83 percent it was to be exact, 1403 kilometers out of the challenge of 1680 in 33 days. Oh well– I gave it a shot, amid a few other activities vying for my time, such as work of course.
Meanwhile, in Denmark, work so it is– for some!
It can’t be me– I wasn’t born after all. While I’ve always assumed the attractive, likable and allegedly self-absorbed Warren Beatty was the honoree, we’ve just been reminded once again that the mystery has never quite been solved. Nonetheless, one of my all-time favorite, now-classic songs is back in the news this week– Jeannie Moos-style to boot– prompting that same old question that Carly Simon has yet to answer after more than 40 years! You probably think this song is about… well, someone worth revealing, don’t you?
Surely this is the first of many comparisons to come. While I had been thinking of finding two such photos myself and placing them side by side, to little if any surprise it was already done for me. In any case, the inevitably to-be-watched life of George Alexander Louis has begun, just in time to trigger comparisons of his mother to the grandmother he’ll never know, along with all those would-haves. Once more, Diana lives in spirit.
From a chaotic beginning to a first-time evening end, along with everything good, bad, high and low spanning three weeks time, the 100th Tour de France has reached its always much-celebrated final destination. With the major standings in place, one big question of course remained to be answered at the last moment of stage 21: Would the Missile get his beyond record-breaking fifth consecutive win on Le Champs-Elysees?
Peter has his green, Nairo has his white AND his polka dots, the U.S. got a top-ten overall win even without any stage victories, and as we knew for a while would be the grand result, Chris Froome keeps yellow as the winner of the Tour de France. On the other end, fun-themed Orica GreenEDGE— seeing all nine teammates to the finish– includes 36-year-old rookie Svein Tuft in last place overall– a distinction Phil Liggett quickly reminded us today that for the feat of completing this 3404-kilometer journey, carries no disgrace whatsoever.
As for Cavendish, certainly no disgrace for him either. It was close– very close— as his four consecutive Paris stage wins stand as a record not about to be broken, yet not to be added to today. He lost his would-be fifth by a bike length to none other than “new sheriff” Marcel Kittel.
Altogether, another spectacular French summer display of professional cycling prowess has now come and gone, all the more colorfully concluded with Paris’ well-planned Centennial year celebration. Personally, I’m happy to have been able to stay in the cycling spirit with my own rides on every day of this Tour. More than ever I look forward to my own miles to come in the saddle– as well as those of the awesome pros!
A 41-year-old Tour de France competitor leading a stage is quite a reassuring sight for those of us cyclists nearing that age! Jens Voigt— the oldest rider of this year’s Tour– shed the breakaway and set the pace for more than 30 miles heading into the finish of stage 20. This impressive moment not to be overlooked, youth ultimately prevailed however. The very steady and poker-faced Nairo Quintana finally earned himself not only a stage win in his first Tour, not just the polka dot jersey in addition to the white jersey he was already wearing, but perhaps the biggest accomplishment for the 23-year-old Columbian, a bump up to second place overall. Maybe now this newest rising star of cycling will relax and show us some more personality, perhaps after a lesson or two from the master show-off himself, Peter Sagan.
Speaking of the colorful Slovak, green remains his main one as it has throughout this Tour, aside from his Cannondale kit of course. The green jersey that became Sagan’s after stage 3 and stayed on his back ever since, is sure to be his for keeps in Paris tomorrow, again! This champion sprinter– also 23 by the way– has the right to show off!
Last year’s second is becoming this year’s first. In other words, yellow today did not change shoulders. And on that note, this Centennial Tour is set for its grand finale, as 170 surviving riders– far more than last year’s number– get set to pedal their last 83 miles in this 2,115-mile journey, ending on Le Champs-Elysees as usual, while unusually– at night! I can’t wait to see this, while for other obvious reasons surely the 170 can’t either!
France might just have done it again, as another victory du jour looked promising for a long stretch of the day with Pierre Rolland in the lead. As it happened though, Rui Costa stole his own encore performance— all alone to cross the finish line once more– in a water-logged stage 19 finish.
Le Tour seems always beset by interestingly timed natural challenges. Today it was torrential rain in the stage’s final miles, just enough to create a soaked and all-the-more dangerous last descent to the line. With no wet-road wipeouts fortunately, and the main breakaway group kept huddled together, the general classification remains mostly unchanged at the end of this penultimate day in the Alps. Just one more, Chris!
Not once, but twice it was on this most difficult day of Le Tour– an arduous climb up the famed Alpe d’Huez, followed by the obvious descent, and then to reach the finish of stage 18, encore! The much-anticipated second zigzagging ascent of the same mountain clearly put the D in difficulty.
