Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rest Day 2 - Le Tour 2006

It's nice to take a rest occasionally, isn't it? I do miss the action, though.

A have been asked to reflect upon the T-Mobile tactical 'blunder', and why the Italians always seem to falter at Le Tour, so I will!

Firstly, with regard to T-Mobile, they were probably too confident. They had multiple options to play, with so many guys up high in GC, so they attacked earlier rather than later thinking they could launch at least twice. Whereas Phonak only had one shot at it - Floyd - and couldn't attack early without risking losing everything. Same for Cadel. He has to be conservative and keep his powder dry until the last moment as he risks everything with any attack. I don't think we've yet seen the best of Cadel, or Sastre either. They missed the key final Leipheimer attack and couldn't - or perhaps decided not to - bury themselves and bridge the gap. Cadel knew he had time up his sleeve over all of these guys bar Landis, after all, so why waste the effort when a win was unlikely?

In hindsight it'd have been better for T-Mobile to wait - maybe - but then Menchov would've just saved his guys the trouble and hitched a ride on T-Mobile instead. Maybe Rasmussen, Menchov and company would've then won the stage with an attack in the last 2 kilometres, dropping a depleted T-Mobile in any case. At least T-Mobile took action and shed a few riders, making it clearer who was really in with a show. If they had waited maybe Mick Rogers wouldn't have lost so much time. But If Kloden hadn't cramped maybe he would've been up there anyway and we wouldn't be criticising their tactics at all?

I would've said the Giro was usually a better race with more attacking riding, but this Tour is shaping up as an exception. I don't really know why the Italians falter so spectactularly at Le Tour but have some ideas. (It seems hotter in July, for starters!) Pantani was an exception but so many of the Italians seem to have a problem that it's almost a national disease come July. In defence one could say that the Italians have already raced the Giro in May - it is their national tour after all - so they are probably depleted and less motivated, certainly less so than the French riders and les Anglos. Only the truly great riders back up and win both races, like Roche and Hinault. Armstrong didn't even try, which gives you a hint of the difficulty. Basso almost pulled it off last year, but few Italians take the tour as seriously as the Giro, especially when they are in Italian teams (which of course CSC isn't). Some riders who do well in Le Tour say that the Giro isn't as hard, that the competition in July is fiercer, but you rarely see 'em actually winning in May, either!

As well, this year's Tour has started on some seriously flat roads and has favoured the TT specialists especially, so the Italian mountain goats have had a tough time just getting to the mountain stages intact. Look how much time non-Italian Rasmussen has lost. It's rare to find a climber who can survive the flat sprinters stages and do well at TTs. Hincapie has trained for the climbs and made the same fall from grace. This year's race is made for the TTer who can climb as well - a rare breed. And once you've lost that much time in these long hot stages your motivation to get it back in the Alps may depend on how your team is feeling as well as how likely it is that you'll get enough time back to make up for what you've already lost. The Giro is more of a climbers race in that respect, with even the flat stages having significant hills. We may see the Italians having a crack at the Alps but it'll be for pride and a stage win. Most of 'em are now so far back that that's about the best we can hope for!

That's it from me!

No comments: