardest of a climb, an attack atop it where the road is a bit easier surprise your opponent - Contador in this case - and the visual effect is that you dash away while he remains on the place. That is what we have seen. I don't want to get more technical than that. I just add - but you already know - that a easier gear with a high pedaling cadence is more 'economic': you spend less energy. That's science applied to the sport. No doubt that Sky left nothing to the chance. 
Mollema and Ten Dam
Doping suspects can't be completely fugated - Sky's data given to the Equipe and examinated by FDJ doc don't allow to exclude it neither to confirm: they are "very regular". The lack of evidences makes the whole  discussion useless. Andy said Froome's data on Ventoux are not different from his own, Frank Schleck, Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong's data in 2009. It's funny and popular to reply three of them are 'dopers' but the truth is Frank never doped - the sentence tells - and Contador and Armstrong were clean in 2009 - as far as we know. Don't ask me about Andy: I'm sure he's clean but my opinion doesn't count. So we can conclude Contador was underperforming in the last Tour. It's easy to see he's underperforming in general. Kreuziger did a good Tour but he was there to help Contador.
Danny Van Poppel
For Valverde and Rodriguez is normal to have ups and downs during three weeks so that a final victory for them has been always difficult. This year they have been also unlucky. Quintana is new, we can't compare his performance. I have already said I didn't like the way he raced. Could he have won the Tour? hardly but maybe as one leader and with Movistar racing to win - not to put Valverde on the podium.
Outsiders surprised me in a good way: Jakob Fugslang did the best tour of his life and all on his own because Astana has been inconsistent since the start. Bauke Mollema was 2nd when he got sick and normally the final week in the Alps would have suited him well: what a pity! Jürgen Van Den Broeck crashed in Corsica and quited: that's really a shame! Ten Dam was outstanding...till when he cracked. The young Pinot was just the shadow of last year rider: sick of a suspect mononucleosis he never started the game and abandoned too.
I was about to skip Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen! BMC duo has been really disappointing. Evans didn't recover well since the Giro - but even there he looked weaker - while I can't explain van Garderen's poor performance. Maybe he had reached too early his pick of form, in California. His Tour anyway has been less anonymous than Evan's: he often went in a break-away. BMC DS Lelangue payed the bill. His direction didn't seem effective in fact: handling wiserly the break van Garderen could have achieved a stage victory at least.
Some teams just didn't have a serious GC contender or their GC contender failed to be 'serious'. Lotto-Belisol - lost Van Den Broeck - and Argos pointed all on sprinters (Greipel and Kittel) while the OPQS of  Cavendish had a good GC card in Kwiatkowsk. Cannondale got the big goal with Sangan's Green but their GC rider De Marchi  looked inadequate: he's still young, tried some break-aways and a stage victory would have been a better aim. The team anyway didn't put on him a big pressure. Also by Moreno Moser I expected more. Europcar concentrated on the Polka Dots Jersey with Rolland and finally gained nothing. A bit better for the other French teams: Cofidis (Navarro 9) and AG2R (Bardet 15). I expected more by Garmin and Euskaltel (Talansky 10, Nieve 12). For Vacansoleil, Lampre, FDJ and Sojasur this Tour has been a disaster. 
Green-Edge is a special case: they won the TTT and kept the Jellow Jersey for four days (Gerrans, then Impey) but all in the first weeks: when the fight for the GC started they disapeared. GE best placed rider is Impey: 74 at 2:26:37.
Andy Schleck on the Pyrennes
I have already written about Andy Schleck and RSLT: in my opinion they can be quite happy, achieved some goals, failed some others. The team leader was Andy and that was fair but not so realistic. His personal goal was a top ten result amd maybe a stage victory. He got a top 20 and no stage. The goal was maybe too high however  you must shoot high for your morale and for your dignity. He has been 12 (2008) 2 (2009), 2 or 1st (2010), 2 (2011) so a 20 place isn't something to celebrate. But after his crash he collected a long series of DNF and his best result was a 15 in a stage in last Tour de Suisse so... yes, 20 in the Tour is a good result. He didn't win any stage but in a few hard ones he was just in front with Froome, Contador and Quintana. He went in a long break-away on the Alpe d'Huez and even if it never gained enough to look dangerous he had definitely a very good ride in the first climb and in the descent of Sarenne. In the TTT he was good, in the Embrun ITT very good. In Avranches ITT he was very bad and that means he still need to work NOT on his TT but on himself. Since the start of the season till this Tour de France his improvements have been impressive. He worked hard. The balance can be considered positive.
RSLT won a stage with Bakelants, kept the Yellow Jersey for two days and strenously fought for the Team Classification. In terms of GC three riders in the top 20 (Monfort 14 Bakelants 18 and Andy Schleck 20) is a quite good result. Monfort isn't a rider who can win a Tour - in my opinion - and Andy wasn't strong enough to fight with the best in the race.
I went so deep to show that basicly Froome hasn't got any opponent. He won because he was the strongest and he was the strongest because other strong riders this year weren't in their normal shape. Team Sky was less strong than last year but still able to work in that amazing 'new' way: total dedition and a scientific approach. It works but 1. kill the race 2. risk to 'kill' the racer too... Not everybody tollerate the Sky-model, many go away (Cavendish, Uran, Dowsett...), somebody seems to have 'cracked' (Wiggins). I try to stay neutral but looking Froome's face after the Tour... he didn't seem all right to me. Probably he was simply very very tired. He said he's going to target the Tour for many years. Wiggins instead said he isn't sure he'll ride a Tour (or Giro or Vuelta!!) again... and he was there last year, in that stunning lightspot. Lets see. 

