Tag Archives: Thomas Voeckler

Voeckler provides the entertainment on a disappointing showing by the race favorites

Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon, 197 km (122.4 mi)

It took four mountains worth of effort, but Thomas Voecker took the win and the mountains jersey. Photograph: AFP

Once again it was a race of two parts. Part one was the battle involving those who are not a threat to the general classification and allowed to go off the front early and entertain; the other part is the battle involving the Yellow jersey. As has been the case since Brad Wiggins took Yellow back on stage 7 and cemented his lead at the time-trial two days later, this battle has become a real damp squid, so thank goodness for the entertainment put on by stage winner, Thomas Voeckler.

Voeckler got into a huge break early on the stage that went over the first of the days four big climbs — the Col d’Aubisque — together. They were barely onto the slopes of the Tourmalet — the days biggest climb — when the pace went up and the group began to splinter. Eventually just a handful of men were left including Voeckler; the leader of the mountains classification jersey, Fredrik Kessiakoff; the chief pace setter responsible for fragmenting the group, Dan Martin; and a pair of old-boys, Jens Voigt and George Hincapie, among others.

Voeckler claimed he wasn’t out to get the polka-dot jersey, but he clearly wasn’t being entirely truthful for over the course of the day he would pick up maximum points on every single climb. It was on the Tourmalet, with Martin looking like he had given way to much way to soon, that Voeckler made his decisive move … one that only Brice Feillu could match as he moved clear of the rest. The pair went over the Col d’Aspin together, and on the day’s final climb, the Col de Peyresourde, Voeckler kicked again and went clear. He wouldn’t be seen again. Feillu cracked as a chase containing Alexandr Vinokourov, Gorka Izaguirre and Chris Anker Sörensen moved past. Sörensen eventually went on alone but was never going to get close to the Frenchman who rode himself into the King of the Mountains prize and to his second stage victory of this Tour … not a bad consolation at all for missing out on this year’s GC battle.

That King of the Mountains prize looks like it’s going to have a more dramatic conclusion than the race for Yellow. Once he realised he wasn’t going to better Voeckler today, Kessiakoff, backed right off finishing 14-17 behind his new rival, making me wonder if he was saving himself for a renewed effort tomorrow. Just 4 points stand between the pair as Voeckler looks to become the first French winner of the mountains jersey since Richard Virenque in 2004.

Further down the road in that fading GC battle, Sky were controlling things and nobody was doing what Vockler had been. The Tourmalet, while far from the finish, still should have been the spring board to really split open the race and test the Sky legs. Isolate Wiggins and Froome and see if they might crack over the final two climbs. The worst someone might do is crack themselves and slip a few places back in the standings, but who really remembers the best of the rest anyway?

Sky kept up a relentless pace allowing Liquigas to come through later on. The high pressure took its toll on Cadel Evans who displayed why he was unable to do any attacking. He cracked and lost some big time (4-47 to Wiggins) including his chance of a podium finish as he slipped to 7th overall. It was a sad sight to see the defending champion like that, though it has to be remembered that Evans at 35-years of age would have been the second oldest man to ever win the Tour had he done it this year, so perhaps it was all just one year too much for the Australian. He can take satisfaction that he got that Tour victory in before it was too late.

Nobody budged off the front of that Yellow jersey group until halfway up the Peyresourde when finally Vincenzo Nibali put in a dig showing why his Liquigas team had taken up the lead. The move forced Froome and Wiggins to go with him leaving everyone else behind. It was clear now that only Nibali had the legs, and even then the Sky duo could match it. Only Nibali could test them but clearly he couldn’t do it any earlier for as they went over the top of that last climb it was Nibali who looked to be on his limit having kicked once more only to find Wiggins right behind him.

Good for Team Sky though … their tactics have been absolutely perfect. Yes it’s bad for us watching on the television hoping for a dramatic battle with climbers hammering those desperate for Saturday’s time-trial, but Sky are out to win the race, not let others go up the road for our entertainment. It may not make for great racing, but it’s the tactic that works and if they finish this Tour with two men on the top two steps of the podium then they were right to employ it.

