Archive for the ‘Tour de France’ Tag

The Tour Lives   Leave a comment

After the doping revelations in the fall of 2012, I told myself (and anyone who would listen) that I was done D-O-N-E,  with following professional cycling. There would be no following the 2013 Tour de France for me!

Well easier said than done after a person has been avidly following the sport for years. I did avoid most of the first week  but then got a bit curious and picked up a tidbit of information here or there.

Being away from home/internet for a week made it difficult to follow as did the difficulty in finding live TV coverage feeds once I was back – but I did pay a bit of attention. Although it seemed like it would be a wide open contest, with many contenders it turned out to not be all that competitive in the end. Chris Froome of Team Sky won quite handily after the other big names faded away. Nonetheless, he and his team did ride a smart tour and the victory was deserved.

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Posted January 2, 2014 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France

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2012 Tour de France – Wrap-up   Leave a comment

Well, that’s a wrap – the 2012 Tour de France. As I write this, there is still the final ride into Paris but that is largely ceremonial as far as the General Classification is concerned.

Bradley Wiggins won, but more by attrition and by a strong team, than by any personal heroics on his part. It is sad that his most noteworthy moment (to those outside of the UK anyway) will be remembered as his angry, foul-mouthed response to reporter’s questions.

Cadel Evans, the 2011 winner was supposed to challenge Wiggins but he never seemed to be in contention – he was dropped in the mountains and suffered big time losses in the time trial (where he was expected to do much better). I won’t be surprised if we hear some story after the race, about how Evans was hampered by an illness or injury that was not made public during the race.

Frank Schleck positive was a surprise but did I hear correctly that he tested positive for a diuretic which itself was not prohibited but is often used as a masking agent for other banned substances – so Schleck drops out immediately (or did the Radio Shack team make that decision?). I’ll credit Schleck for his cooperation with authorities and give him the benefit of the doubt with his suspicion that he was poisoned. Normally I may not have been so quick to accept that excuse but after the tacks on the road incidence, it does seem like someone may have been trying to influence the results of this year’s Tour.

My favorite competitor in this year’s Tour was Wiggin’s Sky teammate Christopher  Froome. He’s the type of rider I like to watch (and support) one who is strong in the mountains and a good overall competitor. I’ll be watching him closely  next year and if he does end up on a different team, things should get interesting (not to mention how interesting things will be if Andy Schleck is back, and Ryder Hesjedal too).

I was also impressed with some of the sprinting performances – Peter Sagan comes to mind first but also the powerful finish of Mark Cavendish on Stage 18!

Overall, I found this year’s tour to be the most boring that I have seen. Although I faithfully watched the live race coverage everyday (via British Eurosport), I never seemed to really get into the race. I don’t think there was anything wrong with the event, the coverage or the course, It’s just the way things worked out.

The next big event on the cycling calendar is of course the Olympics but I’ve never found Olympic road cycling to be particularly captivating – probably because of the way Olympic TV coverage jumps around from event to event. What I am looking forward to next is the Vuelta d’Espana. I’ve heard very little of who will be riding but I am  looking forward to it nonetheless.

So what did you think of the Tour? Did it meet your expectations?

Posted July 21, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France, Uncategorized

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The 2012 Tour de France has Begun   Leave a comment

I know where I will be every morning for the next 3 weeks – glued to the coverage of the 2012 Tour de France (live web coverage via Eurosport). The Tour is easily my favorite sporting event of the year. I love the way it is different every year – the route changes, the teams and riders change but what stays the same gives it it’s great appeal. There is always some drama, always some unpredicted happenings and undoubtedly there will be some exceptional personal performances.

This year has started with some pre-race controversy. I’m thinking primarily about a number of stories with Team Radio Shack: dissent on the team, unpaid riders, an injured Andy Schleck (who won’t be racing), the drug allegations against Director Johann Bruyneel, Chris Horner’s initial exclusion from the team. They had been my favorite team but now … I just don’t know.

The favorites to win GC this year are defending champion Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins. They could do it but somehow both of these riders leave me a little cold. I don’t dislike them but neither do I have any strong feelings for them. It seems that this year’s line-up lacks riders that evoke strong positive or negative emotions – no great personal rivalries.

So who am I predicting to win? Don’t know! Who am I pulling for? Well I’m going with old-timer Levi Leipheimer. I’ve liked his attitude and personality for years and he is probably getting near the end of his career. It would be nice to see Levi win the GC (or at least get on the podium). If everyone stays healthy and accident free he may be a longshot but if the cards fall in an unfortunate way for the other front runners, Levi could be there.

