Twisted Spoke

My twisted take on the world of pro bike racing.

Archive for the ‘Tour de France 2009’ Category

Where ya headed, Mr. Contador? The man in yellow searches for home.

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Where am I going? I have no idea.

Where am I going? I have no idea.

The Tour de France was easy. Where are you going, Alberto? Straight up. The Pyrenees, the Alps. Now, post tour, the question of where Alberto is headed is a lot more complicated.

Instead of going team by team, TS proposes starting with the rider himself. A man who’s won the last 4 grand tours he’s ridden. What does the man from Pinto require?

Habla Espagnol?

Contador is a young Spanish rider of 26 who– surprise– prefers to speak Spanish. Winning a grand tour is hard enough without a language barrier. Clearly unhappy with the English slant of team Astana, El Pistelero wants a team where he doesn’t need a translator. Contador is not buying a Spanish-Belgian dictionary to stick in his jersey pocket. With two tours in the bag, people learn your language, not the other way around. Done with that.

Please, no Texans.

Contador does not want a replay of the Armstrong situation. He doesn’t want to see any Texas flags anymore, or drunk lunatics running along side him with longhorns mounted on football helmets. He doesn’t want to see American flags. He doesn’t want to take questions from anyone who wasn’t born in Spain. The Garmin rumors? Amusing but misguided. A team with two riders in the top 10 and a hard core anti-drug stance is not taking on a rider who refused a DNA test when questioned in the Operacion Puerto investigation. Not in a 100 years.

My team, not our team.

The year of sharing is over and it was an experience Alberto never wants to relive. Two kids in the sand box fighting over the firetruck. It was ugly and that’s history. Before he signs a contract, there will be a guarantee that everyone has one loyalty: to him. He’s not sharing with Wiggins, Valverde, Vinokourov, Evans, Menchov or anybody else. Why should he? Sure, he doesn’t tweet as well as Armstrong but he’s 10 years younger.

Astana is not the Answer.

Why would he ride for a team that was just gutted? The best riders are following Bruyneel and Armstrong to Radio Shack. And this is a team that couldn’t even pay riders during the tour of Italy. Sure, they’re offering a huge wad of cash but is that money real? Sounds like Kazak monopoly money. Two bottles of cheap vodka say this will never happen. Again, Alberto wants stability. Besides, if he hated Armstrong, he’ll double-triple hate Vinokourov even worse when he comes back and wants top billing. An unqualified disaster.

No start-ups, please.

This is not a start-up situation. The man has nothing to prove. So a year or two building a squad is a waste of time. Dominance doesn’t take a step backward. So no team Sky. Besides the fact a new team could never at this late date bring in the riders he needs to win a three week tour. Clownish scenarios involving a rich Spanish formula one driver with bathtubs of cash to front a new team are just that – clownish.

So where is Alberto Contador headed? The one place he was always headed, folks: the Spanish powerhouse Caisse d’Epargne. A team stocked with strong riders, a good sized budget, a solid infrastructure and loads of Spanish riders who don’t need translation help for the phrase “you’re riding for Alberto.”

Yeah they’ll find need to find an additional sponsor plus another year of financial support. Not that hard to scrounge up for a talent as big as Contadors’. Star rider Alejandro Valverde has already said he’ll ride of Contador — and that’s if Valverde avoids the serious possibility of a 2 year drug ban. If he’s gone, all the better. It’s a done deal, amigos.

Quickstep, Rabobank, Garmin, Team Sky? Jesus, you must be joking. May Cadel Evans’ dog Molly soil your carpet if you think otherwise.

Written by walshworld

July 30, 2009 at 6:40 am

The Armstrong Contador divorce. Calling all lawyers.

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I hate you and you hate me.

I hate you and you hate me.

Like a nasty couple long overdue for divorce, the reactions from Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong require a referee or better yet a team of lawyers.

Accusations flew fast and furious Monday with the Tour de France gag order over. Addressing the Spanish media, Contador said he had zero respect for the Texan and stated that on a personal level he had no admiration for Armstrong.

