Go Dad Go!

A self-important blog about riding bikes, raising kids and the all-too-rare nexus of these two pursuits.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Cavendish Gets His, and Everyone Else Gets Hurt - Stage 5 Recap

Having crashed recently (that damn cat!) I’m feeling very sympathetic of the many guys who fell off their bikes in today’s stage. I scraped up my shoulder, a wide section of my back and my hip (good thing I shave my legs), nothing more than epi-deep, but I haven’t felt the same since. I’ve been dragging on bike rides, sleeping poorly and generally feeling slow. So when a Robert Gesink or a Tom Boonen touches down hard enough to provide us with one of those classic Tour shots – the torn shorts exposing a ripe-red strawberry on a hip – I can’t help but admire these guys even more. They get up and keep riding, lagging behind an accelerating peloton, knowing that their chances for a result are shot – for the day, and maybe for the Tour. Yet they race on. I don’t know if it’s courage that spurs them on, or something less noble – a sponsor’s pressure or the requirements of a contract, say – and I don’t really care: I’d be awfully tempted to curl up in the ditch I’d fallen into until the broom wagon came by.

Many riders crashed today, owing not to slippery roads but to shifting winds, which keep cyclists moving around, protecting teammates and seeking protection; rather than follow directly behind they allow wheels to overlap, and when overlapped wheels touch, the person riding them at 55 kph tends to go down. Contador, Leipheimer, Popovych, and Sorensen all went down, as did others; most recovered, though Radio Shack co-co-co-team leader Jani Brajkovic stayed down and is out of the Tour with a concussion and a broken collarbone.

But the crashing wasn’t the only action on the day; the (relatively) short stage featured some hard-nosed riding by Garmin-Cervelo, who insistently kept Thor Hushovd’s Yellow Jersey at the front of the field, as well as an exciting, late-stage attack by Jeremy Roy and a very determined Thomas Voeckler, who with his audacious (some would say ludicrous) racing style has finally become known for something other than a flukey period spent in the Yellow Jersey in 2004; today he’s the Paul McCartney of pro cycling – not the most talented guy out there, but what he does he does with feeling, and he looks cute doing it.

The stage’s real excitement came when it typically does, at least in other years’ Tours – in the closing 500 meters. This time there were no oblivious fans to stop Mark Cavendish’s momentum, though a rather serpentine parcours did prevent his trusty leadout train from forming, so when Cav’ emerged from a fractured, fluid front pack of 20 or so, the power he mustered was all the more impressive than when he appears to be launched by his teammates. This win, his sixteenth Tour stage victory but his first this year, came just in time, as pundits had begun to question whether the Man from the Isle of Man had it at all.

None of the crashing impacted our game, not unless Gesink or any of the others does the sensible, if wimpy thing and decides just to sleep in tomorrow morning; no one “owns” Brajkovic, so no one loses a rider. But Cavendish’s win vaults Phil forward, and a number of others as well. Marissa remains in the lead, while a number of lurk a ways back, waiting for Contador or Andy Schleck to start paying some dividends.

Which could happen tomorrow! It’s another steep-climb-late-in-the-stage stage, which have proven fulfilling so far.

A demain!



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