Even though anything can happen at any moment throughout three weeks of racing, it comes as no great surprise that Chris Froome has just marked his fourth win of Le Tour de France. Clearly he’s one of cycling’s greats, as talk of five and more is already underway. I merely wish he were a bit more interesting of a personality; Peter Sagan he is not, after all. (And didn’t we miss him?!) In any case, the 104th Tour de France is now in the books, and next year will come!
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.
Luckily for France, the one and only French stage win of this year’s Tour finally came on the third-to-last day, as young Romain Bardet climbed to victory on stage 19. Even luckier for France, this significant time gain pushed the 25-year-old Frenchman up into second place overall. As it turns out two days later, as a record 174 of the starting 198 riders crossed the final finish line of stage 21, and while Peter firmly retained the green jersey for his fifth consecutive year, France saw one of their own on the podium in Paris, right behind now three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome. Another one, come and gone. C’est Le Tour, encore!
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!
The second rest day arrives just in time for “gorilla” Andre Greipel to recharge following his third win du jour of the Tour in stage 15, while Peter Sagan is forced to rest with that same old number after the historically dangerous descent of the Col de Manse takes him to the line of stage 16 in– you got it– second. That’s now five #2 finishes for the points-leading “green machine.”
Then come the Alps, along with further losses to the overall field. As American Tejay Van Garderen had been sitting in third place overall, on stage 17 he meets an illness-induced end before reaching this Tour’s highest elevation point on the Col d’Allos. Meanwhile, other-American Andrew Talansky (of only three in this Tour) notably finishes the day in second with a GC 12th place. A French 1-2 closes stage 18 in Saint-Jean-de-Maurine, as Romain Bardet takes his first-ever Tour de France stage win, with Pierre Roland shortly behind. The GC standings and Froome’s longstanding 3:10 lead still don’t change, that is until the following day. Defending champ Vincenzo Nibali, nearly written off in the first week, proves he’s back by attacking on the Col de la Croix-de-Fer, winning stage 19, and moving himself up to fourth place overall, while second place Nairo Quintana pulls ahead to narrow the gap on le maillot jaune by 32 seconds.
This feeds into the penultimate finish atop Alpe d’Huez, at the end of a final climb long predicted to shake up the Tour even further. A great day it proves for the French, as Thibaut Pinot ascends to a remarkable stage 20 victory, holding off the young Colombian in white who crosses the line in second while erasing another big chunk off that GC gap. As such, to keep it interesting if not exactly shaken up, Chris Froome begins the Tour’s last day with a lead of 1:12, down from 2:38, down from 3:10, certainly a humbled presumed winner.
As always, it all comes down to Paris. The champagne soon again shall flow!
This year’s first French victory du jour in stage 8, followed by the team time trial of stage 9, close chapter one of the Tour leading into the first rest day, just in time for the wearer of le maillot jaune to gear up for the Pyrenean mountains ahead. And more than geared he proves by the end of stage 10 with his not-to-be-caught solo win on La Pierre-Saint-Martin, reinforcing Chris Froome’s general classification (GC) lead by almost three minutes. Meanwhile, in green, out of green, and back in green again, Peter Sagan keeps a not-so-tight hold on his best color.
Stage 11’s Col du Tourmalet
Stage 11 to the top of the Col du Tourmalet keeps Froome on top overall, far ahead of defending champion Vincenzo Nibali who’s clearly not having his greatest Tour. If that’s not enough, what some consider the hardest climbing day comes in stage 12 to the Plateau de Beille, amid extreme weather variations from dry heat to hailing downpour– but ultimately still no shakeup in the overall standings. Stage 13 into Rodez offers up the most exciting and unpredictable finish of the week, as Sagan propels to yet another almost-win but must settle for yet another second place du jour. At least he propels ahead in his points total after a momentary mid-stage loss, again showing he actually has to work to keep the green jersey for a change, courtesy of Andre Greipel of course. Still meanwhile– no GC shakeup.
Two-thirds of the 102nd Tour de France close with stage 14, seeing the first win for the first African team in Tour history, renewed points dominance for the “green machine” amid yet another top five stage finish, and in addition to a 2-3 switch in the GC, now an overall lead of more than three minutes for the man in yellow.
It might seem by now that le maillot jaune is wrapped up for this Tour– but then, is it? As always, we shall see. So comes and goes yet another July week across France. Next up, the Alps!