Not long after, Armstrong responded with a barrage of tweets, everything from “If I were him I’d drop this drivel and start thanking his team” to his afternoon counter-punch, “What did I say in March? Lots to learn. Restated.”

The relationship is beyond repair and the aftermath isn’t pretty. The following engagements, play dates and invitations have now been definitively cancelled.

Contador has been crossed off Lance’s September 18th birthday party in Austin. Alberto has already returned the wheel chair gag gift he bought on ebay.

Contador rescinded his invitation to the Fiesta de San Anton in January in Alberto’s hometown of Pinto, Spain. “Why would I want to eat pinto beans with him?” said Armstrong.

Lance has threatened legal action if Contador does not return the Kings of Leon CD and a special edition Texas Longhorns sweatshirt he let him borrow. The Spanish rider denied having the items but asked Amrstrong to give back the socks he lent him.

Lance has erased Contador from his linkedin connections and Alberto has wiped out Lance’s access to his Facebook page.

A promise by Contador to babysit Lance’s four kids if he won the tour was rescinded. Not to be outdone, Lance immediately cancelled Alberto’s invite to SXSW, the annual music and technology festival in Austin in mid March.

In addition, plans for Alberto to hang with Lance and Matthew McConaughey and meet some really hot Hollywood chicks were cancelled. The tentative date for Alberto and Lance to run the bulls together in Pamplona was put on hold forever. Yeah, it’s ugly. They’re too busy goring each other to bother with angry bulls in the streets.

Things really got ugly when Contador said he would henceforth refer to Armstrong as “that decrepit old man from Texas.” Lance responded by calling Contador a “wussy.” Johan Bruyneel said he’d ordered Contador to stop making so many “unscripted” remarks but the Spanish rider apparently told Bruyneel to shove a bunch of Belgian frites up his mouth.

The depth of the animosity surprised the most jaded sports journalists: Alberto returned the box of Livestrong bracelets he promised to sell. Armstrong for his part, reportedly trashed the Rosetta Stone Spanish Lessons he’d bought.

He also warned Contador he’d get no special Radio Shack discounts on electronics, cell phones or computer accessories. Contador fired back that he’d make sure no tapas restaurant in Spain would serve the Texan.

When asked for comment on the vicious Armstrong Contador feud, famed cycling commentator Phil Liggett said “oh my.” This story is far from over and makes the Lemond Hinault dispute look like two kids arguing over popsicles.

Written by walshworld

July 28, 2009 at 6:06 am

Cavendish crushes sprint rivals on Champs Elysees. Contador wins 2nd Tour de France.

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Six tour stage wins, no competition.

Six tour stage wins, no competition.

Mark Cavendish won his sixth stage on the Champs Elysees in a photo-finish. The photo was required to determine if there were any other sprinters in the race. After a close examination by judges, the answer was a definitive no.

The Manx Missile provided a slight variation in style today in Paris. The crushing win instead of the easy win. Thor Hushovd must feel like the slowest green jersey winner in tour history. Tyler Farrar will need several months with a sports psychologist to recover from his inferiority complex. The rest of the sprinters were hiding in a Parisian cafe somewhere, watching the action on TV.

In a switch of tactics, Garmin-Slipstream tried to derail the Columbia train, sending Vande Velde, Miller and Dean up front. For a few hundred meters things looked promising. Then big George Hincapie muscled in with Mark Renshaw and the outcome was assured. Cavendish finished first, lead-out man Renshaw second, the rest of the sprinters out of the picture entirely. A rider can buy illegal blood boosters but where can you pick up black-market fast-twitch fiber?

Lance Armstrong completed his astounding comeback at age 37 to join two youngsters, Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, on the podium. Though he finished 5:24 behind the winner, the Texan plans to fight for the maillot jaune next year with his new Radio Shack team. Armstrong skipped the team celebration for Contador to have dinner with his new sponsors. But for now, it’s not about the bike — “I’m ready to go home. It’s been a long three weeks as usual,” said Armstrong. “I am ready to go on vacation, for sure.”