I guess we can’t expect a classic every year. The scenario of last year in which Cadel Evans came into the final time-trial with a defecit to Andy Schleck who had put the hurt on through the final mountain stages, was exactly what we wanted again this time up, but unlike a movie or a stage show, the Tour de France, like all live sport, isn’t scripted, and sometimes you don’t get what you want.

Is it a good thing that the only coverage we got of the Tour de France between 1991 and 1995 was half hour highlights on Channel 4 in the UK? I ask this because what we’re seeing here in 2012 with live coverage for hours on end, is kind of what we got during those years when Miguel Indurain would dominate the time-trial and then mark his rivals the rest of the way. Or even more so, because this Sky team looks stronger than any of those Banesto teams when Indurain had to do a lot of the work himself without the shelter of the backwheel of a Richie Porte or Chris Froome.

Which bodes the question: Is this what you have to accept and expect from a cleaner sport?

It looks like it and we seen hints of it last year also. Gone are the days of a Marco Pantani style attack in which nobody stands a chance and from which he continues to power up a climb with no chance to those who prefer to pace themselves back onto him. Nibali may have had an Alberto Contador turn of pace, but he couldn’t sustain it, and Sky knew it. All they had to do was keep their rhythmn and close the gap. If that’s not what you wanted then maybe you shouldn’t have shouted so loud for the UCI to push through a suspension to Contador for it would have been interesting to see how he went about today differently — assuming, of course, that he was doing it clean.

But there’s always tomorrow and it has a tough finish to it, so don’t rule out one last effort, though it looks as though only Nibali stands capable of putting it in.

***

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Worried? Not really, to be honest. Yeah, it was hard at the end of a long day, it hurts, but Brad and I both know they weren’t really going anywhere. We were quite within ourselves there at the end.” — Chris Froome puts the boot into the attacks of Vincenzo Nibali

***

STAGE 16 RESULT

1. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar in 5-35-02
2. Chris Anker Sorensen (Den) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank at 1-40
3. Gorka Iziguirre (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 3-22
4. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana at st
5. Brice Feillu (Fra) Saur-Sojasun at 4-06
6. Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan at 4-18
Others
11. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 7-09
12. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky
13. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky all at st.
35. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 11-56

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 16

1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky in 74-15-32
2. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 2-05
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 2-23
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 5-46
5. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan at 7-13
6. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 7-55
7. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 8-06
8. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana at 9-09
9. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar at 10-10
10. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat  at 11-43
11. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r La Mondiale at 11-47

***

ABANDONMENT’S

As we all know Frank Schleck didn’t start the day, while three men failed to finish it. They were Grega Bole of Lampre, Jan Ghyselinck of Cofidis and Vladimir Gusev of Katusha. That brings the field down to 152 men, with 46 — or 23 percent of the 198 starters — having left.

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Good for Tommy

Stage 10 — July 11: Mâcon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, 194.5 km (120.9 mi)

You’ll be hard pressed to find a cycling fan that wasn’t pleased with today’s result. Thomas Voeckler became a fan to millions for the way he rode last years Tour de France, defending the Yellow jersey as though his life depended upon it and riding above and beyond his natural talent levels to keep it right up until the final days in the mountains. Not many being realistic believed he could repeat such a feat this year for he would be a marked man from the beginning but we never got to find out for sure when he ran into a number of first week accidents that left him well down the overall standings.

It meant that when the first climbing stages arrived and even the time-trial he didn’t have the need to bust a gut to stay with the overall contenders, instead he allowed himself to recover from injuries and save himself for a day like today.

When I first seen that he was one of the cluster of hopefuls who had gone up the road early in the hopes of stealing a stage win, I knew he’d be the man to win it. Voeckler has the kind of steel about him that few humans possess, and when he got the scent of victory in his nostrils, nothing was going to stop him.

Behind him the race for the GC positions — one Voeckler no doubts wishes he was still a part of, though today’s win will surely make up for that disastrous first week — was heating up nicely. With a downhill run to the finish there was always going to be a big group coming in, but given the damage Sky had done over the last several days and given how commanding Brad Wiggins’s Yellow jersey lead was looking, his rivals had to try something on the climbs.

