Friday, July 24, 2009

Stage 18: Time Trial

Annecy, the Venice of the Alps. They actually raced around a lake, but I found this to be an interesting picture.

At first I didn't find this stage this interesting, as the riders are just racing against the clock rather than each other. (Each rider starts three minutes later than the previous one.) However, it got more interesting as it went on, as the riders higher up in the standings finally went.

Something new I learned: time-trials are something of a specialty. It's why the riders have different bikes, helmets, and clothing in this stage. Riders like Bradley Wiggins (GBR, team Garmin Slipstream) are so good at it that this stage should have moved him up in the overall standings. Meanwhile, the Schleck brothers (LUX, team Saxo Bank), though being good in the Alps, were supposed to lose quite a bit of time.

However, not much really changed. Perhaps at this level, there are no slouches in any event? Andy Schleck in particular lost just a little time to the overall leaders, just 1:45 to Alberto Contador (SPN, team Astrana). Quite incredibly (to me anyway) Contador won this stage. He didn't really have to win it, as the people ahead of him on this day were well-behind him in the overall standings, but evidently it's a manner of pride for the guy wearing the yellow jersey to win this stage. (Lance did it several times.)

I took a vacation day today, pretty much just to watch this. (That, and I just didn't feel like going into work.) I'm kicking myself for not picking up on the event during its earlier stages. The Tour de France happens just once a year, so I'll definitely have to watch is from start-to-finish next year.

Interestingly enough, Lance is racing for Team Astana. It's a group of state-owned companies in Kazakhstan! (Astana is the capital of that country.) The leader, Alberto Contador, is on the same team. I'm guessing that country got tired of all the Borat jokes....

Lance's brakes. They're placed to reduce wind resistance. I'm wondering what the downsides to such a placement are. And if there aren't any, then why don't all bikes have their brakes here?

Christophe Moreau, FRA, Agritubel. Despite being 38 years old, he finished 8th in this stage, just 45 seconds behind Contador.

George Hincapie's bootie. (And if I can mention it without sounding too gay, that dude has some solid legs!) He wrecked a few days ago, and may have broken his collarbone. However, he's not going to the doctor until after the race, because he doesn't want to be disqualified at this point.

Best pic I could get of the strange elliptical gear of Bradley Wiggins. I think he was the only rider with such a gear. It's supposed to provide a rider with more power.

In the future, we'll all wear helmets like Andy's.


Anonymous said...

I enjoy watching the TdF on Versus. Much better commentary than with most sporting events, and the displays of athletic ability are just amazing.

One thing that never fails to amuse me is the way many spectators must camp out for hours or even days (you can tell by all the RV's) to get good viewing spots. From which they can watch the riders zoom by in a few seconds :)


Kirk said...

Yeah, that is kind of a funny point. At least a lot of the campers have satellite dishes though, so they won't miss the rest of the race. Also, like winged-helmet-man, some might catch it several times over the three weeks it goes on.

On a side note, I'm surprised to see campers in Europe. For some bizarre reason, I guess I always thought of them as a U.S. thing.

As for fans: the only ones who annoy me are the ones who run alongside. Some of them get too close; Contador had to swat a couple of them. I've seen other riders swatting at them too. (Although in stage 20, Lance just handed one of his empty water bottles to a jogger.) I also don't like the ones who swarm the road to the point that you can't even tell where the riders are supposed to go.

Regardless off all that, I can't see a bicycle race across America ever getting this much attention. That's too bad. I just finished watching stage 20, and that was intense.