The biggest headline of the 2017 Tour de France thus far is not a happy one. In what many people, including myself, consider an overly harsh and undeserved decision, Peter Sagan has been ejected from the race. At the same time, Mark Cavendish is injured and out.
Barely halfway through the first week, two of cycling’s biggest names– my two favorite riders in fact– are gone. Suffice to say this Tour will not be the same, but as always it goes on without hesitation. Like it or not, the harsh reality of professional cycling prevails.
The controversial, fateful elbow moment came just before the stage 4 finish.
The day after stage 1 puts yellow on the back of Mark Cavendish, a brilliant stage 2 finish transfers that yellow onto Peter Sagan. For the former this marks his 27th career TDF stage win, while the latter finally enjoys his first such TDF victory du jour since 2013. Plus, both have now worn le maillot jaune for their first times in any Tour de France!
Then comes stage 3, and a second, photo-finish win for Cavendish! This brings him to 28 total TDF stage wins, surpassed only by the legendary Eddy Merckx. Meanwhile, Sagan gets to enjoy yellow for at least another day across relatively flat central France.
Altogether, my two favorites are off to memorable starts. Three down, 18 to go. Vive Le Tour! And Happy 4th of July to the mere five competing Americans!
His risky solo breakaway proves awesomely successful, winning Tony Martin stage 4 and putting him in yellow. The German “Gorilla” throws the hammer down once again in the final meters of stage 5, Greipel’s second win for a second time eclipsing a Cavendish stage victory. Bad luck repeats itself for le maillot jaune, as a crash in the last moments of stage 6 sees Martin across the line with a broken collarbone. And in the next big sprint finish of stage 7, amid anticipation of dominance or payback, the latter ultimately prevails. The “Missile” triumphantly kills the pressure and wins his first stage of this year’s Tour!
Thrilling highs alternate with shattering lows, again and again in that unpredictable and unforgiving pattern that defines bicycle racing. One week of the 2015 Tour de France is now in the books, with the harsh-yet-glorious reminder that anything we might anticipate will always meet the unforeseen. This said, onward they go to the inevitable highs and lows that come next.
Stage 5 of the 2015 Amgen Tour of California rolled out of Santa Barbara on Thursday, just after I was able to snag my own photo of my two favorite rival sprinters, Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan. As some very atypical wet weather soaked the 95-mile course and made for a soggy finish, like most other fans I was left to wonder which of the two powerhouses would win the day. The answer, of course, for his third stage victory of this tour: The Missile!
From a royal send-off to fittingly colorful sheep, the big first day got underway with full fanfare in the English city of Leeds, followed later in the day by polka dot victory for this year’s oldest rider. Then, as instantaneously as everything can change in cycling, stage 1 did not end as hoped for the day’s largely anticipated winner. Not only did the region’s star competitor lose the day– but rather, complete disaster prevailed. With the rare chance to capture yellow in a sprint finish on not just his native soil but his mother’s hometown of Harrogate– before the eyes of William, Kate, Harry, Prime Minister Cameron and thousands of supporters, not to assume any pressure of course– shockingly, painfully, and in a cycling instant, it did not happen.
The 101st Tour de France appears likely to resume with one less rider at the start of stage two in York, a huge loss indeed to the next 20 days of racing. Sadly enough to say, for as “royally” as his day began, his crash on finish line approach looks like a pretty bad one for Mark Cavendish.
“The Missile” bookends the 2014 Amgen Tour of California. (Photo: www.cbgphoto.com)
As usual, the word-wise Phil Liggett phrased it appropriately. For the Missile’s victories in the first and last stages of this year’s Amgen Tour of California, the past week has been nicely held together by “Cavendish bookends,” much to Peter Sagan’s disappointment no doubt after clearly gunning for two in a row to wrap up the event. In the end, with Sir Bradley Wiggins’ overall victory and Mark Cavendish’s comeback performance, it’s plain to see British legs rule California roads. I myself am thrilled to have been right there, live at the final finish line in Thousand Oaks, even as the peloton flew by faster than most our heads can turn!
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?
The peloton arrives in Paris on a perfectly picturesque evening.
Yes, his goatee is green too!
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.
The final finish in Paris ends the 100th Tour.
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.
Chris Froome takes the first-place podium on this Paris night.
The leading color of the evening’s celebration!
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!
For those who think revenge was served yesterday, the Missile sure solved them today!
There he is, at the back left of the lead group.
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!
Sagan was nowhere near him– relatively speaking of course.
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.
Stage 12: A “New Sheriff in Town” as Bobke puts it!
The peloton finally catches the day’s early breakaway.
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.
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.
July 3, 2013: The Missile Takes It!
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.
On the same day as the Kentucky Derby triggers the finest in large and colorful headwear while filling drinking establishments throughout the country, a second race in another country gets out the gate– one that lasts a little longer than two minutes. It’s May once again, meaning the Giro d’Italia is off and running! And with a Cavendish win to kick off stage one, it looks like the gears are well in place for a good show over the next three weeks. So begins the latest round of exciting competition in professional cycling!
Twenty days of racing complete, 153 competitors still in the game, and but one stage remaining– this of course tomorrow’s grand finale. The third week of Le Tour de France has magnificently come and gone, leaving behind yet one more batch of remarkable accomplishments and impressive finishes.
And now it’s on to Paris, for the Tour’s big finish on the Champs Elysees. Considering the men in first and second place overall are both riding for Great Britain– Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome respectively– it’s a “British One-Two” as Tour commentators put it. Then, if “The Missile” Mark Cavendish from The Isle of Man wins tomorrow’s final stage once again, perhaps it will be called a British One-Two-Plus. We’ll see!
Here’s to a week of truly triumphant finishes on relatively flat stretches of road!
Next come the mountains following this predominantly flat week, bringing with them a certain reshuffling of stage winners. In other words, we may not be seeing a fourth victory photo of young Peter Sagan right away. Stay tuned!
In addition to the Tour of California, another major professional cycling event currently taking place is of course the 2012 Giro d’Italia. One of my favorite racing powerhouses, “fastest man on two wheels” Mark Cavendish, continues to prove he’s beyond awesome in taking today’s Stage 13 in the northwestern town of Cervere, as we see above. No matter how it all ends on May 27, Cavendish and his numerous awesome competitors are already fueling my anticipation of this year’s Tour de France, come June 30!
Following yesterday’s dramatic photo finish in stage four of the Tour de France, came “crash day” in today’s stage five, an aptly reported day of carnage, ten times over to be exact. Two more riders are now out altogether, while defending champion Alberto Contador picked himself up, literally threw aside his damaged bike for an immediate replacement, and continued on his way, slightly bloodied and kit-ripped. Too bad for him he couldn’t catch today’s winner, Mark Cavendish, who emerged victorious in another suspenseful stage finish.
All things considered, for better and for worse, as it’s been said and will be said again: “C’est le tour.”
Grab new bike, wipe blood (or not), and get going!