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Tour de France Rest Day: My Favorite Anecdote from Week One

timv's picture

During the rest day, I've been speed-reading through various reports and blog entries for the first nine days of this year's Tour. My favorite story so far comes from David Millar's Stage 5 diary account of rookie British sprinter Mark Cavendish on his first-ever hilly TdF stage:

Mark Cavendish was his hilarious wet-behind-the-ears best when he came up to me half way through the stage and asked, 'Dave mate, did we really just go up that climb at 500watts? I think there might be something wrong with me cranks. It just doesn't seem right mate.' He was promptly informed that it was right and that he better tape over his screen if he didn't want to have a nervous breakdown. Amazingly, after what felt like only a couple of minutes had past, he came scooting by me shouting in passing, 'Did it mate!' I caught up to him and looked down and saw that black electrical tape was now covering his whole screen. He's a legend. I bet they were crying with laughter in his team car when he came back and asked for that. It is a rule I tend to stick by when it comes to wattage and heart rate, out of sight out of mind, racing in the Tour de France is not the time to be a watt whore. Cav has unfortunately caught a glimpse of the horrors which take place, hopefully that black tape will remain firmly in place for the rest of the race.
I occasionally use a heart-rate monitor but that's often my attitude. A lot of the time I'm happier not knowing how hard I'm working.

What do y'all think of the developments so far? Who's looking good? I guess spoilers are OK at this point since anyone taping for later viewing has had more than a day to catch up.

My reading is that the top GC contenders still pretty much have their cards face down on the felt. We haven't seen what they've got and they might not know for sure yet either. As tough as Sunday was for Rasmussen (and certainly also for the riders who dropped out or were eliminated, Including the afore-mentioned Cavendish), the major GC guys played it pretty cool at least up to the last 10K.

Team strength seems to matter a lot, and it looks like the strongest teams all have 8 of 9 riders left, with the biggest loss being Stuart O'Grady for CSC. But they still have big monster rollers like Cancellara and Jens Voigt on board and a great young first mate in Frank Schleck, so Sastre looks to be in good shape.

Leipheimer says he's waiting for his form to come around this year after peaking too early last season. We'll all see if it does. I don't know if the Discovery team is as strong all around now as it was under Lance, but Popovych, Gusev, and George all look fit enough, and Contador rode like a beast yesterday.

Astana looked like world beaters coming into the tour, but their two main guys took some serious beating up this week. They've worked incredibly well together to stay in the hunt and it's amazing that Vinokourov and Klöden are still in the race. Tomorrow's another tough Alpine stage and we'll see how they recover. Their competitors might come to regret not finishing them off this past week when they had the chance.

Caisse de Epargne also looks like a very strong team. Valverde, Pereiro, and Karpets are all good GC riders but word is that they have no designated captain. They worked together very well yesterday, with a man covering every important group. It'll be interesting to see if that continues on their home turf in the Pyrenees.

Rabobank also looks like a team to keep an eye on. Rasmussen has won King of the Mountains the last two years and says that he wants to win GC this year. Awesome climber but he's been a disaster on the time-trial bike in the past, so who knows how that'll work out. Denis Menchov is their more conventional GC contender, and they've got a great organization with some classy riders like Boogerd and Flecha for support.

So who am I missing? It's been an fun first week plus weekend with a lot twists and turns and exciting finishes, but I think it'll be next weekend with the first individual time trial and the start of the Pyrenees before things start to really shake out.


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