I’d also love to see Ryder Hesjedal perform well and take it. Common belief say that a rider can’t do well in both the Giro and the Tour (and Hesjedal did win this years Giro). Maybe it’s time to put that old thought to rest. Ryder rode a smart Giro and maybe did not exhaust himself. He may have what it takes to pull off a double – wouldn’t that be something!

Whatever happens I will be enjoying the Tour. I would enjoy it even if just for the coverage of the peleton cruising through the varied and wonderful French landscape.

Who are you pulling for in this years Tour?

Posted June 30, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Uncategorized

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A Well Deserved Rest Day   Leave a comment

The 2011 Tour de France reaches it’s well deserved first rest day – what a start it has been. It has been painful to watch because of all of the pain on the road. Fans need a break too. There were times in that first week when I really questioned if I wanted to continue watching. We all know that there are going to be crashes and there will always be riders having to abandon, but this year has been different in frequency and severity. Stage 9 had not one but two crashes that just made me cringe and I hope I never see anything like them again.
I have to admit that after Vino’s stage 8 attack I was kind of pulling for him and hoping that his last Tour might have a magic moment or two for him. To see the pained look on his face on stage 9 as his teammates carry him up out of that ravine – with a broken femur! – heartbreaking. What a way to kill a dream.
Then there was the second major Stage 9 crash – the France TV car crashing into the breakaway riders. Horrifying and inexcusable! The initial impact was bad, seeing two riders launched from the road was bad and crashing into that fence …
What grit, what character for the two of them (Sky’s Flecha and Vacansoleil-DCM’s Hoogerland) to get back on their bikes and finish the stage – particularly Hoogerland who tangled with the barbed wire fence suffering multiple lacerations and extensive bleeding – what a moving performance. I’m sure hoping the rest day is enough for these two to recover enough to continue but time will tell.
Of course Stage 9 was just one of many crazy crash filled days. Who would have guessed that so many GC contenders (Brajkovic, Wiggins, Horner) would have been knocked out even before the big mountain stages. Other contenders such as Contador and Leipheimer have had multiple crashes, and while they are still riding with no serious injuries, they’ve lost a lot of time and are unlikely to reach the podium in Paris. So far the. Schleck brothers stand out as the lucky, crash-free ones and if I were a betting man…
Of course there is still a lot of racing to come and as we know too well from the first nine days, anything can happen and lots of time can be lost in the Pyrenees and Alps.
So as much as I hate to see the crashes and injuries, you know I will not be able to ignore the rest of this year’s Tour.

Posted July 10, 2011 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France

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Following the Action in Day 1 in the 2011 Tour   2 comments

In yesterday’s post I  talked about my options in following the 2011 Tour de France from here in Canada. As I write, the first stage in nearly complete and here is what I did.

Without digital cable to watch the TSN2 television coverage in Canada, I have resorted to web coverage – and it hasn’t been bad. Without subscribing to the NBC All Access Pass I have not been able to follow the commentary of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen [I just noticed that the all access pass is restricted to U.S. residents only so that option wouldn’t have worked anyway].  What I have been watching is the english language UK web feed from Eurosport via fromsportCOM.  The  biggest drawback to the web feed is the small display window – but it is fine for sitting right in front of the computer screen. Pleasantly, I am finding the commentary on this feed to be good – Phil and Paul are not the only capable commentators.

Not only am I tuned in to the video/commentary feed but I also have a number of other browser windows open for various info on the Tour. Here are the websites I currently have open:

Who am I picking to win this year’s Tour? There would seem to be half a dozen contenders and I think it will come down to the breaks – the good and bad luck of teams and individual riders.  If Contador plays it safe and smart, he should be a favorite. Personal I am pulling for Andy Schleck this year. After a couple of second place  finishes I’d love to see him come out on top this year. I also wish the best for Canadian rider, Ryder Hesjedal  and in terms of teams, I’m cheering for Team Radio Shack. We will see what happens.

Following the 2011 Tour   1 comment

It was the day before the-start-of-the-2011-Tour-de-France and … I am excited, but confused and anxious.

I am excited because the Tour is my favorite sporting event and seeing the French countryside in the TV coverage always makes me smile, partly because of memories of the riding I’ve done in that country.

