Livin' the Dream

Livin' the Dream

About Me

I am a sophomore at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, majoring in journalism. My passion is cycling. I am a category 4 bike racer and my absolute dream would be to turn pro one day. My more realistic goal is to become a journalist for the sport of cycling and eventually move on to become a broadcaster for the sport.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tour De France Report: Stage 17

Froome Extends Lead, Win’s TT

Christopher Froome (Sky) won the 17th stage time trial of the 2013 Tour De France, besting Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) by 9 seconds, with Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) in third, 10 seconds a drift.

As Froome crossed the line with the best time, Contador was seen shaking his head as he watched in dismay the stage win slip out his grasp.

After the stage Froome was pleasantly surprised to have won saying, “I couldn’t believe it when I got over the line and saw I had the fastest time.” He added, “I went into today just thinking I would try and limit my losses today, thinking about the next days.”

Early Fast Men

The 17th stage of the 100th Tour De France from Embrun to Chorges was the second and final time trial. This time trial was very much unlike the first in that the riders were challenged with two category 2 climbs in order to make it to the finish. Each of the riders jumped out of the start gate and immediately went uphill. After cresting the second climb it was a fast, technical, 12 km downhill to the finish.

Given the topography, there was a great debate on which bike to ride, to switch bikes, or to modify the road bike. It came down to two options: ride a road bike and then switch to a TT bike at the top of the second climb or ride a road bike with clip-on TT bars, thereby avoiding losing time with a bike change, but not having the aerodynamic advantage for the run into the finish.

Liuewe Westra (Vacansoleil) held the fastest time for a while at 54’02’’, before he was bested by Izagurrie Insausti (Euskaltel-Euskadi) by just four seconds. As the rain began to fall on the mountains Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) flew to the finish line posting a new best time of 53’24’’, thirty-four seconds faster. As the rain began to fall harder and harder, everyone wondered—did the weather God help Van Garderen to win the stage?

Here Comes the Rain

The rain continued to pummel the riders out on course, though it was dry at the start and finish lines. For the riders in the middle of the pack, trying to put in a top time now became impossible. With the very technical descents off both of the climbs, riders now had to make up their minds whether to take risks in the wet, or be cautious and live to fight another day.

Richie Porte (Sky) got stuck doing a wet time trial, but he seemed to be perfectly fine with it, just taking his time and putting in a solid ride in the top 50 on the stage. He appeared to be saving his legs for the insane mountain stage to follow tomorrow.

Andy Schleck (RadioShack) attacked the course with absolute vengeance, posting a top time at all of the time checks throughout the course. When he came to the finish line he posted the third fasted time at 54’00’’, ultimately finishing the stage in 15th place, 2’27 adrift. Schleck said after the stage that the result “gives me motivation for the coming days in the alps.” Schleck is clearly a motivated man now that he likely completed the best time trial of his life.

Alejandro Valverde (MoviStar) was a man on a mission. He absolutely lit the course on fire. He sped across the line absolutely obliterating Van Garderen’s time by a whole one minute and twenty-one seconds with a time of 52’03’’. After he crossed the line reporters who believed that was the winning time of the day mobbed him.

As the GC Men began to attack the course the rain had stopped, but the roads were still very slick with moisture. Jean Christophe Peraud (AG2R), sitting 9th overall, crashed on his pre-ride and fractured his right collarbone. This is the tour remember and Peraud showed the Tour’s spirit by still taking the start. Peraud’s early crash did not appear to hamper his descending ability as he took many risks on the still wet roads. Disaster struck him though when he went through the final corner right before the one kilometer-to-go banner. He crashed hard to the ground on his already injured right shoulder. He would get up, but instead of getting on his bike, he got into the team car that was following him.

Dry for the Contenders

By the time the top five riders on the general classification took to the course the descents had begun to dry. The day’s course greatly suited the Colombian climber Nairo Quintana (MoviStar). Quintana had the fastest bike change of the day at the top of the second climb with the change taking less than ten seconds. The young 23-year-old blazed the course finishing the day in sixth place, 1’11’’ back. This would catapult him into 5th place overall.

The boys from Belkin had a tough day, as both Laurens Ten Dam and Bauke Mollema would lose places on the general classification. Ten Dam suffered the day before into Gap and appeared to be on the rivet for the second day in a row. Mollema started the day with the most to lose, in second place overall. He would finish the day dropping all the way to fourth overall as the duo from Saxo-Tinkoff, Alberto Contador and Romain Krueziger, both leap frogged him on the general classification. Mollema didn’t help himself by nearly crashing into the barriers on the final corner. He overshot the corner and went bumping alongside the barrier. Somehow he was able to grab onto to the barrier and keep himself upright, but that error cost him vital seconds.

Alejandro Valverde sat anxiously behind the podium watching as rider after rider crossed the line unable to beat his time. The Russian climber Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) showed Valverde it was not his day as he bested the Spaniard’s time by thirty seconds. This was clearly a time trial for the climbers.

It soon became apparent it was a two-man duel for the stage as Alberto Contador and Chris Froome were within two seconds of each other at the first time-check, with Contador having the upper hand. At the top of the second climb Contador powered on, to the finish, while Chris Froome opted to make a bike change when he got to the top. That turned out to be the difference. As Contador stormed the finish line he bested Rodriguez’s time by just one-second with a time of 51’42’’. Froome came into the finish three minutes later and Contador watched on as the stage slipped through his hands.

After the stage Froome attributed his small winning margin to being able to have the big time trial gears on the descent while Contador was stuck with his normal road race gears.

Tomorrow the Tour heads into the Alpes where anything can happen. On tap, two ascents of the brutal climb of L’Alpe d’Huez. It is a day the climbers look forward two, while the sprinters just hope to survive. Be aware that the stage does not come without risk, as the riders must descend the Col de Serenne. With its narrow roads, uneven surface, and technical switchbacks, it is not a descent for the weak minded. Look for Contador to maybe make a move there, being the great bike handler he is.

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