Cadel Evans preferred to follow Wiggins today, perhaps with an eye on tomorrow’s mega tough climb, but Vincenzo Nibali decided every stage that pointed up was an opportunity to break the Englishman and went on the attack. Wiggins didn’t panic and neither did his team. They rode steady and they hauled Nibali in just shy of the top of that final climb. It must have been dejecting for Nibali, and for the rest it was yet another show of strength of Team Sky.

Nibali wasn’t happy. Not about being caught, but by the reaction of Wiggins once he was. According to Nibali, Wiggins stared him down and at the finish he waved at him as if to say, ‘look, I’m still here.’

“If he wants to be a great champion he has to have a little bit of respect for his rivals, because sometimes, to look at someone like that in the face is offensive,” blasted the Liquigas rider. “”I’m talking about respect amongst the cyclists. Riders have never kicked or punched each other as they do in football. There’s always just been a lot of respect for rivals. So, for me, there’s this respect. To turn and look a rival in the face, as he did, that’s not very great in my opinion.” We’ll see tomorrow who has the last laugh.

Of course, no stage of the 2012 Tour would be complete without the press conference of Brad Wiggins in his Yellow jersey. After hitting out at those who asked him if you had to dope to win the Tour a few days ago, he hit out at those who think he has come from nowhere this season.

“I’m not some s**t rider who has just came from nowhere. I’ve been three times Olympic champion on the track. People have to realise what kind of engine you need to win an Olympic gold medal as an individual pursuiter.” And he’s right. Wiggins has had a hell of a career and anyone thinking he has come from nowhere here in 2012 is either new to the sport or has watched little outside the Tour de France. Wiggins has achieved a lot and he’s worked hard to adapt his style to become the rider we’re seeing today.

Still, I hope the akward questions continue for it makes for entertaining listening when Wiggins picks up the mic to respond.

***

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I didn’t lose my cool, I just said what I think. It’s completely different. If I’d lost my cool, this table would’ve been on the floor down there. That’s the difference.” — Bradley Wiggins (again, yes, I know!) on the belief by many that his profanity laced press conference earlier in the week was a case of him losing his cool.

***

ACTUAL TWEET OF THE DAY

@TweeterSagan Mr Twiglet absolutely right: he not some shit rider who come from nowhere. He come from Ghent, Belgium. — A parody Twitter account based on Peter Sagan.

***

FAKE TWEET OF THE DAY

@TVoeckler You all so lucky I had bad first week. I should be man in Yellow. #MoralVictory

***

ABANDONMENT’S

Nobody abandoned today, but three men failed to start. Matthew Lloyd, the Australian from the Lampre-ISD team was one and Tony Martin — suffering from his first week injuries and hoping to recover before the Olympics for the time-trial, was another. The third was Remy Di Gregorio who was removed from the race by his team and suspended after being arrested by French police in a doping probe, the first and only of the Tour thus far.

***

STAGE 10 RESULT

1. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar in 4h 46′ 26″
2. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre- ISD at 3 sec
3. Jens Voigt (Ger) Radioshack- Nissan at 7 sec
4. Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Rabobank at 23 sec
5. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step at 30 sec
6. Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJ-Bigmat at 2-44
British
13. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky at 3-16
18. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at st
52. Stephen Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing 11-41
59. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Sharp 15-04
162. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Sky at 31-55

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 10

1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky 43h 59′ 02″
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 1-53
3. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 2-07
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 2-23
5. Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha 3-02
6. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Radioshack-Nissan at 3-19
7. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Radioshack-Nissan at 4-23
8. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 4-48
9. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale at 5-29
10. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 5-31

Tour smashed to pieces in horror crash; GC dreams die for Hesjedal

Stage 6 — July 6: Épernay to Metz, 207.5 km (128.9 mi)

Today was meant to be the last day off for the big contenders of this years Tour. A final roll of the dice for the sprinters for at least a week as the race snaked its way towards the mountains. There’s an old phrase in cycling when someone puts the hurt on a bunch of his opponents on a climb that he has ‘thrown a hand grenade into the group and blown the race to pieces,’ well, let me say, had someone literally thrown a grenade into today’s peloton as it hammered its way towards the finish, 25 kilometers outside of Metz, there might have been less carnage than what we seen.

