2012 Tour de France

The prologue was today, won by Fabian Cancellara. I’ll just be reading along for the most part, but we’ve got a good core of cycling fans on the board. Since Matthew Bushe (local kid) didn’t make it for the Radio Shack, I’ll be pulling for Tejay to do well for BMC, though I’m sure he’ll be riding for Cadel first and foremost.

Good to see the pedals turning in anger - to get a Philism in right off the bat. Cancellara in a different street - although it was a shame Tony Martin had that mechanical as he seemed in good nick also.

The money over here says it’s a two horse race - Wiggins off at a ridiculous 6/4 with Evans at 2/1 then all other team leaders at 20-1 and upwards. Highly doubt that it will be as clear cut as this with Menchov, Nibali etc along for the ride.
I’ll be pulling for Wiggins, but think CE will be really tough to beat. Last years win will have strengthened an already formidable resolve. As neither is likely to substantially dent the other head to head (although I believe Wiggo is capable of having one awful day in the mountains) it’s set up to be a very cagey, strategic Tour. Not everyone’s cup of tea perhaps but I think it could be enthralling - We shall see.

I’m a big Cuddles fan having followed him assiduously from before many others seemed to have noticed that this shy Aussie guy on a sprinter’s team seemed to be working his way steadily up the TdF top ten while nobody noticed.

My cold hard assessment last year was that I didn’t think he would win. I lost faith. Shame on me. [Buries head]. I thought when it really mattered Contador would do his usual thing and dance away from everyone on a big uphill finish and put minutes into Cadel when required. Didn’t happen.

I’m more or less in the same position this year. My cold hearted assessment is this: to win this tour Cadel has to either time trial away from Wiggins, or drop him on a mountain stage.

I haven’t gone back over season records but I don’t think Cadel has ever beaten Wiggins in a time trial of any significance, and at the Dauphine Wiggens put nearly two minutes into him. Cadel’s TT performances are sometimes a bit up and down. I’ve seen it pointed out that when it really mattered, Cadel was within seven seconds of beating Tony Martin in the ITT last year, which is obviously great. But unless you believe Cadel’s ITT form is likely to have undergone a complete revolution between the Dauphine and TdF ITT’s, you would have to think that Cadel will *at best *lose a good few seconds if not a minute or two to Wiggins in the ITT’s at this year’s TdF.

As to the mountains, in theory Cadel might be a bit better there than Wiggins. But this year there aren’t many (any, really) very hard HC mountain top finishes. And Wiggins has a freakishly good team to help him in descents and flats in non-moutaintop-finish mountain stages. So can Cadel drop him on a mountain stage? I really struggle to see it. I don’t think he’s ever done it in the past. Wiggins has always kept up.

So what has Cadel got going for him? Experience. A proven ability to be able to still churn out an extremely good ITT even after three weeks of racing. Perhaps the ability to put a few seconds into Wiggins on some of the minor uphill finishes (like we saw Cadel do last year).

I’m going to maintain the faith in Cadel this year, but it’s more an act of sheer will than of my rational mind.

There may be a difference between this year’s Cuddles and last year’s. This year’s Cuddles has the experience from last year that tells him that while he’s never going to dance away from anyone in the mountains, there’s every possibility that he can wear them down and grind them into dust - witness last year’s Stage 19.

Yes but that relied on just keeping up and not losing too much time in the mountains, then beating everyone on ITT. How does that work with Wiggins, who on paper beats Cadel on ITT? In other words, Wiggins is a Cadel. Except he may be even better at Cadelling than Cadel.

I hope you are right, but I’m struggling to see it happening.

I love these three weeks in July–I’m not a hard core biker and I don’t follow cycling in general. Instead I just enjoy having coffee with Phil and Paul in the morning and taking a vicarious vacation along the roads in France and Europe every year. The drama and excitement is all part of the package. Actually, my friend who doesn’t even ride is a bigger cycling fan than I am; she follows several riders on Twitter and she seems to know every rider on every team.

What I’m saying is that Cadel can not only keep up in the mountains, but destroy people there - even Wiggins. He just can’t do it with a lightning attack that immediately distances his rivals. He has to do it by setting a pace that destroys them.

Look at last year’s L’Alpe d’Huez.

Maybe on paper Wiggins should be the favourite, but they don’t race on paper and the Tour is as much about mental toughness as anything. Wiggins has yet to prove he has what it takes to win a grand tour instead of just placing well.

Maybe I’m wrong. Hopefully the manner in which I’m proven wrong turns out to be entertaining. :slight_smile:

Great performance today from Peter Sagan, who won Stage 1 with a brilliant uphill sprint in his first ever Tour.

That climb looked brutal. I haven’t looked up nor noticed any graphics showing the grade, but it seemed to be about 8km of a very, very steep hill at the end of 200km of riding.

ETA: I guess it was just the last 3km and 4.7%, but seeing those houses next to the road gave the appearance of a much tougher climb. Just a Cat 4, apparently.

It averaged 4.7%, but portions of it are much steeper. I think I heard the commentators say it maxed out in places at 12%.

Sagan was terrific in his first ever stage win in his first ever Tour, no buts about it.

Agreed - I’m hoping for a Wiggins win but you have to say he’s never truly contested the Tour (although he did contest the Giro last year, he fell back on a mental climb on the Angliru IIRC - shown here). His 4th TdF place was more OMFG I just finished fourth in the Tour de France!!! He wasn’t riding under a lot of pressure.
Cadel has been through the mill with the TdF (including the expectation of starting as favourite)- ups and downs and finally getting the win last year. I think he’s got more to draw on if they both get taken into deep waters or if things aren’t going their way.

