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.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Repeat Winner: Marcel Kittel Takes Home Yellow

Marcel Kittel of Giant-Shimano won the opening stage of the 101st edition of the Tour de France in a finale marred with a crash. With the win Kittle will wear the yellow jersey for the second time in his career, having won the opening stage last year.

            Just 400 meters to the finish, a crash between hometown hero Mark Cavendish Omega Pharma Quick Step (OPQS) and Simon Gerrans Orica-GreenEdge(OGE) put a damper on things for the crowd. Cavendish lay on the ground for several minutes clutching his right shoulder. Finally, though he got up and soft-pedaled across the line to the roars of the crowd. His right arm hung limp at his side.

A Fast Start

            The sun was shining. The sky was blue. it was a perfect day to start the Tour de France. The 101st edition of the Tour began in the town of Leeds in the Yorkshire region in Great Britain and finished in Harrogate, Cavendish’s hometown. Though the towns were near each other, the organizers chose to take the long way to Harrogate, 190.5 km long. With a royal send-off and crowds 10 deep in some places, the mood was electric.

            As soon as the white flag dropped to signify the Grand Depart attacks came right away. A group of three formed immediately, which included Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne-Seche Environnement), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and the legendary Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing). The peloton seemed content to let the break go early as the three quickly gained a lead of over two minutes.

            Going over the first KOM, the Cote de Cray (4), the two Frenchmen Jarrier and Edet battled to be the first leader in the King of the Mountain (KOM) competition. Jarrier had the stronger legs and won out in the end. The breakaway reformed and sped down the very narrow descent towards the sprint point for the day. Meanwhile, the peloton crested the climb nearly four minutes in the rear. Since the Frenchmen had battled out the KOM point, Jens Voigt was positions to easily take the sprint point. Unlike the two others though he chose not to regroup after and decided to go it alone. He had a mammoth task ahead of him though, with 113 kilometers still to go to the finish. Back in the peloton, at the sprint point the bid for the green jersey was heating up. With points going 15 places deep, many points were still on the table.  Bryan Coquard (EuropCar) was the best of the rest followed by Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), and Mark Cavendish. Coquard appeared to go full gas at the sprint while the others held back a little. Noticeably absent was Marcel Kittle. Was he going all in for yellow on day one?

Seeing Polka Dots

            With everyone puzzled with why Jens Voigt chose to go alone with some much racing still go in the stage, French Television asked Trek Factory Racing Director Alain Gallopin, who was quoted as saying, “In the first hill, he realized that the two young guys were faster than him. So he had to take them by surprise and ride away from them before the climbs. He took the opportunity of the intermediate sprint for doing so,” (TDF Official site).

            The second climb of the day, the Cote de Buttertubs (3), was a short, but steep little bugger. In the middle of nowhere in the fields of Yorkshire the crowds were astounding. Where did all of the people come from? It was if the riders were climbing Alpe d’Huez and going through Dutch corner. Jens Voigt motored up the climb in his characteristic shoulder rocking style. Nicolas Edet dropped his compatriot Benoit Jarrier and claimed second. Voigt was completing his goal; he was now leading the KOM competition with only one climb to go. The polka dots were within reach.

            Meanwhile, back in the peloton, chaos ensued, with huge crowds and tough crosswinds the peloton began to split. Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) was seen standing on the side of the road fiddling with his gears. When it was all said and done, a fairly big group was caught a minute behind the peloton including Horner and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha).

            Jens Voigt continued to push on alone in pursuit of solidifying the KOM jersey with the final climb the Cote de Grinton Moor (3) just up the road. As he hit the climb it was clear, 130 km out in front was taking its toll. His cadence had slowed, his shoulders rocked and rolled more than usual, his month was wide sucking in all the air he could. Voigt started the climb with multiple minutes’ advantage, but now doubt began to rise as to whether he would make it. He did. Jens Voigt will wear the Polka Dot Jersey for just the second time in his illustrious career. The first time was during his first Tour back in ’98.

Seeing Yellow

            The peloton crested the last climb just 40” behind Voigt. Once Voigt was swept up the peloton felt no real pressure to drive the pace to the finish with 60 km still to go. The rolling countryside provided fantastic views as the peloton rolled along at a brisk pace with teams Andre Greipel and Lotto-Belisol doing most of the pace-making. As the finish neared the peloton began to get nervous—the roads were narrow especially through the towns. The back of the peloton bottlenecked throughout much of the remainder of the day. 

            At the 10 kilometer-to-go-banner, it was as if a switch had been flicked and the race was on. Lotto-Belisol had been controlling the race for most of the day, but that now seemed in jeopardy.  Teams with general classification hopes were now swarming the front along with the sprinter’s teams. They did not want to get caught out and lose time with a crash.
            With 5 kilometers to go, Lotto was still in control, but the shark was now stalking its prey. Known for having the best lead out train in the business, Omega Pharma Quick Step lined up behind Lotto. Then. at 3.5 kilometers to go the shark striked and Omega Pharma hit the front of the peloton with force, immediately stringing out the field.

            The peloton hit a sharp hill coming into the red kite that slowed them down a bit. Omega Pharma was lined up on the left side of the road looking strong, until a black streak flew up the right side. It was Spartacus, Fabian Cancellara (TFR). Cancellara quickly established a small gap, but the road dipped downwards in favor of the chasers. At 400 meters to go Fabian was still out front, but riders were swarming everywhere with no one in control behind. Bam! Two riders hit the deck as the sprinters launched leaving Cancellara in their wake.

            Marcel Kittel won the stage ahead of Peter Sagan (CAN) and Ramunas Navardauskas (GRS). Just 400 meters behind them, Simon Gerrans and Mark Cavendish had locked handlebars and went tumbling to the ground at 60 kph. Cavendish suffered the worst of the two, his right should badly injured.

            X-rays appear to be negative for Mark Cavendish as OPQS owner Patrick Lefevere was quoted saying there were no fractures. Early reports are that Cavendish suffered a separated shoulder and will start tomorrow. Later results showed Andrew Talansky (GRS), the American GC contender, lost 4 minutes on the stage. It appears he punctured in the last 3 km and fortunately was given the same time as Marcel Kittel.

Stage 1 Final Results:

Stage Winner: Marcel Kittel (GIA)
Yellow Jersey: Marcel Kittel
Green Jersey: Marcel Kittel
White Jersey: Peter Sagan (CAN)

Polka Dot Jersey: Jens Voigt (TFR)

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