Mark Cavendish will also book himself a nice vacation. But not the rest of his competitors — they will be taking some remedial courses in sprinting.

Written by walshworld

July 26, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Armstrong rides up Mont Ventoux to Tour podium. Garate wins stage 20.

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Lance Armstrong rides onto the Tour podium.

Lance Armstrong rides onto the Tour podium.

The old fart triumphed.

Lance Armstrong secured third place in the Tour de France in todays brutal, windy 12.5 mile climb up the feared Mont Ventoux.

After nearly 4 years retirement, he’s back in a familiar place: the podium. In his post-race interview, a fresh-looking Armstrong told Versus, “an old fart coming in here, getting on the podium with all these young guys, that’s not bad.”

The winner of seven tours was never in difficulty, closing down any gaps to his chief rivals. Despite nearly a dozen attacks from his brother Andy, Frank Schleck failed to pry himself away from Armstrong’s’ wheel. A tenacious Bradley Wiggins, who began the day just 16 seconds behind Armstrong, faded near the summit. Astana teammate Andreas Kloden, also in contention for the third spot,  yo-yoed off the lead group and was not a factor.

In the end the “bald giant of Provence” showed who the strong men were in this year’s tour. Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck and Lance Armstrong climbed the moonscape of Ventoux together through a screaming crowd estimated at over 700,000. “I’ve never seem to many people on Ventoux,” said Armstrong. Seemed like half of America and all of France.”

The glory went to Jaun Manuel Garate of Rabobank, who broke away with a dozen riders after just three riders. The relentless gradient whittled the group down to two, Garate and Team Columbia’s Tony Martin, with the Spaniard sprinting to victory inside the 1k banner.

Perhaps Armstrong was already picturing himself at next year’s Tour de France with his new Radio Shack team. “I felt good. I can’t complain. I had the legs.” Lookout, Alberto Contador.

Written by walshworld

July 25, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Cavendish takes 5th Tour win. Columbia train rolls over the hills.

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Stage win number five, hill version.

Stage win number five, hill version.

Mark Cavendish was having Milan-San Remo flashbacks.

Before the brash sprinter from the Isle of Man won the hilly classic this year, the experts said he’d never get over the Cipressa and  Poggio climbs. He proved them wrong and at just 24 years of age won the storied race they call La Primavera.

The profile for today’s 178km stage from Bourgoin-Jallieu to Aubenas looked distinctly San Remo — with the summit of a hard category 2 climb just 16 kilometers from the finish line. No doubt strong sprinters like Oscar Friere and Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar had their hopes high. Maybe, just maybe, the Manx Missile would never get to the launch pad.

Well, Hushovd may have locked up the green jersey but Cavendish now has his 5th win of this tour. “That will go down as the most memorable win of my career,” said Boy Racer. “It wasn’t a stage for me but I said to the guys just wait for me on the climb… I just hung in there, hung in there, hung in there. With 300 or 250 [metres] to go it was too far for me to go but I had to.”

Cavendish went early and Thushovd closed as Friere and Ciolek watched helplessly from behind. Most journalists already had their headlines written when the Manxman hit the line. Back slaps for everyone in the Columbia train and a another chapter for the sequel to the Boy Racer biography. The odds of Cavendish not winning the final stage on the Champs Elysees: a million to one.

It was an uneventful day for the yellow jersey contenders as they conserved precious energy for tomorrow’s dreaded climb up Mont Ventoux. The only news flash was four seconds long — the four that Lance Armstrong gained over podium rival Bradley Wiggins when the lead group split slightly. Note for tour riders: the Master never sleeps.

And when it comes to sprint stages, the Manxman never loses.

Written by walshworld

July 24, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Armstrong’s new Team Radio Shack. The first shopping spree.