Two seconds behind at the start of the final stage turns into one second after the intermediate sprint time bonuses. As such, it must be solved in the last full-tilt sprint to the finish. And so it is, by the very narrowest of margins, all coming down to less than the width of a road tire. In the closest victory in the history of this tour, thanks to a four-second time bonus for finishing the day in third (narrowly enough), the great Peter Sagan wins the 2015 Amgen Tour of California!
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!
As we “knew” would be the case barring any last-day catastrophe, Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali is the champion of the 101st Tour de France– by a huge margin no less! He joins only five other cyclists in history to win all three Grand Tours– the other two of course Italy’s and Spain’s.
For the first time in more than 30 years, France saw two of its own take the yellow podium–Jean-Christophe Peraud in second and best young rider Thibaut Pinot third. This, after Marcel Kittel’s second Champs-Elysees bookending victory shut out a stage win for Peter Sagan, even as a LeTour.fr survey of more than 4000 votes favored the man in green to take stage 21. And let’s not forget our resilient American finishing fifth, Tejay Van Garderen, nor Jens Voigt’s swan song.
And now, the end. So passes another Tour de France into the history books for 164 riders who made it to Paris– big-name losses notwithstanding– complete with all the triumph, tradition and Parisian fanfare that defines the finale. While I’ve yet to get there to see it all in person, for now having Phil Liggett, Bob Roll and all their comrades deliver the action every day for three weeks– plus a commendable first-year commentating job by 2013 retiree Christian Vande Velde— remains an acceptable substitute. I’m happy to have cycled a mere one quarter of the Tour’s total distance during this time, less than I did last year, but nevertheless taking me there every day in spirit. Vive Le Tour!
So proceeded this first full race day with American Ted King out, freeing him up for a well-worded blog post of his Tour experience this time around. Despite reports to the contrary a couple days ago, Portugal’s Tiago Machado remains very much in, after his valiant refusal to give up following his Sunday crash, sealed with an official reprieve for finishing outside the time limit.
Today’s coverage of a refreshingly sunny stage 11 continued well past the winner’s finish, for about 32 minutes to be exact. All eyes turned from Tony Gallopin’s win du jour to struggling American Andrew Talansky’s late solo haul. At the end of the day, while Sagan is sick of being out a stage victory, Talansky is still in the game, thanks to his heroic determination– not to mention five minutes to spare on that looming time limit! But then, would his remarkable courage and sportsmanship have earned him the same reprieve as Machado’s? I’m relieved we didn’t need to find out.
Here now upon the end of Le Tour’s first week, the Twitter question of all questions awaited an answer: “Will today be THE DAY?” Amid more pleasant weather for stage 7, heading east and south from Epernay to Nancy in a peloton largely driven by Ted King and Team Cannondale, that answer sat pending with the most anticipation so far this year.
To answer any questions about le maillot jaune,this is the easy one: It remains on the same back it has for the past six days, as Vincenzo Nibali has yet to be overtaken overall. But for today, oh so close– “by the skin of his bike shorts” to quote Liggett again– it turned out for Peter Sagan. So was today THE DAY? Unfortunately for Peter, though he absolutely could not have come any closer in edging out Matteo Trentin, by sheer millimeters that is, the much-anticipated answer is no.
So, so, SO close for Peter. But no.
One grueling week has passed for now 198 minus 12 riders, not to mention today’s home-stretch wipe out for top-ten American Andrew Talansky. And now they head for the hills. Thanks Ted for the awesome Strava coverage!
Subtract the cobbles, add the crosswinds, keep the wetness, and we get stage 6 through the flat and flowery northern French countryside from Arras to Reims. Apparently Kittel just wasn’t feeling his sprint-finish best after his wipe out yesterday. And Sagan likely wasn’t feeling 100% either following his own tumble today, though as usual he made it back among the top finishers. Rather, Andre Greipel sure felt it, as this became the German powerhouse’s day in the sun, so to speak.
Unlike Paris, here’s something London doesn’t see every day, nor every year: The Tour de France rolling into town. While rainy weather made for a wet welcome, it certainly didn’t keep tens of thousands of fans from filling the sidewalks around Buckingham Palace and beyond.
Click for more Stage 3 photos.
Stage 3 out of Cambridge ended with not only a second stage victory for Marcel Kittel, but an ironic second second-place finish for Peter Sagan. What is it with second for Peter? Surely it doesn’t thrill him, sprint classification aside. In any event, at least he’s on par with last year’s Tour, when he came in second THREE times before his first stage victory. His first one this year, safe to predict, is imminent as he carries his “still second” status. We won’t say again who was absent from London’s royal sprint finish today… ahem. 😦 Moving on now, across the Channel.
