03 August 2015

The sad case of Tom Danielson

And why Danielson is not like Di Luca

When I awoke early this Monday morning to a tweet from a cycling friend in Indiana with the simple words, "Looks like you were right all along." My first reaction was, I don't like when I am right. What has happened now? Tom Danielson: A Sample, positive for synthetic testosterone. Cannondale-Garmin: NOT CLEAN.

How surprising - not at all. How tragic - yes. For Tom - who cares.

Poor Tom Danielson.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®

Tragic not because we actually believed doping had exited out the front door of pro cycling (while partially returning through the back door). Not tragic because we believed that Tom Danielson - via continued high salary and stage wins - had seen the light, was suddenly a changed man and no longer doping. Tragic because today's breaking news of Danielson's positive doping test represents the reputation of a team. THE team which based its entire premise on racing clean.

Truth #1: We might think of Italian Danelo Di Luca as the lowliest of doping slime but he didn't bring down his team with him.

Can we isolate the slime of Tom Danielson from his entire "clean" team? Sports fans tend to think of the team unit as winning or loosing. It took lots of work by journalists and lawyers to convince the fans that Tom Brady's deflategate did not reflect upon the integrity of his entire New England Patriots football team. In the sport of professional cycling, journalists and public relations staff work very effectively to isolate a rider kicked to the curb for doping, without taking down his entire team, and thus the sport. Any team wants to distance themselves fast from a dirty athlete.

Truth #2: The Argyle bravado was doomed to fail.

Team Cannondale-Garmin is different than other World Tour teams. Every rider on the team represents the standard of the Argyle brigade. The team has vocally built their business model on the premise of being clean. A stance that in a way said arrogantly, we are better than the rest, we are right, we are the strong against the weak of character. When the righteous fall and appear wrong, the ripple is great. There is no way an entire team can be clean, it was a house of cards waiting to crumble.  

Truth #3: People you like dope.

Doping exists in cycling. Doping continues in World Tour, Pro-Continental, Continental, National, State, Collegiate, Amateur and Club Cycling. Doping is all around us on every level. Please set aside the arguments and overused statements of how doping exists in all sports, how "everyone does it," or that only athletes who stand on podiums use drugs. Being a seemingly nice person, does not equate to fair sportsmanship. Unless the rules say all can dope, it is cheating.

Truth #4: This is a bummer!

The tires were deflated for many specific fans of pro cycling today. On this sad morning, I don't want to talk about a cleaner sport. It is insulting to think we would so easily refocus our attention on the return after injury of Peter Stetina or Taylor Phinney. Two men at the Tour of Utah, who would rightly want to earn their race coverage from a different angle. I want to acknowledge how sad today's headline was: not for Tommy D, not for the team, but for the fans who believed that racing clean was possible.

Truth #5: There are a lot of really sad Cannondale-Garmin fans today.

Fans have stood by this team for years, even with recent poor performances. The Argyle Regatta was their team, a team they could believe in. When the world of pro cycling looked bleak, their team was "clean," different from the harsh world of doping reality. Every man on the Cannondale-Garmin team stood for principal of fair sport, until today. Said one friend, "I'm just so disgusted with Tommy D. This stupid sport."

Truth #6: Danielson is a drop in the bucket.
 
Nobody really cares about Tom Danielson anyway (other than all those STRAVA 2nd place record holders). If Danielson sticks by his denial of, "I would never," I hope he at least feels bad for every rider on his team Cannondale-Garmin in Utah, Colorado and Spain, in coming weeks who will have to answer questions about doping because of him. I hope the team stands by each current racer on its squad, for they are not to be blamed for Danielson's decisions, or for this flimsy clean team marketing ploy.
 
Truth #7: The individual is at fault. But ...

Team management of Cannondale-Garmin changed in recent years. Much of the determination to do things differently - and take the clean road - came from the strong will of Jonathan Vaughters, a man guilty of doping himself, who has made a nice living off of the sport and spent many hours in recent years earning a MBA. Hands on management is everything, especially in cycling, where new sponsors come on board and begin to stress business norms and expectations. Sure teams are pressed to have results, but I believe the decision to dope is the individual's responsibility, yet also a sign of poor management. 

Truth #8: Deceit is the worst of human traits.