 GC
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 83:56:40
2 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:04:20
3 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:05:04
4 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:06:27
5 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:07:27
6 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:11:42
7 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:12:17
8 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:15:26
9 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:15:52
10 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 0:17:39
11 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:18:59
12 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:20:01
13 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:21:39
14 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack Leopard 0:23:38
15 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:26:42
16 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:26:51
17 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 0:32:34
18 Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack Leopard 0:35:51
19 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:39:41
20 Andy Schleck (Lux) RadioShack Leopard 0:41:46
21 Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col) Lampre-Merida 0:45:08
22 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:46:00
23 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:48:07
24 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:52:15
25 Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:54:00
26 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:54:25
27 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team 0:54:34
28 Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:56:33
29 Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:57:06
30 Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack Leopard 1:02:43
31 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 1:03:41
32 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar 1:12:42
33 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp 1:13:08
34 Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 1:14:59
35 Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team 1:20:39
36 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard 1:24:22
37 Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 1:27:57

..........
39Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team1:30:14
40Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff1:34:17

.........
45Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team1:38:57

Sagan in Albi
3. SPRINTERS: Sagan had no opponents for the Green Jersey, Kittel had no opponents at the sprint. Or better: only two but not at his level, Cavendish and Greipel. That's all. About Danny Van Poppel... see YOUTHS.
 
Points classification
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 409 pts
2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 312
3 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol 267
4 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano 222
Marcel Kittel


Pierre Rolland and his Red Dots
4. CLIMBERS: Pierre Rolland had the Polka Dots Jersey as his one goal... and failed it. His only opponent - GC riders excluded - has been Riblon but he fell short. Quintana best climber of this Tour? ok. Probably...   But he didn't show anything special, just kept his place of 2nd beside Froome and won a mountain stage when allowed.
 
                            Mountain classification 
3Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar117
...
5Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale98
6Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi98
7Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling72
8Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling72

5. YOUTHS: Quintana best youth of this Tour? for sure. He was expected and didn't miss the date. But just because he was expected and given that he never attacked on his own it's hard to consider him the 'revelation' of this Tour in the way Pinot was the 'revelation' of that one of Andy Schleck of the Giro 2007. Bardet impressed me more. His team couldn't aim to the final victory and he earned his 15 place by lucky break-aways and good individual performances. I think we'll hear from him. Danny Van Poppel impressed me a lot. He didn't finish the Tour because his team fairly stopped him: he's 19 and a very promising sprinter, it made no sense to force him up and down on the Alps. But he has been the true 'revelation'!

Quintana in the Alps
Best Younth Classification

1QUINTANA ROJAS Nairo AlexanderMovistar Team84:01:00
2TALANSKY AndrewGarmin - Sharp13:19
3KWIATKOWSKI MichalOmega Pharma - Quick-Step14:39
4BARDET RomainAG2R La Mondiale22:22
5DUMOULIN TomTeam Argos - Shimano1:30:10
6GENIEZ AlexandreEquipe Cycliste FDJ.fr 1:33:46
7VAN GARDEREN TejayBMC Racing Team1:34:37
8VUILLERMOZ AlexisSojasun1:35:45
9GALLOPIN TonyRadioShack - Leopard1:58:39
10VICHOT ArthurEquipe Cycliste FDJ.fr 2:10:46
11IZAGIRRE INSAUSTI IonEuskaltel - Euskadi2:17:12
12MOLARD RudyCofidis Solutions Crédits2:21:05
13KENNAUGH PeterSky Procycling2:29:26
14SAGAN PeterCannondale Pro Cycling Team2:34:31
15DELAPLACE AnthonySojasun2:39:53
16MOSER MorenoCannondale Pro Cycling Team2:49:07
17NAVARDAUSKAS RamunasGarmin - Sharp3:17:09
18DEGENKOLB JohnTeam Argos - Shimano3:19:03
19SICARD RomainEuskaltel - Euskadi3:19:34
20FAVILLI EliaLampre - Merida3:26:59
21MEYER CameronOrica GreenEDGE3:27:54
22VANMARCKE SepBelkin Pro Cycling Team3:30:13
23REZA KevinTeam Europcar3:34:11
24CIMOLAI DavideLampre - Merida3:36:11
25TRENTIN MatteoOmega Pharma - Quick-Step3:41:10
26VAN POPPEL BoyVacansoleil - DCM3:43:55
27COUSIN JérômeTeam Europcar3:56:50
28LOBATO DEL VALLE Juan JoseEuskaltel - Euskadi4:03:39
29KITTEL MarcelTeam Argos - Shimano4:05:48

