Category: tour de france

The Fella’s tour

Evans with a fine stage win on hardest day of tour

Congratulations to Paul Evans, who takes his first stage win since back when the riders hadn’t been up any steep hills and finished over the border in Germany on July 9th. He’s now back in Francis Lee’s slipstream with less than 10 points separating them, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

372(+28,-54) Joost Dantuma (UK)
370(+31,-56) Simon White (France)
327(+33,-99) Francis Lee (France)
318(+35,-108) Paul Evans (France)
60 (+8,-366) Keir Mitchell (UK)

Paul “the slightly less grumpy Fella” can take heart in having the optimal placement of the three riders most likely to fight hard over the next stages : Armstrong, Ullrich and Basso. However that advantage only comes into play if all three make the top ten. Still just ahead, Joost Dantuma had a tough day. Finishing at the back of the four main riders in the Fella’s tour today, he must be glad that there’s a rest day tomorrow to recoup and get his tactical decisions made clear to all his riders for the final mountain stage on Tuesday. No doubt he’ll take a copy of the Excel chart to his debriefing session and moan about how you can’t even see the separation between the two team lines, them fellas are so close behind. I’ll have time to get my riders to practice the schoolboy trick of pushing the front tyre right up next to Joost’s back tyre, then turning the handlebars to allow the two to rub slightly together and making a silly burning noise. Most offputting it will be for the flying Dutchc@#t.

Out in the blistering heat – in places the bitumen was pretty much melted – the real tour riders had their toughest day yet. The peloton let a fourteen man breakaway get almost twenty minutes ahead. They knew that they didn’t need to up the pace. First, nobody in the break was going to endanger the lead. Second, it was inevitable as the front riders climbed “col” after “col”, that they would lose their pace. With 4 peaks and a mountain finish to get through today, they just weren’t going to keep their average up high enough to stay that far ahead of the best riders behind them. Ten of the fourteen ended up going backwards (relatively speaking) but, helped by how much time they had got ahead, five riders from the inital breakaway valiantly managed to stay ahead. Hincapie was ecstatic as he took his first ever tour stage win, easily beating Pereiro in the final few hundred metres. Boogerd was up there as well, causing Keir Mitchell to come out of retirement on his wedding day to pick up 8 points. That’s a mighty fine gesture for your wedding Keir, just don’t get too excited about the wooden spoon being awarded to “Adios Mofo” instead, he managed to pick up 10 points so he’s still closing the gap.

In the overall classification, Lance Armstrong is still looking strong. Basso tried to attack him by changing the pace several times, but he couldn’t shake the yellow jersey off. Ullrich, on the other hand, had more trouble. Vinokourov was up there with him, leading off an attack and change of pace for him on the last climb – but Ullrich couldn’t do much with it. He looked like he was in pain as he came in to finish having lost time and a place in the general classification: Basso is now second by 16 seconds. I’m hoping Vinokourov can keep being aggressive and working for the Ullrich on the flat. As long as the Kazakh stays with him he’s a real weapon in my fight against Joost every time he makes a top ten finish.

Rest day tomorrow, so I’ll be back on Tuesday for more random rambling,


Strong ride from Evans and Lee, Dantuma still leading

The Fella’s tour started the Pyrénees with relish, with everyone looking like making points (even Keir Mitchell who had Da Cruz and Moos in the initial breakaway) from the off. With five top ten riders apiece in their lineups, Paul Evans and Francis Lee shone and got closer to the race leader by ten and thirteen points respectively. Most bonus points of the day goes to Paul for correctly “predicting” 3rd and 4th place for 5 extra points. At this stage he must be wishing he’d stuck Leipheimer higher up the order. Had he put Leipheimer at number 9 in his team (nobody else has scored points for his team after 8th placed Cooke) he’d be ahead of Franco right now. I fear I could be pushing for more unsweet vinefruit so I will say no more.