The higher you stand the further you fall. I never wish any badness to befall anyone. Yet, deceiving others is crap, plain and simple. I feel bad for every fan who believed, every racer robbed of a stage win, every rider not signed to the team because of Tom Danielson's salary, every child who looked into Danielson's eyes and believed him, even for that one autograph or one second on TV. Tom Danielson cheated, in the past, and in the present.

Truth #9: Never base truth or your moral compass on business managers, journalists or social media. 
  • Business Managers - must sell product, market and repair public image
  • Journalists - must create copy (of any sort) and retain readers in order to continue collecting a salary
  • Social Media - is a balance of popularity seeking individuals and a gauge of disgust, only for those who already follow set individuals.
Within three hours of this morning's news in America, journalists had already advanced through the 5-steps of doping journalism. Meanwhile fans were trying to figure out why "people" were or were not so upset about this latest doping report. Expected news of the guilty party withdrawing from the Tour of Utah left journalists concerned with readership for the race after day one, and a few exasperated fans throwing up their hands in defeat and disgust.

How to report on doping 101: 
  1. Report doping test as fact
  2. Copy quotes from press conference, manager, rider
  3. State B-sample not complete, A-sample not damning evidence
  4. Detract readers to different positive fluffy story of return to glory or found kitten
  5. Three hours later, return to normal stories of who says they will win some race in the future

Truth #10: Yes, I follow cycling, no, I don't like Lance Armstrong ... or Tom Danielson.

The health of professional cycling stood deep in the grave after Lance Armstrong started digging. Then Armstrong handed shovels to George Hincapie, Christian VandeVelde, Dave Zabriskie, Tom Danielson, Chris Horner, Jonathan Vaughters, and so many more. Those of us who had watched the sport for years, remarked how deep the hole had become, but we stayed fans. Meanwhile cycling became a joke sport to many casual followers in the broader community. Cycling became a fantastic sport to do, but an embarrassing one to follow as a fan.

Truth #11: Things will not change.

No, this is not the straw that broke the camel's back. This is just one doping report of many. The Cannondale-Garmin team will go on, Vaughters will likely make a public statement of apology and how they plan to have tighter controls. Sponsors will stay, press conferences will be handled with the correct terminology, Sample Bs will be completed and a life ban will be in place so that Tom Danielson will never race again. Danielson's cycling lodge in Arizona will continue, he will be an admired guest at cycling event rides. Who knows, he might become team staff, an announcer, a journalist. He "love's cycling" so I am sure somebody will pay Tommy D for his years of dedication to the sport.

Nothing will change. Except someone else will get Tom Danielson's team salary and someone else will win that stage that this cheater would have won if his A Sample had not stopped him short. The best news is that I will not have to write his name while reporting on the upcoming USA Pro Challenge. Thank you for that USADA!

Truth #12: This is a perfect opportunity for new team kit and colors!


24 July 2015

All things Alpe d'Huez

Alpe d'Huez - yes you can

There are two types of cyclists on Alpe d'Huez: the ones who need to do it fast, and the ones who just need to do it. Whether you are a pro or a bucket-lister - nobody wants to embarrass themselves, everyone wants to make it to the top, and certainly everyone can (at their own speed). This short 8.6 mile climb will make you feel like a King of the Mountain.

Five things you need to know about Alpe d' Huez
  1. It is totally doable
  2. It is short
  3. It will either hurt a lot, or you didn't ride it fast enough
  4. It ends
  5. You get to go downhill after
Whether you are a racer, cyclist, spectator or driver ascending the famous 21-hairpin bends of this iconic (yes I used the word) mountain, you will experience why there truly is no other place, or climb, on earth like Alpe d'Huez.

The facts
  • Start: Le Bourg-d'Oisans in the Romanche valley
  • Road to top: D211 (love those D roads!)
  • Length: 13.2 km (8.6 glorious miles)
  • Average grade: 8.1 %; Maximum grade: 13 %
  • Height start: 744 m; Height top: 1815 m
  • Ascent: 1071m (3,749 elevation gain) 
  • Who else uses the mountain: skiers, mountain bikers, skateboarders, hikers, botanists

The location

Huez, Rhône-Alpes, France

Alpe d'Huez climbs the side
Alpe d'Huez climbs the side of this enormous ancient glacier gulley in the center of the photo above. You can see the 21 switchbacks to the left of the gulley. This dramatic photo is from Steephill.TV
Restaurants, hotels, markets, bike shops and outside patios located in Le Bourg-d'Oisans at the base of the climb. Outdoor activities, outdoor patios, and some hotels open in summer, up in the villages at top. 

