OT: Tour de France stage 5 & week in review

Submitted by stephenrjking on July 3rd, 2013 at 2:44 PM

The Tour de France has arrived on the mainland, and with a "normal," bus-catastrophe-free sprint, we've naturally seen Mark Cavendish take first in stage 5. 

I also take this opportunity to direct casual-to-serious cycling fans to two very excellent resources for following cycling: The Inner Ring is the best cycling blog on the internet (alas, it is so good that some of the other really good blogs have reduced their coverage) and also provides solid info on twitter. Cyclocosm features very irregular posts, but Cosmo's How the Race Was Won (HTRWW) series provides summaries of races and stages that are not only the best available for cycling, but some of the best video highlight packages of any sporting event anywhere.

Here's his rundown of stages 1-4:


How The Race Was Won - Tour de France 2013, Stages 1-4 from Cosmo Catalano on Vimeo.

He doesn't always have the time to produce these things, so enjoy them when you can.



July 3rd, 2013 at 3:03 PM ^

I hate sprint stages, (unless the winner comes from a escape, but that almost never happens...) looking forward for the mountains.


July 3rd, 2013 at 3:07 PM ^

I used to hate them, and of course they don't hold attention for quite as long, but as I've paid closer attention to the teamwork and positioning leading up to the sprint they've become more interesting to me.

It helps that Cav and Sagan are such compelling riders for various good and bad reasons, and that Cav is rapidly gaining acclaim as the greatest sprinter of all time. You wonder if he can be that great that consistently, and... yep.


July 3rd, 2013 at 3:12 PM ^

Flat stages are a DVR and fast forward to 30km to go or so for me. I was really hoping the change in format for the intermediate sprints would liven up the rest of the stages, but sadly they still seem to be following the same formula: let a small break of nobodys dangle 10-15 mins out front while the peloton plods along at a leisurely pace, then breaks get caught with depressing predictability in the last few km.


July 3rd, 2013 at 3:30 PM ^

Yeah, I've been watching the tour for a few years I just don't really like sprint finishes, it's almost always the same guys, before him there was Freire, Hushovd, O'Grady, etc. I do apreciate the teamwork, even though sometimes it gets really nasty (Like the Mark Renshaw headbutt a few years ago).

I also dislike the attitude of some of the sprinters that are in the tour for the first week and then call it quits, appreciate way more the teamates  that stick with the tour for no other reason than to help the team as they never win a race or anything....


July 5th, 2013 at 2:17 PM ^

I used to hate sprint finishes when I first started watching, because I always wanted to the break to make it. However once I understood what the strategy is, it became more compelling to see how the sprint plays out.

It should always be the same few guys contesting the stage win on a flat stage. They are the best sprinters in the race, and most of the teams they are on are built for the purpose of having them win sprint stages. Of the teams with contenders in the points catagory only Boasson Hagen is on a team with a real contender, and he is barely a points contender at that.

As for those who abandon, when they get into the high mountains some (like Cavandish) are worthless climbers and can't help anyways (it should be noted that Cavandish has not finished the tour twice in his career. The first two, at stage 8 and 15. He has won the final stage of the past four tours).


July 3rd, 2013 at 3:20 PM ^

I was moving this past week so I've only caught bits and pieces.

Stage 1 was ridiculous, with the bus incident, then trying to move the finish, then moving the finish back. A lot of riders were complaining that was the root cause of the big pile-up at the end that spoiled the bunch sprint.

Stage 2 was probably the most exciting so far, with the counterattack after the break was reeled in surviving by a mere second from a charging Sagan and rest of the peloton

Stage 3: Meh, pretty much played out as expected (pure sprinters dropped on last climb, bunch sprint of guys that can climb but still have a powerful acceleration). Sagan getting nipped by Gerrans by the width of his rim was pretty surpising.

Stage 4: I really thought this stage would be more decisive. It was kinda surprising to see just a few seconds seperating the top teams after 25km, and none of the contenders losing more than 20-30 seconds. 57km/h average is just insane though, I would love to see that in person some day.