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First Peek: Armstrong's Radio Shack team-issue karaoke machine

First Peek: Armstrong's Radio Shack team-issue karaoke machine

Lance Armstrong announced today the formation of his new Radio Shack pro tour cycling team. That is tremendously exciting and Radio Shack already has a team microsite — which we first noted on the always fabulous letourbabe blog.

Although contracts and negotiations are still in progress for bikes, wheels and jerseys, Armstrong has quickly made several significant moves. According to informed sources, Armstrong’s people have been on a shopping spree at Radio Shack preparing for next year’s Tour De France.

A short list of items purchased:

Surveillance cameras. This 12 camera systems will establish a perimeter around the team bus and hotel to keep nosey UCI people out and make sure Contador’s new squad isn’t snooping around.

A shiatsu Massage cushion. Physical therapists and acupuncturists are expensive. Everybody on team Radio Shack will be using the new shiatsu cushion. There’s a choice of two massage styles: deep kneading or soothing rolling massage. Yeah, that’s recovery Radio Shack style.

The Amplivox wireless lectern. Get ready for those Tour de France press conferences in style. Comes with a  professional cardioid dynamic handheld microphone with 15-foot cord! Expect to see this snazzy oak lectern at every stage wrap-up.

The STVG999 Karaoke Machine. What says team unity like singing old top 40 songs together? Lance is taking no chances next time around. There will be no tensions between riders when the music gets going and Lance takes the mic to croon some Sinatra or Abba tunes.

The Bushnell Northstar telescope. The smart teams know recovery is far more than sitting around watching tv and surfing the net. Getting the whole team together right before bed and spreading out one big cozy blanket is a wonderfully therapeutic and relaxing way to end the day.

TriSquare 2-way walkie-talkies. Lance is always thinking, always ahead of the game. What if the Tour organizers insist on a full radio ban next year? Plenty of teams will be in deep doo-doo. But the regulations never said anything about walkie-talkies.

There you have it. Team Radio Shack. Ready to rumble in 2010.

Written by walshworld

July 23, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Contador beats Cancellera by 3 seconds in final Tour time trail. Armstrong climbs back on podium.

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Goodbye Lance, goodbye Johan.

Goodbye Lance, goodbye Johan.

There are few things more impressive than watching Lance Armstrong in a time trial, a race car engine with legs, tucked in over his bike, pounding out a relentless pace. The race against the clock is a summation of who he is: confident, powerful, driven and perfectionist.

It’s like Jordan shooting a fade-away or Derek Jeter crushing a fastball. After the Shleck brothers knocked him back to 4th after yesterday’s mountain stage, Armstrong fought his way back onto the podium with just Mount Ventoux left. Not bad for nearly 38 with 12 screws in your collarbone. Though he finished the stage 1:30 behind in 16th place, it still gave him an 11 cushion on Bradely Wiggins, who slots in at fourth place overall. It was vintage Armstrong.

Alberto Contador turned in a performance reminiscent of the Texan when he dominated the tours. The Spanish rider showed he’s not only the strongest climber but also one of the best time trialers, beating a surprised and disappointed Fabian Cancellera by three seconds. It sent a forceful message on a day when Armstrong announced the formation of his new Radio Shack team — I’m stronger than Lance, I don’t need Bruyneel and I’ll ride for whatever team I want next year.

As expected, Bradley Wiggins picked up time on rivals Frank Schleck and Andreas Kloden but the odds of him beating Armstrong up the 21 kilometer climb to Ventoux and stealing the final podium stop are slim and zilch. He could easily fall back to 6th after the grueling ascent. Mr. Day By Day appears done.

Written by walshworld

July 23, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Frank Schleck wins Tour stage 17. Contador’s attack damages Armstrong and Kloden.

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I'm in the yellow jersey. I don't take orders from anybody.

I'm in the yellow jersey. I don't take orders from anybody.

The Brothers Schleck attacked two riders. One attack succeeded, the other failed.