A huge crash in the bunch as riders everywhere scrambled to get closer to the front where it is reported to be safer, brought down a stack of riders including a number of pre-race favorites, one of which was the great Canadian hope and current Giro d’Italia champ, Ryder Hesjedal.

The result was a field split to pieces in the run-in and while the likes of Frank Schleck received a huge blow to his chances losing 2’09” to the likes of Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins who managed to avoid the mess, along with Robert Gesink who dropped 3’31”, it was Hesjedal who seen his hopes go up in smoke as he crawled over the line battered and bruised in a large group of men 13 minutes and 24 seconds behind the stage winner … that man again … Peter Sagan.

“It’s the worst crash I’ve ever been in,” said Hesjedal’s team-mate David Miller who put the blame on “some idiot”. Hesjedal must now change his focus from the GC to stage wins and at the very least ride the rest of the tour without losing time in the climbs or time-trials, maybe even pulling some time back to prove that without the crash he would have very much been a contender.

Riding in the tour and winning it requires a large element of luck not to mention the talent, fitness, strength and ability to push yourself to extremes that most couldn’t or wouldn’t. When I say luck I mean to avoid the kinds of things we did today. Some have a talent for doing it but ultimately sometimes you just need to be in the right place at the right time and hope the man in front of you stays upright. It’s like driving your can on the highway, no matter how good a driver you are, you can’t be sure the man behind you won’t slam into you at some point.

Thomas Voeckler, a man who came into this tour dreaming of repeating his heroics of 2011 has ran out of luck entirely during this nervous first week of action. He lost time earlier in the week when he got held up in a crash and today came in 6 minutes 2 seconds back. The result has him heading into the mountains 14’17” down on Fabian Cancellara, the mirror opposite to last year when a winning break seen him carry a healthy lead over the others into the mountains. Voeckler when asked about the carnage of the first week suggested the blame may fall on race radio’s, which is an interesting suggestion from a professional in field that are normally staunch believers that the race radio makes racing safer. What Voeckler was alluding to was that you had twenty-two director sportif’s instructing his riders to get to the front of the pack in the closing kilometers were they could stay out of danger. That means 190 odd riders are scrambling for a place at the head of the bunch and when the roads narrow you’re asking for trouble. It’s a good point Voeckler makes and you have to wonder that without race radio’s, would the run-in’s be a lot more civil? I have to admit, in the past before race radio’s I don’t remember there ever being as many first week crashes as we’re seeing now.

“Another win and I called this one ‘The Hulk'”. So says Peter Sagan, above. Perhaps I should have saved this photo for today. Photograph: Bettini Photo

Of course, quite a few stayed upright and were able to contest a sprint. Peter Sagan who came down yesterday took maximum points towards a Green jersey points competition that he’s looking more and more likely to win — especially given Cavendish was caught up in today’s accidents, coming in several minutes down. Sagan’s sprint was one of raw power as he proved that he can indeed mix it with the very best on a flat, straight sprint finish, André Greipel’s dreams of pulling off a rare straight hat trick of stage wins.

Sagan has now won three of the first six stage races of this Tour and of his Tour de France career which at 22-years of age is nothing short of remarkable. The sky is the limit with many feeling that a change in style, conditioning and training he could one day win the Tour. It’ll be interesting to see how he fairs tomorrow when the roads get much steeper than they have been so far.

Yes, we’re heading into the mountains and tomorrow, with the traditional first week mayhem behind them, the riders will face a new kind of mayhem … one of suffering and pain … and while the tour has been lost by some via terrible luck, the Evans – Wiggins battle remains very much on and for the first time we’ll truly see just where each man is at and whether anyone else can force themselves into the reckoning.

***

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I didn’t want to sprint, but my teammates talked me into it. It was unbelievably painful.” — André Greipel crashed twice, was going to sit out the sprint but with a suspected dislocated shoulder he showed why they call him the Gorilla.