July 3rd, 2013 at 3:22 PM ^

I feel really bad for Vandevelde.  Looks like he took quite a tumble today.  Also feel bad for Evans.  He can't like his chances much at all with weeks of greuling riding ahead.  Froome seems to be the kind of guy I could root for; despite the purported inter-squad drama of last season's successful run at the podium, he certainly could have made a bigger stink out of not being allowed to make a better run at the maillot jaune.  


July 3rd, 2013 at 3:25 PM ^

StephenR.....how can a sport so thoroughly riddled with athletes using illegal methods to artificially enhance their performace, maintain its interest level for you?  Almost every single winner of this event since 1961 for God's sake has either tested positive for doping or has confessed to doping while testing clean.


I mean baseball laughs at the Tour for being ridiculously dirty and full of cheaters.  How can this event be respected by anyone is beyond me.


July 3rd, 2013 at 3:43 PM ^

to me the tour is the most facinating sporting event of the year.... has it all ... loads of courage, teamwork, strategy, sportsmanship, luck..... Also, at least two or three times we'll see a man utterly cracked by another man in the mountains.  I can't recall another sporting event with such complete exposure of the athletes (maybe lingerie football).  As for this year's race I had the sense that neither Cav nor Greipel had their form together.  Seems I was wrong.


July 3rd, 2013 at 3:49 PM ^

That's a good question, and I've actually addressed that on this site before, in this post. The world of cycling is so woven with doping that one cannot find a slice where it is not a factor. There are, however, a couple of things that need to be noted.

1. Cycling's current drug testing procedure is the most rigorous in sports. Though it has some significant issues of its own, the results of the last few years have clearly proven that riders are not nearly as powerful as they were at the height of the EPO era. This is mathematically demonstrated in power numbers and in the times it takes to climb key mountains. TdF winners of today are climbing mountains minutes slower than not only Lance Armstrong but even mid-pack climbers of yesteryear; they would get smoked by dopers, which is what you would expect.

2. Doping is a lot more widespread in the wider sports world than we would care to admit. The reason that this is not widely exposed is not because nobody dopes, but because the consequences for revealing it are much worse than the consequencs for letting it go on. 

The fact is, dopers rarely get caught. The science of dodging drug tests is way more advanced than the science of catching the cheaters; most people who fail drug tests do so not because the testing is good but because they made a mistake. And many scandals are only revealed through legal action, with athletes linked to doping passing drug tests despite being proven users.

There is a reason the NFL is getting bigger and faster. There is a reason the NBA is getting stronger and faster (look at video of basketball players from the 80s vs today--it's not just the clothing that's bigger). There is a reason hockey players are faster and shifts are more intense, and a reason soccer players are playing more and more matches without running out of gas. There is a reason a star tennis player can bounce back from an epic 5 set match and have a spring in his step a day later. There is a reason Ben Johnson's "untouchable" 9.79 has been shattered and approached by many.

And the reason is not "better conditioning" or "work ethic."

The PED principle is this: If there is a benefit in a sport to doping, athletes will do it. And many of them will become winners.


July 3rd, 2013 at 3:58 PM ^

Perhaps what you say is true but I would argue that the Tour seems to be ground zero for advancements in cheating given its long and "proud" history of having winners stripped of their medals.  

Maybe the answer is to simply toss in the towel and let everybody take whatever they want, whenever they want to and see what happens.  Saturday Night Live did a skit a few years envisioning what that might look like....


July 3rd, 2013 at 4:18 PM ^

You are, in this sense, punishing the Tour not for its history of doping, but for the fact that they are actually addressing cheating in some limited way. Baseball has not in the same way stripped Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire of their records, despite them being just as dirty. Nor have the previously few 100m sprint gold medals been stripped, despite the fact that the sport is just as dirty now as it was in Ben Johnson's day. The NBA and the NFL haven't even come close to addressing the issue, though it is most certainly present in some (very large, I suspect) section of their sports.

The term "ground zero" suggests some responsibility for cheating in other sports, which ignores the actual history of doping in sports and ignores the actual causes and history of doping in sports.

Is cycling a sport with a dirty history? Sure. But we're all college football fans here, and if we think that is a "clean" sport, we are kidding ourselves. Thought experiment: What BCS era national champions do we really think were totally clean, won the right way? Most people on this board probably suspect, as I do, that the SEC is a "wretched hive of scum and villainy," and which conference has been winning titles? 