The history

Romans mined here for silver, copper, zinc and coal thousands of years ago on the high pasture slopes. Electricity, roads, and the first cable car were built later for modern day silver and coal miners. Skiers discovered the slopes in 1911. The ski village atop opened in 1936. Trees were cut and avalanches became more common, in 1950 the miner's dormitory was destroyed by an avalanche and 12 men were killed; the mines were closed shortly after. The valley has quite an involved history during WWII, recovering quickly to become a fashionable vacation spot post-war.

The Tour de France
 
Make it Lucky #29: the number of times the Tour de France has included this climb since 1952.

Come join the over one million people capable of loading onto this hillside during the next Tour day on July 25, 2015. Colorful, costumed spectators come days in advance in white camper vans and tents; parading upward the day of the race to fill every nook and cranny. Various flags fly and foreign accents overheard from countries around the world - all to seewhose name will next be added to a signpost on one of the 21 hairpin bends and forever enter history as a stage winner on Alpe d'Huez. 

In 1979 the climb was included in two different stages of the same Tour. The 2001 and 2004 titles have been vacated (striped). In 2004 there was an individual time trial up the mountain. In 2013 the climb was included twice in the same stage. The first climb up Alpe d'Huez in the Tour de France was won by Fausto Coppi in 1952.

Alpe d'Huez in 1986 when Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault grabbed hands over the finish line.
One of the most famous cycling photographs was captured on Alpe d'Huez in 1986 when Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault grabbed hands over the finish line.
The corners

They are rightly called "hairpin bends;" must use both words to describe the steep switchbacks. The most striking thing about the majority of the hairpin bends, is that the corners are relatively flat-ish and the ramps are not flat at all - they indeed ramp up so steeply, to a cyclist, it feels as if your handlebars are suddenly thrust toward your face. The corners make the climb exhilarating, the changing views and signposts entertaining. All this is good because right when you think you've finished a set of bends, the next set suddenly appear before you, then the next. 8.6 miles never felt so long. 

The 21 numbered hairpin bends of Alpe d'Huez
The 21 numbered hairpin bends of Alpe d'Huez
The signs

When you see signpost #1, start celebrating - you have climbed Alpe d'Huez!

List of Signs on the bends of Alpe d'Huez:   Pedal Dancer®
Bend # 21 - (1) Fausto Coppi, and (22) Lance Asmstrong (located at the bottom)
Bend # 20 - (2) Joop Zoetemelk, and (23) Iban Mayo
Bend # 19 - (3) Hennie Kuiper, and (24) Lance Armstrong
Bend # 18 - (4) Hennie Kuiper, and (25) Frank Schleck
Bend # 17 - (5) Joaquin Agostinho, and (26) Carlos Sastre
Bend # 16 - (6) Joop Zoetemelk, (27) Pierre Rolland
Bend # 15 - (7) Peter Winnen, and (28) Christophe Riblon
Bend # 14 - (8) Bret Breu, and (29) Thibaut Pinot !
Bend # 13 - (9) Peter Winnen
Bend # 12 - (10) Luis Herrera
Bend # 11 - (11) Bernard Henault
Bend # 10 - (12) Federico Echave
Bend # 9 - (13) Steven Rooks
Bend # 8 - (14) Gert-Jan Theunisse
Bend # 7 - (15) Gianni Bugno
Bend # 6 - (16) Gianni Bugno
Bend # 5 - (17) Andrew Hampsten
Bend # 4 - (18) Roberto Conti
Bend # 3 - (19) Marco Pantani
Bend # 2 - (20) Marco Pantani
Bend # 1 - (21) Guiseppe Guerini (located at the top)
Andy Hampsten's name is on Sign #5 of 21 signs on Alpe d'Huez
Andy Hampsten's name is on Sign #5 of 21 signs on Alpe d'Huez.  ©Photo by Karen Rakestraw of PedalDancer® I must have been continuing to ride my bike past the sign, because that sure is blurry!
The orange corner

Corner #7 is famously called The Dutch Corner Orange clad spectators by the thousands clammer, stammer and hammer in this corner for all things Dutch. Dutch corner has been going strong (and gaining) since the 60s. Video: Alpe d'Huez's Dutch Corner, By Bicycling with Frankie Andreau, and also Tour De France 2013 - Alpe D'Huez - With The Fans At Dutch Corner, By GCN. Across from the orange madness, sits a church.

