The Spin – Stage 9

Tour Stage 9 profile

If the race so far has been like a murder-mystery novel with clues as to the rider with killer form, today should reveal their identity, leaving the others to work on their plans to entrap the best rider in the coming days.

A 41.5km time trial, the stage is more technical and hilly than the profile above suggests, although it remains a test for the specialists.

Besançon is the French capital of clock-making and watch manufacture and if Switzerland has the upper hand when it comes to luxury, Besançon still trades on its industrial heritage. This extends to cycling, it wants to appeal to big-boned cyclists in the same way Alpe d’Huez attracts those who want to climb the famous hairpin bends. We’ll see if it works, the area is certainly better suited to more gentle cycling. But if today’s route is for the time trial specialists it is what the French call an effort violent, hardly the stuff of vacations.

The Route: the start is impressive, in a former royal salt mine. Once upon a time salt was a very valuable commodity and you’ll spot the prosperity linked to this with the impressive buildings, hardly what you’d associate with a mine. Once away from the stunning start the course is harder than the profile suggests, with some sharp climbing along the way. The first time check is at Abbans Dessus and dessus is French for “above”, a clue to the fact that this village sits on top of a hill and there’s some double-digit gradients to get here.

Onwards and the course is one where those who have checked the route before will gain as there are some sharp corners and the gradient often varies. The roads are large and many stretches offer fresh tarmac. It’s a course for the specialists. Not just the pure power men but those able to work the derailleur, to carve seconds out of the corners and balance momentum with watts on the gradients.

The Race: for me it’ll be a battle between Bradley Wiggins and Fabian Cancellara for the stage win. The Swiss rider was the fastest in the prologue and perfectly suited to today’s race, he’s even been able to back off a bit since he’s not been defending the yellow jersey. Wiggins is doing “his” event and the distance of 41.5km is very similar to the distance of 25 miles, where many British cyclists ride fixed distance time trials over this length. Chris Froome will be fascinating to watch to judge his form relative to others but he seemed to find yesterday’s stage a little harder, if only when the pace went up on the Col de la Croix; but this is a matter of degree as he was with the front group, it is just he was not at the front of the front group. The biggest test of the day is for Cadel Evans, he is only seconds behind Wiggins today and can’t afford to end up a minute down and we’ll learn plenty more about his form today. The same is true for Nibali and if I expect him to surrender time today but his prologue ride suggests he could crack the top-10 today, a surprise.

We’ll see how Tony Martin fares. The world champion time triallist has been nursing an injury all week but this could mean he’s spent the week in agony and is sapped of energy, it could mean he’s got the freshest legs in the race. Apparently he’s been spotted on his TT bike this morning looking a bit awkward thanks to the sore wrist. Is Sylvain Chavanel a time trial specialist? His prologue result was impressive so we’ll see what he does today, I think the prologue was better suited to his brute power and ability to surf the cobbles of Liège. Otherwise, watch for Dennis Menchov as he is still lurking on GC.

The Rest: after the stage the riders head south to Macon for the next two nights and Tuesday’s rest day. If they are not after a high place on the overall then many riders can ease off today still, nobody can play the tourist. The time cut is one quarter of the winner’s time.

Weather: almost ideal conditions for a time trial. 22°C (71°F) with sunshine and a few clouds, as well as a 10-20km/h breeze from the south-west that will be a three quarters tailwind.

TV: live video from 2.00pm Euro time, Bradley Wiggins is the last stater at and expected home before 5.30pm.

Local rider: Yauheni Hutarovich. The Belarus champion might not be the obvious pick but when he moved to France to join the FDJ team he started to live in the region.

Do: …check the course before. Brice Feillu is the first rider off at 09.45 meaning riders wanting to check the course this morning had to get up very early. But the best will have viewed the course before, for example Wiggins has ridden the route several times since the route was announced. This matters because knowing whether you need to brake going into a corner or should power over a climb instead of shift down a gear saves seconds which add up to minutes.

Don’t: … read too much into Bradley Wiggins words yesterday. Twitter seems full of comment this morning which reminds me of a cat chasing its tale and I can only imagine cycling forums are surging with comment. Wiggins let rip but he’s not a politician who picks his words carefully. We shouldn’t over-analyse the words, phrases or the emotions. Remember he’s been racing for a week and yesterday was one of the hardest stages in the race. A concern is that sections of the media will start to taunt him now in the hope he deploys more choice words, especially since as soon as got it off his chest he put down the microphone and walked out of the press conference.

