Garate (ESP, Rabobank) and Martin (GER, HTC-Columbia) nearing the 1km mark.
First off, let me cheer the widespread use of the word "penultimate" in the telecast. The announcers and even some of the riders used it freely, and they knew what it meant.
That said, as exciting at this stage was (and a big thanks to Chrysler, for making the last hour commercial-free), it didn't change the overall standings of the Tour de France. Andy Schleck couldn't shake Contador, and Frank Schleck couldn't gain on Lance. So, the podium in Paris remained the same.
However, Andy made in interesting, blasting ahead at unpredictable intervals...
Andy, trying to drag Frank up to third place.
Also, the two British announcers couldn't help cheering for one of their own, Bradley Wiggins. With regards to Wiggins, I heard them say: "[he's]riding with sheer courage", "Stay there!","Come on, Bradley!"
Come on, Bradley!
I guess it was nice, that he managed to keep his fourth place position. All in all though, kudos really have to go to Tony Martin and Manuel Garate. Even though Martin was 55 minutes behind the lead, and Garate was 97 minutes behind, they still competed against each other for the stage win.
In the end, Garate had the legs. Martin's young though; he has many tours left ahead of him.
Maybe Rabobank will continue their sponsorship now?
Well, I've done it now. I was all excited to watch Stage 20 today, as it culminates in the climb up the notorious Mont Ventoux. And I even started watching it. However, I kept finding myself wanting to write a post about yesterday's stage, Stage 19.
Apparently, I can't enjoy watching a stage until I've posted about the previous one. If this desire recurs next year, I may have to take my entire vacation during the Tour de France, just to give me time to write!
Though this stage was flat, the flatness helped a little to see all the riders. For the first time, I could see pretty much all of them, including the peloton. (The peloton is the biggest group of riders. Smaller groups behind the lead are called chases, like chase 1 and chase 2.)
Pretty much everybody, including the peloton.
They had a little segment called "rules of the peloton." It's considered bad form to attack while everyone is having a meal break (they eat while riding), or when the leaders are taking a leak (which they don't do while riding).
They normally don't show this. I always wondered how they could ride five hours straight.
Also, this area has a lot of scenery. Though the tour is no longer riding through the Alps, there was still a lot to see.
An abbey, built in 1984. It houses only fourteen monks. It looks a little too big for just fourteen guys; I'm guessing being a monk isn't as popular as it used to be. I wonder how they keep it running.
Barge on the Rhone. The tour has crossed this river many times.
Peloton crossing a dam
Anyway, the average speed at some points of this stage was almost thirty miles an hour. I was glad to see Team Rabobank out front for a good portion of the stage. They haven't achieved much over the tour. According to the announcers, it was largely due to bad luck. Regardless, there was talk of Rabobank dropping their sponsorship next year. Though they didn't win this stage, they were out front for much of it, and were part of what drove the fast pace. Perhaps this will keep their sponsor happy enough to roll the dice next year.
Rabobank's Denis Menchov (who has crashed three times), tempo-making for their sprinter, Oscar Freire. He's followed by the four overall frontrunners: Lance Armstrong(w/black helmet), Contador (in yellow), Andy Scheck, and Bradley Wiggins.
The guy wearing the winged helmet, and carrying the American flag: I swear I saw him at one of the Alpine stages. He must be travelling all over the country to follow this race.
Most of the end of the race, saw Allesandro Ballan, ITA, and Laurent Lefevre, FRA, out in front. However, the peloton was catching up quickly...
Peloton, with Rabobank's Oscar Freire, SPN, taking a shortcut through the grass. Apparently this is okay, as it's so risky: riders typically fall of their bikes when trying this..
However, it would be Mark Cavendish, (GBR, Columbia-HTC) who would pull off the stage win. It was his ninth stage victory, a new record for Great Britain.
Mark Cavendish. The first twelve riders, including Lance Armstrong, all had his time, as when bikes overlap one after another, they all get the same time. Oscar Friere was fifth, while one of only two Japanese riders in the race, Fumiyuki Neppu (Skil-Shimano), was seventh.
Interestingly enough, it was "shrewd" for Lance to be in the front group, as he lost no time to the other top riders. The others lost four seconds to him, as they were in the second group. Things like this make the difference between being on the podium in Paris, or not.
Lance is now third overall. With this finish, he is now 15 seconds ahead of 4th-place Bradley Wiggins.
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.
From 2008. (Andy Sheck, getting white jersey. I think that's for "Best New Rider," or "Best Young Rider." I can't remember.) Just an example showing how classy all the ceremonies are.
Cookin' with Lance, late in Stage 17 (Wednesday the 22nd). He's doing well, for a 37year old. He seems to really come alive on long, hard, uphills. As I'm only five years older than him, I feel like a slob. Heck, there's a 40 year-old in the race, and a couple of 39 and 38 year-olds.
Early leader in Stage 17, Thor Hushovd, of Norway, for Team Cervelo. Interesting, how some riders ride out way in front at certain times, in order to win points and jerseys. (Green jersey has to do with best sprinter, polka dot jersey is for "King of the Mountain", etc.) He got something out of his run in front, but I don't know exactly what it was. I was amazed though, at how the front-runners for the tour zipped by him later. He must have been leading for a good two hours, then the last three hours you didn't even see him he was so far back.
Jens Voigt, GER, crashing on a descent in Stage 16 (Tues the 21st). He didn't even seem to hit anything. He just went BAM! He landed on his face, breaking a cheekbone. He was even knocked unconscious for a few moments. And his bike even kicked up sparks as he slid!
Heinrich Haussler, riding the top tube of his bike. Not a recommended technique for amateurs!
This is the first time the race has been broadcast in HD. It's also the first time I've watched it. Holy mackerel, it looks good. I've watched only a few stages of it so far, but I'm starting to get hooked on it. One thing I like, is that there's not much to understand. Like track and field, you can pretty much tell who's winning. Also, it seems like a pure sport to me, in that the win comes from a mix of effort, desire, strength, and stamina. This is unlike many other sports, which require the mastery of some arcane skills.
Though I don't quite understand what all the jerseys are for, and there are undoutedly complexities in bicycling I'm not even aware of, I'm far closer to understanding what's going on than when I'm watching tennis.
The only problem is, watching these guys makes me feel fat!