But we still watch. 

Honestly, the only sport I think I can turn on the television and think, "There's a good chance there is no cheating going on here" is golf. But I don't watch much golf. 


July 3rd, 2013 at 4:29 PM ^

This is really a separate topic, but it's kind of fun, so let's look at that list of BCS champions, and whether or not I think the winners were clean.

1998: Tennessee. No reason to actually think they were dirty, except they are SEC.

1999: FSU. Free Shoes University--dirty.

2000: Oklahoma. As likely to be clean as any BCS champion.

2001: Miami. Known to be dirty before and after, probably dirty here.

2002: OSU. The team of Maurice Clarett. Speaks for itself.

2003: LSU. Nick Saban, SEC. Dirty.

2004: USC. Vacated--known to be dirty.

2005: Texas. I kinda want this one to be clean since the game was so good. But they won a title with GERG as their coordinator... don't you need to cheat to do that?

2006: Florida. Urban Meyer. Actually the likeliest of the entire SEC streak to be clean, but probably still dirty.

2007: LSU. Calling it dirty.

2008: Florida. Had Aaron Hernandez on the team.

2009: Alabama. Nick Saban. SEC. Dirty.

2010: Auburn. Cam Newton. Still can't believe they've gotten away with this. This is like Ben Johnson keeping his gold medal.

2011: Alabama. Nick Saban. SEC. Dirty.

2012: Alabama. Nick Saban. SEC. Dirty.

Final tally: I count three that I subjectively think are clean. There are four that are demonstrated to have dirt on them (FSU/free shoes, OSU, USC, and Auburn) and a bunch which I don't trust at all.

I suddenly feel a bit ill.


July 3rd, 2013 at 3:51 PM ^

To me if they are doing it then there's no advantage, yeah, they are being cynical, and yeah, I wouldn't do it because I don't want to die of a heart attack in 10 years, but still, if they all do it then where's the advantage? They should just go ahead and confess it.


July 3rd, 2013 at 6:16 PM ^

At least cycling is serious about finding and punishing dopers.  The testing in the NBA, NFL, and MLB is a complete joke.  How can you criticize so strongly when the sport you cheer for doesn't even have the balls to find out whether or not its members dope for fear of what it might find? (making the assumption you are at least a football fan given you are a member on the site)

Every sport has it's flaws and yet we keep coming back because we enjoy the drama, storylines, etc.


July 4th, 2013 at 12:43 AM ^

Beyond the fact that cycling has the most stringent testing regime, compare the penalties for first time PED use:

  1. MLB: 50 games (less than a third of a season)
  2. NFL: 4 games (a quarter of a season)
  3. NHL: 20 games (less than a quarter of a season)
  4. NCAA: 1 season*
  5. Cycling: 2 years

*If the test is administered by the NCAA.  Penalties for school administered tests are left to the discretion of the schools.



July 4th, 2013 at 2:17 AM ^

With all of the money tied to sports (both college and pro) you would think they could afford putting stringent testing programs in place to put a big dent in the use of PED's. The fact that players unions have, on occasion, fought against more stringent testing is a travesty. There is no way popular opinion is on the side of doping. This should be the easiest thing to get integrated into collective bargaining agreements and yet, the NHL, MLB, NBA, and NFL have all basically put window dressing programs in place despite going through negotiations all within the past 7 years.
Don't even get me started on the NCAA. I would love to know what pool of money would exist if you took 5% off of the top of all coaches salaries, TV contracts, and merchandise sales. Based on the significant inflation of coach salaries (39% in the last few years at LSU for football if I remember Brian's UV today) 5% wouldn't hurt anybody.


July 4th, 2013 at 2:08 PM ^

Can't wait to see this thing get into the high mountains so all of the GC guys can be let loose. Should be thrilling to watch all of those battles going on. Froome vs Contador is obviously the marquee matchup, but there are a lot of other guys that can make some noise too. I just want to see Van Garderen do well, which might be tough to do seeing as how he's riding in support of Cadel (for now...)


July 5th, 2013 at 1:24 PM ^

I would love to see Ryder distinguish himself as a GC contender in the coming days as well. Don't count out Purito either. There's a ton to look forward to with this Tour