What's Cool In Road Cycling

Tour Analyzed: Youth Served, Sky Storming

Stage 8: France celebrated the emergence of a young rider winning a stage in his very first Tour on a punishing day that was generally hard to predict, though in the end it culminated in the emergence of the top 8 or so guys at the Tour showing their colors. This already fascinating Tour continues to offer up new sub-texts daily. Lee Rodgers pokes his nose in and sniffs out a few of the heftier truffles for us.

By: Lee Rodgers

Where do I start? At the end, naturally…

Enduring image of the Tour might have had a few contenders before Pinot rode majestically to the line alone today, from Peter Sagan annoying people who can’t remember what that thing called being young was with his daft celebrations to Sammy Sanchez unfortunately lying prone on the ground with his broken collarbone, but they all faded into the background when that shot came up of Marc Madiot of FDJ joyously hugging another guy on the back seat of the team car as his young charge sealed a memorable victory.

That’s what bike racing is about, and no amount of cynicism or fatigue with all the crap that lingers like a builder’s flatulence within the fabric of this sport can kill that. This Tour so far has truly been a triumph for youth, with Sagan (22) snooting a toot at the old boys, Pinot (also 22) winning today, and others like Pierre Rolland and Rein Taaramae (also 25) having good days yesterday (though not so great today).

One other very good kind of young rider is riding well at the moment, a RadioShack-Nissan-Trek guy – only problem is, he isn’t at the Tour de France. Jakob Fugslang (27) just finished the Tour of Austria and managed to take the GC after being demoted from the Tour squad for complaining that Frank Schleck’s glass of chocolate milk was fuller than his (or something like that). That win will not have gone unnoticed within the ranks of a RadioShack team having not the greatest Tour de France.

Fabian’s stint in yellow is over, and now the questions can begin – what happened to the RadioShack GC bid?

But enough about them. Onto Team Sky. If there is any sort of philosophy at Sky it seems to be the Philosophy of No Philosophy. Wiggins said yesterday that today’s stage was just too hard to predict, so why bother? He figured that if he fretted all night about who was going to do what he’d do nothing other than lose sleep, so he intended to just see how it all played out on the day.

That’s a luxury that his rivals can scarcely afford. If you’re Nibali’s or Evans’ DS right now you’ll be scratching your head as to just how in the heck to disrupt Sky’s march to Paris in Yellow. Sky’s depth in numbers is impressive, and they’ve built a team of essentially non-stars that are really delivering the goods. Don’t get me wrong, Boasson-Hagen could be the real deal, and Froome is making a name for himself (second at the Vuelta will do that), but he, like Rogers and Porte, despite being obviously talented and having decent results to their name, might not have been many people’s immediate choices if they were tasked with building a Tour-winning team.

Brailsford has put together a perfect team – highlighted by (amongst others), Richie Porte.

That is said with no disrespect to them, for they are shaping up to be exactly what a Tour-winning team needs. It does though offer proof, if any was needed, that the Grand Fromage Dave Brailsford and his team are pretty darned shrewd.

So whereas El Wiggo is relatively worry-free (or pretending he is), I’ll bet you a bite of a sweaty energy bar that Evans and Nibali aren’t. They’re both pretty smooth operators themselves (just watch out for the Chihuaha though or Cadel will be bringing the pain and the squealy shouty voice), but they’re faced with a tough task.

Wiggins looks good.

If they attack Wiggins on all but the steepest hills it looks like he’s capable of following, and they themselves aren’t necessarily always great on the more intense climbs. If he does get into trouble, Froome will most likely be there to aid him. Both are lacking teammates in the hills, though rumor has it that Ivan Basso is out trying to buy some new legs on Ebay.

If he pays today, and then, what, 4 days for delivery, he should be good by Stage 13 maybe, so long as the DHL guy doesn’t get lost…

Evans has tried valiantly to get a few seconds back and has to be commended for that, but Wiggins himself closed him down today and unless there’s a major hiccup the Englishman should at least match Nibali and the Aussie in tomorrow’s TT. It’s a tough one for his rivals. They’ll be looking to limit losses tomorrow then try to break him in the hills. Evans for one won’t be looking to settle for 2nd place in Paris already, so, barring a huge loss for him tomorrow, we should be in for some fireworks once the big peaks come along.

Win or lose, you can be sure that Cadel Evans will fight every meter of the the way to Paris for Yellow.

Others having bad or disastrous Tours include Sanchez of course but also Ryder Hesjedal and Robbie Hunter, both out already as a result of injuries. Bad luck in particular for the Canadian with the last name whose pronunciation no one can agree on (everyone I know says ‘Ryder-you-know-that-Canadian-guy’ but I’m sure that’s not how you say it). Anyway, bad luck for them after such a corking Giro.

Two guys in the underperforming bracket are Levi Leipheimer and Robert Gesink. The Dutchman in particular is having some trouble, coming in 16.01 down today, just ahead of Alessandro Petacchi. Something amiss there.

And so on to the TT. It’s long, El Wiggo looks strong, and for the rest that could be very, very wrong. Indeed.

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