344(+41,-50) Joost Dantuma (UK)
339(+45,-55) Simon White (France)
294(+54,-100) Francis Lee (France)
283(+51,-111) Paul Evans (France)
52 (+0,-342) Keir Mitchell (UK)

A fourth stage win to Franco, and it’s worth noting the few extra points for me over Joost Dantuma to help keep me within comfortable range of the flying Dutchc@#t. Keir could still be the man to watch as he is really in the running for the overall wooden spoon. There is only one team below him now – “Adios Mofo” – who actually have some riders likely to get points, and who banked 14 of them today. His lineup includes the likes of Mancebo, Rasmussen and Vinokourov. He’s now on 38, just 14 behind Keir and surely ready to pass him before the rest of the riders get anywhere close to Paris.

In the real tour, there were two groups riding ahead of the peloton (if you can call it that) most of the day : the remains of an initial breakaway were whittled down to one Georg Totschnig (I saw only brief highlights but he was taking the downhills like a right nutter). He managed to hold on and finish about a minute ahead of the second group which had pulled away after a lot of attacking riding : Armstrong, Basso and Ullrich. The American six times tour winning machine showed his strength and never looked like losing the race for second place. Rather annoyingly, and especially for me, Vinokourov came in 11th. However he was 46″ behind 10th place, so there was no hope for him to make a late boost to gain a place and get me 15 extra points.

Enjoy your weekend everyone, and thanks for the nostalgia in the old Excel file you dug out Joost. Clearly you had a lot more time than me to perfect that little scorekeeping fella there Fella.


Joost Dantuma takes second stage win and pulls into the lead

Joost Dantuma pulled a lot of luck out of his backside today : nobody had more than three riders in their squad from the top ten, but Joost had two out of three in the same position they finished : O’Grady at 2 and Hushovd at 5. So he gets 5 bonus points to add to his tally and storms ahead.

++ provisional ++

303(+42) Joost Dantuma (UK)
294(+30) Simon White (France)
238(+17) Francis Lee (France)
232(+25) Paul Evans (France)
52 (+0) Keir Mitchell (UK)

Even without the bonus points, the sprinters performed as expected and are well positioned in Joost’s lineup. The man they are dubbing “the flying Dutchman” is no doubt grinning from ear to ear, having trailed by little margin from me since he last led after stage 7 (the same stage that Keir Mitchell last charted any points). Paul “sour grapes” Evans kept up with the pace and could be seen hanging on nicely to Francis Lee’s wheel ready to attack when needed. He was heard chanting “this game is crap” and other tactical psychological taunts at Franco’s dérailleur all day.

Out on the road, it could have been Chavanel’s day, but the breakaway he led – at one point up to 9 minutes in front – was destined not to stay ahead. The Davitamon Lotto team worked hard to keep McEwen in contention, but it wasn’t until the last kilometer that everything played out. Chavanel was just 8 seconds in front with Horner going under the “flamme rouge” and as the two front riders came around the last corner the peloton streamed ominously round behind them. They couldn’t hold on as the final sprint hit speeds in excess of 75kph. McEwen broke at just the right moment to pip O’Grady to the post, and Hushovd looked a little bit like he’d been left standing. The green jersey race is looking very interesting. However this flat day hardly allowed much respite for non climbers before the gruelling stages in the Pyrénees…

Franco’s team finally loses his first rider : Valverde had to give up today, succumbing to the same fate as Boonen, due to a sore knee.

Interesting quote today after the fall of Discovery Channel team member Beltran : “Manuel Beltran had to stay in the hospital for a 24 hour observation for a concussion but will then return home. He’s fine, but after crashing and wrecking his helmet he still wanted to continue racing, but had no memory whatsoever of going down after touching wheels with another rider.”


Sprinters add spice to the top ten, Dantuma takes stage

It’s difficult to predict stages where successful breakaways keep away from the peloton. But it was far from dull, as the top ten included two waves of sprint finishes after Mouncoutié’s solo victory : the remains of the breakaway including Casar and Pellizotti (the latter in Joost’s team) sprinted for places 2-8, and then a second group came in which included O’Grady and Hushovd who have everything to play for and sprinted to gain green jersey points for ninth and tenth place. The peloton came in over ten minutes behind, but no riders in general classification contention were in the earlier arrivals. Even there McEwen, still in the peloton, sprinted ahead to make the most of a few extra points which are awarded up to 20th place. He took 14th.

