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

Thor's Team Takes the TTT and the Tunic - Stage 2 Update

[That subject line serves as a reminder that “Thor” is pronounced like, “I tore my jersey when the cat ran out in front of me,” not “I have a thore tongue and thuth thpeak with a lithp.”]

Organizing the Tour seems to be an exercise in vacillation: one year there’s a team time trial, the next there’s not; one year is climbing-heavy, the next time trial-focused; one year Jonathan Vaughters wears heavy black-framed eyeglasses, the next it’s tortoise shell.

This year, while Vaughters is firmly in the tortoise shell camp, the route planners seem to have compromised, inserting back into the parcours a team time trial but a short one. The logic, it seems, is that the fans appreciate the event, but that a long TTT impacts the final Yellow Jersey contest too greatly – so we’ve planted the flag in middle ground.

But today’s results yielded time differences that could well impact the final standings, especially as they compound the gaps that emerged after yesterday’s crash-filled final kilometers. Cadel Evans, who toiled fruitlessly on a subpar team for years, today rode the wheels of his American BMC squad right into prime position, just hundredths of a second off of Tour leader Thor Hushovd’s total time. And while the time differences across the first seven teams were in fact very small, Contador emerged an additional 24 seconds down on his chief rivals; he now has nearly two minutes to make up over the next 19 stages.

Don’t think he won’t go down fighting; clearly yesterday’s mishaps got the Spaniard’s Irish up, and he spent today’s short effort barking orders at his teammates and driving the pace. So feverishly did they set off, in fact, that they shed Benjamin Noval very early on, and then proceeded to lose others at a rapid pace, barely finishing with the minimum five riders.

The day, though, belonged to Garmin Cervelo, and good thing: Directeur Sportif Vaughters had set this as the team’s primary Tour objective, spending far more time and resources preparing for this single day. You could see it in their riding: while Saxo Bank’s ride appeared frenetic, Garmin was smooth – and as we learned from F1 driver Jackie Stewart, smooth is fast. They too shed riders, but apparently intentionally so: whereas the Saxo Bank dropped riders would fight mightily to catch back onto their teammates’ slipstream, the Garmin guys would exert full power – and then drop off, as if by design (which it likely was).

GC’s solid ride puts Thor in yellow – a much better look on him than polka-dots, in which he started the day. Surely the largest man to wear the climber’s jersey, Thor could well find himself in all three of the key jersey’s (he’s too old for the white one), as the next couple of stages may see him exchange yellow for green.

One final thought: I had the painful privilege of being the weakest rider on a team time trial squad – on the Stanford team – and I can attest to the experience not being a pleasant one. The high mountain stages elicit wonder from us spectators – oh how these guys suffer to get themselves up those climbs! – but at the Tour every stage is painful, and the TTT stands out, especially for the lesser riders. When your team leader’s final results rest on your skinny shoulders, you turn yourself inside out not to fall off and to get them to the line as quickly as possible. So today, chapeau to the guys who fought anonymously for their leaders – knowing that they get to wake up tomorrow and ride all over again.

Standings below – Marissa remains virtually perfect, having also picked Garmin for the TTT win. Today’s stage counts double, like all time trials and mountain stages.

Oh – from here I’m back with my family, and likely not quite as timely or loquacious. I’m sure you’re disappointed!




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