49 thoughts on “The Spin – Stage 9”

  1. FWIW I think Wiggins’ salty comments on the question that was put to him were completely justified.

    The questioner seemed to be relying on a faulty syllogism of the form:

    US Postal was a well-organised team that was involved in doping.
    Sky is a well-organised team.
    Ergo Sky is involved in doping.

    Pathetic, and got what it deserved.

    • Laughable.

      These (Wiggins’) are comments by a man who is not on stable mental footing.

      What other rider has issued such gutter talk to the press? Real class…

      • You’re perfectly entitled to your view. However, here’s what some of the other riders have been saying.

        “Critics need to wake up and realise that cycling has evolved. Dedication and sacrifice = results. End of story!” – Chris Froome on Twitter:

        “Good on @bradwiggins for an honest answer in today’s press conference, aimed at people who know nothing better than to be skeptical.” – Mark Cavendish

        “Just heard @bradwiggins quote from the press conference today. It is so spot on. Thank you Wiggo.” – Michael Rogers

        • do you genuinely expect to read criticism ?
          Were his team mates going to say an equally expletive ridden response?

          The issue was the moment. Brad was interviewed after taking the race lead, resplendent in his yellow jersey, and spoke of his immense respect for the race. As he said, ‘it’s the Tour’ the biggest bike race on the planet, he dream’t of that moment as a kid.

          He has been interviewed by many over the years & no doubt he has encountered every idiotic question under the sun, to tolerate that, smile, thank all, is a skill & a half.

          To mouth off about some sceptical types, with such prophanity, was simply idiotic.
          Easy to sit on the sofa eating biscuits and criticise. Everyone snaps, everyone encounters moments we want to say similar blunt responses, but time & place usually interferes.

          He was wrong to say it, in that manner. He would have been more dignified, and made a bigger statement, if he had simply thanked the ‘baiting journalist’ for his question, placed the microphone down & simply departed.
          I wondered why the Team Sky PR was not in attendance with their star rider, in the midst of such a press conference.
          If they were, and did nothing when the question was voiced, then perhaps Brailsford needs to look at who he hires………… they seek every minute detail to be gained, yet fail to handle idiocy

        • >Dedication and sacrifice = results
          So, this is the new recipe. .. Too bad nobody thought about that earlier! 🙂

          Maybe it’s some new “scientific” method is to pay thanks to.
          Blood doping wasn’t doping to begin with, it was sport science.
          Then there was infrared ratiation of blood.

      • He picked his words. Calling a cameraman who accidentally was in his way, or vice versa, a cunt says something. Exactly what, I do not know. Only he knows. But it cannot be condoned.

  2. I’ll abstain from echoing or dismissing the doping accusations we are hearing these days. My two cents (or pence?):
    1) If we are often whining about riders racing too “economically” in view of the following days, and if ITT is the stage where riders cannot economize themselves, what sense does it make to have the ITT right before the rest day? (What sense does the rest day make, actually, in sporting terms, not logistically?) But let’s thank the riders for not sparing themselves too much yesterday in view of today’s stage. (What a great stage yesterday, and by the way where were Porte and Rogers?)
    2) In this sense, it will be interesting to see Kessiakoff (otherwise a favourite) after yesterday’s massive but unsucessful effort. If he is in the top-10, he’d have shown the kind of recovery capacities you need in GTs.
    3) The road is tough, and people are already quite tired: gaps are going to be huge today. I think Wiggins will win with 2 minutes on the second guy. There will be surprises, and some of them extremely surprising: skeptics, please refrain from flinging suspicion at the first unexpected development.
    4) It’s Nibali’s make or break day. “Die or survive”. He’s proved he’s got the power, concentration, and aerodynamics to be up to it. He made it in Tirreno early in the season. But not over so many kms… He will need to pace himself very well (we saw in L-B-L, and in Lombardia last year, that he tends to overexert himself too fast… yet, that’s why we like him). He might as well start “full-steam-ahead”, cross his fingers and hope for the best (he shouldn’t, that’s what VdB or Zubeldia should try).
    5) Watch out for Menchov. He’s a specialist, and he is finally in form. He will be in the top-5.
    6) Evans is the X. He could win or lose 3 minutes. But he shouldn’t be happy if he loses to Wiggo, because he cannot count on gaining even a second on the mountains.