The presence of two favoured sprinters in the top ten ensured everyone bar Keir Mitchell (no surprises there) had something to take home, and Joost Dantuma wins his first stage outright after sharing the first Fella’s stage with Francis Lee :

264(+20,-54) Simon White (France)
261(+26,-57) Joost Dantuma (UK)
221(+14,-97) Francis Lee (France)
207(+11,-111) Paul Evans (France)
52 (+0,-266) Keir Mitchell (UK)

Aside from the points result, the terrible news for Paul Evans is that Boonen’s fall yesterday got the better of him and he didn’t start today because of a swollen knee. Paul’s number one rider is out, and it’s difficult to see how he can catch up with the White-Dantuma breakaway (though both have Boonen in their lineups, he’s placed much lower). Franco has energy and if he can keep truckin’ he might catch up – especially as he’s the only manager in the Fella’s tour to have a full squad still riding. Paul will have to keep behind his wheel as best he can. He shouldn’t despair tomorrow, a flat stage leading into the Pyrenées will be good for the sprinters who have a green jersey battle well under way. He’ll be hoping for McEwen, O’Grady, Cooke and McGee to perform…

All the best for your respective weddings this weekend Bob and Keir, I suggest that if you smoke a Mitchell handlebar pipe (TM) you’ll have a great time. Keir’s so happy he’s given up riding, but maybe he’ll get back in the saddle soon. Sorry not to be able to be with you.


Evans under pressure, Lee is flying

Francis Lee wins another stage by a good margin, his team is looking decidedly mountain friendly…

244(+32,-49) Simon White (France)
235(+29,-58) Joost Dantuma (UK)
207(+45,-86) Francis Lee (France)
196(+14,-97) Paul Evans (France)
52 (+0,-241) Keir Mitchell (UK)

Another tough mountain stage, but Vinokourov’s legs held out this time and he kept going wiith enough energy to pull ahead and win the stage. Again I get some bonus points and keep my nose ahead of Joost. Lower down the order Franco storms ahead of Paul Evans, who’ll be off his seat and pushing hard on the pedals to stop being dropped by the peloton. He’ll be hoping that Boonen’s fall today is nothing too serious, and that Friday’s flatter stage allows his sprinters to pull him back ahead of Franco. Interestingly in the second ten finishers (places 11-20) a lot of riders featuring in the Fella’s tour are hanging around waiting to tip the balance : Basso, Ullrich, Kloden, Jaksche. Maybe they’ll be there tomorrow to the joy of many.

Joost Dantuma’s fetish rider Beloki (is he dead? nearly…) finished over half an hour behind the leaders; many other riders have dropped off and Jens Voigt was the notable abandon of the day, finishing outside the time limit. Keir hasn’t got on his bike since stage 7 last Friday, indeed I’m wondering if he’s got any handlebars left…


Lee keeps on truckin’, White under pressure

An incredible performance from Francis Lee, no less than five of the top ten riders today were in his team : Armstrong, Kloden, Leipheimer, Basso and Valverde. Unsurprisingly in the overall game he finds himself in the top hundred for this stage for a second time (equal 43rd place). The front of the Fella’s tour peloton are now bunched with 50 points separating, fairly equally, 1st from 4th place.

212(+32,-60) Simon White (France)
206(+38,-66) Joost Dantuma (UK)
182(+34,-90) Paul Evans (France)
162(+46,-110) Francis Lee (France)
52 (+0,-220) Keir Mitchell (UK)

The mountain stages are putting strain on some of the fancied riders. After an early breakaway by Joost Dantuma’s distant undead cousin Joost Posthuma, my phone rang as an excited Paul Evans noted Jaksche (amongst other strongly placed riders at that time) were in his lineup. Unfortunately that same lineup is a little sprinter-heavy at the top, whilst riders looking likely to be placed in top tens to come such as Levi Leipheimer are strategically better placed where it might matter – the American rider’s worth 9 to Franco and only 2 to Paul.