The church

Any cyclist who has climbed Alpe d'Huez knows that the site of this chapel means you are nearing the top of the climb. It is a landmark well remembered. The name of the picturesque chapel is Church of Sainte Anne and is located in Huez Village at 1450m. The church still offers services on the first Saturday of every month in the early evening. The church also organizes a special Saint Anne's Feast Day in July. The festival is organized by Huizats (the inhabitants of Huez, that's true) to honor the patron Saint of Huez. The festival includes painting stained glass, trout fishing, a meal in the countryside, a ball, a traditional costume parade, a boot fair, and a mass.

Church of Sainte Anne - the church on Alpe d'Huez.
Church of Sainte Anne - the church on Alpe d'Huez. Photo by Karen Rakestraw of PedalDancer®
The top

Look at all the buildings on top of this green hill
The top section of Alpe d'Huez.
The top section of Alpe d'Huez. Photo from NBC Sports
The profile


Map showing locations of sign, gradient,and mileage

The climbs

The traditional approach is directly up the front side.

Looking down the climb to the town of Le Bourg-d'Oisan
Looking down the climb to the town of Le Bourg-d'Oisans below.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of PedalDancer®

Col de Sarenne is an optional small road down the back side (south side). The two roads adjoin at signpost #4. If climbing up, stay left for the traditional climb to the top, stay right for the road to the back way off the mountain, which winds along a small rough balcony road with dark tunnels and more climbing.

The climb up Col de Sarenne
The climb up Col de Sarenne
The record

1st: 37' 35" Marco Pantani

Coppi had a time of 45m 22s in 1952
Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault each had times of 48m 0s in 1986
Laurent Fignon 41m 50s in 1989
Miguel Induráin 39m 28s in 1995
Sammy Sanchez had a time of 41m 21s in 2011
Nairo Quintana 39m 50s in 2013

STRAVA Records and Alpe d'Huez tdf - where the pros meet the amateurs

Strava Segment - Fastest times on Alpe'd'Huez
The time card

You may officially record your time up Alpe d'Huez the old fashioned way - by purchasing a card from the Le Bourg-d'Oisans Tourisme Office in town, at the base of the climb, and punching your card in the machine near the #1 signpost at the top. The old cards are a fun souvenir.

Location of Office de Tourisme. This way through the town of Le Bourg-d'Oisans to Alpe d'Huez
Location of Office de Tourisme. This way through the town of Le Bourg-d'Oisans to Alpe d'Huez, or follow the signs.

La Marmotte

Starting annually in Bourg D’Oisans, the famous amateur sportive of La Marmotte climbs the Col du Glandon, Col du Telegraphe, and Col du Galibier, before finishing up Alpe D’Huez. All in one day!
In July, 170 km and 5100 m height gain, 7500 participants, more information.

The approach

Nearest airport: Grenoble, 90 minutes (105km).
Nearest rail station: Grenoble
Bus line: AlpeHuezNet Buses
Lifts: 9 lifts open throughout the summer and a shuttle bus to the Auris resort
Drive time from Le Bourg-d'Oisans to the top: 30 minutes
Summer Lift Passes to Alpe d'Huez: AlpeHuezNet


The photo

Two cyclists in a large landscape: me and my brother Mike.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of PedalDancer®
My report

I have been very fortunate to have climbed Alpe d'Huez twice, the first time in 2003 during a stage of the Tour de France, and again in 2007 on a non-Tour day (ride report). Both were enjoyable but quite different. A Tour day on the climb is a mad-house, with space allowed for the riders to pass reduced to mere centimeters. A non-tour day allows for time to read the signs, take pictures and enjoy a cool drink at a cafe at the top.