    • Regarding point 2 Sky were flat out for much of the stage – in Porte’s post stage interview he said he was in the red as early as 30km. So imagine they were both burned out by the time that final climb came around.

  3. Firstly I’m a fan and not objective but I can understand yesterday’s outburst even if I can’t condone it. It was a very hard stage that Sky strained to control almost throughout. Feeling exhausted, having to face the press when it’s the last thing you want to do and being doubted when you know the self sacrifice and time away from loved ones that success in cycling requires must be extremelly frustrating and I can feel for riders in just such a position.

    However, it’s part of the job. This is cycling it does have a chequered past and these questions are naturally going to be asked for years to come until hopefully we reach a point of increased trust and belief.

    Now back to the racing today. A great weekends racing, the short hill stage was a hugely successful trial. Here’s to more of the same today and this week.

  4. it’ll take a lot more than this TT stage to win the Tour de France.
    While everyone is focusing on Evans or Wiggins, there are some mountain stages, and some intense control moments, to remain in contention.

    Twiglet has never done the TDF without a ‘bad’ day. Very few riders escape that, in any Tour.
    I am obviously a Cadel fan, and clearly biased, but Cadel races the whole race.

    Twiglet may be content to use his metronomic gimps to control tempo, and bring the danger elements back in the race, it’s unlikely he’ll stick his nose out in front.
    He’s probably the only bikerider who exits the Tour de France & needs to book a sunbed session.

      • I think so, but we didn’t get to see it on TV, as we were watching Pinot’s victorious expession. Is there anywhere we can watch the “peloton” from the roundabout where VdB got away to the finish?

      • Yep, I saw this -although it was really before and after shots:

        First, Evans getting away from the Yellow jersey gruppetto (heading to catch up with VdB after a round about), Wiggins towards the back of the group.

        Then a shot of Wiggins moving to the front and pulling a shift (at last?).

        Lastly, the grupetto reunited as they came onto the finish.

  5. Wiggins kind of reminds me of Evans in 08. Suddenly Evans found himself the favourite and having always been uncomfortable with the media he did not handle it well. Headbutting a camera, telling reporters he would chop their heads off if they touched his dog. Many think the tension got to him and contributed to his failure to win. He is a lot calmer these days. Wiggins needs to leran to deal with the incessant press. However he could manage to be a rude prick to the press and still win the tour. Methinks he needs to control his emotions

    • being rude and winning certainly worked for other riders , LA & Hinault are ones that come to mind easily (LA being awarded the lemons by the journos quite a few times for being prickly) … being a gentleman athlete is a pretty picture painted by various people to enhance the image of the sport and diplomacy to that end is always attempted by riders and staff, some are better than others at it but it’s not their first priority?

      the primary goal is to rip the legs off the other guys, smile and be friends AFTER having done that … the idea that responses to stupid questions should be handled in a calm and detached manner is silly. these are athletes, not graduates from Miss Maplewoods Academy for Girls of Fine Breeding … and to that end, they can heat up easily, to me the whole “Bradley flipped out and is unstable” thing is really much ado about nothing : a guy said something stupid, Wiggins called him on it … basta e finito …

    • I’m a Garmin fangirl who drank the kool aid a while back, and Wiggins was one of the first riders I followed when I got into pro cycling. I understand that he doesn’t like the questions, but given the history of recent Tour de France winners, he needs to understand these questions will be asked, and acting like that a presser dropping, c-words and such, going all “he doth protest too much” is creating even more suspicion. He needs to pull it together. There’s nearly two more weeks to go.

      That being said, I believe the stays in yellow today, maybe even win today’s ITT. Just heard about Martin’s bad luck (again)

  6. Although still very early.. it seems Larsson posted a good time. Are there any indications what times are expected by top riders??

  7. I think Wiggins response to the question was measured, reasonable and accurate. He said what many of us would like to say in their place of work to inane questions. As for the racing this past week, its been superb. Its been very exciting to follow with some tremndous performances. Cadel Evans is clearly up for the battle to retain his title and Wiggins is pacing himself in the in hope he will make it to the final week.

