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TdF #11 Pitbull’s last bark

July 18, 2014

The Tour is a tough race for these professional cyclists. Every race is tough, but the Tour tops the calendar for how much it tests the riders. Roubaix and the other grand tours may be hard, but everyone wants to start the TdF, wants to win a stage, wants to be at the front, wants to finish.

So it is no surprise that they get tangled up on occasion. Crashes are common especially in the first half of the tour. Later on, the pecking order has been established and the fight for the front is less intensive. However, fatigue and illness can take over, so crashes and struggling riders is likely throughout the race.

Today, we saw a struggling fighting Talansky off the back. He even sat on the barrier for a while whilst his team management talked through whether he should carry on or not. He got back on the bike and finished the stage, but his chances of a high GC placing are over. He will probably not finish the tour this year, but he has put up a good fight.

His reaction to crashing the other day was interesting. He was quick to blame Gerrans for the crash. However, he was changing his line – apparently to avoid the sprinters – but that is a major error for anyone in the charge to the line. Sprinters are highly aggressive and used to the risks in the bunch. GC riders are less experienced, and Talansky is one of the youngest. He should have backed off or held his line. He made a mistake. Instead of realising that or admitting it, he blamed someone else. Obviously not a diplomatic and that is not a good way to make friends in the peloton. Friends can be helpful in the murky world of pro-cycling.
Back to the front of the race, the stage always looked like one to attract the break. Like pretty much every day a break did clear the bunch and today it was not to finish first. Instead the reduced peloton chased them down and the fight was between the sprinters remaining (the climbs took care of the heavyweights like Kittel) and anyone game enough to give it a go.

The stage was up for grabs all the way to the line. The tactics from the teams was as interesting as it was confusing. Astana was keeping Nibali out of trouble, that was obvious. But were OPQS keeping Kwiatkowski at the front or going for the stage win (or both?) What was Sagan doing? He has looked increasingly naïve and desperate this tour. Why did he attack so far from the finish? Surely he didn’t expect to ride solo to the finish? Did he lack confidence to win a sprint finish? The more stages that he fails to win, the more he wants to win, the more he needs to win. However, he’d be better off keeping the head and using he team to either drop his competition or lead him out to the line.

Amazingly, it was Gallopin who jumped clear and held on to win the stage. After his efforts in the last two days, it would have been expected for him to take it easy and just finish the stage. A great effort and a superb win.

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