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Tour de France 2011 Stage 8 Route for the strongest man

TDF2011Stage 8 sunflowers (AP)

TDF2011Stage 8 sunflowers (AP)

Who would have thought that this would be Thor’s Tour? Even he said that he was prepared to relinquish the yellow on yesterday’s climb; but, he’s proving himself stronger than all predictions and keeps the jersey. Today, he says the team is tired.

Nonetheless, today’s is supposed to be a relatively easy route, not favoring sprinter or climber alike. One analyst called this a challenging “leg breaker,” with undulations, cross-winds, tough conditions. We’ll be looking for a breakaway.

Contador made up enough time to be only 15 seconds behind Hoshovd. With the mountains looming ahead, he’s likely to start showing the climber we’ve come to know, if he can focus and stay clear of trouble in the peloton.

We might see some of the top veterans shine today, as well. But, when Bob Roll says the route is challenging, you can bet it’s really a beast.

UPDATE: Nasty crash claims Vinokourov, who abandoned the race after falling off the side of the road where Contador’s wheel hit a barrier and started a chain reaction in the peloton. Jurgen Van Den Broek, who finished 5th last year, will also be taken out of the race with injuries.


Tour de France 2011 Stage 8 Who’s left to challenge

Bravo to Cavendish for a repeat of a stage win where he won his first in the 2008 Tour; and what a great day for him, making his 17th stage win of his Tour career.

Stage 7 decimated the field of favorites with more crashes, the loss of Tom Boonen and Bradley Wiggins, and injuries stealing time from other potential GC contenders. Radio Shack has the worst track record for crashes, thus far, it appears.

Boonen has not had the greatest of luck at the Tour, this is his 4th time out. It’s tough enough to have not been included on the team in the past for drug problems, but injuries have plagued him, as well, in other Tours. The scene of him sitting on the side of the road after a crash that caused his knee injury is still so clear in my mind. So, we learned that, this time, he suffered a concussion. Better to have made the difficult decision to step off the bike than to try to push on. Back to Monaco he’ll go after seeing his doctors, not so bad a destination for recovery.

Bradley Wiggins (AP)

Bradley Wiggins (AP)

Bradley Wiggins was looking great and we were hoping to see him rise to the top. He’s one we’d like to see return next year and show his full potential. Here’s wishing him a speedy recovery.

Chris Horner is in a scary situation, staying overnight in hospital to make sure he has not suffered as serious a head injury as it looked in overhead shot of him lying motionless in the ditch. He had made the comment before the beginning of the stage that his mom sent him a text saying to be safe. As a mom, I can only imagine what she was feeling, seeing the broadcast.

UPDATE: Chris has a broken nose and an injury to his right leg that will keep him from continuing the race, another major loss for Team Radio Shack.

Contador rose back up in the rankings, even though he’s still 1’42” behind Hoshovd. But, in spite of what anyone thinks about his doping charges, he’s phenomenal in the mountains and he’ll need to make sure he plays his strategy right to position himself well enough to close the time gap.

Cross-winds are to cyclists like wind shear to aircraft. Sprinter Tyler Farrar lost a lost of time after the crash that took out Wiggins, and he’s now 16 mins behind the GC leader. That’s a chunk of change to make up in order to try for a place on the podium. Chris Horner is almost 13 minutes behind; while Philippe Gilbert is much better positioned, as are the Schlecks.

Who’s left to challenge the G-C for the GC we shall see. Predictions, even by Thor Hoshovd, is that he’ll be relinquishing the yellow jersey to a new bearer after the steep climb into ski country. I’m looking at the standings and seeing Cadel Evans, the Schlecks, Andreas Kloden, Philippe Gilbert and even Vinokourov. This is not a finish for sprinters, so it’s more likely those with legs for the mountains will prevail. Who will rise, who will fall…literally, the way this Tour is going!

