It’s another year and another Tour de France. After some massive crashes, for no apparent reason, in Stage 6, a lot of favorites were out. The course itself wasn’t that hard, but nervous jitters were enough to send most of the peloton sprawling all over the roads.
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For the 2012 model year, Giant tweaked their top-of-the line TCR Advanced SL frameset. It’s by no means drastic, but it follows the same lines and technology that they established with the previous model. Giant tends to work in 3-year product cycles, so the 2012 model is a safe bet for the next few years.
During this year’s Tour de France, we got our first glimpses of Pinarello’s new Dogma 2. It’s stiffer, more aerodynamic, and lighter. Pinarello examined how riders used the Dogma and improved on it. The top tube of the Dogma 2 is slightly off center to the right, allowing the rider more balance. The aerodnyamics and stiffness of the front end were improved. It’s 19% stiffer, so it will allow you to brake more precisely. The sculpted crown integrates seamlessly into the re-shaped down tube.
It was well known that both Schlecks didn’t really perform well in time trials, which turned out to be their Achillles’ Heel today as Evans rode clear of them and into yellow. He didn’t just beat them by a few seconds, he rode clear of Andy Schleck by more than 2′, which was impressive but expected, as Andy Schleck is nowhere near the timetrialist that Evans is. So this year, Evans will win the Tour de France since no one will attach him in Paris tomorrow.
Everyone was expecting big things of this final mountain stage, which includes a mountaintop finish at Alpe d’Huez, but no one thought that Contador would attack so early on. He managed to ride away, get caught, and then ride away again while the Schlecks labored on the final climb of Alpe d’Huez. Sanchez brought Rolland up to the front, within a few hundred meters of the finish, and Rolland promptly made a move to distance himself from both Contador and Sanchez to give the French their first stage victory, and it comes from the Europcar team, a French wildcard team, which had held the Yellow Jersey for the last 10 days.
Unfortunately, Voeckler was also on the attack, and stayed a long time in a chase group by himself, which must have drained his energy, because he lost a lot of time on the other favorites. He’s still in 4th position, and now we are left to see what will happen in the individual time trial in Grenoble. Unless Evans rides a superb time trial, Andy Schleck will win the Tour, at least I hope so. Evans could be better at this, and we saw that last year, Contador and Andy Schleck were almost evenly matched.
It had to happen this week because it was simply the last week for it to happen. Finally, Andy Schleck makes a move, which was cunningly put together. At the time, there were already two Leopard Trek riders in the breakaway. Jens Voigt and Stuart O’Grady were doing some hard pacing, having taken it up a notch from what Europcar was doing. Contador was in the back and they were climbing the Col d’Izoard. There were 60km to go and Schleck launched his attack. At one time, the lead was up to 4:24. Slowly but surely, he caught up with all of the splintered groups and beat them. His two teammates served as a jumping point. Monfort stayed with him for the longest. In the end, the blistering chase was led by Evans, who managed to get back a lot of time on Schleck, but not enough. It was just enough for Voeckler to remain in the Yellow Jersey by 15″. This will make it an interesting stage tomorrow.
The stage was the first in the Alps of this year, and it was definitely interesting. For once, the favorites really got into it, something that we have seen before, thanks to the two-pronged attack of the Schlecks on Contador. However, it didn’t work out as planned, as this time around, Contador was relentless in his attacks. He failed a bunch of times before succeeding in getting away. Evans and Sanchez were hot on his wheel while Andy Schleck dropped back to the peloton. His brother Frank paced the Leopard Trek boys home. It was a disaster for Leopard Trek, and an all out win for BMC, as Evans sped away from even Contador in the last few kilometers of this stage. The GC has barely changed, but this bodes well for this week. The favorites seem to have forgotten that Voeckler has the maillot jaune and will continue to wear it with a good lead.
Today was a relatively flat stage, with only a small cat 4 climb in the middle of it. The last 10km are filled with bends and roundabouts, which could have been exploited by the breakaway. However, due to the breakneck speed that HTC was imposing to the peloton, the breakaway was caught within 2km of the end, and then it was a somewhat predictable result for the HTC team. The other teams tried to disrupt their lead out train, but didn’t have the manpower or strength to do so. In the end, Cav won by a good measure over Farrar, who came up at the last second.
It was an interesting stage today, which saw a somewhat complacent peloton after yesterday’s constant attacks. Still, a very impressive group of 10 riders managed to get away. They quickly splintered under Hushovd’s impetus, and he managed to time trial his way to the end, beating Moncoutie and Roy, who would have given the first French victory of a stage. Still, it isn’t all bad, as Roy takes on the Polka Dot jersey as the leader in the KOM comp. Gilbert is chipping away at the lead in the Green Jersey comp, as is Rojas. They won’t make winning it easy this year. Cav is over confident enough that it will be his downfall.