Posted by: jkirkby8712 | July 23, 2011

Friday, 22 July 2011 – Tour de France

  

Against my better judgement, I watched the entire coverage of Stage 18 last night, through until 2am, and then couldn’t get to sleep!!! The writer deserved that!! But what an experience, a truly epic stage, and helped by a terrific commentary team – I ewas ridiculed, when I remarked on Facebook that watching that bike race this morning was almost as good as a football final. Australia’s Cadel Evans put in a real gutsy effort but even he was outstaged by the Schleck brothers, especially Andy Schleck who raced away to a leading break with 60 kilometres to go, most of it uphill in the mountains of the Alps. Evans spent most of that distance on his own in front of the rest, but the Yellow Jersey leader of 9 days also performed magnificently – the Frenchman, Thomas Voeckler, hung on desperately behind Cadel, and although he lost some time to both Cadel, and the Schleck brothers, he remained in front by the end of the stage, thoroughly exhausted, but still wearing the yellow jersey.
By the end, Cadel Evans was closer to the leader, but had slipped back to 4th position overall – with Andy & Frank Schleck in front of him this time, as well as the leader, Voeckler.
The outcome for me – the excitement of the closing stages this morning made if difficult for my mind to want to rest, and it was quite a while before I got to get a few hours sleep. Certainly, looking forward to tonights 19th stage of the TDF – the final big chance for Cadel Evans to pounce, if he still has it in after yesterday’s ride.

In the meantime, I occupied some time today in the shops – birthday presents for son James [for tomorrow], and a few new CDs for myself. Overseas, it was also the birthday of an old friend – met ‘Bronnie’ on the internet almost 12 years or more ago now, and have stayed in touch since then, although not so much over the past year or so. Think she is occupied by a new relationship, and hasn’t got much time for old chat friends, and Aussie ‘Blues’ !! However, now and then, her birthday has slipped past, and I’ve been guilty of missing it by a couple of days – made sure that would not happen this year. So if you are reading this Bronnie, I’m sure you have a beautiful happy day – and in view of some of the things life has dealt you in the past dozen years or so, you deserve that happiness!
Susan was back in Sunbury for part of today again – appointments, etc, and a loan of some money from Dad – before heading back up north for the weekend. Three trips up and down she has made this week!! Hope her car will keep surviving? She left late afternoon – Jodie was with me tonight for a few hours, borrowing Susie’s computer again!

And tonight’s race!! Stage 19 of the Tour de France – a short 109.5kms but packed with three major climbs, including the 11.8km climb up Col de Telegraph to an altitude of 1566 metres, the 16.7km Col du Galibier at 2566 metres and the 13.8km Alpe-d’Huez at 1850 metres, to the finish line. Many still feel that Evans is the strongest rider with the best chance tonight, despite the efforts of the Schleck brothers. Three time TDF winner, Alberto Contador [Spain] was disappointing yesterday, and seemed to rule himself out of finishing on the podium.
However, things did not go as planned. It was Contador who got away to a speedy breakaway, and would stay at or near the front for much of tonight’s race. Yellow jersey wearer, Thomas Voeckler was really struggling tonight, with the weight of the Fren ch nation on his shoulders, while for our Cadel Evans, early disastert – mechanical problems with his bike early in the race, saw him drop behind dramatically, and from that point onwards, he was trying to make up ground. I was determined to watch the coverage again tonight despite feeling very tired, and in fact, unwell for a while, after the evening meal [my cooking!!!].

Shortly after midnight, my time, Cadel Evans trying to keep ahead of the pelaton, as he battlers to catch the leaders, while Voeckler appears to have given up any hope of retaining the yellow jersey as Tour leader. Evans – 51 seconds behind, with half the race to go!! I’ll return shortly!!

At 12.45 am my time, and with 33 kms to go, still on the downhill section, the Evans group is 22 seconds behind the leading group of 5 runners. Five minutes later, the gap has widened out again to 29 seconds, starting to lose ground, but must catch the leaders before they get to the final up mountain section, give themselves a chance for a breather. Meanwhile, some incredible scenery as always in this race, amazing waterfalls crashing down from the top of the peaks, beautiful valleys, though the view no doubt not appreciated by the riders. Past the huge hydro electric projuct, the Lac de Chambon, beautiful, but looks a bit low in water. With 25 kms to go, it is just 4 seconds different, then soon after, the two leading groups merge together, slow a little, as they call for drinks – this slowing means the other chase groups, including that with Voeckler in it, are also much closer, now only a minute behind. At this stage of the race, the favourites for the Tour de France, after 2,000 kms of riding, have only 57 seconds between them – all points to an exciting finish, again, tonight, and a critical Time Trial tomorrow.

Cadel Evans is sandwiched between the two Schleck brothers – he must stay with them to give himself a reasonable chance of winning the Tour through the Time Trial on Saturday – as they approach the final climb of the day. It’s being a hard ride through the mountains for them all, with the final climb to come, as they approach the end of the downhill 50km section.
It’s the battle of Alpe-du Huez – Contador takes off again, Evans stays with the Schleck brothers, he must watch them and stay within the last times at worst. The yellow jersey man, after getting up with the leaders, is fast dropping back, on this climb, and he is out of it. I’m barracking for Evans to attack, reduce the time difference prior to tomorrow’s race. My brother [Robert] would be proud of me, lol, watching this bike race with the enthusiasm of a football match!! Ten kms to go, and Contador still looks strong up the front. Cadel Evans though, needs to accelerate, forget about waiting for others to ‘help’ propel him along, must attack himself – he won’t panic, team keeping him informed of times etc, but I fear he might get over-run in the finishing sprint by the Schlecks as he was last night.

Four kms to go – the crowds on the road are amazing – scary in fact, just how the riders can get through the crowds without collisions to hard to comprehend, they are crazy, many of these supporters lining the roads at the top of the mountain. It’s a strange feeling, just like the end of a footb all final. Get near the end, and some barriers are on the roads, easier to get through the crowds.
Then Contador falters, and in the end, the Stage is won by a Frenchman [the first French winner of a Stage this TDF], with Sammy Sanchez [Spain] second, and Alberto Contador, 3rd. Behind them, Cadel Evans eventually got the better of the Schleck brothers, he came in a courageous 5th, with Andy Schleck in 8th position. The other courageous effort was by the Frenchman who has held the yellow jersey for 10 days, but lost it tonight – Thomas Voeckler came in 3 minutes and 21 seconds behind the winner.
So with the Time Trial to come tomorrow, the experts all say Cadel Evans is in a prime position – he is now just 57 seconds behind the Schleck brothers, in 3rd position. And for me, two epic nights of cycle watching with a thrill I’ve not previously experienced. No wonder the crowds get so overly excited to be there on the spot!! It really is a ‘people’s sport’!!

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Responses

  1. Hello,

    I’m absolutely gutted that I haven’t been able to watch the tour this year as it sounds like its been an amazing one. I always feel sorry for Cadel Evans. I would love to see him win this year (even if I do actually prefer Andy Schleck). Evans never seems to have a good team around him to support him properly, like Armstrong always did, like Mark cavendish has for his sprint victories. However, he is much better in a time trial than Andy Schlek so fingers crossed he pulls back the minute there.

    Loving the new design on the blog btw,

    Hami 🙂

  2. Hi Hami,

    It’a 1.26am here – and over in Francve, Cadel Evans has just WON the Tour de France!!!! Yippee!!!!

    Now I need some sleep,

    Byeee, Bill


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