Tour de France


STAGE 12 : July 11

Fougères → Tours

Pan Flat

As my dad said, today we may have seen the mantle of Europe’s dominant sprinter pass from Cavendish to Kittel. Third stage win for the German and his second in three days.


I read somewhere he was using a 56 x 11, which is a fucking beast.

Otherwise a stage about as dramatic as the ‘pan flat’ course, i.e. not very. Five men were out in front for most of the race, none of them higher than 63rd in the GC: Gavazzi (78), Sicard (136), Mori (63), Flecha (71), Delaplace (124).


I do love to see a breakaway, though. I love it when they’re doomed. The less well known the riders, the better. The longer they stay away, the better. If they fall and get back on and fight again like Kadri did in stage 2, the best.

I love that domestiques have their own calculus of glory that begins 5km or so into the race with the first attacks and ends when the peloton kicks into high gear and thunders up behind them. Gavazzi? Sicard? Today we speak their names and that’s not nothing.

For obvious reasons this is why it was so thrilling to see Jan Bakelants hold off the pack and win stage 2. There was plenty of focus on Froome before the Tour started, but Jan Bakelants? Now we know about him.

Flecha was the fighter in the break, the longest to hold out, and got le numéro rouge today:


By the way — and I warn you this is NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART — here’s Flecha with superhuman bike-handling skill surviving that horrific crash in stage 4 of the 2010 Tour de Suisse: Watch it on YouTube, I can’t bear it!

And speaking of crashes, Svein Tuft of Orica slid out on the roundabout and that wasn’t even the big one near the finish that took Griepel out of the sprint:


At the line, Kittel is too big for Cavendish:


Or maybe Cavendish hasn’t seen Chariots of Fire:


We need more Harold Abrahams in the peloton! I came across this recently: ‘You have two choices: A) suck, B) practice.’ The more they talk about Froome winning the whole race, or about the ‘least bad day,’ even while noting that there are hard stages to come, the more I want to say that Valverde, Contador, and maybe Evans (leaving Schleck out): You have two options: accept or punish. VeloNews says ‘many see Sky as vulnerable to more aggression in the Tour’s second half’ but this mainly means that other guys need to get aggressive. It’s often said that the yellow jersey puts a target on the back of the rider who wears it — well, yeah! Who’s willing to take a shot?

This is unfair, of course. I don’t have any access to the minds of these riders and can’t possibly imagine the conversations and mood on the Movistar or Saxo-Tinkoff team bus. And granted, my reaction is largely to the narrative that’s gathering around the race and there’s no way to know how much, if at all, the riders have internalized it.

So the question is, why even talk about the race being over and going to Froome now — what’s the fun in it? The more we talk about points jersey and individual stage wins, the more we’ve conceded the central drama of the yellow jersey to Froome. Needless to say I grew up a Red Sox fan in the long-suffering years before 2004 and have never understood the appeal of rooting for the favorite. What miracle can they deliver? (That was the 100th World Series in 2004, by the way, so maybe 100s are for underdogs — go, Quintana!)

None of this is to run Froome down. He’s ridden hard and smart, especially in stage 9 letting Movistar do all the work. But it would be great to see some aggression from Valverde. For some reason I suspect he’s got some strength in reserve and as I mentioned before with Quintana as a teammate in the Alps (and Costa — all three men are in the top 10 today), he’s got an advantage over Contador. Whether it’s an advantage over Froome will depend somewhat on his main lieutentants Kennaugh and Porte, who did so much in stage 8 to dominate the race and put Froome in yellow.

Some notes:

Griepel carrying some water bottles up to his team, good man:


After the peloton caught Sicard, with about 37 km and the break down to four men, Kirby observed dryly: ‘These guys have had much of the day to themselves and, uh, it’s over for them. It’s as simple as that.’ I wrote most of the above before he said this, but my point exactly. Things like that give me a little rush of feeling, I can’t help it.

Bear in mind this post was written in that awful heightened-stress that only computer-related frustrations can produce. It’s been a disaster lately and today I ended up watching a pirated Eurosport feed that overlaid audio ads on Kirby and Kelly every few minutes. It’s all such a clusterfuck — the online experience is getting worse and there are too few sites and services fighting the good fight and we’re up against too many corporations, ad networks, and developers who just don’t care.

This is what the fucking NBC Sports feed ($30 for access to the whole Tour) has become:

Here is your daily champion for Stage 12:
André LeDucq
Leducq at right with hands on hips, with the Belgian Georges Ronsse.
Winner in ’30 and ’32. Wonderful account of the close finish in ’32 on, as always, 100 Tours 100 Tales.
Please email me if you own the copyright to any of the above images and would like an image credit or link, or it you do not want them displayed. Thanks.