Capping off unpredictability aplenty, this iconic Tour leg finally earned France its first stage victory of the year, following the near miss in Lyon. For a good stretch it looked like it might have been this Tour’s first American winning day with Tejay Van Garderen in the lead up that wall-hitting final climb. At just two kilometers to the line however, the result made itself clear, and a French win could not have come on a more celebrated day than this. Christophe Riblon is France’s well-deserved hero du jour.
What was I just saying earlier this week about spectators? Today’s extremely crowded finish has to exemplify cycling fans at their craziest, so much so that in sections without barricades, thousands of overly amped onlookers consume nearly the entire road! While this is not new of course, it leaves me pondering the detriment to riders such as Van Garderen in this case, who might have better maintained his line and his concentration if not for getting chased, slapped and screamed at in the face by such “spirited” fans. Their passion and energy notwithstanding, should not a bit more control in such crucial moments be imposed?
In any case, now second-place Contador still can’t catch the leader, even with Froome’s 20-second penalty today. Le maillot jaune remains on the same shoulders with a now more than five-minute gap and two remaining climbing days before the ride into Paris. As always, anything could happen yet– even France shouting “encore” for another stage victory!
The so-called “sunshine tour” came to an end today. After more than two weeks of dry weather throughout France, the rain arrived on stage 17, just in time to make the mountain time trial a bit more interesting.
As it happened, the Tour leader held off his main rival both today and overall, winning this second and final individual trial by a sizable nine seconds while increasing his yellow jersey lead by a significant 20 seconds. What was looking good for Froome is now looking even better!
Rarely does the peloton come to a standstill, but today it did so momentarily for a passing train!
In a single-man breakaway from the breakaway, Team Movistar’s Rui Costa scored a solo stage 16 win, 42 seconds ahead of his closest threats and more than 11 minutes ahead of the yellow jersey group. This does nothing however to change Chris Froome’s overall standing– his more than four-minute hold on le maillot jaune– despite apparently increasing efforts by his biggest rival, two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador. Even with the Alps to come, it’s obvious the leading riders are beginning to see Le Tour’s end.
On this second rest day of the 100th Tour de France, here’s a look at a special yet sometimes vexing thread of the race’s overall fabric: The spectators. Year after year, thousands upon thousands of colorful fans decorate the roadsides of France, at times problematically so but typically in good form and often laughingly creative.
I hope in years to come we see this many spectators along race routes here in the U.S., ideally less of a danger to riders of course, but definitely just as “spirited.” Surely some of them need the rest today as well!
On this Bastille Day, some 300 thousand die-hard spectators lined the path of what’s considered cycling’s most difficult climb. The fact it came at the end of Le Tour’s longest stage didn’t make the feat any easier.
As it happened, overall leader Chris Froome ascented to a first-for-Britain win atop the feared Mont Ventoux, not only retaining le maillot jaune which he snagged a week ago, but also earning the polka dot jersey while re-stretching his lead time to more than four minutes. Paris is clearly looking good for him, though of course an entire week remains. In any case, after the collective exhaustion of reaching this stage 15 summit finish, tomorrow’s second rest day must for everyone look as good as Froome did today.
France has yet to win a Tour stage this year, and today it came close to happening– screamingly close. Crowds lining the streets of Lyon cheered for their countryman to bring home the victory on this eve of Bastille Day, and Sojasun’s Julien Simon appeared determined to deliver here in stage 14. Unfortunately for him, the gap that kept getting smaller in those last stretches finally closed at just one kilometer to the finish line.
So goes the final attack in just about any flat stage finish. Ironically enough, seeing as there’s been no American stage win either this year, we came even closer to one in today’s last seconds with Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky finishing a strong third. The early 18-man breakaway stayed away– sans our usual sprint favorites– handing le triomphe du jour to the Missile’s roommate and first Italian stage winner since 2010, Omega-Pharma’s Matteo Trentin.
As usual, anything can change at any moment, as one more kilometer– let alone one more meter– makes all the difference.
For those who think revenge was served yesterday, the Missile sure solved them today!
In the latest trek du jour across flat central farmland that was meant to be an “easy” one, strong crosswinds dictated otherwise, breaking up the peloton into unexpected yet long-hammering groups that ultimately delivered the winner of stage 13. Triumphantly reversing his bout of bad PR, Mark Cavendish powered across today’s finish line in an unquestioned first place, earning his 25th career Tour de France stage win!