  8. apologies inrng … but just wanted to say i really understand AND condone his emotion (albeit perhaps not his actual language) in responding to those doping insinuations. imagine all the things you’ve ever achieved personally being questioned. for instance, drive a nice car? you stole it right. got a decent degree? you probably bought it online i bet. good job? who’d you sleep with … and so on. it’s bloody offensive, though the sad thing is this is the current legacy of our sport. as such, wiggo will have to find a way to approach this issue going forward, but i hope he retains his personal interview style, he’s great.

    regarding the racing so far … how great has it been? loving these rolling stages. all the best for cuddles tonight (today) in the TT. honestly believe if he losses less than 60 secs the tour is his. but anything beyond 120 secs will be crazy tough to claw back (i thinking more mentally than outright physically tough) …

    and thanks as always for the great blog!

  9. Looking forward to this stage!
    I also think either Wiggo or Cancellara will win the stage, and hopefully Evans will not get too far behind. A significant gap between Wiggo and Evans will take some of the excitement out of the race.

    What’s the odds of a good ITT for Roche? I sincerely hope he can defend his current top 10 (or even make it to the top 5) in Paris…

  10. Roche is a puzzle. When he appears to be *going somewhere* it sadly fizzles out.
    Expectations weigh heavy perhaps?

    Unconvinced he can race 3 weeks – how long do you *milk the metaphorical cow* to suggest you can challenge for GC?

    If you’re not top 3, the reality is you’re lacking the engine, and 5(h onwards is nowhere.
    You or I, nay be thrilled with that, I mean bragging rights on the training rides/club runs/saturday morning beach blast, but cmon…..

  11. the first TT certainly looks (on paper) to be the shaper for the Tour but consider that there are several extremely difficult mountain stages to follow AND another TT ?

    i think today will be a day of measured responses for the GC hopefuls (even Nibali) knowing what’s ahead and that the road to Paris is still 11 stages away.

    i think it will be the guys that have no GC aspirations or have lost them that will go full bore today (Cancellara, Martin, et al) … Cadel and Bradley will be marking each other stroke for stroke so as to not lose or go into the red for the coming stages. Nibali will have to put in a hard effort and Menchov might surprise but i think the top 5 after the stage might look a lot like it did yesterday after the stage.

    it would be nice to win a stage, sure, but the cost has to be considered, especially when there’s another chance right before Paris to go full gas with little or no consequences after … just a thought …

    • Will it not make a difference with the rest day tomorrow? I mean, will they be more likely to push the pace knowing they have a rest day after than if they had another stage instead?

      • Maybe, though it seems to me that every year someone looks good up until the rest day and then struggles after the rest day… I even think the “dangers” of the rest day has been covered in this blog, but I might be wrong 🙂

      • yeah, the rest day makes a little difference but given the picture of what’s to come, i would doubt that one day semi-off (most do ride their bikes around to keep the legs limber) will inspire them to give it everything … there’s still 11 days over some very difficult passes (like the Tourmalet, Aubique, etc) and another TT …

        i have to hand it to the organizers, this race was very well thought out … it really looks like it’s going to go to the wire … and what about that Sagan, eh? 3 stages and the green jersey so far in his Tour debut … very impressive … let’s see if he can take that to Paris as he said he’d like?

  12. It’s time to call bullsh!t…..
    Chris Froome faster than Fabian Cancellara in a time trial? Since when?
    Sky riders coming from being solid riders to leading pelotons over mountain passes, then contesting for stage wins, world beating TT abilities.
    Remember the last time the race’s best climber was also the best TT’r?

  13. As Flashing Pedals writes, if you have speculation and accusations, head over to the forum where their moderators and libel lawyers can survey things.

    If you have insight, analysis and debate, comment away. Let’s analyse wattages, position, preparation and plenty more.

    • I concur.

      Of wattages and positions I would love to see a comparison between wiggins and Evans’s power output over that TT. Evan’s TT position looks pretty good to my eye but Wiggins’s position on the bike seems impossibly flat, he is seemingly blessed with perfectly proportioned upper arm and back length. It would be fascinating to see how much efficiency that buys wiggins over other top level TT riders.

      I think I might be in a small minority amongst cycling fans in that I love watching TT stages, can’t wait for the next one!

  14. well I, for one, am certainly happy to have misjudged today’s TT … hats off to Wiggins for the win and Cadel for the defense, but most of all, I was VERY surprised to see the superior rides of Froome and Van Garderen as THE shockers of the day … great rides!

    this is going to be a really interesting week with all the hills … judging by how feisty Cadel was in the last 2, i wonder if he’s changing his tactics a bit and looking to get results in the mountains? it would seem too make sense if he looks at Wiggins palmares in the TT v his results in the mountains? seems like a logical place to rest up for and attack?

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