OT - Tour de France stage 11 (Thursday)

Submitted by jmblue on July 11th, 2012 at 11:22 PM

Now it gets fun:

With three big climbs and a mountaintop finish, this is a huge chance to shake up the GC classification.  The climbs aren't the steepest we've seen, but they are very, very long.

First, there is the Col de la Madeleine (HC) - 25.3 km long (15.7 miles):

 

Then, following a rapid descent, the Col de la Croix de Fer (HC) 22.4 km (13.9 miles).

After a comparatively short (5.7 km = 3.5 miles) climb up the Col du Mollard (Cat. 2), comes the finale - 18 km (11.2 miles) up La Toussuire:

Altogether we are looking at 44 miles of climbing slopes of over 6% gradient.  A successful attack could be very successful, timewise (or it could spectacularly fail).

Comments

tdcarl

July 12th, 2012 at 1:06 AM ^

Definitely going to be an interesting stage. The Col de la Madeleine will be tough, but holy cow would that descent be fun to ride. A nice cat 1 climb to the finish should produce an interesting end to the race as well.

Needs

July 12th, 2012 at 9:07 AM ^

It'll be interesting to see if Evans and Nibali coordinate an attack and where the substantial attacks get staged. Do they wait for the steep section on the lower slopes of  La Toussuire to negate the peloton's advantage in chasing down the descents or do they go all Claudio Chiapucci and just try to get away on the Col de la Madeleine at the very beginning of the race? 

jmdblue

July 12th, 2012 at 9:58 AM ^

whether Cadel and Nibali coordinate or not because Froome has provided such good support for Wiggins and neither has looked even a little under stress as far as I can tell.  That said, I would think they wait for the end to attack.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's stage with the mountains in the front half and the flats to finish.  Perfect shot for a small group to get out and stay away if they don't threaten the GC, but maybe also for a guy who is just hanging around like Roche to get back in it.

Needs

July 12th, 2012 at 10:15 AM ^

Great point about Froome. He's looked like he could win the GC if he was team leader.

The only reason it would matter if Cadel and Nibali coordinate is that they could work for each other and somewhat counteract the hanger ons that Sky is sure to include in any breakaway attempt that either attempts.

Needs

July 12th, 2012 at 10:20 AM ^

Evans made his first attempt to get away just before the Col de la Croix, but never got more than 20 seconds on Wiggins before getting reeled in. Might have just been a test to see how Sky would react.

Needs

July 12th, 2012 at 11:44 AM ^

Great stuff on the final climb. Nibali with huge acceleration, gets caught, then attacks again and it looks like he migh get away and move into second. Wiggins now leading the chase with Cadel on his wheel. Froome looks like he's in danger of cracking.

jmblue

July 12th, 2012 at 12:16 PM ^

Man, Rolland loves the Alps.  Alpe d'Huez last year and Toussuire this year.  We can see a little better now how Voeckler was able to keep the yellow so long last year when he had Rolland on his side.  Too bad he crashed last week or he might be in the GC mix.  

I think Froome might end up winning the Tour.  Wiggins has looked a little shaky the last two days, and the jury's still out on his ability to keep it together for three full weeks.  He may yet blow up.  

reshp1

July 12th, 2012 at 1:41 PM ^

Kind of a strange day but exciting stage nonetheless. The early attack by BMC was a big surprise. Good tactics, but Cadel just didn't have the legs, you could tell TJ was just sitting up most of the time. If they went over the top with a gap it could have been a very different day. I think it did have the effect of softening up team Sky on the final climb though, although who knows if it also cost Cadel the gap at the end too.

Froome is an absolute beast, he did tempo to close down the Nibali attacks and after less than a minute to recover at the back of the group still had enough for a vicious attack. I kinda felt Sky's director pulled the plug on that move too early. I think he saw Nibali going with Froome and Wiggins dropping back and didn't want Froome pulling Nibali up in the GC but realistically I don't think Nibali could have hanged with Froome and it would have been nice for Froome to get a little time considering what happened last year at the Vuelta (Sky put their eggs in the Wiggins basket only to have him crack and fall to third and Froome could have won if not for being ordered back to help Wiggins). Definitely a day where the team captains weren't the strongest men on the team today. I wouldn't be surprised to see Froome on another team next year making a push for the overall win and TJ will be a contender in the future too if he can get a little more consistency.

snarling wolverine

July 12th, 2012 at 2:04 PM ^

Fun stage.  I can never get enough of the high mountain stages.  I agree, I think Froome is ultimately going to decide to take yellow for himself.

If Evans is weakening (and didn't just have a tough day), Van Garderen may have to make a similar decision about the white jersey.  He lost a minute to Pinot when he was trying to bring Evans back up to the leaders' group.

