Le Tour so far

 

Photo courtesy of Steephill.tv

Today will see the start of stage 3 of the 2012 Tour de France and the first time the riders will have hit French soil in the race.  This years edition of the race was always going to have a different feel to it due to high-profile riders missing out on the race and the forthcoming Olympics playing on some of the riders minds, dictating their training more than the Tour, something that very rarely happens.  Just a few days in to what is a race of epic length and proportions have we learnt anything we didn’t already know when back in Liège?

Time Trialists

The prologue through Liège was a mere 6.4km and I’m sure some of you commute to your place of work or walk to the local shops that are further away than that but it takes a special kind of rider to excel at these sorts of distances. For professional bike riders who are used to being on their bikes for between 4 and 8 hours, a 7-8 minute blast through the streets is something akin to Haile Gebrselassie taking on the 100m sprint at the Olympics. Cadel Evans was reported to have been warming up on his TT bike for around 2hrs prior to rolling down the start ramp and if you saw the amount of sweat dripping off him moments before climbing off his warm up bike you would not dispute that.

Cancellara, Wiggins, Boassen Hagen were all names that were mentioned as hot picks for the prologue win and along with Tejay Van Garderen and a surprising Sylvain Chavanel they made up the top 5. Tony Martin took a new wheel after a puncture which instantly pushed him down the leader board. On a longer TT course he is the type of rider who has the talent and power to claw that time back, but not on a course which took them just over 7 minutes to complete. Cadel Evans also ‘struggled’ with the distance and although only losing 17 seconds to Fabian Cancellara who will not be competing for the GC in Paris, he is already 10 seconds off the pace of Bradley Wiggins. For a race with so much TT’ing and the big mountains in the distance, 10 seconds can make all the difference. The biggest surprise of the day was Philippe Gilbert coming in just 13 seconds down. Not a recognised TT specialist, his super cool TT helmet and the Belgian crowds spurred him to a great ride which I’m sure he hoped to better the following day as the race stayed in Belgium.

With a lot more time trialling to come Tony Martin will have a chance to show the rest who is boss and the longer distances will suit more of the riders overall. The total length of time trialling in this years Tour has been a topic for discussion running up to the event and it is likely it will be one of the biggest factors that determines the winner.

Sprinters

Simply speaking… we still know that Super Sagan and The Manx Missile are fast to a redonkulous level. Sagan showed he’s not just about fast-twitch muscles and realised Fab was the wheel to take as the race ran into Seraing. Due to not being the younger man he once was, Cancellara is unable to merely ride away from the rest as he has done so many times before and although Sagan apologised after the race for refusing to take his turn on the run in and give Cancellara the better position, that’s racing and Cancellara shouldn’t have put himself in that position. Boassen Hagen put in a huge effort to bridge the gap and I’m sure he wont be backward about coming forward in situations like that as Cavendish won’t be around long and he needs to make sure he has good legs to take the stage wins he deserves. Realistically the steep ramp up to the finish was always going to be too much for the out-and-out sprinters and other than the aforementioned Sagan and Eddy-B, the rest of the top 12 places were taken up by what would be considered Puncheurs.

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