***

FAKE TWEET OF THE DAY

@RyderHesjedal We cross a rail road tomorrow, maybe if I time it to sneak across before that cargo train comes through I can gain back 13 minutes?

***

ABANDONMENT’S

Thanks to crash central we had our biggest number of withdrawals in a single day so far in this tour. Four in all. Saying goodbye were Mikel Astarloza of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team, Davide Vigano of the Lampre-ISD squad, Tom Danielson of Garmin who would have been a great shout for a top ten finish in this tour, and Wout Poels of the Vacansoleil-DCM team. The race is now down to 190 riders from the 198 that started.

***

STAGE 6 RESULT

1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas 4-37-00
2. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol
3. Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
4. Kenny Robert Van Hummel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM
5. Juan José Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
6. Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto-Belisol all at same time
Others
80. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 2-09
82. Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan
85. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar
101. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at same time
110. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 3-31
130. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar at 6-02
181. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp at 13-24

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 6

1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan 29-22-36 
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky at 7 secs
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at same time
4. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 10 secs
5. Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha at 13 secs
6. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 17 secs
Canadian contingent
108. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp at 13-38

***

THE RACE FOR THE LANTERNE ROUGE

Given the number of crashes and the time lost by some the Lanterne Rouge classification has had a major shakeup. More movement down here than at the other end of the standings though Brice Feillu hasn’t only kept his lead, but impressively he has extended it by quite a margin.

190. Brice Feillu (Fra) Saur-Sojasun 30-15-06
189. Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 18-03
188. Francis De Greef (Bel) Lotto Belisol at 19-08
187. Matthieu Sprick (Fra) Argos-Shumano at 19-58
186. Simone Stortoni (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 20-44
185. Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Orica GreenEdge at 21-02

 

2011 season in review: The year of an Australian winning the Tour

I had hoped to get this site up and live around the turn of the new year but unfortunately time, among other things, conspired against me and so we find ourselves into the middle of the first month of the new year, but before the year of twenty-hundred and eleven disappears too far into our rear view, let’s hand out some awards for the year that was…

Awards and Gongs

Cyclist of the Year: PHILIPPE GILBERT
Philippe Gilbert. Was there ever anyone who truly came close? The Belgian dominated the spring classic’s season before taking a stage win in the Tour de France. He even rode high up the overall well into the big mountains before finally succumbing to the little men. There’s a belief that if Gilbert trained for it he could win a Grand Tour and while that would be something to see, it’s still fun to enjoy the aggressive riding style he current entertains us with.

Canadian rider of the year: RYDER HESJEDAL
A fitting name for the title! Not quite at the level of 2010 but still Canada’s biggest hope.

Sprinter: MARK CAVENDISH
Who else?

Climber: DAVID MONCOUTIE
David Moncoutie for winning his forth mountains classification title in the Vuelta a Espana.

Time-trialist: CADEL EVANS
Cadel Evans to overcome the Schleck’s and secure the Tour de France crown.

Classics rider: PHILIPPE GILBERT
He dominated the spring. He appeared unbeatable.

Breakthrough young rider: PIERRE ROLLAND
An award with such past winners (if I’d been doing this in the past) as Richard Virenque, Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Alberto Contador and Riccardo Ricco, goes to Pierre Rolland. He won a-top of Alpe d’Huez and scooped the young riders prize at Le Tour. The French are all hoping he’s for real and we’re all hoping that unlikely those I just named when they broke in, that this kid represents a new generation.

Hard-man: JOHNNY HOOGERLAND
It’s an award that should be named the Jens Voigt prize, but not even Jens could win it, and how could anyone else other than Johnny Hoogerland for being knocked off the road by a car and into a barbed wire fence. It was a horrific crash and the injuries only confirmed it. How he got up and continued I will never know.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR

VOECKLER’S ATTEMPT TO DEFEND YELLOW
The grimmace on the face of Thomas Voeckler as he fought tooth and nail to hang onto his Yellow Jersey. When people say ‘the yellow jersey brings that little bit extra out of you and makes you go that little bit further’ I consider it a bit of a cliche, but men like Voeckler put weight behind such cliches.