Not exactly destroy. He finished with about eight others either with him or within a few seconds. He finished with about 13 others within a minute or so. That’s not “destroying”. I would like to be able to say with certainty that Wiggins would fall out of such a group, but I don’t really have anything to base such a hope on.

As you say, Cadel’s just got to hope that Wiggins cracks somewhere along the line.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to say Evans destroyed the competition in that stage, but that the way he rode should give him the confidence to ride that way - in both those last two mountain stages he was exposed, with little to no help, and he powered his way up some serious hills to set up his win. Hopefully he’s learned that it’s silly for him to waste energy attempting attacks that gain instant separation and instead just trusts his strength to grind his way up the mountains at a killer pace.

That wasn’t a lesson he needed to learn, though. He’s never been an attacker on the big climbs. Before he started winning a few big things he was regularly criticised as being a boring wheelsucker. He gets a bit more respect now.

The problem with just grinding his way up mountains at a fast pace is that he is the perfect man to follow if you are almost but not quite on your climbing limit. And that is what I think Wiggins will plan on doing. The advantage the Schlecks or Contador have is that they can accelerate on the climbs and shake off the diesels like Cadel or Basso or Menchov. When it’s diesel against diesel on the climbs and the elite bunch stays together, it gets sorted out in the ITT. And that’s where Cadel’s problem lies this year.

Pretty much sums up my thoughts, too. I think Wiggins is slightly more likely to randomly implode on a given mountain stage, but the Sky train has been scary good, and I think they’ll be able to keep him going. And then he puts sufficient time into Cadel in the ITT to eke out the win.

Should be fun to watch. I’m a little disappointed that Froome is unlikely to get the green light to solo - I’d like to see what he can do after last year’s Vuelta. Similarly, though I like Voeckler, I’m excited to see what Rolland can do hunting stages in the mountains.

I’ve been watching the Tour for over a decade now, but as a non-cyclist there’s a few things I don’t quite understand.

1/ It seems to me that the big time gains are made in the mountain stages. I realise that the leading climbers don’t get the same help from team mates on the flat stages, but I don’t quite get why the “King of the Mountains” leader doesn’t get closer to the overall win.

2/ By the same token, and please correct me if I’m wrong, I recall hearing that Miguel Indurain won five tours despite never winning a stage that wasn’t a time trial. How was that even possible? Did he always come home in the second group on the mountain stages?

Which leads me into a third question:

3/ Does being a part of a group, or even the peloton, help that much on severe climbs? In track cycling the best riders often stay behind and use the benefit of the slipstream to overtake their opponent at the crucial moment. But I’ve never felt that there is much of a slipstream advantage when behind another rider who’s also struggling up a steep gradient.

eg I can imagine that even a mediocre rider in the middle of the peloton on a flat stage doesn’t have to put in much effort due to the huge mass of rushing air. Often I see guys who aren’t even pedalling in that situation, but when the peloton is engaged in a steep climb it seems to me that each rider is, relatively speaking, on their own.

I’m sure I’m missing something here. Any thoughts?

1 Often the ‘king of the mountains’ winner is someone who gets away in a break and gains points. The fact he is allowed to get away, means he is not a real contender for the GC. After this he will often be in more breaks (or try to get away in the beginning of the mountain stages) to get more points, by the time the stage finishes the big guns will have caught up with him and probably put him on a few minutes. Also GC contenders rarely put effort in being the first to reach the top (unless it is the finish off course) and will be happy to sit in the 7th position of the group… which means relatively few points.

2 He limited his losses in the mountains and kicked butt in the ITT. We are just adding time, so if you can stay in the wheel of you competitors in the mountains… you just need to be a bit quicker in the ITT. The big favourites this time around (Evans and Wiggins), fit this same profile.

3 It helps less than on the flats, but I think it still helps… if nothing else psychologically. Also, you have someone to close holes when one of your competitors tries to get away. I would guess that in the peleton, there would still be some of the suction that makes it so easy to ride 45 k/h on the flat bits.

Great response! I might add to the psychology part, in that if you are chasing someone up a hill, you can use them to help pace yourself, sometimes beyond your limits, or beyond what you “think” you can do to stay on their wheel. Also, when you are being chased up a hill, and you know there is someone on your wheel, you may be pushed beyond what you think you can do to stay ahead. Oftentimes you see the riders sizing each other up, usually right before one of them tries something. Lance’s famous glace back to Ullrich on that climb a few years ago was one example, where he saw the opponent was just done and only needed to get a small gap to demolish Ullrich’s spirit. No amount of drafting was going to close that gap.

I think you can follow the Tour in real time and see power outputs, HR and the like on some websites. I think I looked at one last year but it seemed very laggy and not that good.
Anyhow, I recall someone posted up Ryder Hesjehdal’s calories burnt on a stage last year (a mountainous one IIRC) when he’d cruised through it in the peloton and it seemed a relatively small number. It was several thousand like, but in terms of what you’d do yourself if you tried that stage it seemed massively lower. Combination of the peloton and off-the-charts fitness makes for a very efficient ride.

Calories burnt seems very hit and miss on the GPS trackers I use, but I assume the Tour one was taken from his power tap so would be at least in the ballpark.

It’s time to retire this competition. When was the last time the polka dot jersey wearer really was the King of the Mountains?