Saxo TTT
5. TEAMS: a bittersweet award for Riis' team that failed to win the Tour and even to put Contador on the final podium. A well deserved one: all Saxo riders worked all Tour to make troubles for Sky, from Contador and Kreuziger to Bennati and Rogers. I liked them a lot. They made the show, didn't save energies and didn't calculate too much, raced by heart and really gave it all. Bravo! RSLT tried to win this classification and its riders were in the break-away almost everyday. It would have been nice to see them on a podium in Paris but ok. I liked their attacking way to race. Only regret: Jens Voigt caught so close to the finish in that epic stage in the Alps. 

Teams classification
1 Team Saxo-Tinkoff 251:11:07
2 Ag2R La Mondiale 0:08:28
3 RadioShack Leopard 0:09:02
4 Movistar Team 0:22:49
5 Belkin Pro Cycling 0:38:30
6 Katusha Team 1:03:48
7 Euskaltel - Euskadi 1:30:34
8 Omega Pharma-QuickStep 1:50:25
9 Sky Procycling 1:56:42
10 Cofidis, Solutions Credits 2:07:11
11 Garmin - Sharp 2:13:32
12 BMC Racing Team 2:26:23
13 Team Europcar 2:32:29
14 FDJ.fr 2:50:51
15 Sojasun 3:47:22
16 Lampre - Merida 4:06:47
17 Vacansoleil-DCM 4:26:40
18 Astana Pro Team 4:58:00
19 Orica GreenEdge 5:36:44
20 Lotto-Belisol 5:58:39
21 Team Argos-Shimano 6:09:36
22 Cannondale 6:21:09

Cannondale, Tour de France 2013, stage seven
Cannondale's forcing in Albi stage
6. A subjective look: for me the BEST STAGES in the Tour have been: Stage 2 Bastia-Ajaccio: Bakelants' win at the last breath, Stage 7 Cannondale's forcing in Albi, Stage 13 Tours-Saint-Amand-Monrond: 'la tappa dei ventagli' (echelons stage), Stage 17 Embrun ITT and Stage and 18 Gap-Alpe d'Huez: Andy Schleck on the attack! and finally my favourite one: stage 20 Annecy-Le Semnoz, Jens Voigt's break-away. The first mountain stages in the Pyrennes have been great but too stressing for me: I was about to throw up so... I don't keep a good memory of them. Sprints are not my favourite thing but I apreciate a good one: I can't remember anything special in this Tour. When I'll remember of it I guess the first image I'm going to see will be Bakelants' face on the line, his hands on his helmet, round eyes, and the bunch sprint at his back, 1' down: crazy! then, Voigt caught: "I only look back when they pass me". Guts, pride, profesionalism. That glimpse to check the dispearing gap between all and nothing. The beauty of cycling.

Andy Schelck & co. in Sarenne descent
7. My Tour de France: ...in ONE IMAGE ? it must be an image OF ANDY of course. Or two. Descent of Sarenne or maybe descent in Embrun ITT. A descent anyway and my rider descending fast and fearless. But if I close my eyes and think of it, the first image I see of the last Tour is from Avranches, because I was there. I was at the barrier when Andy arrived. He knew I was there because we had talked the night before. People called him but he didn't stop. It wasn't his day. "No not tomorrow. Too much stress" he had said about meeting in the morning. "Ok, see you at the start then". I had gone till there just for him but didn't want to disturb, didn't care about meeting or saying Hi. That really doesn't make sense now. I was there simply looking at him and when people at the barrier called him again I joined. I think he heard me - maybe no. I think I see he was about to stop but didn't and went straight to the bus. I must ask him but I guess he remembers few or nothing about that day, just a bad feeling probably. The same I felt. But I was happy to see him again. Happy and sorry at once, because I knew he was going to do a bad tt but he was in the race, in the Tour. That was anyway great. And for me it was the biggest joy to be there too, just looking at him and to feel that pain.
Andy Schleck in Avranches