Now more than halfway to Paris, Phil Liggett stands corrected. You CAN catch the Manx Missile at the line, and the man now with three Tour stage wins for the year was just the one to do it today in stage 12. As if Cavendish hasn’t already endured a difficult past couple days– being sprayed with urine and then uninvited to a post-Tour race event following his disputed role in that stage 10 near-finish-line wipeout– this chateau-dotted sprinter’s stage ended with what his critics surely consider the perfect revenge, even by a matter of inches.
It’s a solo chase of time, racing against nothing but the clock. And thus emerges one individual among individuals in such a time trial. Definitely a different game it is, seeing as yesterday’s winner now finished near last in stage 11. Today the victorious man– beating Le Tour’s current yellow jersey wearer by a significant 12 seconds– is the defending world time trial champion, Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Tony Martin.
As epic as the climbing stages typically are, they always reshuffle the deck. In other words, I was missing my favorite sprinters until their grand return today in quite a charmingly picturesque stage 10. Throughout this lovely 122-mile day of predominantly flat western countryside terrain– made for the likes of Greipel, Sagan and the famous Missile, among others– the stage winner remained an unpredictable prediction.
In the end my sense got blown apart, thanks to a literal turn in the final sprint, coupled with a last-second crash that rattled the lines and had fingers pointing at the Missile himself. As the dust settled, my predictions came in fourth, third and second, all behind today’s first repeat-stage winner of the year, German Marcel Kittel.
On this first day of rest— or at least of not racing– it’s the perfect time for a Tour de France history lesson.
One down, two to go– referring to weeks, that is! And some will say the real Tour began today, if of course you equate “real” with the battle for le maillot jaune as intense climbing got underway with stage 8 in the Pyrenees.
A suspenseful, spectator-filled climb it was to the high point of Le Tour 2013, Col de Pailheres. Silly me for turning away from the television for a few minutes this morning to get ready for my own 70-mile ride, because before I knew it the leader of the day’s biggest climb was overtaken on the final climb to the finish.
In the end, we’re left with another stage winner and another passing of said maillot. Way to go Froome!
Meanwhile, what I hoped against two days ago came today after another crash and without much surprise. That is, Christian Vande Velde is out, his last Tour cut short under less-than-desirable circumstances.
Then of course, the maillot jaune that yesterday went for the first time in Tour history to a South African rider remains with him today, having been passed among teammates from Simon Gerrans to Daryl Impey. And from here we move on to the Pyrenees, where it could quickly change shoulders yet again!
As the sprinters raced to the finish line of today’s primarily flat stage, my own thoughts sped along with them. Would this finally be Peter Sagan’s day, giving him a well-deserved first Tour win of the year? Or rather, would “The Missile” take back-to-back stage victories and up his magic number to 25? As usual, they got to the front of the peloton in those key final moments today, after both having to do some unusual– for them at least– catching-up. Bike trouble delayed Sagan momentarily, while Cavendish picked himself up from a crash. From there– impressive as always– it was all about teamwork and rolling mechanics to put them back in position.
Talk about thinking fast. It turns out my speeding thoughts couldn’t keep up, because I was wrong on both questions. The Missile had to settle for the number four spot today, while the 23-year-old Slovakian saw his THIRD second-place finish of the year thus far. After all these “seconds”, I’m really looking forward to a stage win for Sagan. For now I’m glad he holds onto the sprinter’s green jersey.
In any case, another day in France is done, now with four more rider losses unfortunately. Today’s accolades for stage 6 go to– in addition to the impressive teamwork of Sagan’s Cannondale and the valiant yet unsuccessful effort of Nacer Bouhanni– the big winner du jour of course, the always-powerful Andre Greipel.
Andre Greipel was right there, as was Peter Sagan of course. Today however, I was cheering for a much-anticipated victory by the Manx Missile. And sure enough, he came through! The awesome Mark Cavendish won stage 5 in Marseille, his first stage win of this year’s Tour de France and his 24th overall.
Meanwhile, after a crash about 10 miles from the finish line, let’s hope American veteran Christian Vande Velde is not too banged up to have to end his final Tour this soon. Sadly– and some will say harshly– another American, the already-injured Ted King, is now out by rule of the Tour judges for finishing yesterday’s team time trial seven seconds outside the time limit, despite his best-though-crippled efforts.
Altogether, for a long 142 miles complete with another multiple-rider crash just yards from the end, along with raw emotions spanning victory to elimination, this riveting day– the second longest– has exemplified Le Tour in truest form. From the making of winners to “the shattering of dreams and breaking of hearts” as Bob Roll reminds us, it’s on to tomorrow of course, still far from yet all the closer to Paris.