Attacking at the base of the Col de Roome, Andy and Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) succeeded in breaking away from Bradley Wiggins (Garmin) gaining time on him before the British time trialer tries to return the favor in Thursdays’ race against the clock.

Unfortunately, despite repeated attempts on the Cole de Colombiere, they couldn’t crack Alberto Contador who stayed epoxyed to their wheels until finally putting in his own attack two kilometers from the summit. The three best climbers in this tour reached the finish line together,with the Spanish rider giving the stage win to Frank Schleck. The joy on Andy’s face showed how close a bond the brothers have.

The loser on the day appeared to be Wiggins and Armstrong, who were both displaced on the overall classification by the dynamic duo from Luxembourg. Wiggins fell to sixth at almost 5 minutes behind the yellow jersey. Although his teammate Christian Vande Velde did everything but push him up the mountain, Wiggins faded. His chance for a podium rests on the time trial and a miracle ride on Ventoux — a tall order for a rider nobody expected to be anywhere near the top 20 when the tour began.

Armstrong, on the other hand,  was the victim of yet another ‘unscripted” attack from Contador. Despite Johan Bruyneel’s order to follow wheels, Contador accelerated, dropping his own teammate Kloden and essentially helping the Shlecks jump ahead of Armstrong in the overall. Loyalties seem to be fraying as rumors swirl that Bruyneel and Armstrong will leave Astana to launch a new team. Contador may well feel the jersey is his and there’s no compelling reason to follow team directives.

It could have been worse for Armstrong who again demonstrated his strength, dropping Wiggins near the summit, then bombing the descent to catch Kloden and finish seventh on the stage. Alberto gained more time against Wiggins but severely damaged the chances of an all Astana podium. Not something that Lance or Andreas will appreciate after 2 weeks work.

Armstrong has proven true to his word that he would work for Contador. It’s one thing to know he won’t win an 8th tour but quite another to be knocked completely off the podium by your own guy for no reason. Armstrong said after the Dauphine Libere that Contador “has a lot to learn.” Lance must be tired of saying that by now.

Written by walshworld

July 23, 2009 at 12:42 am

Astarolza wins Tour stage 16. Schleck attacks fail. A call to Dr Frankenstein.

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The Schleck brothers before the operation.

The Schleck brothers before the operation.

Mikel Astaroloza wins the Saint Bernard climb. Woof. Give the man an hour massage and a snifter of brandy. He must be doggone tired.

The same is true for the brothers Schleck who  spent most of the climb laboring to distance Alberto Contador. One attack by Andy , then a surge from Frank, then Andy again. They split the lead group but never got rid of the Spanish rider in the yellow jersey.

When Lance Armstrong bridged up to them with an impressive display of power, all hope and motivation for the Luxembourg boys was gone. Just 30 kilometers downhill; back to the hotel and the drawing board.

The only way the Shlecks beat Contador is to physically combine forces using some up-dated Frankenstein biotechnology. One body with two hearts pumping twice the oxygenated blood. It’s possible manager Bjarne Riis has the operation set up for tonight. Don’t be shocked when only one Shleck signs in Wednesday at Bourg-Saint-Maurice. Sure tip-off: Riis shouting “It’s alive” outside the Saxo Bank bus.That would be Frankenandy Schleck and he’ll be scary good.

Bradley Wiggins continues to astound and defy expectations. Riding on Contador’s wheel, he even put in an acceleration in order to assess the condition of the leaders. He wore the relaxed expression of a man who expects to be on the podium.

There’s been much talk about whether Lance Armstrong will return next year. His out-of-the-saddle accelerations to regain the front group made it clear that physically he’s 95% back. And he’s on record saying he’ll get that high-end gear back with another 12 months training. And that is almost as scary as Frankenandy.

Tomorrow is another punishing day in the Alps. Don’t count out the Schlecks. But don’t count too closely: if the operation is a success, there may only be one.

Written by walshworld

July 21, 2009 at 9:39 pm

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