Tour de France 2011 Stage 7 A sporting route

We could use all that rain out here in Central Texas that the boys had to endure yesterday on their longest ride to Lisieux and the tricky uphill finish at the Bastille. Thor kept the G-C team in yellow, but the stage went to another Norwegian, this one the guy with Sky. I wonder if anyone ever refers to him as Hagen Daz (like Haagen Daz ice cream – did you know that’s a totally made-up name?).

Levi’s “surf” of the guardrail could have been worse, thank goodness he survived. Contador lost more time. Voelker just ran out of gas on the final sprint. Boonen seems to be recovering well. A good day for Norway. What a crazy day.

They’ll all be carried to Le Mans, yes, THAT Le Mans, home to the legendary auto race, from where they’ll race to the birthplace of French actor Gérard Depardieu and location of popular sporting events. Cavendish won his first stage win here in the 2008 Tour (but sat back yesterday). This route takes the boys toward the Pyrenees which is most likely where the yellow could find a new set of shoulders by Saturday.

Tour de France 2011 Stage 6 Normandy invasion

What a mess Stage 5 became with the wind, the weather, the crashes (Paul Sherwin stopped counting after 10 of them). Unfortunately, Slovenian rider Janez Brajkovic of Team Radioshack ended up in hospital, with a head injury from one of those bad crashes. Here’s wishing him a speedy recovery and return to the Tour in 2012. Let’s also hope that Tom Boonen is not as injured as he looked; crash seems to be his middle name. In the end, the Cav-man captured the stage win in a wild sprint to the finish, just as we’ve all been waiting for him to do. Gotta love that!

Hopefully, Stage 6 won’t be as hard on the boys as they roll into Normandy, but it will be challenging to sprinter and climber alike. El Contador has been trying to make a little progress of his own, in spite of 2 crashes yesterday; perhaps he’ll have a better day. As of yesterday, he’s in 39th place, 1’42” behind the Mighty Thor who keeps the maillot jaune another day.

So, with the route not necessarily favoring the top riders, or sprinters, or climbers, what will happen in Lisieux? Will Gilbert win another stage that just might look like it’s made for him? Anything can happen, they’re only a week in.

Tour de France 2011 Stage 5 Return to the sea

Yesterday, Cadel Evans ousted Contador out of a stage win by a split second (or, is that a split wheel). Way to go, Cadel, George Hincapie and Team BMC! G-C also retains the GC going into Stage 5, way to go Thor!

The boys will be carried to the start at Carhaix, then they have to make it on their own power to the seaside finish at Cap Fréhel. They’ll probably be wishing they could fly there as easily as the sea birds that make this a migratory stop; in any case, this will be a route for the sprinters, and quite possibly another wet and windy one at that. Perhaps today will prove to be another good one for Tyler, keeping Teams USA in dominant positions for the beginning of the Tour.

There still isn’t a clear overall contender for the yellow jersey win at the end. Who knows, perhaps the talented, albeit troubled, Contador will continue to dig deep to claim a 4th Tour title. We shall see. After all, this guy is amazing in the mountains, and they’re looming in the days ahead.

Note: Cap Fréhel is also known for having hosted a stage of the Womens cycling Tour of Brittany in 2005.

Tour de France 2011 Stage 4 from sea to foothills

This will be a day for the all-arounds; for sprinters, not so much, as the boys ride a route that rises into the foothills. The climbing legs will need to carry them from the foggy shore up over ridiculous undulations to the CAT3 finish at Mur-de-Bretagne. Aptly named (“mur” means “wall”), it’s nicknamed The Alpe-d’Huez of Breton. Yikes!

My guess is that the Teams USA will dominate, once again. With all the power among them, why not!

TDF 2011 Stage 3 win for Tyler Farrar

Garmin-Cervelo dominated the finish and helped Tyler Farrar earn his first stage win of the Tour. G-C keeps the GC for another day.

The other story of the day: what happened to the Cav-man?