I am confused and anxious because I am very unsure what my Tour-following experience will be like this year. For a number of years we had pretty decent TV coverage as the OLN Canada cable network had picked up and broadcast the excellent, live and enhanced Versus coverage from the U.S. Then last year (2010) OLN slashed their coverage to just the live coverage in the morning with no broadcast of the extended coverage in thew evening. I was not happy with that situation and lamented that the powers that be should not give Tour broadcast rights for a country unless the network was going to do it right.

So here we are in 2011 and have things improved? Well OLN Canada is not broadcasting the Tour so that sounded promising. The fact that TSN announced that they had the rights sounded good but coverage details have been slow in coming and I don’t like some of what I’ve heard. My first criticism is that the Tour will not be on the main TSN network but on their TSN2 network. TSN2 is a digital channel which I do not have in my cable package, and am not equipped to receive. So do I make an investment for just this 3 week event – is is worth the cost and hassle?

Another problem was that I didn’t know what I would be getting in the TSN2 coverage. From the now available TSN  schedule it appears that TSN2 will be providing the live coverage (approx 0600-0930, local time) and a rebroadcast most afternoons at 1300. There are however 7 days when the rebroadcast will be on regular TSN network (which will not require digital cable capability), in the evening.

Until very recently I wasn’t sure from where TSN2 was going to pick up their commentary feed. I  am very happy to discover that they will in fact be featuring the Versus team of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwan and the often corny, but so delightful, Bob Roll.

At this point I will probably make do with the web coverage of le Tour for a day or two and see if that’ll be adequate. I have also been considering the NBC/Versus All Access Pass for enhanced web coverage of the Tour.

If  these web options don’t cut it, I may have to splurge for additional cable hardware and channel packages. One way or another though, I will be (virtually) there. I am excited – for the Tour always has drama, unpredictability and of course, great scenery.

 

How will you be following the 2011 Tour de France (especially from Canada)?

 

Posted July 1, 2011 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France

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Tour de France 2010 – Week 1   2 comments

Monday July 12 – Rest day, after 8 stages done.

Like many cycling fans my heart dropped watching the bad luck that befell Lance Armstrong and killed his hopes of winning or even reaching the podium in this his final Tour.  He has had bad luck throughout the first week but the triple whammy on the Station des Rousses – Morzine-Avoriaz stage was sad to see. I have long been an admirer of Lance and deep down I was really pulling for the “old guy” to dig down and pull out his magic again. Even before yesterday’s Stage 8, Lance had probably crashed (or got caught up in others’ misfortunes) more times in the first week of this Tour than in his seven-year run of victories.

When he went down, I like every one watching the TV coverage saw Lance swap his bike and then the shot of the back of his jersey being scraped up. I wondered how that happened. It wasn’t until later that I saw a video taken by a spectator on the other side of the road. From that fixed perspective one is reminded of the speed the riders are traveling at. Then all of a sudden there is one cyclist flying along upside down, on his back. That of course was Lance and it made me sick to watch it and all the more in admiration that he was able to get back to the front of the peleton before eventually succumbing to  the pace and his injuries.

It just goes to show how fascinating and perhaps unfair this sport of cycling can be. A rider can be in the best shape of his life but be in the wrong place at the wrong time and it can all be over in a hurry. I  wonder how the first bit of bad luck can lead a rider to over-think his riding a bit, resulting in split second delays which can lead to subsequent bad situations. I also have to wonder how wounds from one crash can slow down one’s reaction times ever so slightly but again enough to leave a rider in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Even with the Lance factor neutralized it still looks to be a very interesting last couple of weeks. Contador looks strong although maybe not as dominating as we expected – but I was very impressed with his team support.  Andy Schleck looks really capable (even without the support of his injured-out brother Frank). Then of course there is still Levi Leipheimer. He is a very strong rider and if he was on just about any team other than Radio Shack he would have been the leader and GC-contender from day 1. Put the resources of team Radio Shack (arguably one of the top teams in the tour) behind him alone and he could easily reach the podium. This one ain’t over yet!

I also don’t think it is all over for Lance. I’m sure he will live his line and “LiveStrong”. He has stated his intent to finish the tour and to enjoy it. Could he have a stage win or two in him. I can imagine the main contenders not worrying about him for GC and letting him go on a break. Get a couple Radio Shack team mates with him and it could be interesting. Probably not gain-back-12-minutes-back -into-podium-contention interesting but I’m thinking a top-10 finish is not yet out of the question – or how about Lance making a run for the polka-dot jersey???

Yes it will be interesting and I get wait for the action to resume tomorrow!