Starting in Le Bourg-d'Oisans, the first two turns are a long steep and intimidating at 13%, but the grade lessons to 8%. Don't become discouraged at the bottom, it gets better. Descending is fabulous fun. Most striking is that the corners are flat and the straights are jarringly steep. This is the opposite of mountain road construction in the United States. It is a thrilling climb. Unless you are racing it for an official time, why rush.
HOW TO: So you want to climb Alpe d'Huez? - Fly or train to Grenoble (Geneva is the largest airport nearby, I prefer the smaller convenient Lyon Airport). Stay: near Le Bourg-d'Oisans. Climb: Alpe d'Huez, Col de Sarenne, Les Duex Alpes, Col d'Ornon, Col du Glandon, Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Madelaine, Col du Galibier, Col du Lautaret, Col du Telegraphe, and cycle through the Vercours.

Other ride reports and videos

Stage 20 Tour de France 2015

For more information about Alpe d'Huez in the 2015 tour de France, please see the Stage Preview at the bottom of this post: Stage 19 TDF: Haven't we seen this before? & Stage 20 Preview.
 
And here it is - my favorite Laurens Ten Dam video of all time - on Alpe d'Huez in 2011:


Read more 2015 Tour de France Coverage by Pedal Dancer® 

Stage 19 TDF: Haven't we seen this before?

Vincenzo won
  • Yes, we are going in circles on Stage 18, 19, and 20.
  • Yes, we have heard the "I didn't see it" excuse before.
  • Yes, we have seen Chris Froome screaming at Vincenzo Nibali before.
Today was the first day I was not thrilled with the winner. The first day I recognized that my TDF Twitter list was not filled with words of congratulations to the stage victor, who was Vincenzo Nibali. It might be my tourquoise fever, although I am a fan of Vincenzo Nibali, my brother even named his dog after Vincenzo. But remember how everyone was so happy for Romain Bardet yesterday, and Simon Greschke the day before?

So what happened? Was it knowing TV cameras caught Vincenzo looking back and attacking with intent; we knew he saw Chris Froome in a vulnerable mechanical moment, he had been riding side by side with Froome up to that point. What it realizing Nibali made the audacious decision to "go now and say sorry later." Then there was the incident of the very sticky bottle held too long as he gained on Pierre Rolland at a corner.

Sure it was Vincenzo Nibali's work to continue his attack to the line, increasing the distance back to Froome to 2'23 at one point - that is tough riding (could he have feared the anger raging behind him on the road?). I was expecting to hear from Nibali the usual lines in post race interviews about not knowing Froome had a mechanical, how his legs felt good, etc., and he delivered. His reasoning (excuses) worked, he is now in 4th place.

Read: Nibali vs. Froome: Misunderstanding or breach of etiquette? By Gregor Brown for Velo News

This is the somebody who won the stage today (he is named after my brother's dog):


I chose the photo above of Nibali winning from Peloton Magazine because it shows the time board moto driver and the time board holder Claire Pedrono. They are both totally cool (and not smiling either).

Read more about Time Gap Claire – A Summer Dream Job, By the mighty Cycling Tips. This is my photo of Claire - she is a delightful stud (who else can you describe like that?)

Claire Pedrono - l'Ardoisière du Tour de France. Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®

What I did not expect as today's stage began at a rapid pace, was to find Chris Froome again giving the Italian Nibali a piece of his mind after crossing the finish line.
News of Chris Froome's beef with Vincenzo Nibali over his "unsportsmanlike" behavior filled the airways after the race, together with a vigilante group attempting to track down a spectator proven via TV coverage to have spit of Froome during the race. One man can only take so much doubting, spitting, and attacking - Chris Froome needed to vent that anger somehow.

Vent and reboot is Chris Froome's apparent motto. While fans and press were whipped into a tizzy after Stage 19 - Chris Froome was talking about stuffed lions. Chris Froome's recovery process: get a good yell in and hug a lion.

Meanwhile media tried to hype the outcome of the stage in a final attempt to build (find) readership. Headlines must be written; paper boys must sell papers. The Tour de France is not over yet!

