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 3, 2014

Le Tour de France: Repeat vs. Redemption

          The Tour De France is by far the most important cycling race on the calendar. A rider can have great results all year, but if he falters at the Tour that is what will be remembered when it is all said and done. The Tour De France is a race of attrition. The winner is usually decided fairly easily, it’s the one who is able to suffer the most and dig into the pain cave a little bit more than everyone else. Attacking is hard, but attacking when no else can is where legends are made.

This year’s Tour De France is shaping up to be one for the history books. There are two racers, Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, who are head and shoulders above the rest. One looks to solidify himself as the real deal with a repeat performance, while the other looks to take back the crown that was once his. It is Repeat vs. Redemption. 

Chris Froome (Sky Pro Cycling)

The Defender. There is no pressure like being the defending champion at the Tour. The expectations are high and if the result is not repeated there is only disappointment. Chris Froome and Team Sky are almost machine like in the way they grind down the peloton on climbs and win stage races with apparent ease. Froome’s season started with the overall win at Tour of Oman and the overall at the Tour De Romandie

         Since then, the wheels have fallen off. The TUE scandal created doubts in the minds of many about how clean Team Sky really is. Also, although Froome looked destined to go into the Tour with high confidence from the Dauphine, but then the wheels fell off-late in the race. . He won stages 1 and 2, but crashed on the run into stage 6, and clearly feeling the effects of the fall, lost nearly five minutes two days later on the final stage, stage 8. The question is how is Chris Froome doing today? How much did the crash hamper his final preparations? It was noticeable that Froome peaked early in the Tour last year as his attacks were not as fierce in the final days and he appeared to be struggling. Could the crash at the Dauphine hold Froome back to peak later at the Tour? Only time will tell.

Alberto Contador  (Team Tinkoff-Saxo)

He’s back. That is the word on the street about Alberto Contador. After a debacle of a year in 2013, in which he fell off the podium of the Tour on the penultimate stage, Contador has been nothing short of stellar this year. He has had overall wins at Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour of the Basque Country and three second overalls at the Volta ao Algarve, Volta a Catalunya, and Criterium du Dauphine. The pre-ban Contador of old is at it again, attacking uphill at will and making his rivals look like they are standing still.

The one question that remains is the strength of his team. Contador would have won the Dauphine had it not been for an argument with Team Sky about who had responsibility to chase down the breakaway. Does that pose the question that maybe his team was not strong enough, or organized enough, to do it alone? Coupled with that,  Cantador will not have support from strong lieutenant Roman Kreuziger, who is not able to start the Tour because of abnormalities in his Biological Passport. Beyond that, Team Tinkoff-Saxo brings a squad to the Tour rich with climbers ready to take on Team Sky, determined to bring home the winner’s trophy.

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
         In my opinion there is quite a drop off in contenders after the top two. The third and final podium spot will be hotly contested. My bet to grab that final spot is the “Shark of Messina”, Vincenzo Nibali. Nibali has been right there all season, but has not been able to get that win to boast his confidence, until now. That win came this weekend at his National Championships. How’s that for a confidence boaster? Nibali is not afraid to put himself out there because the only way to win is to attack. Remember his attack on the Cipressa in Milan-San Remo. He called out everyone after the race for being conservative. Last time Nibali did the Tour (2012), he went down fighting—attacking up until the last day to try to win. Nibali has that ‘never give up’ attitude, so look for him on the podium in Paris.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde has proven himself time and time again as a racer who can compete with the best and come out on top. His results this year have been nothing short of stellar, with an impressive solo win at Roma Maxima to a dominating performance at La Fleche Wallonne, and most recently his win in the Spanish National Time Trial Championships. Valverde is also a proven Grand Tour winner, winning the Vuelta in ’09 and reaching the podium there the last two years. The problem is, the Tour is not the Vuelta. The Vuelta is rich in mountain top finishes while, relatively speaking, the Tour tends to be more moderate with a balance of mountain stages, medium stages, and sprint stages. Let’s not forget that in order to win the Tour you have to have a little bit of luck on your side. Last year on a critical transition stage in the crosswinds Valverde punctured and lost 10 minutes. His Tour over in a flash. That, my friends, is the only reason Valverde will not be on the podium. Luck is in short supply for Valverde, something is bound to happen to him.

Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida):
         Rui Costa is the World Champion and will be the designated leader at the Tour for Team Lampre. This is the first time he will be a protected rider at a Grand Tour. Last year, he managed to win two stages at the Tour both out of breakaways, which is impressive. He also recently won the Tour de Suisse for the third time in succession. But, if you look down the results sheet none of the main Tour contenders or climbers where there, so it is a bit hard to gauge how well he is really doing. I believe Costa will be a top 5 threat, but that is all this year.

Tejay van Garderen (BMC)

            Which Tejay will show up? Van Garderen had a breakout performance at the Tour in 2012 with a stellar 5th place finish and was the winner of the Best Young Rider classification. 2013 on the other hand was a complete disaster. Van Garderen was dropped on the first mountain stage on the Tour. This year, however, bodes well for Van Garderen. This is the first time van Garderen will be the sole leader at a Grand Tour. BMC brings a team rich with climbers including good friend Peter Stetina. Van Gardener’s recent results at the Dauphine do worry me though (he lost over 2 minutes on the first mountain stage). The long TT at the end of the Tour suits van Garderen’s abilities, but look for him in the second half of the top ten.

Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp)
         Andrew Talansky just squeaked into the top ten of the Tour last year with a brilliant ride. He slipped into a break the day before the famed Mount Ventoux stage and gained over 7 minutes back—meaning he was already way of out contention for the overall so Team Sky had no problem with him gaining time. Therefore, I was somewhat skeptical of the choice of Talansky as Garmin’s sole leader at the Tour this year. Then I saw the final stage of the Criterium du Dauphine. Boom goes the dynamite. Talansky showed everyone he is the real deal. I believe with a really good ride he can get into the bottom half of the top ten again. Now you might say, what a minute you put van Garderen as a possible top 5 in the Tour and he looked horrible at the Dauphine. But, he has proven he is capable of top 5,  even when he isn’t the leader. Also, is it possible that Talansky may have peaked too early?

My Pick: Alberto Contador
       Contador has been unstoppable this year and Chris Froome’s crazy high cadence attacks no longer work to drop him. And, although Froome is clearly the superior time trialist, I believe Contador will gain enough time in the mountains to prevent Froome from taking the yellow jersey on the penultimate day. The day where Contador will be back where he belongs, on the top step of the podium.

My Top Ten:

1. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo)
2. Chris Froome (Sky Pro Cycling)
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
4. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
5. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida)
6. Bauke Mollema (Belkin)
7. Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp)
8. Jurgen Van De Broeck (Lotto-Belisol)
9. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)
10. Tejay van Garderen (BMC)

No comments :

Post a Comment