“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 Bike World News: “I wanted a jersey that spoke to my inner drive to win, but also shows off my fun side. Working with SUGOI they quickly understood my vision, and I hope people love the jersey as much as I do!” says Peter Sagan.
At its core, the jersey is built on SUGOI’s custom RS Jersey. The bold design depicts Sagan’s “Green Machine” – a personality that cannot be contained. Lurking just below the surface of his Cannondale Pro Cycling livery, a powerful engine of fire and fury are ready to be unleashed at just the right moment in a race. His Slovakian DNA runs deep within his embedded national emblem and the eyes on his back address all those attempting to catch his wheel. (Ron Callahan, 5/5/14)
On this eve of the 2014 Amgen Tour of California, the timing is perfect– by design of course. Peter Sagan might be on your back in more ways than one, so watch out! Click here to read more about the new, eye-catching “Green Machine” Signature Jersey. My own eyes will certainly be open for it.
“About how many kilometers did you ride last year?”, I asked him just after our photo was taken. His answer comes out to about three times my amount– that is, what equates to around 310 miles per week to my 110, roughly 1350 miles per month to my 475, and more than 16,000 miles for the year to my less than 6,000. Altogether, it looks like my own dust settles at about 35 percent of his answer to my question: “about 26 thousand kilometers.” Naturally he’s the pro and he’s getting paid; I’m not and I’m not, as reality likes to remind me. Still, it feels good to be more than a third of the way there!
A privilege and a pleasure it was to meet cycling great Peter Sagan at Cannondale’s 2014 team launch party on January 7 at the Canyon Club in Agoura, California. For as exhausted as he and his teammates surely must have been by the end of the evening, together they put on one excellent show for all of us. You won’t find them spinning through the streets of Thousand Oaks for long however, as races are fast underway. We’ll see Peter back here in no time of course, ready to defend his green jersey in the Tour of California come May. For now– one week in– let the cycling year begin, for the pros and all of us somewhere behind them!
If cycling were like the World Series, Peter Sagan would be the overall winner! After all, the ever-impressive national champion of Slovakia has just taken four of seven stages this past week in Colorado. Naturally he remains victorious in his usual color of green, having once again proven his sprinting dominance.
The man in green scores his fourth win of the week.
After two years ago finishing third, then last year second, now– fittingly enough– Colorado’s native son takes first, just as he did at this year’s Tour of California. Tejay Van Garderen has won the 2013 USA Pro Challenge. Along with this we say goodbye on American soil to 2012 PC champion Christian Vande Velde, who’s heading into retirement after a few more races in Europe, hopefully competing alongside 2013 Tour de France champion Chris Froome who surprisingly abandoned the Pro Challenge on stage 7. Meanwhile, his long-range attack this week may not be the last one we see, as 41-year-old Jens Voigt is not retiring this season.
Tejay takes his number one spot on the Denver podium.
So comes and goes another remarkable chapter of professional bicycle racing, this one all the more special for taking place here in the U.S. Pedaling on now to the next, already underway in Spain!
With the reigning Tour de France champion having crossed the Atlantic to “challenge” this week’s defending titleholder, among all others, the USA Pro Challenge is off and hammering once again throughout Colorado. Just over a week now since the Tour of Utah closed shop, “America’s Race” wrapped day one with a stage win by Mr. Wheelie himself— sans green goatee and atypical (for him) altitude notwithstanding. However the next six days unfold, Phil Liggett will of course keep us in the know. Meanwhile, kudos to our favorite Peter!
Peter Sagan wins Stage 1 of the 2013 USA Pro Challenge.
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!
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.
No sooner did I wish for it yesterday than now it happened. After his series of second-place finishes, and thanks to incredible teamwork, Peter Sagan finally got his win today in stage 7!
By more than a bike length!
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.
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.
Congratulations to my personal favorite Peter Sagan on a fantastic final stage win, alongside of course American Tejay van Garderen on his overall victory. With this the 2013 Amgen Tour of California rides into cycling history. Meanwhile, in Italy…
While more than two hundred make their way through Italy, a smaller number of the big boys are back in the Golden State for our own annual week of pro cycling competition– of course the Amgen Tour of California. From Santa Clarita through Ojai into Santa Barbara yesterday, it’s onward north today in this year’s first-time reverse of course direction. For as much as I love watching these guys hammer through Europe, it’s all the more exciting to see them in my own backyard, on the very roads my own bike knows all too well!
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!