Stage 19 Win (Full Results via Cycling News)

1Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team4:22:53
2Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team0:00:44
3Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky0:01:14
4Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr0:02:26
5Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
6Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
7Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing
8Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
9Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
10Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team
11Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar0:02:35

General Classification after Stage 19

1Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky78:37:34
2Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team0:02:38
3Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team0:05:25
4Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:06:44
5Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo0:07:56
6Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo0:08:55

  • Yellow Jersey: Chris Froome
  • Green Jersey: Peter Sagan (104 points ahead of Andre Greipel)
  • Polka-dot Jersey: Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale (ahead by 3 points)
  • White Jersey: Nairo Quintana
  • Combative: Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar !
  • Best Team: Movistar Team !
  • Stage 18 Winner: Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team
  • Lanterne Rouge: Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) FDJ.fr, behind by 4:34:40
  • 160 riders remain of the original 198 (list of withdraws)

HAPPY NEWS

Nairo Quintana is proving daily that he is a phenomenal bike racer and gentleman. I would say Quintana, Peter Sagan and Romain Bardet are my favorites of this year's Tour de France. Nairo Quintana rode a very impressive last 5K today, maintaining his 2nd place overall and showing he should do very well on Stage 20 tomorrow. Quintana races every day with pure class and talent and his entourage of Colombian fans are a welcome sight daily.

So happy to see Romain Bardet in the polka-dot jersey. I look forward to seeing him try to stretch his 3 point lead over Chris Froome for the mountains classification.


HUMOR

Finish your day with a bit of humor with Tour de France unwritten rules by Global Cycling Network: Top 10 Rules Of The Tour De France

Picks of the day from Steephill.TV - did you see, hear and listen to?

Are we going around in circles? Yes, sort of. 

Le Tour has laid the route in slight variation over the same climbs for three stages in a row in this year's Tour de France, proving that the Tour de France can indeed do a variation of the Tour Down Under, allowing the teams to stay in the same place for three days. In fact teams could stay in the same hotel for six days by including the nearby Col de Madeleine, or Col de Telegraphe, Val d' Isere, Les Duex Alpes, Col du Lautaret, and Col du Galibeier (if it were opened, which it is not).

If you feel that you have heard about the climbs of Glandon and Croix de Fer a lot, it is because you have. Tomorrow we go back over the Col de la Croix de Fer and the Col du Glandon in the opposite direction. If you are a cyclist wanting to ride in the Alps, you are getting a great view on how to do it yourself, and which direction is best to climb to the top of each Col.

As a cyclist who loved small road big mountain climbing, I would recommend visiting this area to ride, only be aware accommodations can be tricky. You will either be riding a long distance or driving to ride from different starting points (which is all fine and totally worth it).  This year's Tour attests to the fact that people are staying all over the place and sometimes driving 1 to 3 hours to/from a stage.

The Grandest Loop of the Grand Tour 
 
Keep your eye on the highlighted square loop on the maps below. Stages 18, 19, 20 are variations on the same roads. Maps via LeTour.
 
STAGE 18

 
STAGE 19


STAGE 20


Stages 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 have been all about the Alpes in 2015. I miss the Col du Galibier!


Which side would you rather ride (hint: red is scary steep)? 
Thanks to Climb by Bike  2015 Tour de France climbs collection for these climbs profiles.

Col de la Croix de Fer - East Side (Stage 19)

The view looking down from the top of the climb - north/east side.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®
East side Croix de Fer
Col de la Croix de Fer - southwest Side (Stage 20)

The view looking down from the top - southwest side . Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®


Col du Glandon - Would your rather go Up (Stage 18), or Down (Stage 20)?

Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®


Down, definitely, I would choose the fast downhill!


STAGE 20 PREVIEW - Alpe d'Huez baby! Stage 20 of 21.

Saturday, July 25th - Stage 20110.5km Modane Valfréjus / Alpe d'Huez
Winner gets their name on a plaque - on signpost #14 next to Bret Breu the 8th ever winner in 1982. 

*For much more about the final climb, please read my blog post: All things Alpe d'Huez By Pedal Dancer®

Who will win? - Nairo Quintana!


Alpe d' Huez - what a magical historical place for cyclists. Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer. 
All roads lead to the A43 - see you tomorrow morning in Modane, France

ROUTE MAP OF STAGE 20
The climbs

Km 56.0 - Col de la Croix de Fer (2 067 m) 29 kilometre-long climb at 5.2% - category H
Km 110.5 - ALPE D'HUEZ 13.8 kilometre-long climb at 8.1% - category H
Approximate finish of tomorrow's Stage 20 to Alpe d'Huez: 16:32 CET (early morning at 9:32 on the west coast, 8:32 along the Rocky Mountains, and 10:32 in New York City!)


