Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tour de France - Stage 15 - Wrap-up

Well, it took two weeks, but the 2009 Tour de France finally exploded.

Here’s what we learned:

1. Alberto Contador is clearly head and shoulders above the rest. What we presumed on Arcalis was confirmed today; let the race for second begin. The only remaining question surrounding Contador regards how he will handle Lance Armstrong's new place in the Astana hierarchy. He will need to be a humble, gracious leader, not allowing himself to become overwhelmed or jealous by the scrum of journalists covering Lance’s new role. Once the race is firmly in his grasp, with the win all but certain, Alberto might consider helping Lance win a stage of his own—maybe one finishing atop a mountain?

2. A new phase of Lance’s career has begun. Just like his teammate, what we suspected in Spain has been proven in Switzerland: Lance is not the same rider he was during his 7 Tour wins. Lacking the uphill acceleration needed to follow sharp mountain attacks, Lance must now find a new role for himself—mentally and physically. In a way it’s a shame that so much was made about him winning the Tour in his comeback. Imagine if he and others had proclaimed a desire to simply finish in the Top-10? Had the expectations been set a bit lower, Lance’s performance to date would seem all the more incredible.

3. Did we say Roman Kreuziger? We meant Vincenzo Nibali. Kreuziger has consistently been a step behind in the mountains so far in this year’s Tour. While we thought he would rebound in the Alps, it’s apparent he just doesn’t have the form to ride with the leaders. A minute here, 30 seconds there, have added-up to mean 16th overall, 4:40 behind. Meanwhile, Vincenzo Nibali’s been steadily riding himself to a realistic shot at the podium. He sits in 7th, 2:51 back on Contador. The White Jersey is also within his reach; especially since he can time trial much better than Andy Schleck. Italy once again has a true contender for the Tour de France.

4. Bradley Wiggins is for real. Not content riding wheels up to Verbier, Wiggins attacked, gapping riders such as Armstrong and Cadel Evans. Like Nibali, his ability against the clock makes him a strong threat to Andy Schleck’s GC place. Add to the fact that he now has the support of Christian Vande Velde--a perfect lieutenant for Wiggo’s final week--and Garmin looks like it could have a man for the podium in Paris.

5. Too bad for Carlos Sastre. Without the bad first week, he might be in much better shape to create a stir from now to the end of race. For him, a win on Ventoux would be a nice consolation prize. How many men can say they've won on both l'Alpe Duez and Mont Ventoux?

6. Rinaldo Nocentini and Christophe Le Mevel rode respectable races today; they sit in 6th and 9th respectively on GC. It means nothing in the grand scheme of things; it's just nice to see riders attempt to surmount insurmountable odds.

7. And speaking of insurmountable odds, The Great French Hope, Brice Feillu, came home in 25th place today, leaving him 22nd overall. Can Brice ride himself into the Top-15? Oui, oui! If he does, he will bring upon himself the hopes of a nation starved for GC success in its home tour. He'll have tough shoes to fill for the next few years; but it's great for the sport nonetheless.

8. And last, but not least: when was the last time you won a Saint Bernard (or any live animal) for winning a bike race? Yeah, me neither.

There are many more stories from today's stage. What did we miss? What stood-out to you?

Share your comments with the rest of us below.


  1. Any chance you'd consider ditching the black background and reverse type? I love reading your posts, but it seriously leaves me blind! Thanks, keep it up!

  2. hi WSY,

    Nice summary. I agree with most of your comments, except maybe about Wiggins which I'm still not sure he will make it through the Alps for a top 5 TDF finish. I have a question though : who's is the best climber in your opinion, LeMevel of Feillu?

    Very interesting blog, it's a shame they are so little comments. Keep it up! (I personaly don't mind the black background.)

  3. Did you see Lance's interview after the race? I looked like he was, brace yourself, lying!

    "This is harder than I thought it would be...a day like this shows who is the best and I wasn't on par with what's required to win the tour."

    Could it be that he let all the favorites beat him now, only to surprise them all in the last week when they believe he is weak.

    I'm no Lance fan, in fact, I was smiling watching Wiggins and co. ride away but it could be something to look into.

    He's still in 2nd.

    Great writing as always.

  4. I hope for Lance that it was his «jour sans» because if stage 15 reflects his real form, he will be lost wednesday in stage 17th and on the slopes of Mont Ventoux next saturday. Mont Verbier was rather smooth compared to those ones.

  5. If Armstrong was going into the Alps thinking he could go toe to toe with Contador, today would have had to have been demoralizing. He could not stay on the wheel of any of the top contenders and without Kloden's help it could have been much worse.

    It will be an interesting week.

  6. a bluffing armstrong? don't think so. his demeanor and tone were different post race. thankfully the mountains are mixing things up.

  7. First, thank you to all for your comments and compliments!

    Anonymous, thank you for the graphic feedback; it's very appreciated. I'm currently working with someone to help me redesign the site, and your feedback will be taken into consideration.

    Robert, I'm going to have t say Feillu at this point is the better climber. Le Mevel is riding himself into some good form at the moment, but Feillu's been more consistent so far. That said, this is Feillu's first Grand Tour; with an exceptionally hard 3rd week and he could suffer in the latter days.

    And Wiggins? You're right, maybe a Top-5 is more reasonable given the competition. But he at least seems more suited to a podium finish than Vande Velde was last year. Wiggo showed panache and a willingness to attack--something we saw from Vande Velde only once last year. He was otherwise content to follow wheels to 4th.

    As for he bluffing? Most certainly. The question though is who is he bluffing? There's no need to bluff the other favorites--his legs seemed to speak for themselves yesterday. Bluffing himself? Perhaps.

    At this point, I think a podium place for him would be a terrific result, but it will be hard in the stages to come.

    Thanks everyone!


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