Commentators stopped talking about a peloton as over the two Cat 1 climbs riders got dropped and caught up all over the place. Worst sufferers were Vinokourov and Jens Voigt (the former signalling another bad omen for my team after the loss of Kirsipuu on Sunday), whilst Armstrong made a real show of strength with his team helping him all the way. A spot of redeeming luck for me meant that Valverde sprinted to take first place, allowing me 3 much needed bonus points for Armstrong as he’s second in my team. That bonus keeps Joost – I can almost hear him sledging from behing my back tyre – from pulling around me and sprinting ahead for the time being at least.

If the general trend continues, Franco is in a nice position to challenge for a late push, and right now he’s protected from the headwind at the back of the pack. Oh, and don’t forget to wave to Keir Mitchell, failing to score (points) again and fourth from bottom of the overall classification. Rumour has it he’s working on turning bicycle handlebars into interesting smoking paraphernalia, after being responsible for Franco’s recent performance boost.


White wins by a tyre rim, holds lead.

At 12:57 10/07/2005, Joost Dantuma wrote:

excellent excel and commentary fella!

Thanks Joost. I’ve been relaxing at home on holiday this week so have time to do it. Will try to keep up.

– Update stage 8 –
The official site updated some time today, thankfully the results I announced yesterday are correct. Worthy of note is that Francis Lee’s 41 points made him 7th overall in that stage so it really was fine stuff in that pipe. Clearly a number of people favour both leaders in the general classification and sprinters, so stages with few big guns in the top ten can cause interesting low scoring results. Yours truly even made joint 20th place with 39.

– Stage 9 –
On to today’s action, here are the standings (provisional) :

180(+15) Simon White (France)
168(+14) Joost Dantuma (UK)
148(+11) Paul Evans (France)
116(+14) Francis Lee (France)
52 (+0) Keir Mitchell (UK)

A brave Rasmussen went for it after 5km and stayed out there all day, coming in 6’04” in front of the peloton. Could he be the climber of the tour that we should all have picked, and Virenque’s successor? A following group seven or eight riders strong couldn’t keep up with him, but two survivors Voigt and Moreau kept pedalling and managed to chase in second and third, at 3’04” behind Rasmussen and 3′ ahead of the peloton. The rest of the following group were pulled nearer and nearer to the chasing peloton. Cofidis realised that O’Grady was still in the bunch and that valuable green jersey points were still available, so they guided him home to a sprint for fourth. I was jumping up and down in my chair (well, not quite) because O’Grady is fourth in my team, until I noticed that Franco also had him fourth, and Joost Dantuma had him in second, and we’d all be on 14 points.

However… O’Grady was not the only rider in the top ten to figure in a team somewhere. My random pick Frenchman Jérôme Pineau, in 15th place in my team, pulled in ninth and got me a point to take it by a tyre. The good news for other riders on the Fella’s tour is that I was rather relying on Kirsipuu to do something (7th in my team), and he abandoned today. Other notable abandonment today, although he’s in no team on the Fella’s tour, was Zabriskie the initial yellow jersey holder…

All in all, a quiet day in terms of the Fella’s tour. Franco is at a pace which may be sufficient to pull back, especially with less reliance on sprint in the top and middle order of his team as Joost correctly noted. He’ll be needing some of the names of previous tours (Basso, Mayo, Botero, Leipheimer, Armstrong…) to start getting top ten places. He’ll have to time his pushes though, all other teams include combinations of some of these riders, bar Keir Mitchell’s flatlining bunch. If you watch carefully though, I think Keir will wake up from time to time and get a few points here and there.

Rest day tomorrow. Then the alps where the men will really be sorted from the boys and Lance Armstrong may have to start to do something as Voigt’s chase gave him the yellow jersey today. None of the top riders can be allowed to breakaway from the Discovery Channel team without it inflicting initial damage to Lance Armstrong’s chances of a seventh tour win.