The caravan will pass through Alpe d'Huez 2 hours before the breakaway / peloton:


BOURG-D'OISANS16.094.513h5615h4215h5015h56

Carrefour D1091 B-D21114.596.013h5815h4315h5215h58

La Ferrière14.096.513h5915h4415h5315h59

LA GARDE-EN-OISANS11.599.014h0615h5116h0016h06

Ribot d'en Bas10.0100.514h1115h5416h0416h11

Le Ribot9.5101.014h1315h5616h0616h13

HUEZ Village6.0104.514h2416h0516h1516h24

ALPE D'HUEZ (D211-VC) (entrée)3.0107.514h3316h1316h2416h33

ALPE D'HUEZ0.0110.514h4216h2016h3216h42

ALPE D'HUEZ0.0110.514h4216h2016h3216h42

The Tour is coming!
A crowded day at the Tour de France om 2003 on Alpe d'Huez at the 4km marker.  ©Photo by Karen Rakestraw of PedalDancer®



And it's my birthday!

Read more Tour de France Coverage by Pedal Dancer®

23 July 2015

Stage 18 TDF: A French victory

Lesson #1: Do your homework!

If there is one lesson from today, it is that studying a climb pays off. As Romain Bardet descended the final kilometers of Stage 18 into Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, it was clear he knew every corner, he knew the road furniture and the corners. He was not taking risks, this was a local rider executing a plan that had been studied at training camp.

Romain Bardet knows this land; it helps that he is a business student in nearby Grenoble. Bardet's work ethic should be an example to every young French rider. Not only can you dream big and train harder, but doing your homework really matters. Smart, studied racing is what we were shown on Stage 18. No matter if he said he did not feel all too well physically in the earlier kilometers of today's stage, knowing the route eases the mental energy. Calm, confident mental energy makes for a stage winner.

Romain Bardet wins Stage 18 and moves himself into the Top 10 overall General Classification of the 2015 Tour de France.

Romain Bardet wins Stage 18 TDF
Stage 18 Win (full results Stage 18)

Here is the dream team of climbers and break away specialists. Keep this list of riders tucked away for your 2016 Fantasy Tour de France teams:

1Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale5:03:40
2Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar0:00:33
3Winner Anacona (Col) Movistar Team0:00:59
4Bob Jungels (Lux) Trek Factory Racing
5Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
6Serge Pauwels (Bel) MTN - Qhubeka0:01:01
7Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar0:01:50
8Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team
9Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Garmin 0:01:55
10Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin0:03:02
11Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
12Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
13Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
14Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
15Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
16Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling
17Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
18Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team
19Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team
20Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team0:03:21
21Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing
22Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Lampre-Merida0:05:12
23Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo0:05:33

General Classification after Stage 18

1Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky74:13:31
2Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team0:03:10
3Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team0:04:09
4Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky0:06:34
5Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo0:06:40
6Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo0:07:39
7Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:08:04
8Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling0:08:47
9Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing0:12:06
10Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:13:02

  • Yellow Jersey: Chris Froome
  • Green Jersey: Peter Sagan (89 points ahead of Andre Greipel)
  • Polka-dot Jersey: Chris Froome (countback; Joaquim Rodriguez wears on Stage 19)
  • White Jersey: Nairo Quintana
  • Combative: Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
  • Best Team: Movistar Team !
  • Stage 18 Winner: Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
  • Lanterne Rouge: Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) FDJ.fr, behind by 4:06:38
  • 161 riders remain of the original 198 (list of withdraws)

STAR OF THE DAY

The first appearance of the Lacets de Montvernier climb was spectacular as riders and cars carved their way up the hillside (video aerial over Lacets de Montvernier by NBC). I am always curious from what angle the very experienced tour photographer Graham Watson (@grahamwatson10) will shoot the shot. Here is his photo from today:

Lacets de Montvernier climb by Graham Watson
Here is mine from eight years ago. Who shot is better? Okay Graham did. I just needed some riders in my shot!