 

stephenrjking

July 12th, 2012 at 2:28 PM ^

First, I must say that I was impressed by Evans. He lost serious time and his Tour is over, but he went down swinging with everything he had on every stage. In 2008 he was derided as a wheel-sucker who never attacked; nobody has attacked more in this Tour. What a gallant defeat, with a brilliant attack on the Croix de Fer that had everything set up for a big run except his own legs. When Tejay had to slow down for Evans to stay with him, everyone knew it was over.

After that, I was afraid that the final climb was going to be boring, with all the action in the breakaway and nothing significant in the GC group. Then Nibali attacked twice, Wiggins accelerated to try to drop Evans (remember when Froome was in back of the group? I thought he was cooked, Wiggins was taking some responsibility). 

Then Froome made the move that is the talk of the day, his attack that isolated his own team leader. Wiggins was every-so-briefly completely alone, dropped by Nibali and Vandenbrouke as well as Froome. So of course he was ordered to drop back, and it will be interesting to hear what the idea was here--but everyone now knows that Froome could drop Wiggins if he wanted to, and in all likelihood could have won the Tour if he had been team leader.

That's not to say that Sky wasn't right in setting Wiggins up as the leader, given the TT-heavy course. If it's another climbing monster next year, though, they would be foolish not to ride for Froome--he is suddenly one of the three or four best climbers in the world. 

The last 12 km were thrilling all over the mountain, the type of action that drew me into this sport in the first place. Outstanding stage.

reshp1

July 12th, 2012 at 5:18 PM ^

“At the moment when Froome went ahead, I was just concentrating on my effort and keeping it constant because I'd been riding hard for a kilometre and a half, or two kilometres before that. We came down off a dip and up a climb and I wanted to just clear the lactate more than anything. I didn't want to make any more of an acceleration but there was a lot of noise and a lot of things going on over the radio and there was a bit of confusion at that point as to what we were doing. But [Chris] showed today that he had good legs. And it was another great day for the team, it really was.
“I didn't have a radio at that point as my earpiece had fallen out. But this morning we certainly spoke about Chris maybe attacking in the final and we had already gotten rid of Cadel... but this morning we were planning on him still being there and Chris maybe making up those 20-odd seconds to move into second on GC because he wasn't 100 per cent confident that he'll have the better of Cadel in the last time trial. We wanted to try and get a bit of time today... it was the plan this morning as long as I stayed with Vincenzo and those guys. And Chris didn't drag them away.

Sounds like a bit of a miscommunication caused that last attack. I still contend they should have let Froome keep going and try to drop Nibali and get some time on him, and let Wiggins ride himself back up (he didn't look in trouble, he's just a diesel type rider). It's always good to have two guys on the team in a good position to win it in case something bad happens to one of them.

snarling wolverine

July 12th, 2012 at 3:12 PM ^

Apparently both the peloton and even the breakaway were a slower than expected today (the projected finish times are based on previous years' performances).  Hopefully that's a sign the sport is cleaning up.

stephenrjking

July 12th, 2012 at 4:18 PM ^

Since there are some cycling fans here, let me link to a couple of notable sites.

The Inner Ring is probably the best cycling blog on the internet. It's run by one anonymous person but has lots of insight, especially over a whole season. 

Doping is always a questionmark in cycling, even (especially?) for its fans. This year's performance by Sky has raised a couple of eyebrows because they are so strong, but perhaps that's just a function of having two of the best riders. Who knows? One of the best resources about doping anywhere is the work done by The Science of Sport, and they wrote after the first summit finish that the available power statistics suggest that the this year's Tour is consistent with a Tour that is either clean or significantly less dirty than Tours 10 or 15 years ago. 

The key number to watch is Watts/kg, which normalizes power outputs for different weights. 6-6.1 w/kg over long periods is kind of the "human" limit over long periods. For perspective, guys like Lance, Ullrich, and others in the doping era could hit 6.7 and even close in on 7.0 on long HC climbs; even Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador don't get above 5.9 on HC finishes anymore.

The numbers were higher on Saturday because it was a short climb, and Ross Tucker says that this is normal and well within contemporary clean boundaries. 

We'll see what the numbers looked like today; I've heard that Janez Brajkovic climbed at 5.3 today and finished 8th. Not bad.

stephenrjking

July 12th, 2012 at 5:55 PM ^

@inrng's stuff on the spring classics is peerless, very worth looking into when you're on a cycling kick.

If you'd like to see some smart and amusing video analysis, check out cyclocosm.com for Cosmo's How The Race Was Won series, must-watch stuff. They are sporadic due to his time constraints, but well-done and very informative.