Thursday, July 08, 2010

2010 Tour de France- Stages 4 and 5 reports

So I have two good reasons for missing my stage recap last night;
  1. Not much happened in the short stage, outside of Cavendish completely screwing the pooch in the sprint that shoulda been his.
  2. And this...

I think you can understand my situation.

(PLUS... I was speaking at my friend Becky Carroll's Marketing via New Media class at UCSD again last night. Becky is kind enough to invite me to speak to the class each year and share my Social Media experiences with them. As always, it was a great evening.)

Alright, you get a two-fer-one special tonight. Or, the inverse- double punishment.

Stage 4-
One of the shortest stages we'll see this year, stage 4 really shoulda been a slam dunk for Cavendish and Columbia. The short course was relatively flat- hilly, but nothing of major concern- and finished with little to get in the way of the sprinters teams. A small break dangled off the front for much of the day, but their chances were slim to none... there was really no way the sprinters were going to let this one get away. So the inevitable happened and the big thigh crowd got their wish and a sprint was set up. However...

... Columbia set up Cavendish for what should have been a victory celebration, but his sprint sputtered as Alessandro Petacchi took his second stage win with convincing speed. On his heels with Garmin's Julian Dean and then Boasson Hagen of Sky. Cavendish rolled across the line in a demoralized 12th... and later was seen firing his helmet out the door of the team bus in frustration, after refusing to speak to the press and heading to his quiet place immediately after the stage.

The GC was left intact with Cancellara in Yellow and Hushovd firmly in Green. All the aching bodies from the carnage of stage 3 were likely very happy that the day had unfolded with so little excitement.

Stage 5- Cavendish Vindicated in Montargis! Manx Missile Launches!

Don't get me wrong- especially my friends in the UK- I like Cavendish as a sprinter. The kid has a ton of talent and speed. He's a cocky kid with a mouth bigger and faster than his legs, but he's been pretty effective at living up to his trash talking prior to this year. And, I've always respected the way he thanks his teammates and how he genuinely seeks them each out to thank them after every race he wins- since they are the ones who hand deliver him to those wins. BUT... I do think it's kind of funny that much of the cycling press, even the English speaking press, was bashing him for his stellar lack of results and now hail him as the second coming of Christ!

I could go on and on about it all, but I'd rather just get to the racing and the sprint- because they were both pretty good.

The stage was another relatively short and flat one, similar to stage 5. So, just like the day before, a break got away early... even with no chance of survival. After playing with the break, the way a cat plays with a captured mouse, the sprinters teams pulled the break back with the usual surgical precision with about 10km to go. Once the lone straggler was back in the field, Jose Ivan Guttierrez (Caisse d'Epargne), the blood was in the water and the sharks were circling... hungrily.

The finale was ready to be served, as Garmin and Lampre both battled at the front to set up their sprinters- Farrar and Petacchi. However, Columbia stayed focused with their men and it was Mark Renshaw who fought his way through the fray to give Cavendish an opening he was able to use to finish the job today. In a brilliantly timed jump, Cavendish sprang clear to handily win the sprint ahead of a strong Gerald Ciolek (Milram) and surprising Boasson Hagen (Sky). Farrar, who seems to be healing from his injuries pretty well, confessed to having messed the sprint up for himself- jumping to the wrong side of Julian Dean. Hushovd managed 5th and remains in Green... though Boasson Hagen is knocking on the door now with back to back 3rd place finishes in field sprints... from a TT and Classics specialist.

The GC is the same as yesterday, with Cancellara enjoying his final moments in Yellow with the mountains looming. Hushovd is eyeing the other sprinters because his Green jersey is safe... but only barely.

Cavendish's emotional celebrations on the podium today were clearly heartfelt. The pressure for him to perform this year, to the same or better standards as last year has taken a toll on the Boy Racer. His tears were genuine- now let's see if he has learned anything and can carry the obvious speed he has forward.

Stage 6 is going to be a long one- 225km- with four category four climbs to keep things from being "too easy". The last two climbs are near the end of the race, in the last 50km or so. This will keep things interesting at the end, but the sprinters will still be hungry for more... because the real mountains are looming large. "Breakaway" will be the word of the day and with the stage being so long, if the sprinters are lazy the break could stick to the finish. It's not too likely... but it could happen. Team like Katusha could use a win and they have the all day break specialists with all the Russians. It isn't hilly enough for the Euskaltel boys, so they'll relax and plan their attacks for the real mountains. Maybe B-Box will get active. Maybe even Ag2r... or Cofidis. Regardless, somebody will get away and stay away for a long time. The sprinters will want them to come back so that they can go for the win again... however the main GC guys might be content to let some riders low enough on the GC have the day so that they can relax before the bigger climbs arrive. Regardless... it'll be interesting.


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