Lacets de Montvernier climb by Karen Rakestraw

BIG NEWS OF THE DAY

Big change for the dots today. The Climbers Jersey is still in contention (Rodriguez wears the jersey by count back):

1Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha68 pts
2Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale68
3Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team64
4Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky61

A Leadout Man Goes home:

Mark Renshaw is out of the race and will not be there to help Mark Canvendish as his powerful leadout man in Paris. Uh-oh. He too was suffering stomach issues and had to abandon during the stage.

217MEINTJES Louis MTN DNS
115RENSHAW Mark EQS withdrawal DNF

That was a hard stage:

Chris Froome looked tired after the stage; the red eyes and low cheeks showed his fatique. That is a good sign in a cyclist - that is what you see when a racer fights hard. Froome also knows these climbs, and that passage between the Glandon and Croix de Fer is used often in races in France, but today's stage was tough for him, as it was for everybody.

We know who won, who brought up the rear? This is the part I look for on stages like today - who was left behind, who suffered? Today there was a large group of 60 men who crossed the line 0:35:51 behind Romain Bardet. Full stage results at: CyclingNews.com

A race camera moto took out Jacob Fuglsang:

It was a race photo moto that caused Fuglsang to hit the pavement today while climbing, barely seen at the edge of this video. Red card!:  Race moto takes out Jakob Fuglsang at the front of Stage 18 (01:08 English)nbcsports (via Steephill.TV). Jacob's interview after the race about being "driven down from behind" from the moto driver (near the end of the video) "He can be happy he is not close to me now, that motorcycle rider" said Fuglsang.

Who else needs a lesson in French?

Romain Bardet eloquently delivered one of the most gracious stage victory interviews of this year's tour (although that doesn't mean I like it any more than Simon Greschke's). Perhaps his graciousness is something he has learned in business school, but his impressive inclusion of thankfulness to the fans who lined the route was very professional. Meanwhile his teammate Jan Bakelants was vocal in praising their Focus bikes. Who is working to secure sponsorship - team AG2R La Mondiale, that's who.

Lesson #1 in French - do your work
Lesson #2 in French - be gracious
Lesson #3 in French - say thank you

The Frenchman of the Peloton who were in the Top 50 today on Stage 18:

1. ROMAIN BARDET (age 24) AG2R La Mondiale @romainbardet
Pro Cycling Stats Page 
Romain Bardet. Photo Patrick Dorchel on cyclismactu.net
2. PIERRE ROLLAND (age 28) Team Europcar @PierroooRolland
Pro Cycling Stats Page 
Pierre Rolland. Photo velorooms.com
7. CIRIL GAUTIER (age 27) Team Europcar (Does not Tweet)
Pro Cycling Stats Page
Ciril Gautier. Photo lechodelargoat.fr
10. WARREN BARGUIL (age 23) Team Giant-Alpecin @WarrenBarguil
Pro Cycling Stats Page 
Warren Barguil. Photo Cor Vos on VeloNation
25. MIKAEL CHEREL (age 29) AG2R La Mondiale @mikaelcherel
Pro Cycling Stats Page
Michael Cherel. Photo Twitter profile
31. FLORIAN VACHON (age 30) Bretagne - Séché Environnement @vachonflorian
Pro Cycling Stats Page
Florian Vachon. Photo wikipedia
32. THOMAS VOECKLER (age 36) Team Europcar  @voecklerthomas
Pro Cycling Stats Page
Thomas Voeckler. Photo by Danielle Haex VeloVoices.com
39. PIERRE-LUC PERICHON (age 28) Bretagne - Séché Environnement @PerichonPLuc
Pro Cycling Stats Page
Pierre-Luc Perichon. Photo vcamberieu.fr
44. THIBAUT PINOT  (age 25) FDJ.fr @ThibautPinot
Pro Cycling Stats Page
Thibaut Pinot. Photo cyclismactu.net
Hooray for the French!


STAGE 19  PREVIEW

Over the Croix de Fer we go tomorrow, Andy Hampsten's favorite climb, and a climb typically combined with today's climb of Col du Glandon. The finish is at yet another ski station - La Toussuire - Les Sybelles (local tourisme video) (how to pronounce Toussuire). More on the preview of Stage 19 later today.

One of the grandest loops in the Alps - Stage 19



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